From the “we see what you did there” desk

CQU has stepped up to the plate,” the university reports. Its offering PD for podiatrists.


There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the fine art of working out what we value (Antiques Roadshow on TV can help).


Dawn Gilmore (RMIT) and Chin Nguyen (Curio) look at the different ways Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Uni Queensland developed pandemic vaccines and how their approaches apply in teaching and learning development.


James Guthrie (Macquarie U) and Brendan O’Connell report searching Victorian universities documents for the number of people, people, not accounting abstractions, who lost their jobs last year. They found changes in accounting practises and calculating headcounts make final figures hard to find. Their data is here.

Employers will participate in work integrated learning but they need help to make it happen. Anne Younger (Australian Industry Group) and Judie Kay (World Association for Work Integrated Education), make the case It’s this week’s addition to Contributing Editor Sally Kift‘s long-running series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

Angel Calderon on Australian unis up in even brighter Leiden lights

The ranking that ranking researchers rate is out

The CWTS Leiden report on research outcomes does not make much of a media splash – what with there not being a single score marketers can promote and it being really, really complicated.

But it is a better guide than most, perhaps all, other rankings as to how universities are performing on a range of metrics.

Which is ok for Australia. Some 32 unis make the cut, compared to 26 in 2019 and 23 in 2015.

There is even evidence that Australian university researchers don’t ignore industry, (sorry minister). Nine universities are in the global top 100 for the number of publications co-authored with industry.

Angel Calderon (RMIT) crunches the numbers in CMM this morning here.

International student flights not on this runway

It’s not just the local council that is unhappy about international students quarantining at Adelaide’s Parafield airport (CMM Wednesday).

Federal MP Tony Zappia (Labor-Makin) hopped into the idea in the Reps saying it, “is causing angst among nearby residents, who last year were subjected to a COVID outbreak.”

“The national and state governments’ first responsibility is to keep people safe. Furthermore, governments should prioritise the return home of the thousands of Australians who are currently stranded overseas and desperately want to come home,” he said in the House.

There is a message in this for lobbies who warn the job-generating international education industry is in peril –voters who feel threatened don’t care what happens to it.


Another Alan Tudge idea to upset unis

Think free speech on campus, translational research, job-focused courses and teaching off-shore is all the education minister’s agenda? Think again 

Mr Tudge’s Universities Australia address yesterday innocuously included ending the university system as we know it.

“We also need to start a conversation about how we can support greater differentiation and specialisation in the university sector. We have 39 comprehensive universities, which may not be an optimal model for the quality of teaching or research in this country,” the education minister announced.

That’s “teaching or research”, not teaching and research.

This is a debate as old as the assumption that every university needs to find something for its DVC R to do, but one which looked settled.

The new Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2021 Act states that to keep the university title institutions must undertake “world standard” research in at least three, or 30 per cent of disciplines they teach.

Any that don’t presumably could be demoted to “university college” or, heaven forfend, even “institute of higher education.”

There isn’t a VC in the country that would not fight to the last PhD student to stop that.

Micro-credentials: huge and hiding in plain sight

They are already big in training

In 2019, there were 2.6m people enrolled in non-qualification “training bundles” – mainly to meet regulatory requirements in safety and skills maintenance.

In a report for the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research, Bryan Palmer suggests that while only are few are “recognised as a VET skill set, it would appear that industry actors and/or individual students already see many of these bundles as a ‘credential’ of value, one for which they are willing to pay,” – 93 per cent are fee for service.

And all is largely well, with the market “operating effectively” and meeting regulatory and safety requirements.

Mr Palmer suggests government could “stimulate training” where there will be future needs and regulators could review risk-based assessments, but, “there appears therefore to be no compelling need for government to further intervene in the management of this market than currently occurs.”

What we learned at the UA Conference

CMM asked Universities Australia and they replied

If the UA Conference taught us anything, it is that in these COVID-uncertain times, prior planning has to cover a great many possible scenarios.

Like university timetable schedulers, the organisers had to plan for all eventualities. The latest lockdown in Victoria prevented around 150 delegates from attending, along with a clutch of speakers and presenters, but the hybrid in-person and on-line format allowed the show to go on with remarkably few hiccups.

The conference also focused on how our competitors for the international student market are stealing a march while Australia’s borders remain firmly closed. Australia’s Ambassador to the US, Arthur Sinodinos, told participants that American universities are planning to re-open for in-person tuition for the new academic year and the State Department is working on visa processing for international students.

The ambassador also outlined how the Biden Administration was working on issues such as economic/racial inequality, infrastructure and future competitiveness, with big implications for universities. Australian universities need to be aware of these changes so that we can take advantage of significant new opportunities for strengthened collaboration in key areas such as defence research, space and energy.

Education Minister Alan Tudge shared his top priorities: the government’s research commercialisation agenda; international education – where the focus is on the strategic medium-term level, rather than the immediate return of overseas students; the domestic student experience; and freedom of speech along with freedom of academic inquiry.

Shadow Education Minister Tanya Plibersek said universities hadn’t received favourable treatment by the government. “Casinos got wage subsidies. But universities didn’t.” She promised Labor would work with universities to ensure “every Australian kid who works hard and gets the marks should have a chance to go to university – if they want to.” Unis would also have access to Labor’s $15bn national reconstruction fund to “translate your brilliant discoveries and inventions into new Australian businesses and new Australian jobs”.

We also saw that innovation, ingenuity and a passion for new knowledge are alive and well among the university research community. The two eloquent winners of the Universities Australia’s annual Pitch It Clever competition showed how even complex, challenging concepts can be succinctly – and compellingly – presented to the broader public.

The winners were Elise Ajay, a researcher from The University of Melbourne, who won the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for her presentation on the future of bionic hearing while the Universities Australia Award went to Diego Holanda Pereira de Souza from Curtin University for his pitch on safer, cheaper and longer-lasting batteries.

Appointments, achievements

Of the day

 Paul Govind (Macquarie U) is appointed Asia Pacific director for the Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment.

 Of the week

 The Australian Society of Microbiology 2021 awards are here

Richard Blythe is Curtin U’s new PVC for the humanities faculty. He joins from Virginia Tech when he is dean of architecture and urban studies. He is a previous dean of architecture and design at RMIT.

Guy Curtis (UWA), Christina Slade with colleagues from the academic integrity team (Uni Queensland) and Amanda White (UTS) are the shortlist for the inaugural Tracey Bretag Prize. The award, “honours the memory of Tracey, as well as provide momentum or her work and the pursuit of academic integrity as part of a positive student experience.” It’s an initiative of study-support service (and CMM advertiser) Studiosity.

Jacqueline Huggins joins ANU as an honorary professor in history. The university describes Dr Huggins ia Bidjara/ Birri Gubba Juru woman who the university describes as “among the first First Nations historians in Australia.”

Farah Magrabi (Macquarie U) is named a 2021 fellow by the International Academy of Health Sciences Informatics.

Yi Ren (Uni Southern Queensland) receives a 2021 award for excellence in research management leadership from the International Network of Research Management.

 Roberto Sabatini (leadership) and Nicolle Connelly (outstanding contribution), both from RMIT receive awards from industry association Aviation/Aerospace Australia.

Roberto Sabatini (leadership) and Nicolle Connelly (outstanding contribution), both from RMIT receive awards from industry association Aviation/Aerospace Australia.

Corporate lawyer Jane Seawright is the new chair of TAFE QueenslandValerie Cooms (Griffith U and Uni Queensland) also joins TAFE’s board.