The University of Sydney and partners hope to use kangaroo tendon as ligament replacements, while CQU is looking at crocodiles (CMM August 10)  as as source of cartilage for arthritis and joint treatment.  So what’s next emus or koalas?

“Education is the new wealth of nations,” says Group of Eight’s Jacobs

Education is the new wealth of nations,” and Australians, “must stop seeing the funding of research as tantamount to a charitable donation, UNSW VC and Group of Eight chair Ian Jacobs told the National Press Club yesterday.

And while he acknowledged “vocational, TAFE and other outstanding universities – all equally crucial to the future of Australia,” the wealth generators he focused on are the elite research unis he represents.  “Life-changing, society-advancing endeavours are the fundamental contributions of our universities.”

However, he acknowledged, “there is a perception, not just in Australia, that universities have failed to adapt to meet contemporary needs and there appears to be a lack of understanding, of what universities offer our nation socially and economically.”

Universities, “have not excelled at communicating their worth, he said.

So he communicated it.

Professor Jacobs pointed to Go8 commissioned research which found that the $6.7bn in public funding for his members (of $12.4bn total operating costs) generates $66bn return across the economy. And the 100 000 international students at Go8 members produce $51 000 in non-fee income across their studies, kicking $8.5bn into the economy in 2016

And he committed the Go8 to an “concerted and ongoing effort to enhance our communication with the Australian people and increased links with industry and business, the media, politicians and our alumn.”

Professor Jacobs also joined research-community calls for a 20 per cent collaboration premium for businesses working with universities on research and development. And he advocated a translational fund to build on ARC-funded research, along the lines of the Medical Research Future Fund, nominating; “food, soil and water, transport, energy, the environment, defence, cyber security, manufacturing, history, culture, languages and social structure.”

Enterprise bargaining not brawling as ACU management and unions reach agreement

They keep things quiet at Australian Catholic University where enterprise bargaining for a new contract is complete.  Management and the National Tertiary Education Union and Community and Public Sector Union will recommend an agreement to staff. The deal is in-line with what the NTEU campaigned for across the country; 17 per cent super extended to fixed-term contract staff, improved opportunities for casuals to convert to more regular work and 2 per cent annual pay rises through to 2021.

The agreement also includes a management commitment to increasing Aboriginal and Torres Stait Islander staff to population parity, meaning 64 more jobs.

While bargaining is more brawling at some universities this deal was done peacefully – especially impressive given some of the negotiating occurred with a restructure of the university underway. “We are actively working with members to respond to change proposals, arguing for increased time to respond, monitoring due process and settling disputes with management,” NTEU branch president Sandra Miles says.

Tuned-in work placement

Charles Sturt U continues its generations of achievement in teaching journalism, not media studies. The university has a new arrangement with the ACE Radio Network, which includes local content on its stations across nine Victoria regional markets. Students in the CSU radio course will gain workplace experience in producing, presenting, and radio sales and operations,”

UniMelbourne stays on top and Curtin U does well in ARWU rankings

It’s six of the Go8 in the top 100: Australia has 23 universities in the world top 500 in this year’s Academic Ranking of World Universities, announced this morning

The University of Melbourne holds its top ANZ premier place again, up one place on 2017, to 38th in the world. The University of Queensland is second, in an unchanged 55th spot. The University of Sydney improves from 83 last year to 68th this and ANU returns to form, at 69th, after an unlikely 20 place fall to 97 between 2016 and ’17.  However Monash U is down from 78 last year and 79 in 2016  to 92 this. UWA is stable at 93.

The other members of the Group of Eight, the University of Adelaide and UNSW both stay in the 101-150 group.

Last year CMM’s commissioned analysis of the 2017 ARWU ranking’s revealed the specific ranking of universities in the 100-500 bands (August 16 2017). Comparing this data to the ranking released overnight reveals Curtin U stays strong. It rated 302 in 2014 and rose to 181 last year. This year it stays in  the 151-200 group, making it ninth in Australia. QUT also does well, staying in the 201-300 group. James Cook U, does well, lifting a band, from 332, to the 201-300 group and RMIT improves from 422 to the 300-400 group, which Western Sydney U falls out of.

Four New Zealand institutions make the first-500, University of Auckland (201-300), the University of Otago (301-400) ,Victoria University of Wellington (301-400) and the University of Canterbury at (401-500).

The second 500ARWU has also released a second five hundred institutions, which it describes as “candidates” for the first list. ANZ universities on it are: ACU (501-600), Massey U (501-600), Murdoch U (601-700), UniSA (601-700), Lincoln U (701-800) University of Waikato (701-800),UNE (701-800), University of the Sunshine Coast (701-800), Edith Cowan U (801-900), Auckland University of Technology (901-1000), Charles Sturt U (901-1000).

As good as it gets:  Rankings bounce around, using highly-cited researchers for 20 per cent of scores, for one thing, can ensures big swings. But gains based on long-term strategy and losses moved from staff movements and one-offs aside, this year’s results are not much different from last.  As a learned reader wise in ranking analysis puts it, this is probably as good as it is going to get for Australian universities.

“The 2018 ARWU results confirm what we already know – that Australian university research is in healthy shape but in something of a holding pattern. The overall ARWU results for Australia reveal little improvement and are virtually a carbon copy of the 2017 outcomes.

“In the absence of additional funding the research policy levers available to the government have been exhausted. Excellence for Research in Australia has achieved its goal of focussing more attention on research excellence and citation rates, while at an all-time high, are levelling out. Other initiative such as the engagement and impact exercise are unlikely to have any impact on rankings. Universities are also running out of policy options and therefore we can observe the adoption of strategies that produce quick outcomes such as publication incentive schemes and hiring of highly cited researchers.  The takeaway message is that we have reached a zenith on the ARWU rankings and are potentially poised for a slide in future rounds, judging by the latest ABS R&D statistics which reveal a sharp decline in Gross Expenditure on R&D as a proportion of GDP.”


Cathy Foley is the new CSIRO chief scientist. She moves from science director and deputy director for manufacturing there.