Plus Brian Schmidt speaks up against sexual assault at ANU

Kiwis kick in

The New Zealand Government has committed $1.5m per annum for three years towards the Australian Synchrotron. It’s a modest sum compared to the $52m a year for a decade it receives in federal funding but probably proportionate to the two country’s respective research output. CM suspects it will not be enough to rename it the ANZAC Synchrotron?

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Excessive bureaucrats be warned

Flinders U’s new strategic plan will go to Council in March but staff might suspect they have had a heads-up from VC Colin Stirling. In an all-staff memo he advised that “positive” student recruitment results “will help to address” the university’s budget shortfall. But more money is needed and so Professor Stirling signals a voluntary early retirement scheme. Flinders is checking with the ATO on whether what it has in mind would qualify for tax concessions as an eligible termination payment.

But does the VC have any particular group of employees in mind? He did not say, although some might take a hint from his writing, “excessive bureaucracy and hierarchy have been identified by staff across the university as key concerns.”

Campus Morning Mail

Appsetite killers

Juliana Chen from the University of Sydney and colleagues have examined diet apps and find most lacking. “Few apps scored well for measures of accountability and while, overall, many apps scored reasonably in the domain of scientific coverage and accuracy, there was limited scientific coverage of information relevant to weight management,” they write.

If you absolutely must download dieting help the 28 examined are listed  here.

Schmidt sets the tone

Yesterday Brian Schmidt spoke out against sexual violence at ANU and called on the students at his commencement address to join him. The new VC contrasted his own undergraduate campus, Arizona State in the early ‘80s which, “was like being transported to Rome in 60AD, sex drugs and rock and roll gone wild,” with ANU now where he assured students “you’ll have fun but in a responsible, respectful way.” Even so, he acknowledged that there were 21 reported incidents of “unwanted sexual attention,” at ANU last year “and we know there are more that were not reported.”

This was a smart strategy. ANU is perhaps the campus closest to the US experience in the country – large numbers of students are not locals and they variously live on campus or socialise with classmates. They have a strong attachment to the university and what happens on it really matters to them. “ANU consumes your social life, your recreation time and where you sleep at night (or during the day),” then students Olivia Clark and Uma Patel, wrote in an essay on life there CMM commissioned in another place three years back. (It went off the graph, breaking then readership records for its class).

Professor Schmidt’s statement anticipates the imminent Universities Australia campaign against sexual assault on campus. “Respect, Now. Always,” which CMM reported on Monday.


NISA not for everybody

That universities are listening to the prime minister will not surprise the honourable gentleman at all but CMM is surprised at the speed with which institutions have embraced his innovation initiative, with its emphasis on applied research and economic impact, and not many references to pure research. Universities like La Trobe are certainly keen, yesterday announcing Dan Grant is its first PVC Industry Engagement. Dr Grant joins La Trobe from Pfizer Australia, where he was head of external R&D.

But not everybody is engaging with impact. The National Tertiary Education Union warns the National Innovation and Science Agenda, “threatens the academic profession and public education as well as independent research and knowledge acquisition especially in the Humanities and Social Sciences.” The comrades are especially exercised by the government’s plan to remove publications and postgraduate student load from research block grant funding formulas. They will explain it all at a Melbourne on March 8.


Monash mostest with the leastest

With university managements across the country warning about the need to cut administration costs the size of existing back-ends is instructive so thanks to the reader who pointed CMM at stats on the split between managers and other staff at Group of Eight institutions. Of course the numbers are not comparable, some of the great eight are more liberal with who they call managers than others. Even so the ratios of managers to staff is a guide of sorts to university administrations.

At UWA there is a manager for every 6.6 staff, at the University of Sydney the figure is 7.5 and 8.2 at the University of Adelaide, followed by the University of Queensland with 9.4 while at ANU it is 11.3. The least managed three are the University of Melbourne with 20.1 staff per manager, UNSW with 25.9 and Monash University with a whopping 32 .8 staff per manager. Monash looks a lot, lot leaner than UWA, unless they are just much much meaner with titles at Clayton.