UA’s Barney Glover stands up for research



the Universities Australia chair takes on the opiniaters and argues for academic integrity

plus UA commits to all universities expanding indigenous enrolments

and why enrolments up by not much is goods news for student centred funding

Tell ASIC quick

CMM’s Wolf of Wall Street correspondent reports research by Prof. George Yang, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and colleagues, who find that the more attractive a financial analyst the better the quality of information company managers give them. “Lookism matters,” they conclude.

Glover stands up for research

 In an age of opinions Barney Glover is speaking out for the authority of evidence.

“In an era where extremists and polemicists seek to claim more and more of the public square, our need for unbiased, well-researched information has seldom been greater,” the vice chancellor of Western Sydney University will tell the National Press Club today in his last major address as Universities Australia chair.

Professor Glover will argue that dismissing research is dangerous, “as we strive to cure cancer; save lives from preventable disease; navigate disruption; lift living standards; overcome prejudice, and prevent catastrophic climate change – expertise has never been more important.

And he will warn that populist punditry “is a challenge to universities.”
“As institutions for the public good, we exist to pursue the frontiers of knowledge. We enhance human understanding through methodical, collaborative, sustained and robust inquiry. … We are at the vanguard of specialist knowledge. And we are relentless in its pursuit.”

And he will reject claims that academics research is in the service of hidden agendas.

The core objectives universities pursue can never be about any other agenda than the truth. There is no other, nor greater reward.

“So let’s not disparage expertise, or the critically important role of evidence and intellectual inquiry.  Instead, let’s try to understand its value to our country and its people. And, indeed, to the world.  Universities perform an essential role in society.

“We must stand up for evidence. Stand up for facts. Stand up for the truth.

Because if we don’t, who will?” Who indeed – CMM wonders if Professor Glover and his VC colleagues will be at the March for Science on April 22.

UofQ deputy chancellor

Tonianne Dwyer is the new deputy chancellor of the University of Queensland. She replaces Dr Jane Wilson who stood down after a decade in November. Ms Dwyer is a Brisbane based non-executive director with a background in banking and real estate in the UK. She was educated at the University of Western Australia.

UA commits to lifting Indigenous student enrolments

Universities are committed to accelerating indigenous student enrolments by 50 per cent above overall growth. Peak body Universities Australia will launch a strategy to do this in Canberra today, the first “coherent sector-wide initiative that binds all universities together with common goals.”

Universities Australia and its members agree that lack of ambition in this matter could result in the greater part of another generation of potential Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being unable to take full advantage of a higher education,
the strategy states.

In 2015 there were 15 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders studying, just 1.6 per cent of domestic enrolments and significantly less than the 2.7 per cent of the working age Australian population who identify as ATSI peoples.

Under the policy universities undertake to lift retention and completion rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to the equivalent for other students per field of study, ensure executive staff have cross cultural training, establish programmes so that all students, “will encounter and engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural content as integral parts of their course of study, by 2020.” The plan also requires institutions to devolve implementation to academic units rather than leave it central management to impose policies.

UA commits to develop sector-wide plans for universities to implement and include ATSI relevant issues in all policies and advocacy.

“It is the common view of all Universities Australia members that universities owe it to Australia’s Indigenous peoples to do all they can,” UA states.

La Trobe University was first off the blocks last night to endorse the new scheme. “We are one hundred percent behind this initiative. At La Trobe we are very proud of our efforts to date, but there is still much more work to be done,” Vice Chancellor John Dewar said.

Enrolments up by not much

Growth in university student numbers was subdued in the first half of 2016, increasing by 2489 compared to 4200 in 2015. The new figures, out this morning, continue the trend to slow growth, replacing the explosive expansion that accompanied the introduction of demand driven funding. As such they will be welcomed by advocates of DDF who fear government would use rapid growth of student loans on its books to justify capping student numbers.

Indigenous enrolments last year were up by 9.4 per cent from 2015, bringing the number of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islander university students to 1.6 per cent of the total. Students from low SES backgrounds also increased marginally over the last decade, from 14.9 per cent in 2007 to 16.6 per cent last year. However remote and regional student numbers as a share of domestic onshore undergraduates was steady on the previous year.

STEM disciplines were strong with IT enrolments up 13 per cent and natural and physical sciences growing by 7 per cent.

Thanks for past endeavour

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel laid on the charm in London last week, telling an audience at the Australian High Commission that European Australia got its start through a British field experiment in botany and astronomy, courtesy of James Cook RN commanding HM Bark Endeavour and a party of scientists. “The voyage was a big science mission, first and foremost, setting the pattern for the era of multinational, collaborative projects to come. … And in time-honoured tradition, commentators complained about the waste of taxpayer funds!”

There was more, about research collaboration and the way Australians know, “British science is the admiration of the world.” But Dr Finkel also mentioned the Australian innovation agenda, research infrastructure and the “embodied innovation” that makes the mining industry ever more efficient, safe and environmentally low-impact.

“Suffice it to say,” he concluded that the fundamentals of the Australian economy are sound, our cities are the world’s most liveable, and our people are outward looking and diverse.” This must have been exactly what scientists stuck in a Brexit-bound, Little England London winter did not want to hear.

Gender divide

The OECD reports that across all members around 25 per cent of 15 year olds expect to work in job that require post school science training. But males are twice as likely to want to be engineers, scientists and architects and while 4.8 per cent of them want to work in IT just 0.8 per cent of females do. However young women wanting to be doctors, vets, nurses or other health professionals exceed males by three to one.

Getting better

Applications to participate in the new VET student loan scheme have closed and the government has released stats on the move from the VET FEE HELP debacle. So far this financial year providers have committed 2094 student debts under the old scheme for full or partial re-credit, promising to remit $19.2m. The public service unit handling complaints about the old scheme has dealt with 3900 matters. Under the new scheme there are 13 200 student loan applications with 189 providers approved to date, from 256 applications.

It seems that the new scheme is settling down, shame about the last one

Dolt of the day

Is CMM. A learned reader points out that Curtin U is not the first medical school competition for UWA in the golden west (CMM last week). The University of Notre Dame at Fremantle’s first class graduated in 2008.

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