VC Brian Schmidt announces scheme to recognise and reward 15 top teachers


AGSM celebrates 40 years of “preparing great people to achieve great things,” but not everybody is applauding

Flinders U staff union calls for short, but not necessarily sweet, talks on pay and conditions

Swinburne says new centre researching data for social innovation is an Australian first

Shaggy dog story

On Saturday UNSW announced researchers had discovered a ‘colony’ of St Bernard dogs in the Siberian wilderness, where their ancestors are thought to have been left by Marco Polo, presumably with brandy and Toblerone ration packs for 750 years. Note Saturday’s date.

Langton moves up

Marcia Langton is the University of Melbourne’s inaugural associate provost. She will, “provide leadership on relevant areas of engagement, cultural connections and other heritage issues and in the development of indigenous teaching and research activities.”

The university has also created a position of PVC Indigenous, responsible for strategies to support Indigenous staff and students, work formally done in the portfolio of then DVC Ian Anderson who has moved to Canberra to run the federal government’s Closing the Gap agenda.

Expert on air

Veteran sports journalist and news reporter Tracey Holmes joins UTS to teach its new graduate diploma in sports media. Ms Holmes will continue to broadcast on ABC NewsRadio.

App research of the day

Will Berkman wants to know the quality of dietary data users obtain from commercial app MyFitnessPal and so the University of Sydney masters student is seeking participants for a research survey,  here.

App use is a great way to discover a data lode of information on food consumption patterns and mine it for research, he says. “The willingness of commercial app users to share data is high, and while some interesting work has been done this way on other apps, because we don’t have an accurate gauge of the dietary data they yield most of the work focuses on behaviours (such as the frequency of app use), rather than food intake itself.”

But it’s the potential impact of apps to help people manage their diet that has particular potential. According to Mr Berkman, “traditional dietary assessment methods tend to be time consuming and inconvenient for both subjects and practitioners, and there is now work telling us that subjects prefer using electronic food records.Smart technology could allow dieticians to upscale services.”

 Green for gong

Monash U’s Jane Montgomery Griffiths has won best actor in the Melbourne Green Room awards.  Associate Professor Montgomery Griffiths is head of the university’s Centre for Theatre and Performance.

ANU to honour its 15 outstanding educators

VC Brian Schmidt is rolling out a key part of his programme for ANU, (CMM February 10) distinguished educator awards. The (maximum) 15 distinguished educators will be members of the university ‘s Institute of Innovation in Higher Education which will be a “high-profile, highly visibility platform for HE idea generation, discussion and mentoring (including) the sharing of innovative practice in higher education and the creation and sharing of resources.” Members of the programme will serve five years and receive an extra $10 000 a year. Applications for the first round open in August.

Advice on UNESCO

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has appointed Curtin U DVC A Jill Downie to the government’s advisory commission on UNESCO.

Don’t ask Siri

Swinburne U has launched its Social Innovation Research Institute, which isn’t, funnily enough, abbreviated to Siri. Swinburne claims what it calls SII is the first research organisation in Australia to “focus digital technology on social innovation challenges,” including driverless transport, workplace automation, mental health problems and budget-stretching demands on state services.

Technology and the digital connectivity of everything is providing an opportunity to collect, analyse, interpret and apply massive diverse data-sets like never before. Data analysis will become so sophisticated it has the potential to inform services of what individual consumers want and use; and to make allocation of scarce resources highly efficient,” says the institute’s inaugural director Jane Farmer.

No, Siri does not know what to do.

Depends what you rank

Nihon University of Japan, which is planning a campus in Newcastle NSW is 67th of 292 institutions listed in the new Times Higher ranking of Japanese universities. But on any league table it’s the number one Japanese university about to have an Australian campus.

Everybody isn’t applauding at AGSM

The Australian Graduate School of Management turns 40 this year and while now just part of the UNSW business faculty, management is making much of its achievements. There’s been a flash function in Sydney for the aureate of the AGSM.  And there is a professionally-produced, if self-congratulating, chronicle of the school, online. Details are also emerging of the AGSM’s new “bespoke residential and educational retreat” at Cliffbrook House, on the coast at Coogee, which looks like it will be very flash indeed. This is all good for the brand, but it is not going down well with some of the AGM staff who fear for their jobs under the present workplace change proposal, which is part of the university-wide restructure. The union says 40 people’s livelihoods are at risk while a university spokeswoman says 28 positions are set for “disestablishment” but that the 21 “directly affected staff members have first opportunity to express interest in 19 positions in the new structure.”

Impact expert to UTS

Charlene Zietsma is joining UTS where she will work on the Australian component of a global project on management of fast-growing firms and research large-scale sustainable change initiatives. She will also work with early-career academics on research impact. Professor Zietsma continues as Director of Entrepreneurship in the business school of York University in Toronto.


Presses stopped

UTS is closing its Centre for Independent Journalism (CMM March 30),  which produces online investigative site Reportage, which is  “committed to the idea that the media can play a role in making those in power accountable to the public.” The site is produced by “professional journalists, members of the community, UTS staff as well as journalism students from several universities, including UTS.” According to ex SMH editor and now UTS journalism professor Peter Fray the centre did “remarkable things” across its 25 years but the news eco-system has changed and it is time to do new things.“ Such as Central News, a new UTS website which will initially cover the community around UTS‘s Sydney CBD-fringe campus, in perhaps the hip-est, app-est tech- start community in the country. The site will employ a part-time editor, with students working on news “and other forms of content.” ”There are lots of gaps in the news eco-system,” Professor Fray says.

Short, but not necessarily sweet

At Flinders U the union is looking for a fast fight for a new enterprise agreement. “We have proposed to the VC and senior management that, given the uncertainties facing staff, the last thing we need is a long, protracted bargaining fight, and so a short, intensive set of negotiations is preferable. Senior management have expressed interest in this proposal and will respond shortly,” says National Tertiary Education Union branch president Andrew Miller.

Not that there isn’t ample to argue about. Nobody knows how the new academic and administrative structure due mid-year will roll out, because “the university itself is designing its processes and structures one piece at a time. This then means that consultation itself becomes piecemeal and episodic, responding to what is new and emerging rather than what will eventually come,” Dr Miller says. He adds there is the precedent of other university managements pushing for simplified industrial agreements that strip back working conditions.

But Dr Miller does not think the worst of Flinders managers, “we do not think Flinders University would emulate these tactics.”  And while management may not always have much to say he “cannot fault HR for their efforts to meet and talk.” He also acknowledges that there are limits to what can be done re the restructure, “stopping or re-steering the ship is virtually impossible.”

So, it’s looking good for an EA deal to be done quickly and peacefully.  Don’t bet on it. Dr Miller also says the union will be asking members what they want from a new agreement, and “survey results show that members (and non-members) overwhelmingly believe our current conditions need to be fiercely protected.” Like he said, negotiations might be short, but they won’t necessarily be sweet.