Unis Australia’s practical and political budget bid

From infrastructure funding to protecting student centred funding the peak lobby asks for what it expects the government can stretch to

 

plus USQ’s great new recruitment campaign

 

and sit up straight journalists. Education academics want to teach you a lesson  

 

Sydney, it’s a state of mind

It seems the new University of New South Wales branding, “UNSW Sydney” is geographically challenged (CMM yesterday). A learned reader suggests it is not helpful for the university’s Canberra campus, what with it being neither in Sydney nor NSW. The Rural Medical School’s Albury Wodonga https://rcs.med.unsw.edu.au/albury-wodonga-campus-map campus is also badged as UNSW Sydney. Yes, it’s homepage features a bridge, but not the one over Sydney Harbour.

Advance Australia fast

Michelle Simmons from UNSW Sydney, yes the actual city, will deliver the NSW (the state not the uni) Australia Day address on Thursday. Good choice – Professor Simmons is a poster person for a bunch of things that make Australia great, she is a migrant, working mother, plus a scientist leading the major national team working on quantum computing. If she and her colleagues succeed the exponential increase in computing power and boost for science will ensure Australia will indeed advance fair – and fast, really, really fast.

UA’s practical approach

Universities Australia’s budget bid is a pinnacle of practical politics. The peak lobby goes easy on the extravagance, accepting the government is not going to shower campuses with cash and in return asks for continuation of demand driven funding for undergraduate places (which isn’t under threat) and better funded versions of what the system already has and will likely keep, perhaps with some trims.

In return UA gives the government cover for any budget move to reduce the repayment threshold for student loans and increase the rate at which higher income earners pay off their debt. “We support further consideration being given to reasonable policy design adjustments that are consistent with the underpinning ‘fairness’ principles of the scheme and that do not undermine the fundamental policy intent or objectives of the scheme,” UA states.

Specific asks include: the government abandoning the ever-green budget commitment to cut government funding for universities by 20 per cent (blocked by the Senate since it was first proposed in 2014), money for research as well as teaching in funding per Commonwealth Supported Place, which is now being reviewed, not breaking up the $3bn Education Investment Fund (which the Senate will likely stop from happening) and committing to infrastructure funding plus a five year plan to support the indirect costs of research.  All eminently sensible, perhaps achievable. Politics is the art of the possible.

See, it really was a big crowd

Flinders U reports six students had “a close encounter with US President Donald Trump’s weekend inauguration”. They are in Washington for six-week Capitol Hill internships.

USQ great campaign

University of Southern Queensland has a cracking new recruitment campaign, selling study to people with more life than academic experience but who are game to have a go and believe that education is an opportunity to change their lives. CMM does not rate the slogan “Unleash your fearless, (CMM May 13 2016) but really, really likes the branding and creative displayed in TVCs. One features a tradie in his 20s who is ambitious, curious and prepared to work outside his comfort zone to become an engineer. The other present a mother working to fit study into life and a young woman making her own way.  The creative does not claim a USQ degree will make anybody secretary general of the UN but it does speak to the university’s market – people for whom study is a leap into the frightening unknown and commits to helping them. As CMM put it in May, “good advertising is always easy when brands what they stand for.”

Getting the message out

There is not enough media reporting or public discussion of Australia’s “world class” education research so Associate Professor Anna Sullivan (University of South Australia) says she and colleagues are doing something about it.

They have established the Media Centre for Educational Research in Australia, charged with expanding coverage of researchers’ work to set the record straight.

Mainstream media reports on education issues often draw on comments from people who are accessible but lack engagement with contemporary research. Journalists regularly source opinion from lobbyists, advocates and moral entrepreneurs who skew debate with their own agenda.”

The MCERA intends to ensure hacks have access to accurate information through media briefings and expert comment.

Good-oh, but journalists will still check their own facts. In this case claims that Australian education research is “world class”. hAccording to the 2015 edition of the ARC’s Excellence for Research in Australia, of 38 odd institutions researching education 26 were “at world standard.” But there were just six “above world standard”. Only the universities of Queensland and Melbourne won the accolade that matters, “well above world standard.”

Improved by experts

The National Health and Medical Research Council is piloting expert groups to provide researchers and research ethics committees considering complex genetic studies and clinical trials involving medical devices. The council claims expertise will “improve” start-up times for research. There is no word on membership.

Hospital pass

Universities Australia has some members that want a medical school of their own, especially in the regions, and more others that think that no new ones are needed. It’s a diplomatic challenge that would bamboozle Julie Bishop but coverage of the issue in UA’s budget submission (above) should keep all members happy-ish. While welcoming “the focus on increased training opportunities in rural areas” UA acknowledges the cost and shortage of clinical placements, notably outside public hospitals and the need for them in aged, primary and mental health sectors. And it warns that, “without a coordinated, inter-government approach, the ability to fully understand and adjust for factors that impact in clinical training in both the health and higher education sectors and across different governments and providers will be lost.” Neatly done.

High but no higher

Janet Verbyla has started as interim VC of the University of Southern Queensland (she started acting as VC last October). She replaces Jan Thomas who moved to Massey U in New Zealand. Professor Verbyla was senior DVC at USQ under Professor Thomas but locals say she does not want the job permanently.

No cost courtesy

A  report for The Australian Sociological Association sets out the grim conditions for young scholars without full-time and continuing jobs and little prospect of finding them. Most of its recommendations regarding pay for all work done are never going to happen, the supply of highly qualified labour for junior teaching jobs exceeds demand and many university managers come over all Gradgrind when it comes to budgeting.

But the report does recommend a range of professional and plain common courtesies casual staff are due and which would not kill senior staff to extend. In essence it suggests treating the temporarily employed as scholars not serfs. Quite right.

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