Plus new rankings show it’s the Eight then daylight

Thinking the best of people

The ANU reports a study that finds researchers “keen to publish in elite journals are unknowingly tweaking experiments and analysis methods to increase their chances of getting results that are easily published.” It’s called P-hacking and it occurs “when researchers collect or select data or statistical analyses until non-significant results become significant.” Who would have thought?

AHEHCF 2015 Conference

Bebbington steps up

University of Adelaide VC Warren Bebbington explains why universities will do it tough while the status quo prevails, yesterday: “With uncapped enrolment costs accelerating beyond available funds, the Australian university system is in danger of entering a fiscal famine: the slow starvation of a sector that generates the nation’s third largest exports.”

And none will do it tougher than the Group of Eight; “the courses most drastically underfunded, medicine, dentistry, and vet science for example, are concentrated in the Go8. The courses most difficult to make commercially viable, those that address our artistic and cultural heritage for example, survive chiefly within the Go8. And the lion’s share of the nation’s research, much of it desperately under-resourced, also resides in the Go8.”

So what is to be done? “Both major political parties now intend to make higher education funding a major issue at the next federal election. I will work with both sides of politics, through the Group of Eight and as deputy chair of Universities Australia, to see that real, long-term, sector-wide reform ultimately prevails.” And now a cut in funding for Commonwealth Supported Places is off the table that debate needs to address the philosophical difference of who pays. “I had an email this morning saying we should learn from Scandinavia where university is free but I don’t hear anybody talking about Scandinavian tax rates,” he says. The community also needs to hear how the existing system isn’t exactly rational, with law and business students subsidising intensive teaching disciplines, notably medicine and dentistry.

But first up we need to hear from Kim Carr. “The big picture for me is the Labor platform, we need to hear what the party has to offer.”

Ingracious in victory

Labor’s Senator Kim Carr and University of Canberra VC Stephen Parker want Chris Pyne to resign, which will not happen – if only because they suggested it. But what is with calls around the higher education community yesterday that Universities Australia’s “current leadership” should also go? Surely calling money is what industry lobbyists are paid to do (see below).


Defeat is another word for opportunity

Belinda Robinson would not recognise policy defeat if it arrived with a brass band playing the funeral march from Handel‘s Saul. The Universities Australia chief appeared on the Chris Pyne podium on Monday backing deregulation MKIII but last night was saying its defeat, “has created a terrific opportunity for all parliamentarians to participate in a more comprehensive and inclusive process for having a look at all the options for resolving this issue and discussing and consulting with students and with the public on a long-term, durable solution.”

And what that isn’t is anything that involves cuts, be they those proposed in the last budget, or any the government might have in mind for the next. “Now is not the time to be progressing those cuts or to be seeking offsets from, say, research projects – programs – or in fact any other higher education program. We need some stability now and we need a genuine process that looks at all options in the interest of us really coming to some durable, long-term solution to this issue that is now very well-recognised across the board.” And what do you bet “all the options” include achieving deregulation by spending not saving.

More cosmopolitan than Clayton

Demonstrating how tough times are for Australian universities Monash’s Prato Centre has hosted the launch of the city’s new access card, which provides access to all four of the local museums, plus restaurant and shopping discounts. Prato? It’s in Tuscany. “Since its establishment in 2001, thousands of Monash students and researchers have benefited from the centre’s strong links throughout Europe,” director Dr Cecilia Hewlet says. Which must please the tens of thousands of Monash students at its less cosmopolitan campuses in the east of Melbourne worrying about how to pay their HECs

Andy unimpressed

“Congratulations to our activists throughout the country. This is who we are. Principled, courageous, fighting for the future of our sector,” the National Tertiary Education Union tweeted yesterday.

To which Charles Sturt U VC Andrew Vann replied; “will you also not be pushing for unaffordable pay rises, or will that still all just be evil VCs’ problem to solve?”

There is history here. In Spring 2013 enterprise bargaining stalled at CSU, with the union covering some general staff agreeing to management’s offer while the NTEU held out for more. So Professor Vann took his proposal direct to staff and won a vote to adopt the deal. It is the only case of a university management actually taking the NTEU on in the negotiating round now ending, which delivered pay rises around 3 per cent per annum for three years at every university.

Medium’s not the message

CQU’S Dr Stephanie Schoeppe was warning yesterday that young Australians spend way too much time on their bums, just as VC Scott Bowman‘s advisory committee was discussing how the university could better use social media.

Science takes time

Research policy people are pleased with the NCRIS extension with everybody assuming the recommendations of the imminent review will mean the strategy’s near-death experience will not be repeated in the forward estimates. “NCRIS is the poster child for (Chief Scientist) Ian Chubb’s call for a much more strategic approach to the funding of science,” says Cooperative Research Association chief Tony Peacock. But it’s not just a national approach to establishing infrastructure that matters, it’s the provision of resources for the long haul, he says. Dr Peacock points to German and Canadian programmes, and most recently Britain‘s heavily hyped Catapult scheme, that demonstrate how long-term funding stability attracts industry investment. “Businesses are extremely sensitive to changes in public research budgets or policy changes. If you look around the world at industry-government research schemes, the biggest factor in achieving greater industry investment is time,” he says. We will find out if the government agrees when it responds to the imminent Miles Review of the CRC programme.

Absent @ Avalon

“Wireless internet access has landed at Avalon Airport thanks to a Deakin University Wi-Fi initiative … The free Deakin Wi-Fi means people transiting through the Avalon terminal can now remain online from gate to gate,” Deakin University announcement yesterday. Just not many people, “Avalon has tried to position itself as Victoria’s second international airport after Tullamarine, but has not been able to attract foreign airlines,” Australian Financial Review, also yesterday.

ANU new 2

 The Eight then daylight

Yesterday’s Times Higher league table release of the top 100 universities by discipline group for research, teaching, knowledge transfer and international outlook got lost in all the deregulation coverage. So here are the full lists of Australian institutions (usual caveats re methodology apply).

Arts and Humanities: ANU (16), Sydney (18), Melbourne (19), Monash (44), Queensland and Macquarie (joint 67), La Trobe (99) and UNSW (100)

Clinical, pre-clinical, healthMelbourne (13), Sydney (23), Queensland (42), Monash (46), UNSW (54), Adelaide (95) and UWA (96)

Engineering and technologyMelbourne (37), Queensland (39), Sydney (46), Monash (48), UNSW (63), South Australia (69), UTS (95)

Life sciences: Melbourne (29), Queensland (31), ANU (33), Monash (63), UWA (64), Adelaide (96)

Physical sciences: ANU (28), Melbourne (30), Queensland (87)

Social sciences: Melbourne (19), ANU (24), Sydney (31), Queensland (35), UNSW (46), Monash (61), UWA (77)

It’s business as usual, with 35 of 38 top 100 spots held by Group of Eight institutions. And the University of Melbourne, also as usual, is everywhere.