Open Day of the day

Emma Pharo from  UTas (via Twitter) urges visitors to muck around with the “augmented reality sandpit” on OD this Sunday.   “Say what?” you say (oh go on).  It’s white sand which becomes a screen for a programmed projector above, with motion sensors which beams topographic lines on to the sand as users make their own landscapes. Put your hand over the landscape it make it rain.  Super-useful for learning topography and hydrology – and playing god, which is undoubtedly not the reason VC Rufus Black, is said to have found it “mesmerising.”

Maths alpha achievers

A learned reader suggests its been the best three months ever for Australian maths. Yesterday Perth expat and UWA graduate Aksnay Venkatesh won a 2018 Field Medal. Earlier this week UniSydney mathematician Nalini Joshi AO was elected vice president of the International Mathematical Union, (she was shortlisted last week for the mentor category in this year’s Eureka Awards). Back in May Geordie Williamson, also from the University of Sydney, was appointed co-diector of a new maths research centre there, funded by a $5m donation. He was also appointed a fellow of both the Royal Society and the Australian Academy of Science.

Industrial action at UniNewcastle

Unionists at the University of Newcastle will strike on August 15 if “key demands for fair staff working conditions are not met.” National Tertiary Education Union members want management to agree to three enterprise bargaining demands; continuing existing consultation processes on change, commit to the existing committee based system for discipline issues and “real pathways” to convert casual and short-term staff to “secure work”.

This signals a new front in the bargaining blue – adding to the union’s pay push, which contrasts staff conditions with management’s big building programme. The union is said to be keen for a deal with outgoing VC Caroline McMillen, before successor Alex Zelinsky arrives in November.

NUW alliance organising  

A year on from its launch (CMM July 17 2017) the Newcastle, UNSW, Wollongong university alliance is not rushing things. CEO Bran Black was only appointed in April and says there will be a business plan, including projects proposed by the member universities, government, industry and communities by year end. “The NUW Alliance is seeking ambitious, disrupting and impactful projects that benefit NSW,” he says.

Jeannie Rea spells out opposition to Parker plan for HE reform

Stephen Parker’s proposals for a singe post-school education system are not being widely debated (CMM Tuesday). Without a bucket of new public money they would require a transfer of funds from universities to VET and various HE lobbies do not want to even acknowledge such a thing is possible.

There are also a range of regulatory proposals in Parker, which the higher education community would not like, as spelt out by Jeannie Rea, outgoing president of the National Tertiary Education Union yesterday.

While the union likes the plan’s primary proposal for “a more unified regulatory and funding framework” for HE and VET, Ms Rea warns against the Parker report being interpreted as “recommending that universities are just another provider in a competitive tertiary education market.” And she flat-out rejects demand driven funding across the whole post-school system, arguing the VET FEE HELP disaster, “prove(s) education is far too important to leave to the market.”

The union also opposes extending income contingent loans to all courses, “from the students’ point of view, this means years and years of accumulated debt and complex repayment schedules as they move in and out of paid work and retraining, as governments run down funding.”

As for linking performance metrics  for teaching to funding, the union, “is dubious.” “Adequate ongoing funding to employ teaching staff in decent jobs would make all the difference.”

UniSydney buckles up with Airbus

The University of Sydney engineering faculty has joined the Airbus university partner programme, which involves student placement programmes. The university says it is the manufacturer’s only Australian participant – which might not go down well at RMIT. Last year a student team from there made the final five in the Airbus “fly your ideas” competition. They proposed a modular firefighting system to be stored at airports for quick transport to fire-sights via Airbus aircraft ( CMM April 24 2017).


Green for gown in sustainable campus awards

The 2018 Green Gown award shortlists are announced. The awards “recognise excellence in sustainability within the tertiary education sector in Australasia.”  The University of Melbourne is short-listed in six of the ten categories.

Winner are announced in November and nominees in notable categories are:

Sustainable campus: La Trobe U, Macquarie U, Uni Otago,

Campus health, food and drink: Charles Sturt U, UniWollongong, UniTas

Student engagement: Victoria U of Wellington, Massey U,  James Cook U, Monash U, UniMelbourne

Outstanding leadership team: Macquarie U (campus engagement), RMIT (sustainability committee), UniMelb (executive team)

Staff excellence: Alice McAuliffe (UTS), Harsh Suri (Deakin U), John Pederick (UniMelbourne)


ARC new research centre winners

In addition to laureate and future fellows, (CMM yesterday) Education Minister Simon Birmingham has also announced new ARC research hubs and training centres. Administering university, lead investigator and federal funding are:

ANU:  Multiscale 3D Imaging, Mark Knackstedt, $3.9m

UNSW: Integrated energy storage, Zhao Yang Dong, $3m

Griffith U: Farming productivity, Yongsheng Gao, $5m

 UoQ: Native Australian foods, Yasmina Sultanbawa, $3.5m

Deakin U: Future energy storage, Maria Forsyth, $4.3m

La Trobe U: Medicinal agriculture, Tony Bacic, $4.9m

Monash U: Early stage drug-discovery, Martin Scanlon, $4.1m

Monash U: Smart transport pavements, Jayantha Kodikara $4.9m

Swinburne U: Surface engineering for advanced materials, Christopher Berndt, $4.8m

UniMelb: Medical implant technologies, Peter Lee, $4m

Curtin U: Data science in maintenance technology, Andrew Rohl, $3.9m

Appointments of the week


Jason Young (professor of gynaecological surgery at UNSW) will chair the Commonwealth’s National Endometriosis Steering Group, which will run a five-year research programme.

Australian Catholic U has appointed Zlatko Skrbis,  DVC Students Learning and Teaching. He moves from Monash U where he is Senior PVC (Academic). He replaces Anne Cummings who is retiring, after “two decades of close association with ACU.”

Su-Ann Tan is the new director of ANU’s Singapore Liasion Office. She moves from the university’s school of Asia-Pacific affairs, where she managed comms.

Warren Hogan is the inaugural executive in residence at the UTS Business School. He is well known for his work as ANZ chief economist.

Daniel Martin becomes director of development for medicine and science at UNSW. Until December last year he was director of development at the University of Sydney.

Elizabeth Capp is the new head of campus at La Trobe U, SheppartonMs Capp moves from the University of Melbourne where is director, students and equity.

John Germov will move to Charles Sturt University to become provost and DVC A. He is now PVC A at the University of Newcastle. He starts in November, taking over from Robyn McGuiggan (ex JCU) acting since June. The previous incumbent was Toni Downes.

Tim Colmer is the successful candidate in an expression of interest process at UWA to become PVC R. The plant biologist starts his six months on Monday.

Jeremy Kilburn will be PVC for Curtin U’s faculty of science and engineering. He moves from the University of Aberdeen.