Swinburne and Western Sydney universities singled out for success

 Plus the human cost of research impact

And the week’s big winners at work

 “A 1928 Porter, that’s my …” *

And if you can’t complete the line you really do need to see Derham Groves introduce his curated collection of TV themes and classic commercials. Dr Groves is a senior lecturer in architecture at the University of Melbourne, where he also researches a bewildering range of popular culture, including ancient sitcoms. The exhibition is on now at the Baillieu Library and Dr Groves  speaks at noon on Wednesday. * mother dear. It’s from the theme of My mother the car, which Dr Groves discusses.

Friday July 1

Change agents

The tectonic plates of academic achievement shift slowly but they are always moving as UK consultancy Firefly suggests in its new assessment of institutions set to grow in standing over the next 15 years. The report includes two Australian universities, Swinburne and Western Sydney. Swinburne is nominated for two strategic moves. One is offering “practice-based PhDs almost entirely based in the workplace. The programme has been designed to support the research development of senior practitioners in the fields of management, education or other appropriate professional areas, and to bring benefits to the organisations in which they work.” The other is reducing the range of undergraduate courses while adding a law school; “the strongest differentiators are reinforced through multiple aspects simultaneously and thread themselves through a university’s strategy.”

The University of Western Sydney is nominated for looking to meet demand for continuing education in China with “innovative packages of undergraduate and postgraduate study with credit recognition for parts of the study undertaken in China.”


 Sydney looks south

The University of Sydney is surveying alumni to discover what they think of the university and how they compare it to the competition, broadly defined. UoS is very interested indeed in how it compares to the University of Melbourne. While the two hardly go to head to head for undergraduates this isn’t entirely surprising. UoM is the auld enemy and Parkville’s primacy in research rankings and overall reputation irks some at Sydney. In terms of competitors for undergraduate markets however there is no especial emphasis on UNSW, which would seem to be the obvious competitor in the local derby. Overall the survey is standard stuff, designed to determine how much graduates know about their university and how much they care, if at all.

App of the day

The University of Queensland has an app for international students listing jobs available at home, searchable by country and with direct links for applications. In its first six weeks the app has carried job adverts for 358 employers. With universities, including UoQ, recognising the need to connect Australian students to employers doing the same for internationals is as smart as it is essential.

Emphasising the e in STEM

The school day will need to defy time to include everything experts say should be taught. Like engineering in primary schools, where the emphasis in STEM is on science, according to QUT’s Lyn English. “Young children are natural engineers. They design, they build, and they use their maths and science understandings to solve the myriad engineering problems around them. But we are overlooking these capabilities,” she says. Makes sense to CMM, but probably not to advocates of art and design, who want stem to become STEAM.


An idea to RUN with

Across the ditch NZ Labor leader Andrew Little has floated cancelling student debt for graduates who take public service jobs in regional communities. This should appeal to the Regional Universities Network, especially if the offer was exclusive to its members’ students.

The human impact of engagement

Here’s an idea that may not have occurred to the metrics experts working on impact and engagement measures for the Australian Research Council (CMM August 9) – government evaluations have degraded academic work and alienated academic workers. In a new journal article Ann Martin-Sardesai, (CQU) Helen Irvine and Stuart Tooley (QUT) and James Guthrie (Macquarie U) set out the way UK and Australia research assessment models have “imposed new centralised and bureaucratic controls on academic labour which point to its increasing commodification.”

They also argue that while research output models are successful policy they have come at a human cost. “Alongside increased government accountability demands and assurance measures, the hours of work, workloads and stress levels of Australian academics have also increased with concerns over autonomy in teaching and research”

Trainers terminated

The Victorian Government has terminated contracts for “close to 20 low quality training providers,” (as of yesterday they were not publicly named). The Victorian government regulates training, independent of national authority, ASQA.

While the state branch of the Australian Education Union welcomed the announcement it warned “regulation alone will not fix the broken funding system.” According to president Meredith Peace, “without a cap on the funding available to private providers, they will simply continue to take advantage of the system and continue to take advantage of Victorians who are just trying to get the skills and training they need to be job ready.” The union wants 70 per cent of public training funds to be reserved for TAFE but less than half the total number of people who undertook training in 2015 were in the public system, (CMM July 5).


Heads UP: the week’s winners at work

University of Newcastle communication disability researcher Bronwyn Hemsley is honoured with a fellowship from the International Society of Augmentative and Alternative Communication. The award was announced yesterday at the ISAAC conference in Toronto.

Steffen P Walz is moving from RMIT to Curtin U where he will continue his work on integrating “gamefulness” across life.

Assistant minister for VET Karen Andrews has brought in Meredith Jackson to assist with organising the office. CMM understands Ms Jackson, chief of staff to Christopher Pyne in education, is expected to be there for weeks not months.

John Simes is the NSW Cancer Society’s 2016 researcher of the year. Professor Simes leads an NHMRC centre at the University of Sydney. Professor Minote Apte (UNSW) wins the “make a difference” award for her pancreatic cancer research. Aspro Daniel Catchpoole and colleagues at the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network receive the society’s inaugural big data grant for a project on using genomics data in clinical decisions.

David Pitchford, the head of the NSW government’s “urban transformation agency” is joining UNSW as professor of practice in the Faculty of Built EnvironmentMr Pitchford will also continue to lead the UrbanGrowth agency. In a joint appointment between the City of Melbourne and UniMelbourne Lars Coenen will become the inaugural chair of liveable cities next year. His “particular expertise” is in future-proofing cities for “safety and liveability.”

Peter Junk has received the Royal Australian Chemical Institute’s Burrows Award. The James Cook University professor is honoured for research set out in 240 articles over a decade, with “an extremely high citation rate”.

Nicolas Herault and Francisco Azpitarte are the winners of the Economics Society of Australia best paper award for 2016. They are honoured for their “”Recent trends in income distribution in Australia” published in the Society’s Economic Record.

Neville Plint is the incoming director of the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals InstituteDr Plint joins from Anglo American Mining, where he focused on new operational technologies. He takes over as the SMI adapts to the end of the mining boom.

Kenneth Lampl has joined the ANU School of Music. The jazz sax player, composer (for 70 films) and teacher (including the Juilliard) will work with students on composition, technology and audio engineering. Drummer, composer and PhD student at the University of Sydney James McLean has won the 2016 Freedman Jazz Fellowship.