Plus China reveals the Stepford lecturer

Hard act to follow

Applications are open for a new chief scientist to replace Ian Chubb, who stands down at the end of the year. According to Industry and Science Minister Ian Macfarlane the job requires a substantial research record, policy experience and communications skills. Sounds like a job for, um, Ian Chubb.

Accounting education exports at risk

Australia is an expensive destination with declining quality for accounting education, according to a stark submission to the government’s international student strategy from CPA Australia and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand. The submission points to the 2015 QS ranking for accounting and finance, which showed all six Australian universities in the global top 50 declined. Accounting also fares badly in the University Experience Survey.

“The cost of education in Australia is also disproportionately higher than the perceived quality of the education on offer. Unless either the perceived quality of the Australian educational offer increases and/or the cost comes down, parents and students are likely to question whether they are receiving value for money,” the submission warns.

It also recommends a legislative requirement that “the majority of fees” paid by students in a field “be retained and reinvested” in it. And it calls for extending professional year programmes, which attract bonus migration points, rather than allocate the same number on the basis of bachelor degrees. Government should “put in place an approach to skilled migration that is more nuanced than the current annual review treadmill, thereby enabling international students, education institutions and employers to plan with greater certainty,” the submission states.

Overall it warns continued growth in Asian demand does not assure export expansion. “Australia may be geographically blessed by its proximity to the eastwards shift in economic gravity and associated growth in student numbers, (but) it is not the only player on the field. And, with advancements in transport, communications and digital technologies, the playing field will continue to get bigger. As this shift in demand occurs, the presumption that English will remain the preferred language of instruction cannot be taken for granted. Increasingly Mandarin will become the language of business.”


The Australian Council for Private Education and Training is holding a conference today, deep in enemy territory – Melbourne. Victoria saw the worse rorting of the competitive training market due to a badly designed state scheme and the loudest defence of TAFE. This may be why the feds and private providers will be out in force with national training minister Simon Birmingham, ACPET chair Rod Camm and Australian Skills and Quality Authority chief Chris Birmingham all speaking. But not a minister could be found to speak for the state government with Victoria represented by senior bureaucrat Rob Wood. CMM trusts flag of truce conventions apply.

ANU June 4

Hiding the huge

“If it ever were mastered, Philip Ball says invisibility would be used for power, wealth or sex,” the University of Melbourne summarises the science writer’s talk, Friday. Another use would be to hide vice chancellorial egos.

State of the art stuff up

The Gail Gago gutser continues in Adelaide with the state training minister continuing to cop a caning over her plan to exclude private providers from competing for publicly funded student places. Federal minister Simon Birmingham has made the running on the issue and much of the Adelaide media has lined up to back him. Last week’s coverage was terrible for the state government and CMM wonders how just how many more free kicks Premier Jay Wetherill will allow Ms Gago to give the local and federal conservatives. On Friday Senator Birmingham suggested Canberra could allocate $65m in federal funds direct to training providers, which did not generate any apparent outrage.

What works for wheat will not sell sugar

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce wants the Grains Research and Development Corporation to move out of its flash digs in the Canberra power precinct of Barton to somewhere more farmer friendly. There was talk last week, at least in South Australia, of sending it to the Waite agriculture campus of the University of Adelaide but it looks like Wagga is the senator’s selection. He was photographed the other day with Charles Sturt U’s Andy Vann discussing relocating the GRDC to Wagga, where CSU has a campus. A consolation prize, perhaps, for the university not getting, (again), its Murray Darling Medical School.

There is no talk of moving Sugar Research Australia from Brisbane, which must be a relief given SRA is in the market for a chair and non-executive directors. The talent pool is deeper there than Cairns.

Yes but, Bond but

Bond University was on a hiding nothing with the death of corporate crook and campus founder Alan Bond. A eulogy risked being taken as endorsement. Silence would have looked like ducking the university’s extraordinary origins. So the university played it straight, “Alan did not possess the benefit of a university education himself but believed passionately in the advantages and opportunities that a university degree can provide,” the university stated.

“The university has never condoned Alan’s business dealings. Rather we have accepted that Alan had another side and we are grateful for his vision, passion and determination that led to the establishment of Bond University.”

Enough, probably too much for the investors who lost money in Bond schemes, said.

Stepford Lecturer

“A charming robot teacher gives lecture in Jiujiang University in east China’s Jiangxi province,’ the People’s Daily reports. “Developed by the intelligent robot studio of the university, the robot teacher can not only give lecture according to the teaching material, but also communicate with students.” Fear not sessional lecturers, this robot looks, well robotic. (Thanks to Alex Usher for the pointer).