CRC winners waiting

There are a bunch of CRCs overdue for announcement

The four winners of the most recent round have known for weeks, but under orders to stay shtum. But it will not be long now, with friendly-newspapers said to have the story as a gift from government, to run in the next few days.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this week;

Rachelle Towart and Tim Winkler, on a new era for Aboriginal university leaders.

Michael Sankey on new benchmarks for technology enhanced learning, it’s what TEQSA wants. This is a new contribution in contributing editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

And Merlin Crossley on the ideal PhD supervisor (and the six others).

Third place on QS subject ranking

The QS subject performance lists are out, with enough data for every university to have a win

At the top end however there are few surprises from last year with local global top ten rankings much the same.

ANU has six-subjects in the global ten. Monash U has two, Melbourne U one, UNSW one, Uni Queensland two, Uni Sydney and UWA one each. UTS, Curtin U and Deakin U also have one each.

By broad discipline category (not the individual 48 subjects) QS results for the top ten ANZ unis look like other league tables;

Humanities: ANU (=16), Uni Melbourne (=16), Uni Sydney (22), UNSW (=42), Monash U (48), Uni Queensland (85), RMIT (102), Macquarie U (=113), UTS (=136), UWA (158)

Engineering/tech: UNSW (37) Uni Melbourne (=41), Monash U (54), Uni Sydney (=61), ANU (71), Uni Queensland (=76), UTS (106), Uni Adelaide (126), RMIT (141), UWA (=143)

 Life sciences/medicine: Uni Melbourne (=22) Uni Sydney (24), Uni Queensland (37), Monash U (39), UNSW (68) Uni Adelaide (91) UWA (=92), ANU (=129), Uni Newcastle (=215), Deakin U (=224)

Natural sciences: ANU (=37), Uni Melbourne (46), Uni Sydney (=49), UNSW (75), Monash U (89), Uni Queensland (91), Uni Adelaide (=96), UWA (=139), Curtin U (=197) Uni Wollongong (=237)

Social sciences/management: Uni Melbourne (17), Uni Sydney (=25), ANU (=29), UNSW (34), Monash U (=39), Uni Queensland (50), UTS (125),  UWA (133), QUT (=160) Deakin U (=166)

 QS reports Australian institutions collectively recording lower performance across the 48 subjects ranked but still is global third behind the US and UK.

Normally this would be enough to have kicked off complaints about funding, but not so much now, what with university managements having a real crisis to do deal with.

The rankings use the same methodology as the overall QS institutional league table. Two are research citations using Elsevier’s Scopus database. The others are surveys of academics and employers.

Reputation over education in HE regulation

Universities serve the economy and TEQSA regulates to protect the HE brand reputation

Noha Khalaf (Melbourne Graduate School of Education) suggests higher education was “repositioned,’ “to support national economic growth” by the Dawkins reforms and that an analysis of content created by the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency demonstrates its primary function is to, “determine the performance thresholds that institutions must meet.”

“The socio-political shift towards conceiving of the national system as a service industry has redirected quality assurance efforts from education to reputation.”

Specifically, she states;

* HE is commoditised as a brand, “built on a reputation for quality”

* TESQA maintains the brand via, “ever-improving performance metrics and (its) efficacy at assuring them”

* TEQSA concern with student wellbeing is to promote and enhance the HE brand

“The socio-political shift towards conceiving of the national system as a service industry has redirected quality assurance efforts from education to reputation. At best this is an ineffective way of assuring the quality of higher education in Australia. At worst, it is damaging the national system.”

Noha Khalaf, “Figured worlds in Australian higher education: figuring out the national system’s unspoken purpose” Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management.

Policy and politics in bushfire research

The Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC is set to close mid 2021. It probably won’t

Cooperative research centres generally have a ten-year lifespan but a bushfire CRC has already existed in two formats since 2003. Labor’s Kim Carr asked about its future in Senate Estimates and officers advised him that it was set to close, as scheduled.

This does not sound like smart politics, what with the catastrophic fires of summer – but it is understandable policy.

CRCs are supposed to complete time-limited research rather than exist in perpetuity and it is said Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews is said to think this makes sense and is not for turning on policy. Until yesterday at least. “Don’t be misled by Senator Carr’s grandstanding & fear-mongering. The Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC has funding until mid-2021 and the government is considering future funding for its work to continue,” she tweeted.

Friends of the CRC started making its case to continue long before the fires started (CMM October 8 2019) and they will not stop now. And there is a long-established precedent for giving into vocal lobbies. A Hobart based CRC conducted Antarctic research under three different names from 1991 to last year – and its work continues via a different funding stream.

If the bushfire CRC does close there will  likely be a rebadged bucket of money for its work


The early career scientists to attend this year’s Lindau Nobel Laureates conference are named. Ifrah Abdullahi (La Trobe U), Nicole Foster (Uni Adelaide), Emily Kerr (Deakin U),  David Klyne (Uni Queensland), W. Y. Sarah Lau (ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems), Lukas Michalek (QUT), Yauhen Sachkou (ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems), Kate Secombe (Uni Adelaide),  Adam Sutton (Uni SA), Wenyue Zou (RMIT)