Plus Greg Craven and Belinda Robinson won big this week

Melbourne marches on

“The conference confirmed that Melbourne should choose its own course whatever the outcome of wrangling over higher education legislation.” University of Melbourne VC Glyn Davis reports to staff yesterday on his deans and heads meeting. More ominously Professor Davis also reported, “the conference heard how global competitors use trimesters, extended hours and different world time zones to provide wider choices for students.” Sounds like longer teaching years and lots of late nights are coming.

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Capling continues

Murdoch University Provost Ann Capling appears to have emerged from a university investigation unscathed. Last November Murdoch announced that it was investigating Professor Capling, a close professional associate of former vice chancellor Richard Higgott who resigned in October while he was being investigated by Western Australia’s Corruption and Crime Commission. Murdoch has never made public the reasons for its inquiry into Professor Capling however last night the university announced that she was taking extended leave from next Friday to complete an Australian Research Council grant. At the end of her leave, Murdoch states, Professor Capling will return to work as provost. The university refused to comment on the nature and any findings of its investigation and whether other staff are still being investigated, stating that the matters are “confidential.” The university similarly declined to comment on Human Resources Director Karen Lamont’s decision to retire, announced last week.

Unchanging process

As advocates of re-regulation propose everything from government allocating specific undergraduate places to chosen universities through to tax penalties for institutions that charge up Andrew Norton has intervened in the debate. As ever, the demand driven funding reviewer tackles the technicalities before pointing out the core point, “… the weakness of the Commonwealth as a central planner, which in turn influences the incentives of any of the players. … We would have to be wildly optimistic to think governmental processes of the future would be better than in the past.”

And on the third night they mumbled

CRC Association head Tony Peacock checked his diary and found he is down for three science organisation dinners in three nights in May. His is on the 26th at Parly House, the Australian Academy of Science is on the 27th, also in Canberra and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering will hold its annual bun-fight in Brisbane on the 28th. For people attending all three the small talk will be microscopic by the end.

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Not much market intel

Douglas Proctor and Peter Munz from the International Education Association of Australia have scraped the data on research on international education. For a booming global industry, worth A$14bn in export income to Australia alone, there does not seem a lot of market-focused research. Some 50 per cent of what exists is published as articles and while 420 journals publish on higher education only 376 published five or plus pieces. Marketers looking for hard data miss out, with case studies being the most popular research format, doubling to just under 30 per cent between 2011-2013. Surveys languish at less than 10 per cent. Nor are areas of research interest much use for people focused on growth markets and potential competitors. Studies of northeast Asia account for a touch over 10 per cent.

Winners of the week

If Pyne MkII fails in the Senate, Jeannie Rea and her colleagues at the National Tertiary Education Union will be able to claim responsibility, endlessly denouncing deregulation since Budget night. Ms Rea is still going strong, with the NTEU releasing a media statement on Saturday afternoon for the Sunday papers and TV news and hammering away all week to the extent that an irritated Minister Pyne gave the union oxygen yesterday by publicly criticising its deplore-a-gram of the day.

While the medical research establishment warns that jobs will go without billions in more money one researcher is just getting on with it. Christopher Weir at Walter and Eliza Hall needs a modest $7500 to test whether a particular protein might make a malaria vaccine and is looking to raise it via Pozible. Help him here.

Shirley Alexander from UTS had a good week – the DVC Education at UTS announced a new deputy, Peter Scott, who moves from a teaching and learning technology research role at the UK Open University. She is also appointed to the ministerial advisory panel at the Office of Learning and Teaching.

Belinda Robinson has not had the best few days – as chief executive of Universities Australia she has worked hard to ensure university managements stay solid in support of the Pyne package only to see serious people start advocating re-regulation. But UA’s budget submission is a triumph of pragmatic politics, making the case for necessities, notably NCRIS, while accepting there will be no bonanzas in the budget.

However the alpha achiever of the week is Australian Catholic University VC Greg Craven, whose teacher education review generated minimal controversy, despite calling for major changes in faculties of education. That the raft of reforms he and his colleagues recommended is all but universally accepted is a testament to their policy nous and political savvy. Professor Craven also joined the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Council this week, surely making him one of the most influential VCs in the country, at least with the government.


On time

“ICYMI, Parkville will be getting its own train station soon!” the University of Melbourne tweeted yesterday, referring to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrew’s announcement of a new underground rail link (CMM February 17). So when is soon? Um, 2026.

ACPET cries for help

The private training lobby is buckling under political pressure and media scrutiny of for-profit trainers rorting the system. The Australian Council for Private Education and Training reports that its board held an extraordinary meeting yesterday, “to discuss the appropriate actions that need to be taken to protect the integrity of quality private providers.” ACPET chair Rod Camm said, “action by government and regulators must be taken to address any issue currently being raised in the media,” and that the council would detail its own measures next month. Mr Camm called for steps to stop students being offered enrolment inducements and protect them from “inappropriate behavior.” I’m guessing state ministers, keen to appear TAFE’s friends, did not hear a thing. So what will federal training minister Simon Birmingham do?

Swedes adopt open access

Sweden supports open access to publicly funded research, with a new policy from the national Research Council. (Thanks to Richard Poynder for pointing it out). From 2015 all peer-reviewed publications must be publicly available within a year. To break the prestige-power of established for-profit journals the Swedes call on institutions and funding councils “to assess the individual work” rather than where it is published. As to who will pay for it, the SRC acknowledges the convenience of the “gold” option where institutions pay for space in open access journals (which it calls the ‘hybrid’ model) but it states that this is expensive and a cap “should be investigated further.” The ARC and NHMRC should consider doing the same here. As should anybody who writes reports. The Swedes write better English language policy than we do.