Could do better

The feds propose to simplify the bewildering blather of statistics they extract via the Higher Education Information Management System (CMM January 25). This strikes the Innovative Research Universities as, up to a point, a good thing, which addressing its technical concerns, would make even better. For example, the IRU opposes ending “no information” codes on student enrolment data, “as many students do not know their long-term address at time of enrolment.” Overall the IRU could not resist giving HEIMS a character assessment suggesting that for “completeness and usability” its output does not match the VOCED stats produced by the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education and Training.

There’s more in the Mail

In features this morning David Myton talks to Macquarie U’s Leanne Denby about sustainability in higher education 

Cap on student places lifted for another regional uni

The federal government has unthawed its funding freeze to warm-up Southern Cross University, where VC Adam Shoemaker welcomes an additional $12.9m over four years for student places. “The government’s decision to reconsider its absolute cap on student places and award additional funding is welcome recognition of the value that Southern Cross University delivers to regional Australia,” he says. Professor Shoemaker also“welcomed the willingness” of National Party MP Luke Hartsuyker and Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s office to work with the university.

This is a big win for Professor Shoemaker, who anticipated a change in government policy in November when he launched a campaign on the unique funding needs of regional universities, like his (CMM November 29).

With SCU’s win and Thursday’s announcement of growth money for the University of the Sunshine Coast precedents are now in place for the other members of the Regional Universities Network to lobby for advanced exemption from the yet to be set rules governing increased student places. To be followed by every other university in the country with a sympathetic MP or senator in hailing distance.

RUN certainly sees an opportunity. On Friday Professor Shoemaker and chief executive of the lobby Caroline Perkins gave evidence to the House of Representatives Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation. They argued for “a locality-specific” approach to funding regional universities.

“Measures like across the board funding freezes or efficiency dividends that do not take account of individual circumstances, commonly disproportionately impact on those regions/institutions that have the most need of support, and those that are relatively more dependent on government funding,” Dr Perkins says.

Brunel U offers fellowships

Brunel University has five short-term fellowships for researchers from partner institutions, UNSWRMIT, Curtin UUniSydney and UofQ. Work on resource efficient cities, environment and health is eligible.

A Murray Darling medical school? Don’t bet your barnaby

Rural health minister and deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie was probably thinking of other issues when she met Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon this week. Like Australian snowboarding, Senator McKenzie is also sports minister, or perhaps how her leader is feeling.

But Dr Gannon did not miss the opportunity to tweet the AMA position on how to “strengthen the rural medical workforce.” Apparently ways to do it include, “improving medical student selection process,” “resourcing regional training hubs” and the like. But what it definitely does not mean is a new medical school – gosh, do you think he meant the proposed Murray Darling school, which La Trobe and Charles Sturt U argue will alleviate the shortage of doctors in the bush.

You can bet your sweet barnaby he did.  And do you think Senator McKenzie agrees? Your barnaby is safe on that as well. Yes, retweets are not supposed to be endorsements but a professional like Minister McKenzie never tweets anything she does not mean.And she retweeted Dr Gannon’s text.

Over the last couple of weeks Senator McKenzie has been talking about expanding training places for medical graduates from the existing schools, in towns like Wagga, which the MDMS would serve. It looks rather like a point being made.

HELP costs

It did not get much media attention last week but the government’s legislation to reduce the HELP repayment threshold to $45 000 pa matters to graduates.  who unlike the deputy prime minister do not have friends who put them up rent free.  “Students undertake their degrees in order to better themselves and to equip themselves with the skills and knowledge to contribute to a better Australia. Students and graduates should be valued by the government, rather than seen as an easy target,” says new president of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations Natasha Abrahams.

James Cook U restructures leadership

Sandra Harding has taken advantage of two departures from her executive to restructure the leadership of her James Cook University. The now vacant DVC academic and global strategy and engagement positions will be abolished.  In their place the university will create a new DVC Students, based in Cairns. The new post will have charge of pathways and admissions, student learning support, examinations, careers and library and information services.

Vice Chancellor Harding will take on direct responsibility for international student engagement and recruitment, marketing and advancement.

The new structure replaces a comprehensive reorganisation in 2014 when then DVC A Sally Kift had her portfolio expanded and Robyn McGuiggan became DVC academic and global in a big promotion from her previous post as PVC for the business and law faculty (CMM April 7 2014). Professor Kift left JCU last February and Professor McGuiggan left at the end of last year and has set up a consulting service in Cairns.

Deakin law school calls Australia home for research

Deakin U’s law school is looking locally with a new research publication strategy.

“An analysis of the top ERA rated Australian law schools shows unequivocally that their profiles are built on a solid platform of publications in the top four Australian law journals,” school research director Nicole Siller told staff on Friday.

This rather reverses former dean Sandeep Gopalan’s emphasis on publishing in international journals, which was not popular with all Deakin researchers focused on Australian law.

While Dr Siller assures staff efforts to “target” “top” international journals “have not gone unnoticed,” under the new policy staff who have articles accepted by ten Australian law journals, “will be receiving some sort of financial advantage.”

Nor is this all about institutional interest; “we also have a social responsibility to further Australian legal scholarship (which by its nature is mostly published in Australian journals,” she said.

Dr Siller responded for a request for comment on Friday with a statement: “We continue to prioritise publication in quality journals from both Australia and internationally.”

Aus Maritime College recognised

The Australian Maritime College has $3m over three years to participate in a US programme on hydrodynamic research on hull shapes and propellers to reduce noise and erosion. The University of Tasmania’s AMC joins seven American institutions, which are funded by the US Navy. Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne announced the funding Friday.

This may go some way to placating UniTas, which did not seem especially pleased when the minister announced the navy shipbuilding college which is to have its flagship in Adelaide. A year back the university complained it did not know what was going on, adding, “the AMC has “strong capabilities” “with clear defence applications. ” CMM March 29 2017).