Sydney’s a sure thing while history is, well history

Well, it could be a compliment

Geelong mayor Darryn Lyons at the Friday launch of new Deakin University student accommodation, “Looks fantastic! Reminds me of the Big Brother house!” It was a big day for real estate in marvellous Melbourne as well, with the U of M announcing the purchase of the Salvation Army’s training college on Royal Parade in Parkville. This will add up to 300 beds to the university’s inventory by 2016.

No Moody blues

Credit agency Moody’s reckons the University of Sydney is a sure thing, rating it Aa+ on Friday. “The university’s financial performance is healthy, bolstered by Commonwealth grants, international student fees and conservative fiscal practices. Cash flows have been sufficient to fund a large portion of its capital improvement program internally, reducing the university’s reliance on borrowing,” the agency announced.  Can’t fault Moody’s for looking on the bright side, at least compared to Sydney VC Michael Spence last year. In August he explained to staff hoping for a pay rise that times were tough. A headline $136m surplus included $86m which was committed, meaning the university was really $46m in the red. Funnily enough on Friday Dr Spence agreed with Moody’s take on things.

You don’t say

According to the Victorian Auditor General, “evidence suggests individuals who complete apprenticeships and traineeships experience greater, and potentially longer lasting, benefits than those who do not complete.”

Eternal optimism

How appropriate that Council for the Humanities Arts and Social Sciences executive director Steven Schwartz uses the classical rhetorical device of affimartio in making his case for a renewed focus on the humanities. “After a long period of neglect, the arts, humanities and social sciences are once again in the public eye,” no I had not noticed either. Certainly Professor Schwartz points to academics writing for and talking to other academics about the importance of the humanities, but the “public eye,” that ain’t. Still, Professor Schwartz is easily forgiven for wishing a debate was underway – as he points out the British Government no longer funds the teaching of all HASS subjects at English universities. I wonder what sort of public debate would occur if this happened here.  Perhaps not much of one. As independent historical scholar Paul Ham put in the SMH on Saturday, “academic history is produced on a sort of enclosed carousel, whose riders’ chief role is to compose brief analyses or micro-histories – finely hewn articles for scholarly journals that their peers are obliged to review as an occupational duty, and make you wonder: what is academic history for?” Granted there is no sign of any minister thinking about this but the best way of ensuring they don’t is for humanities academics to make a great deal of noise about their work, rather than why their work matters to each other. For historians at least speed on the centenary of WWI. While the academic establishment may not like it, this is a once in a century chance to put the past in the public eye.

Blowing in the wind

The National Health and Medical Research Council is having another look at whether wind farms make people ill and is seeking public comment on a draft information paper. After submissions are considered the Council says it wall call for targeted research. The wind farms reference group originally expected to wrap up last June will now roll on till January 2015.

Crossing the gap guide

Reports for the National Centre for Vocational Education Research are rarely riveting but they do provide particularly practical information with important policy implications. Like the new report by Sonia White from QUT who looks at the way TAFE students don’t always easily adapt to university study, often due to different information demands between competency related training and university learning. The good news for anybody in a dual sector institution is that Dr White provides all sorts of ideas on how they can help TAFE students make the transition. The bad news for any dual sector institution official is that they cannot look at voced students as an easily accessed source of new university business, that TAFE grads need help to make the leap. I hope the CQU university and TAFE reps who met on Friday had copies.

Curtin call

The simmering stoush at Curtin University over management’s restructure plan boiled over on Friday afternoon when students occupied the business school foyer to demand the reinstatement of a lecturer they say has been made redundant. It seems enterprise agreements about moving academics to teaching-only positions generate actual ire when people are moved on.

Think global act local

Barney Glover, new VC at the University of Western Sydney, wants to double international enrolments to 8000 in a decade and he started the process on the weekend, advertising for a PVC international. There are at least three executive positions, which look like they do bits of the job now. The advert includes all the usual guff but it is unique in emphasising UWS’ very strong regional commitment – which may not matter all that much to international students.

Gone but not forgotten  

On Friday I reported Pranay Lodhiya, billed as La Trobe’s CFO, speaking at a conference this week on university financial planning. A CMM correspondent points out Mr Lodhiya stood down in January, a change which apparently eluded the conference organisers. The university does not list anyone in the CFO post

Know something the world needs to know? Anonymity guaranteed but lots of questions asked, stephen4@hotkey.net.au