Student satisfaction on agenda

CMM advertiser Studiosity is holding a Sydney symposium on student satisfaction. Keynotes include University of South Australia’s Tracey Bretag on contract cheating, Lisa Bolton from QILT and the Grattan Institute’s Ittima Cherastidtham on “dropping-out: the benefits and costs of trying university”

They are joined over two days by numerous others, including Studiosity chief academic officer, Judith Saychs and Chris Tisdell, from UNSW’s Scientia Education Academy.

The full programme is in CMM Features, this morning – if interested follow up fast, Studiosity says demand is strong.

Snakes on a chain: the rare cases of ARC funded blockchain research 

The blockchain turns ten in October, with the anniversary of Satoshi Nakamoto’s foundation text and Australian researchers are on to it – just not many of them.

Jason Potts and colleagues at RMIT produce papers on the way the system can change the how economies and government work. People at Monash are interested in a blockchain exchange.

And at the University of Sydney, Vincent Gramoli has just received an Australian Research Council future fellowship worth $855 000 over four years to create the red belly blockchain ,a technology to address a core problem; blockchains “require resources that grow with the number of participants and yet fail at providing increasing performance.”  (CMM October 26 2017). The ARC also awarded him a $376 000 Discovery Project grant earlier this year, to develop a blockchain security system called taipan (what is it with the snakes?).

But that’s it – Dr Gramoli holds the only two grants awarded by the ARC for specifically named blockchain research, ever.

Enterprise agreement signed off at Murdoch U but it was a long, and painful time, coming

What’s happened: The Fair Work Commission has signed off on the Murdoch University enterprise agreement, ending a long and bitter blue in university bargaining. And the university has dropped its Federal Court action, commenced during bargaining against individual union officials, National Tertiary Education Union state secretary Gabe Gooding and industrial officer Alex Cousner. A university representative tells CMM, “Murdoch University and the NTEU have reached agreement to discontinue the proceedings in the Federal Court between the parties. This decision reflects the current goodwill between Murdoch and the NTEU during successful negotiations for a new enterprise agreement.”
Bargaining that started badly: The university went hard from the start, arguing that it needed a stripped-down agreement to make possible much-needed savings. The NTEU  said it understood money was tight (CMM February 14 2017)and was happy to talk but declined to move on what it saw as core conditions.
And got worse: What made the drawn-out dispute so tough was the way the university tried to blast the union out of its entrenched positions. Murdoch U management piled on the pressure by winning Fair Work Commission permission to cancel pay and conditions under the expired enterprise agreement and return staff to the lower paying industry award, if there was no new agreement. And the university launched legal action against union officials, claiming, they were misrepresenting MU positions on the dispute and seeking to coerce it through public meetings, email and social media. This escalated the argument and left the union with a choice between surrendering or digging-in deeper. The union replaced shovel with an excavator. The 12 month plus dispute only started to end, when new VC Eeva Leinonen made it clear at the end of last year she wanted a deal and management amended its positions on key issues covered by discipline processes, academic workloads and conditions and fixed term contracts.
But was the dispute worth it?: Friends of the university say Murdoch U extracted valuable concessions that are now in the new agreement. But if so the university has paid a high price. The threat to cut pay if no agreement was reached did not go down well with many staff and launching legal action against union officials – not the NTEU, individuals who would have to defend themselves in court – did not impress all members of the Murdoch U community.

CRC P apps open

The feds have opened applications for the new round of CRC Ps – “a short term, industry-identified and industry-led collaborative research project to develop a product, service or process that will solve problems for industry and deliver tangible outcomes.” Maximum funding is $3m and max duration is three years. Apps close on September 13.

Hard loss of soft power in international education

Australia’s international education industry booms on breaking new records for student numbers and revenues just about monthly. But the focus on hard cash blurs the soft power the industry generates. As Vicky Thomson from the Group of Eight puts it; “Australia’s international education industry is about so much more than revenueinternational students today are the industry leaders of tomorrow who will go into the world and promote Australia throughout their careers,” (via Twitter).

Smart women Ms Thomson.  While Australia needs all the friends it can cultivate in China it also needs more mates in other Asian nations. But as Frank Larkins from the L H Martin Institute warns; fewer students from Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan came to study in Australia last year than in 2002 (CMM July 19). ““Students educated in Australia do provide an important bridge back to their home nationality,” he suggests.

Macquarie U curriculum design moves forward

The Macquarie U senate has signed off on the new curriculum architecture (CMM July 20), which means faculties have to move sharpish to develop course proposals. They need to be with senate by the end of November to launch in 2020. M U observers suggest numerous academics are yet to engage with the process but the general sense is that staff will get everything done, basically because they need. “The changes are good for students, making it easier for them understand course requirements and reducing the risk of discovering they are short a requirement for graduation when they thought they were finished,” says one M U observer.

Few futures fellows from humanities

Humanities researchers often feel unloved when grants are announced, suggesting their receive humble sums while scientists receive the vast price of gold-plated thingatrons. Back in May the Deans of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences lamented their discipines’ share of research infrastructure funding, which was less than 1 per cent of the total.

They may not be too pleased with the new Future Fellowships either. Of 100 awards valued a $84m, 18 (on CMM’s accounting of research interests) went to HASS academics. But most of the fellows were at the social sciences end of the spectrum, with just three awards to humanities scholars.

Rosalind Smith (UniNewcastle) receives $1m for research on women’s textual practises in the English Renaissance. Melissa Merritt (UNSW) has $850 000 to examine the Stoic origins of Kant’s ethical ideals and Monash philosopher Toby Handfied is granted $1m to study sacred values held by individuals and groups.

Bond U puts a high value on emotional intelligence

Bond University is selecting medical students on the basis of emotional intelligence, as well as their ATARs. “We are slightly concerned that medical programs are attracting people who think you only need academic intelligence to become a good doctor, and that is simply not true,” Dean of Medicine Kirsty Forrest says.

“While some people called it ‘naval gazing’, skills such as the ability to recognise your own emotions, helping others understand theirs, displaying a breadth of emotional vocabulary and communicating well, are critical to a medical career.”

This year Bond U expanded the candidate pool for medicine by dropping the ATAR cut-off to a still stratospheric 96, with 540 applicants sitting an EI test. Some 240 of them made it to interview of whom 120 were offered a place.

Of course, Bond U has another selection criteria, the character-building courage to take on $378 000 in study debt.