There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Pablo Mungula, Lauren Butterworth and Jane Habner on three ways Flinders U brings learning resources closer to students. This week’s piece for Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed Now in Teaching and Learning.

Plus Angel Calderon (RMIT) explains the Leiden research ranking results and why 2020 was a good year for Australia.

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

And 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.

Research translation: if they build it will business notice?

Jeff Connolly, chair of the government’s expert panel on research translation spoke, carefully, at the Universities Australia conference last week

He mentioned incentives to connect universities and industry and the importance of mission-driven research.  And as to how to do it – “there isn’t a single answer to this challenge but it does involve scale it does involve focus on those areas we select and it requires a suite of measures that are much more holistic and point industry, the university sector and government towards each other.”

But, a learned reader asks, does industry know it needs to get involved?

Mr Connolly reported that there had been 45 responses from researchers to the panel’s discussion paper, 38 from research organisations, seven from government and 38 from business and industry associations.

Background checks in the foreground at ANU

Back in March the university introduced background check system for present and prospective staff before starting new jobs

Standard stuff, working with vulnerable people, qualifications claimed, criminal records, money-laundering, that sort of thing.

What wasn’t routine was the administration of the checks. “Unfortunately, there have been some challenges in rolling it out as easily as we had hoped, and so HR is revising the checking processes over the next few months,” Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt told staff in April.

The challenges appear to continue, with the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, expressing concerns on issues including privacy, potential discrimination, record security and burdensome process.

“We fully support the university’s goal of providing a safe environment for working and studying. However, this goal should not come at the cost of administrative and financial burden nor should it be used to green-light discriminatory employment practices,” union branch president Simon Copeland states.

No need to ask Uni Sydney

Education Minister Alan Tudge wants universities to include a statement on what is being done to protect free speech on campus (CMM June 3). Uni Sydney already has

It’s in the 2020 annual report. Wise move, given Uni Sydney chancellor Belinda Hutchinson was appointed to the working group of chancellors to develop a template of the code for universities to use (CMM December 10 2020).

Uni Sydney was an early adopter of the Robert French code, undoubtedly as a matter of principal, and former VC Michael Spence made it clear that while implementing its intent would not be easy it would be done, (CMM July 30 2019). Within five months, it was (CMM December 11 2019).


Four futures for bized (none are great for all)  

Prior to the pandemic, the standard business school model was teaching profit maximisation to students and providing it to vice chancellor via enrolments from overseas. Time have changed and will keep changing, SCU researchers warn

“While few would have predicted that a pandemic would bring the Australian higher education sector to its knees, COVID-19 merely represents the vector by which its reliance on international students and lack of sufficient diversification of income has been exposed,” Owen Hogan, Michael B. Charles & Michael A. Kortt (all Southern Cross U) argue in a new paper for the Journal of Public Education Policy and Management.

They asked academics, stakeholders, students and officials what could replace the standard cash-cow model of business schools all doing the same thing in the same way – and report four alternative futures.

Unbundling services: low trans-border mobility and low perceived value

A growth of small courses and training packages “aligned to industry needs” from private organisations and “agile education providers”.

Only business schools “offering high-quality, multi-disciplinary business courses” (mainly Group of Eight, Australian Technology Network and Innovative Research Universities schools) last the decade

Export commodity: high trans-border and low perceived value

Universities go for international growth but struggle in competitive markets. At home they are thought to be promoting theories antithetical to social justice priorities.”

“Plagued by poor management, lack of quality and diminishing returns from the initial international student drive, some universities closed down their business schools, while some lower-ranked public universities disappeared altogether.”

Premium pathways: low trans-border mobility and high perceived value

Demand for bized focuses on innovation and sustainability. “The social licence of business schools was enhanced, although improvements in the baseload public funding handed to business education were marginal.” More private competition also reduces research funding, leading to a decline in the research rankings. International enrolments fall.

Educational tourism: high trans-border mobility and high perceived value 

Successful business schools focus on value for money, career-appropriate learning industry-partnerships. They diversify international student markets by reducing fees for Africa and India. Private teaching-focused providers focused on the domestic market emerge.

Compare and contrast: John Dewar on state and national budgets

The La Trobe U VC laments the Federal budget in a message to staff; “unlike the last year, the federal budget contained no specific assistance for the university sector and made it clear that international borders are not expected to reopen for another 12 months. This will place enormous pressure on university finances …”

But he points to a prodigious plus in the Victorian budget; $100m for, “new state-of-the-art facilities at the La Trobe Sports Park. This will become a major sports facility for elite and community sport in Melbourne’s north- which has been part of our vision all along. It continues the state government’s exemplary record of providing much-needed support for Victoria’s universities during COVID-19.”

ARC adds “sensitivities” to files on researchers

Research funding applications are flagged for “sensitivities” which the Australian Research Council shares with security agencies. But the researchers may not have a chance to respond

Responding to close-questioning by Senator Kim Carr (Labor-Victoria), at a Senate committee hearing Friday, ARC chief executive Sue Thomas reported that information on issues considered sensitive can be added to the personal records that research-applicants file with the council. “We scan for items in the public domain that might be controversial … it could be a range of things.”

The ARC has been working with security agencies “to inform the sorts of scans we do,” Professor Thomas said.

ARC Policy and Strategy Manager Kylie Emery added “there is information that is developed through sensitivities and information that has been published in the media in the past which we look at just so everyone is aware if there have been issues in the past.”

In evidence before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security on March 18, Ms Emery stated that following discussion with national security agencies last September the ARC began collecting more information from researchers, “around foreign interests and foreign political party affiliations.”

On Friday Senator Carr asked if, “individuals get natural justice and procedural fairness on reports (which) can lead to a person not getting a grant.” Ms Emery replied that universities are grant applicants and that, “natural justice is provided to applicants.”

Appointments, achievements

Conor King is abdicating – the Innovative Research Universities ED will leave end July.

 The Academy of Sciences in Gottingen (“a learned society steeped in tradition”) names Yixu Lu (Uni Sydney, School of Languages and Cultures) a Corresponding Fellow. One of Professor Lu’s research fields is German colonialism in China.

Mark Vaile will become chancellor of the University of Newcastle in July. Mr Vaile was federal National Party leader and deputy prime minister 2005-2007. He will replace Paul Jeans.