AI that can answers hard questions

RMIT has a course on “conversation design,” for people who want to learn how “to plan, design, test and deliver conversations between people and Conversational AI technology.” RMIT partners with the Conversation Design Institute, in the Netherlands. Perhaps students could create a test-conversation explaining why the course (32 hours over four weeks) is value at $A1999.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Open ed experts are talking about how to embrace AI for student and staff productivity. Michael Sankey reports the results from the Australasian Council on Open, Distance and eLearning,HERE.

plus Jaymee Beveridge and Kylie Austin (Uni Wollongong on how their university reimagined graduations by connecting them to Indigenous history. Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s new selection for her series Needed now in learning and teaching, HERE.


Deakin U plans for its India campus

Students at its Indian campus 50 per cent will pay half the cost of DU courses in Australia according to VC Iain Martin, as reported in The Hindu newspaper

Initial intake will be 50-60 students, increasing to 100 – courses mentioned are masters in cybersecurity and business analytics. They will include research projects and internships with industry.

80 per cent of campus staff will be hired in India.

While students in India will be able to do a trimester at DU Australia but they won’t qualify for post study work-rights.

DU has not responded to CMM’s request for comment on its new campus and courses before, and after, The Hindu story.

Dosh of the day

UNSW’s Kirby Institute has $5m for prevention research on one of “Australia’s most neglected cancers”

It’s to “reduce the burden of anal cancer in people living with HIV.” The funding is from the UK’s Glendonbrook Foundation.

Waiting on ARIC? Don’t hold your breath

The work of the Australian Research Integrity Committee is being evaluated

It’s a matter of much interest to researchers who would like an independent national agency oversighting allegations of villainy in labs and those who equally adamantly would not (CMM March 7).The evaluation is due in the next couple of weeks (“first quarter to 2023”). But when CMM asked co-oversighter the Australian Research Council, what that meant for release we were told to expect it by the end of June.

Winkler in the HR Works

Tim Winkler reports on new ideas to keep HR ticking over

A new article from QUT academics Amos Tay, Henk Huijser, Sarah Dart and Abby Cathcart look at the grey area between the roles of academic staff and learning designers in using educational technology and the challenges of working out who is in charge and how best to work in this contested space.

The global learning technology market is forecast to grow from $200bn in 2019 to $375bn in 2026 – a measure of the explosion in importance placed on improved on-line education tools, particularly after the acceleration of on-line learning adoption during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The article analyses aspects of some cases of increasing conflict between learning designers and academic staff as the role of both groups change, particularly with the accelerated roll out of on-line learning. Anecdotal evidence of increased conflict over the types of learning programmes used, reduced time available to work on solutions, and reduced access to learning designers reveal some of the pressures commonly reported by each group.

The analysis observed that both groups had a shared desire to improve learning and teaching, but changed power dynamics and understanding as a result of the accelerated on-line teaching rollout. Policies that prioritise collaboration over learning design rather than fragmentation and institutionalised power imbalances could help.

Winkler on the HR works runs regularly at the new HEJobs  recruitment site

Australia’s nuclear science shortage is about to get worse

With answers expected this week on how many and what class nuclear subs for the RAN, the peak science body floats the next big issue

The Australian Academy of Science warns demand for nuclear scientists in Australia already exceeds supply.

The academy points to medicine and quantum technologies, as some of the science sectors that “require a deep understanding of nuclear physics and subatomic interactions.” And the absence of domestic university capacity to meet demand means, “Australia is overly dependent on overseas trained workforce.”

“Building capability in nuclear science will be central to achieving the aims of the Australian Government in developing a nuclear-powered submarine capability,” Academy President Chennupati Jagadish (ANU), warns.

Not to mention all the VET skills keeping boats afloat will require.

Maybe something on the latter will be revealed when the Commonwealth-SA defence manufacturing plan is announced (CMM September 5 2022) but surely expanding numbers of nuclear scientists will take Commonwealth funding and university planning.

HECS isn’t helping as originally intended

The Senate’s Education and Employment Legislation Committee is inquiring into Senator Mehreen Faruqi’s (Greens NSW) bill to abolish indexation and raise the income threshold for repayment of study loans

“While, ideally, all student debt should be wiped, this bill is a clear and immediate step to start tackling the student debt crisis while providing cost of living relief to those with a study loan as we work towards the abolition of all student debt and a future where TAFE and university are free for all,” Senator Faruqi told the Senate in November.

Submissions to the inquiry include Independent Higher Education Australia and Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia which oppose the 20 per cent additional charge on original loan amounts their students pay.

But Ann Martin-Sardesai (CQU), James Guthrie and John Dumay (both Macquarie U paint the biggest policy picture, arguing the original premise of income-contingent debt repayment, that graduates would only pay debts. “when they began earning a comfortable income,” no longer functions, due to “significant changes in government policies.”

They point to the previous government’s Job Ready Graduates Package which increased student fees by 27 per cent for law, economics and business related courses and 113 per cent for communications and humanities.

But their all-encompassing arguments are against tying student debt to the Consumer Price Index.

For a start, they warn if the June CPI hike is 8 per cent (the inflation figure for HECS now is 3.9 per cent now) it will, “blow out the Australian student debt.”

And they add that, “the financial argument for tying debt to CPI is fatally flawed,” because the government uses tax receipts or bonds to finance the payments it makes to education providers but students may take a decade to pay Canberra back. “If you invest $100 today that money can earn interest or dividends, which should not apply to government cash raising or funding or student debt.”

The committee will hear from as yet unannounced witnesses on Friday.

Research publishing keeps cash flowing

For profit publisher Taylor and Francis appears to be managing as funding agencies push for research to be open access on publication

Parent company Informa states T&F had an adjusted operating profit of £207m (A$375m), on revenues of £593m (A$ 1.074bn) for calendar 2022.

Informa reports “growth and diversification” at the publisher, which is, “expanding its operating focus from traditional pay-to-read publishing into broader pay-to-publish services. This puts researchers (i.e. knowledge makers) at the heart of the business, extending addressable markets and creating further growth opportunities.”

Last year Taylor and Francis struck a read/publish agreement with the Council of Australian University Librarians, allowing for researchers at participating institutions to publish in its hybrid journals (OA plus subscriber-only content) with publishing costs covered by subscriptions (CMM November 8 2022).



Marion Baird (Uni Sydney) is appointed a member of the Fair Work Commission Expert Panel.

The CEO of the Commonwealth Government’s new Centre for Australian-Indian Relations is Tim Thomas, ex KPMG.Chair of the centre’s advisory board is banker Swati Dave.

Jack Rejtman joins Research Strategies Australia as Principal Consultant. He has a background in tech transfer and research commercialisation, including at Monash U and Uni Melbourne.