The best and not the brightest

In a speech text yesterday (scroll down) Education Minister Alan Tudge said policy work on research commercialisation, “is about how we can apply our best minds.” He added that “it is also about the role we want our universities to play.”  Note the distinction.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

James Guthrie on Macquarie U’s finances and the impact of savings on staff and students.

And Rachel Sheffield and Dale Pinto (Curtin U) on the need for university teachers to be part of a community and how their university works to create one. Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s new selection for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

Plus, the Research and Development Tax Incentive is indestructible. Kirsty Abbott (CQU) considers what it does and ways it could be better.

WithMerlin Crossley (UNSW) on relationships between academics and professional staff (M*A*S*H is a good model).

ARC drops pre-print ban for future awards

The agency adjusts to the obvious

The Australian Research Council has retreated from its ban on references to pre-prints in grant applications. This led to 15 applications being excluded from the recent Discovery Early Career Researcher Award round and 17 from Future Fellowships.

The application of the recently introduced and widely unrecognised rule created uproar last month, not least among applicants and their supporters in physics, where pre-prints have been part of research publication for a generation.

The ARC now states, that “the adjustment” to its policy, “reflects contemporary trends and the emerging significance of preprint acceptance and use across multiple research disciplines as a mechanism to expedite research and facilitate open research, as well as to provide greater equity across disciplines and career stages.”

Which does not answer the obvious question – why was the ARC so out of touch with “contemporary trends” in research practise?

As to researchers already excluded? “We must allow our standard application and appeals processes to be completed for these cases,” the ARC states.

Alan Tudge’s three lessons on research

The education minister spells out where money needs t go

In the prepared text of a speech yesterday Mr Tudge told the Business Council of Australia it is time, “to refocus on the main purpose of public universities: to educate Australians and produce knowledge that contributes to our country.”

The minister said there are three lessons on, “how we can shift the dial on commercialisation outcomes”

* programmes and funding: must focus on the six manufacturing priorities, resources technology and critical minerals processing, food and beverages, medical products, recycling and clean energy, defence, and space. “We need to back in those priorities to create critical mass, to have our best researchers delivering breakthrough R&D in these areas … “

* a research and manufacturing ecosystem: “it’s not enough to bolt-on one scheme, or tweak incentives in one programme.

“We have to take a broader view of the whole commercialisation system, and change settings from university research through industry incentives to take risks and pull ideas through the innovation pipeline.”

Mr Tudge said a “bedrock of collaboration” is needed to align business and university priorities and develop “a common-culture of problem-solving and innovation.”

* funding will go the fastest. The minister said some businesses are willing to take more risks and some universities are showing “an increased focus on research translation and commercialisation – rather than pure discovery.”

“We want to work with these early leaders who have shown themselves capable and willing to lead the charge and become lighthouses for the research and business sectors. “

Just in at the “who knew!” desk

“Scholars sometimes must acquire specialised knowledge if their research is going to have optimal impact,” bized accreditor AASCB Tuesday.

The (usual) big winners from NHMRC funding  

The National Health and Medical Research Council announces $400m in Investigator Grants – it isn’t much to go around

The success rate for the funding is 14.8 per cent with 254 projects approved out of 1722 applications. It is worse for women Chief Investigators, 12.9 per cent of their projects were approved, compared to 16.5 per cent for male CIs. And it is horrible for mid-career women, with 6.5 per cent successful at Leadership Level One, compared to 10.9 per cent for men.

Success rates are better than when the Investigator programme started, but not much. In 2019, just 13.2 per cent of all-applicants were funded.

With the Investigator announcement, the pattern of overall competitive grant funding for the year is clear – and it is business as usual, with the Group of Eight winning 72 per cent of YTD funding. The big five alone have won $379.6m, (Monash U $62.9m, Uni Melbourne $80.4m, UNSW $89.3m, Uni Queensland $70.8m, Uni Sydney $76.2m).

Bigger institutions (with 20 or more applications) that had the best success rates include Uni Melbourne – 17 per cent (266 applications) and Uni Queensland 20 per cent of 193. People at the MRI formerly known as the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute will be pleased – with 29 per cent of 55 applications succeeding.

On your marks!

And get set for the Regional Universities Network conference. The starter’s gun is noon, tomorrow

RUN unis are the heart of their communities, pumping job-generating money into cities, circulating ideas that improve lives and industry and energising the next generation of leaders they educate. How they do it and what they need to do more of it is on their conference agenda.


VET can learn from HE on microcredentials


UTS and Uni SA point the way on industry engagement

There are not too many policymakers who would have thought when the national training system was designed in the 1990s that some 30 years later the VET sector would be looking to universities for insights on employer engagement. And, of course, many in VET today will challenge the accuracy of that claim.

And yet, as the sector moves to new organisational arrangements to improve industry engagement it is two new university partnerships that offer insights into what is missing in VET.

Following the Joyce Review, the government is looking to replace the Skills Service Organisations and pilot Skills Organisations with new ‘Industry Clusters’ which will be given a broad set of responsibilities well beyond training package development. Their work will include significant engagement with employers, RTOs and schools – to help learners make better decisions about careers and courses, and help employers access the training their employees need.

It is here where VET can and should learn from the universities.

Uni SA’s new partnership with Accenture has seen them jointly create the Innovation Academy in Digital Business offering a new bachelor degree in digital business along with short PD courses which will be jointly developed to meet the upskilling needs of Accenture’s global clients and its own workforce.

UTS’ partnership with Telstra (Telstra+UTS) sees them jointly designing a suite of microcredentials specifically targeting skills gaps at Telstra. UTS has developed processes whereby Telstra employees can “stack” their microcredentials for credit towards a newly created Master of Professional Practice. These microcredentials have the highest retention and completion rates across all of Telstra’s previous PD activities.

The challenges for VET are two-fold.

Firstly it needs the flexibility to readily co-design microcredentials (with employers) which are smaller than units of competency and which can be recognised for credit. And secondly it will need assistance through the Industry Clusters to take an employer engagement model that works for large institutions and large employers and make it work for thousands of RTOs and 2.3 million SME businesses.

Claire Field is the host of the ‘What now? What next?’ podcast and in the latest episode is joined by Jodi Schmidt, CEO of the Human Services Skills Organisation, to discuss industry engagement and the work of the HSSO.


Sarah Bourke (ANU) wins the Stanner Award from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. It’s for an academic manuscript by an ATSI author

Jill Jones (Uni Adelaide) wins Uni Melbourne’s Wesley Michel Wright Prize in Poetry.