Plus can scholarship ever headline?

Who said it?

“If we create a 21st century system of higher education … that no longer graduates students with mountains of debt and degrees that do not lead to jobs … then our people will be prepared to seize their opportunities in the new economy.”

Christopher Pyne? No. Kim Carr? Not him either. It’s Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio. If he has a solution perhaps he could share it with us.


 Big band

The James Morrison Academy of Music launched with a blast but has gone quiet since. Perhaps life in Mount Gambier does that to you, or, as cynics suggest perhaps it’s because the University of South Australia joint venture lacked enrolments to put together a quartet let alone a big band. But not so, UniSA reports the academy is on-song with 48 enrolments in its first semester.

Really applied research

The estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research draft research plan for 2015-16 is out and here’s hoping industry groups as well as the training community responds with advice and ideas, because this is an excellent opportunity to generate applied research that can generate economic growth.

Some of the proposals seem same-old, like research into what is being taught in VET, teacher standards and industry engagement. But some of the perennials are essential, such as “new thinking to tackle the persistence of disengagement” and VET completions. And others are fundamental to economic development, notably “the role of VET skills in raising national productivity” and “an examination of the life-cycle of qualifications in the VET sector, including their design, review, maintenance and retirement.” NCVER could probably spend the next two years usefully looking at nothing but VET’s products, sorry courses.

Guardian of the (super) galaxy

University of Queensland deputy chancellor Jane Wilson is joining the Future Fund Board of Guardians. Dr Wilson is a banker and medical doctor with degrees from UoQ and Harvard. She is also a member of the prime minister’s business advisory council.

ANU new 3

 Prescription for success

When Charlie Benrimoj set up the UTS Graduate School of Pharmacy in 2011 deans of some other schools were outraged, arguing the discipline was over-supplied. But Professor Benrimoj replied that “the market sorts it out for everything but medicine.” And now he is using a market solution to create a new role for pharmacies. Professor Ian Harper’s review of competition policy has called for an end to long-standing policies that protect retail pharmacies from competition by restricting their number by geography and forbidding anybody but a pharmacist from owning a retail chemist.

But the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has a plan to protect its members by creating a new role for pharmacies as healthcare destinations. And Professor Benrimoj has research funding to assist pharmacists to “shift their practice to provide a stronger focus on consumer self-care, with improved pharmacist-consumer engagement and provision of a range of evidence-based minor ailment and professional pharmacy services.” Brilliant move.

Start in school

The Tasmanian establishment knows the state is in strife and is investigating in education in the hope that it can do what forestry, tourism and energy-intensive industry has never quite managed, create an economy where many of the best and the brightest do not leave for the mainland and which addresses the shortfall in the per centage of graduates compared to the national norm. In February the state government and university created the Peter Underwood Foundation, chaired by Governor Kate Warner to work on educational under-achievement (CMM February 24). And now foundation and government are combining to place 40 of the university’s teacher education undergraduates in full-time classroom positions, supported by mentors and professional development.

Points for page one

The not quintessentially quiet Research Whisperer has picked up on Asit Biswas and Julian Kirchherr’s claim that few scholars read peer-reviewed journal articles (CMM April 10). Whisperer Tseen Khoo is outspokenly ambivalent about their suggestion that research impact should include publications in the “popular media” as a way of influencing policy. “The increasing demand that research be demonstrably part of fixing society’s ills (as we recognise them, at the moment) narrows the field of projects, likely to gain the attention of popular media. The repeated calls for better and more industry partnerships affects research diversity in similar, limiting ways,” she writes. The Whisperer also warns academics will worry their work would be misrepresented by a media metric. But perhaps the biggest issues raised are how to measure research impact via the media and how to stop any metric being gamed. Good questions and perhaps why the Australian Research Council is not keen on impact.

But Industry and Science Minister Ian Macfarlane is very keen indeed on applied research and under the government’s nine science priorities funding will flow to researchers working with industry. If the government decided it wanted an applied research model to fund HASS research an impact measure would be essential – and media coverage would be an obvious component. I wonder if the ARC is working on a just-in-case plan.


Rivers of gold

When the UK Finch Report endorsed gold open access (free to read but authors/institutions pay to publish) it set the terms of the global open access debate. While research funding agencies all over the world, including here, now require open access just about all of them accept somebody has to pay publishers. At the beginning of the month a paper by David Price and Sarah Chaytor for the UK Higher Education Policy Institute (CMM April 2) extended the assumption that commercial publishers are central to scholarly publishing and must be paid to participate. They suggested that to ensure open access is universal in the UK government should pay a national licence fee to publishers.

This is less gold than river of gold publishing – meaning the taxpayer would fund publishers for research they did not pay for. As UK research access experts Adam Tickell and Michael Jubb argue, “the continuing controversy around the policy preference for Gold Open Access stems from a concern that universities are expected to pay for others to read their publications whilst simultaneously paying for the research of others through journal subscriptions.”

Gold open access privatises profits of research publishing while socialising its costs and if the Brits did adopt the national license idea there would be a push for it to happen here.