“We shall fight them in Andromeda ….”

“A small, faraway galaxy with almost no dark matter has threatened to break our theory of galaxy formation,” UNSW announcement yesterday. We should send a suitably Churchillian response – giving into threats never works.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Bradley Smith (James Cook U) and Peter Bentley (Innovative Research Universities) review the ARC’s new data visualisation tool, which brings together information on research grants now spread across multiple sources.

On-line outreach programmes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are needed now. Katelyn Barney and Hayley Willams (both Uni Queensland) explain why. Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s pick of the week.

Merlin Crossley moves beyond zero-tolerance grammar policing which makes people feel excluded. A focus on intent and meaning in students’ work is what matters.

QUT savings plan now in place

Management has finalised the restructure plan, sent to staff for consultation in October  

To which staff responded in numbers, university management says there were 1350 written submissions.

Overall the plan is much the same as first proposed, with schools and one faculty reorganised into five faculties (CMM August 21). The 174 redundancies proposed in October is down to 159 and new positions are up two, to 99.

With staff-agreed savings already in place and another $36m from this proposal,  Vice Chancellor Margaret Sheil says QUT “is in a sound financial position” for 2021.

This is a good result for the university and continuing staff – which will be no comfort to casuals who have lost work and fixed term staff who will not have contracts renewed.

Another government plan to oversight uni cyber security

The Innovative Research Universities suggests it’s a bit much

The feds are keen to ensure universities don’t sign research agreements with the wrong crowd or open dodgy emails – and yet still the government feels the need to protect them further.

The Department of Home Affairs is circulating a draft of a bill to protect critical infrastructure – which includes university cyber assets.

If legislated, the bill would subject organisations covered, to mandatory risk management, and incident reporting and place them under “enhanced cyber security obligations.”

And it would apply to all of a university, not just the bits conducting research Scarlet Overkills will steal if they can.

As to where the over-sighting would be done, the draft suggests “Home Affairs may be best placed to regulate compliance … for the education and research sector.” And ultimately the minister would decide who does what, with the draft; “allowing the minister to require certain entities relating to a critical infrastructure asset to do, or refrain from doing, an act or thing if the minister is satisfied that there is a risk of an act or omission that would be prejudicial to security.”

To all of which the always careful Innovative Research Universities does not respond, “enough already!” But this does seem to be the intent of its submission to the Home Affairs draft.

The IRU recognises the importance of cyber security but suggests the proposed law is a “cumbersome means to achieve this end, for universities and likely for other sectors. “

“Fundamentally it ignores that universities are just as keen as the Federal Government that their operations are not put at risk. Universities are active in working with the Government to reduce risks and to act when incidents occur. The major challenge is the plethora of government agencies requiring action from universities with no coherence to these requirements.

“The overall sense is that the bill enforces action to ensure universities, as part of national infrastructure, are protected. However, it is clear that universities already respond to government information and requests and take advantage of all advice provided.

The IRU suggests universities should be dropped from the proposed bill but if not, the government should talk first to a “sector-wide working group,” about implementation.

Perhaps Home Affairs could call the higher education expert steering-group established last year to oversight creation of “guidelines to counter foreign-interference in the Australian university sector,”  (CMM September 4 2019).

Monash U shines on international horizon

The way things are now

The much-anticipated Northern Territory pilot of COVID-19 safe international student arrivals is underway, with 63 people arriving yesterday and going straight into quarantine. It was also the deadline for the states to provide plans to the Commonwealth on how they would quarantine internationals.

A way they could be better

Monash U is now a licensed university provider in Indonesia, “the first-ever international, foreign-owned university.” Monash Indonesia will teach postgraduate programmes, starting in October.  The university has estimated 2000 masters, 100 PhD students and 1000 people in executive education programmes after ten years (CMM February 11),


On-line ok-ish but students miss the library

Regulator TEQSA wanted to know how students managed with the move to remote classes

So it commissioned Lin Martin to analyse experience surveys for the first half of the year from 118 institutions.

In general, Dr Martin finds institutions stepped up, which students recognised.

Problems areas she identified do not strike CMM as surprising given what higher education providers were scrambling to do; IT issues, academic interaction, examinations, staff expertise and discipline/delivery specifics. “The most common area of complaint about on-line teaching and learning was that there was insufficient engagement with teaching and tutoring staff and that much more interaction with individual students was expected than had occurred,” Dr Martin writes.

What students liked was “flexible access” to course content, “good access to academic help and advice on-line” and technology being used in ways that made it “easier” for students to learn. “Often students commented that they hoped such flexibility might continue after the return to face-to-face teaching,” she adds.

Which is what students in the surveys want to do. For a start they miss libraries, which “provide two major benefits: being a quiet place to study away from the increasingly congested home environment during lockdown; and libraries now being major places of student social interaction where work is also discussed.”

“A rather surprising outcome was also students reporting that they had much more difficulty managing their own time and workload than if they were studying face-to-face on campus. The feelings of isolation and lack of interaction with peers in the online environment no doubt contributed to this sense that they were on their own in managing their studies.”

Welders winning ways

Weld Australia wins an industry association accolade at the 2020 Australia Defence Industry Awards

What the Weld Australia that gave the training establishment a serve, you ask? That’s the one. WA warns the new Manufacturing Engineering and Training Package “differs very little from the 2005 edition, and the 1998 one, for that matter.”

According to WA, “apprentices start work”, “without requisite skills or knowledge” and called on the feds to review the TAFE welding inquiry,” (CMM July 28).

CMM asked WA if there was anything happening on the inquiry, but alas, there is no reply.

Appointments, achievements

Winners of Australian Defence Industry Awards for 2020 include; * Excellence award and Academic of year: both to John Close, ANU – quantum physics, * Innovator of year: Francis Bennet, ANU – optical physicist.  * Academic institution: Australian Maritime College (U Tas). Training/mentor programme: ASC Shipbuilding and Flinders U.


 Winners of the Association for Tertiary Education Management’s 2020 awards are.

President’s awards:

Excellence in leadership: Stephen Willis (Uni Otago)

Innovation: Victoria Roome and the Orientation TV Team(CQU)

School, faculty management: Natalie Downing (Engineering and Built Environment) Uni Newcastle

People and culture: Anna Vagias, Lisa Pickering, Jason Carter, Braydan Allott, Shelley Nash, Joanne Fiorenza, Kristie Husk (Federation U)

Research management: Lorraine Denny, Sharon Athanasios

Marketing, comms and PR: Ashley Zmijewski/Renee Ryan for 2019 India Campaign (Uni Canberra)

Government and policy: Naomi Yellowlees and the Compliance Services Team (Curtin U)

Student engagement: Nerida Lithgow/David Inge and the Student Life Team, Macquarie University

Community Engagement: Karen Jackson, Moondani Balluk, Victoria University

Outstanding achiever: Abby Grave, Uni Melbourne

 President’s awards: Tony Heywood and Susan Hudson (NSW/ACT Region)

Meritorious service: Nonie Kirker, (Aotearoa Region)

Certificate of appreciation: Jae Redden, (NSW/ACT Region)