plus Federation U says no to Warrnambool

political realism at Universities Australia

and Edith Cowan wired up for open day

Pine on Pyne

So could Chris Pine (the actor) be mistaken for Christopher Pyne (the other actor). Too right. The former was on Triple J the other day promoting something or another, where he did a passable impersonation of the latter. Think South Australian accent but with added cockney. Why do Yanks think we all sound like extras in Oliver?

Wed July 13

ANU’s excellent endowment

Graham and Louise Tuckwell have quadrupled the potential worth of their $50m scholarship programme at ANU. The new money includes $100m for two halls of residence housing 800 students plus the accommodations’ earnings, totalling an estimated $200m over 30 years. The revenues earned will fund an increased number of Tuckwell scholarships each year. According to ANU, this is “Australia’s largest personal philanthropic contribution to a university.”

The existing Tuckwell scholarship programme awards 25 ANU students around $100 000 over five years in living allowances.

Graham Tuckwell said the donation solved two problems, funding and expanding the scholarship programme without leaving capital “with investment managers taking big fees” and expanding accommodation at ANU. According to Dr Tuckwell, who lived on campus as an ANU undergraduate, “not enough students have a residential experience.”

Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt expects the residences to open in 2019.

The Tuckwell Scholarships are occasionally criticised as elitist but the class of 2016, split 60 per cent male, 40 per cent female, has a mix of people from public and private schools. This is a very big win for ANU, building its brand as an elite, but not exclusive institution for the nation.


Open day of the day

At Edith Cowan U’s open day people thinking of what to study can have a headset attached to detect their brains’ beta waves. While wired they are shown a five-minute video about different courses and their reactions are measured via pulse rate and brain activity. When unhooked they learn the study areas that got their heads humming. And no, people who spark up if other universities are mentioned do not, CMM repeats do not, get a burst of current.

ECU has all the usual open day activities, virtual reality, video production and so on. And some that aren’t, unless Edith Cowan now has a degree in laser skirmish games. The programme is here and it looks a bunch of fun.

Not great expectations

Universities Australia has set out its strategy for the new parliament and carefully calibrated for these straightened times it is too. Instead of warning universities are doing it tough and demanding more money UA starts from scratch. “This election has made clear that many people are anxious about the future and they are looking to government to build confidence that the new economy includes a place for them,” UA president Barney Glover says.

“At the heart of this assurance is the role that the education and training system – from early childhood through to vocational and higher education – will need to play to equip people of all ages and at all stages of their working lives with the skills needed to thrive in the new economy. Universities will be centre stage in this evolution.”

Sensible stuff. Prime Minister Turnbull’s innovation agenda goes down well with people who think Uber is excellent and assume AI will never undercut their pay but it scares people who fear they can’t compete and who voted accordingly in the federal election. The challenge is to convince them that education and training are the only options for them and their kids. As a report for Queensland TAFE put it last week; “digital technology and platforms make it easier for lower-cost overseas workers to compete in the local labour market.” Explaining this is a challenge for VET and higher education, as well as Mr Turnbull, CMM July 7).

Most of UA’s specific objectives are also more realistic than optimistic; keeping demand driven funding, holding onto HECS, no cuts to money for teaching, maintaining Australia “as a destination of choice” for international students (as if the feds would want that to change) and finally, “a properly funded research system.” The last one isn’t likely – too much research funding is never enough but the demand has to be there, if only to demonstrate to Treasury that there is only so much the sector will cop.

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Careful counting 

Last Friday CQU was spruiking the presence of member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry at a community event. It was a big call given the state of the count then but CQU’s scrutineers picked it, with the LNP member being returned, just (with 50.41 per cent of the two party preferred vote). The PM taking the time to open a refurbished CQU building in February obviously paid off (CMM February 17).

Still waiting at Warrnambool

It was a federation too far with Fed University declining to take over Deakin U’s Warrnambool campus. Deakin VC Jane den Hollander told staff there yesterday that Fed U had declined a $100m state and federal rescue package and what happened next depended on her university’s council, which would decide what to do next month. However the signs are mixed, at best. Deakin has upped its recruitment spend for Warrnambool this year without success. “Despite our best efforts and those of the community, new enrolments for Trimester Two have not increased,” the VC, said yesterday.

This is consistent with Professor den Hollander ‘s original position, that declining enrolments made the campus unsustainable. However she has more recently said existing students would complete their degrees at Warrnambool and that it would be listed in the 2017 Victorian study guide.

The future now depends on the new federal minister ponying up the $14m local Liberal MP Dan Tehan said during the campaign was available. But in a signal to staff that survival means hard changes Professor den Hollander added that for Deakin to persevere; “the education model will need to be different. We must find better ways to manage small enrolments across a range of disciplines because we must provide students with a Deakin experience consistent with our other campuses.”

Curriculum collaborators

Romy Lawson is moving from Edith Cowan to Murdoch University where she will be DVC Education. Professor Lawson is a former director of learning and teaching at the University of Wollongong where VC Eeva Leinonen was DVC A. They were part of a curriculum project there, which is written up here.


Votes in labs

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews is a master of working with what he has, producing  plans that sound impressive but don’t cost much. His government has already delivered a paper setting out industries that need a higher and further educated workforce, (CMM June 11 2015). There is an international education plan, which proposes innovating proactively (admittedly it does include one good idea, offering skilled migrant visas to internationals who complete a PhD at a Victorian university, (CMM March 18 2016). And now the government has announced a health and medical research strategy with commitments of $250m or so. Sadly most of this is money that would be spent anyway, a new cardiac hospital for example. Even, so there is funding for proton beam therapy, genomic sequencing and a new research centre at St Vincent’s Hospital. When voters think research they think medicine.