Plus Senate diagnosis on Medical Research Future Fund and new media old already

Thinking about when to start thinking

There is no sign of Christopher Pyne’s deregulation legislation going to the Senate this week because crossbenchers senators are not for turning. The best friends of the proposal are hoping for is that those who acknowledge the existing funding model is unsustainable under existing and anticipated budget circumstances start discussing what change could look like. Whether they do that publicly before the election is a category one on the Rumsfeld Scale. Some higher education opinion leaders will not be worried if senators don’t, suggesting that what is needed is to achieve a public political consensus that funding reform is a necessity and then see what happens.

ANU June 4

Cosmetic change

From August 30 the University of Western Sydney will be known as Western Sydney University. According to UWS, sorry WSU, “this new positioning is the result of extensive research to identify student, parent, alumni, staff, local community and public perceptions of the university’s current brand and position in the higher education market.” Management must have missed all the people complaining at Twitter #Savethebird over the weekend. (The reference is to the existing logo). At one point it was actually trending on the site.

But protestors should not worry – its not as if the new name and logo are official or anything. When CMM asked management back in May whether it would seek to amend the university’s incorporating legislation to accommodate a name change (CMM May 14) a university spokesperson replied; “the university has no intention of changing the University of Western Sydney Act. People refer to the university in a number of ways, UWS and Western Sydney University included.”

It’s who you know

As universities increase the emphasis on employment opportunities in degrees placement programmes will become a proxy for quality. There’s an excellent example of this from the University of Sydney, which has established an intern scheme with the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. Admittedly the six undergraduates are only off to Tokyo for a week but it is the sort of thing students from affluent backgrounds used to travel will increasingly expect as a standard university service.


Book early

The University of Sydney plan for a root and branch restructure (or rooted and banished as unkind staff put it, CMM July 13) rolls on with policy papers imminent on organisational design and culture. Provost Stephen Garton will hold a “town hall meeting,” “to discuss organisational design issues,” on August 24. Everybody who realises how profound are Vice Chancellor Michael Spence’s proposed changes to just about everything will want to be there.

Teacher to the test

Completing teaching students are queuing up to take the literacy and numeracy tests announced by Education Minister Chris Pyne announced in June (CMM, June 29). The first test for 2500, run by the Australian Council for Educational Research, on later this month is fully subscribed. The second one, in September, is already nearly half full. CMM is very curious to know where the aspiring teacher volunteers come from (the government is not telling) and would be very interested to see tests scores by faculty (CMM also suspects that these will never be released lest defensive deans of education riot in protest). But while academics suspect this is a Pyne plot to criticise them for lack of rigour the minister is in fact their friend. This exercise is a quality control measure universities can work with and it is a heap better for their bottom lines than the minimum ATAR for entry to teaching degrees all sorts of critics call for.

Elks all over

Gerard Byrne from UoQ says there could be help for clinically depressed people in nutrients found in spinach, oysters, crab – and elk. Good thing elks are so common in Brisbane

Spondulicks for brain science

Monash has picked up a $5.2m bequest, which may not impress the philanthocrats at unis Sydney and Melbourne, but certainly strikes CMM as a fair swag of the elusive sponduliks. The money is from the estate of Monash graduate and stockbroker David Turner who died in 2012 and will “facilitate essential research to assist those suffering mental health disorders.” Neuroscientist Murat Yucel will hold a chair named for Mr Turner.

The University of New South Wales also cleaned up on Friday, in a round of National Health and Medical Research Council funding for research on the ageing brain. Between them professors Henry Brodaty and Glenda Halliday received $13m. Other awards went to Amy Brodtmann from the University of Melbourne $6m, Robert Sanson-Fisher (Uni Newcastle) $3m, Ian Blair (Macquarie) $6m and Michael Breakspear (QIMR) $6m.

mindhive 2

Selling to the fed gen

Federation University has rolled out its new “federation generation” strategy to staff. An Open Day advertising example is here. “It’s about capturing our students and staff as they really are and saying, this is what it is all about. We want those outside of Fed Uni to look in and say ‘I want to be a part of that’, ” says marketing manager Phil Crone, who CMM thinks has produced some of the best student-focused university advertising in the country.

MRFF assessed

A committee report on the Medical Research Future Fund bill is due in the Senate today. While the money involved at this stage could not cure a cold this is immensely important legislation, with the potential to influence how a new funding stream is applied for years to come (CMM June 24). The note for the original bill sent to committee specified the fund could support, “the development of medicines or medical technologies (including personal health technologies) for commercial use.” The committee heard evidence last week.

New media old news

James Cook U will teach out a journalism degree and then make it BA major. Numbers have been declining for a while and halved this year, a university spokesman says. Not surprising, CMM’s deck chairs on the Titantic correspondent comments, what with the state of print and broadcast media. Except that the degree in question is in multi-media! Ye gods, it seems new media is old ready.


Cash for quality control

Accounting education insiders are not especially surprised by the University of Sydney quality crackdown on students in a masters unit on critical thinking, which has a big international enrolment. They point to industry associations’ CPA Australia and Chartered Accountants ANZ joint submission to the government’s international education strategy, which warned that a heavy reliance on international accounting enrolments required more of their fees to be poured back into courses. “There are concerning trends regarding the perceived quality of accounting programs offered by Australian institutions, and the relatively poor outcomes with regards to accounting student satisfaction. In particular, this does not bode well when Australia is regarded as a relatively expensive place to study and live,” CPA and CAANZ argued.

Two ticks where one would do

The Innovative Research University group is supporting the government’s proposed quality assurance changes for overseas students, set out in new draft legislation, as far as they go. Which is, IRU argues, not far enough. Accord to the group, under the new arrangements Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency registration and Commonwealth Registration of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students, will be aligned but still require separate approval.UoQ

CRICOS ought to be an automated process that follows from a provider’s registration and, where relevant, the accreditation of courses. This would remove the repetitive assessment of characteristics of the provider and those courses already considered in the general higher education registration of the provider and accrediting of courses,” IRU argues.

It seems as sensible a point as when the IRU made it last year, (CMM November 3).

Cash for current

Australian Research Council Future Fellow Sarah Wheeler and colleagues from the University of Adelaide have crunched the numbers on water trades in the Murray Darling Basin to determine how market conditions shape farmers and irrigators decisions to sell water entitlements. The model could be immensely important in improving efficiency in economies where Australia’s already sophisticated water markets do not exist, like, drought stricken California. (Serious US media are publishing big and admiring yarns about Australian water economics.)

But could water traders use the model to game the market, CMM wondered. Not likely, Associate Professor Wheeler says. A broker would need to know the circumstances of everybody in the market, which the model does not provide.