NCVER always friends the facts

TAFE Directors’ Craig Robertson celebrates the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research at 40 and speculates what it could do next

“We just need to recall how Facebook puts up adverts on our feeds that uncannily resemble the last search we did on the web … to get a picture of the future – linked data fed to us instantly in consumable fashion.”

Good-o, but targeted messages from the NCVER would include tables and a warning that not all statements applied to every state due to timing issues  and data collection anomalies.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

 Judie Kay and Sonia Ferns on why we need a national approach to Work Integrated Learning. Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s selection this week for her series, Needed now in Teaching and Learning.”

Marnie Hughes-Warrington (Uni SA) and friends on the PhD as start-up, the doctorate is just starting to hit its stride.

Kim Carr calls for back to basics in research  

The Labor veteran is sceptical of schemes for research “that turns a quick dollar”

 In Features this morning, Senator Carr argues ministers “do not understand the history of science, and of scholarship more broadly.”

“If you do not do basic research, and public-good research, then over time you will erode your capacity to do applied research effectively,” the many times minister and expert on innovation and science policy  he writes.

“Science and research form the bedrock of a healthy innovation system. Without a pipeline of basic science and research, there will be no Australian ideas of the future for us to commercialise,” the senator suggests here.

The much bigger free speech discussion

Whatever the government’s hopes, its free speech on campus bill can not settle any of the enduring issues

This is made clear by Carolyn Evans (Griffith U VC) and Adrienne Stone, with Jade Roberts (both Uni Melbourne), in their new book Open Minds, published this morning.

It’s a comprehensive guide to the implications of the local campus controversies which shaped the government’s intent but the book goes way beyond this to address universal and enduring issues.

They set out ample evidence that does not encourage optimism, and yet they are, “the overriding tenor of the book is, we hope, optimistic.

“We are determined idealists. Universities are not simply forums for the politics of society at large. They are not commercial institutions, nor are they instruments of government. They are special communities dedicated to teaching and research. Their challenges are many and complex, but we believe it is essential, and also possible, for universities to be faithful to the core ideals of the university, even in the modern globalised and commercialised age.”

There’s an extract in CMM, here.

Flinders U in fine fettle

There was a surplus last year and research income was a record

Woe is scarce in the university’s journal of the plague year.  A freeze on capex and a hard look at replacing people who resigned and retired in the course of normal events are just about the only entries.

And lo, now Flinders U expects a $35m surplus for 2020, on the back of above-budget revenues. And VC Colin Stirling reports a 25 per cent increase in research income, to $68m, “our highest total ever, by quite some margin.”

The bad news is that deficits are budgeted for this year and next but overall Professor Stirling focuses on what the university community achieved.

“You have collectively risen to the challenge, seized every available opportunity and we are stronger for it,” he says in a message to staff.

Bean out as RMIT VC

Martin Bean announced his end June exit as RMIT VC in a YouTube chat yesterday with Chancellor Ziggy Switkowski

Professor Bean  said he had decided, “to put my health as my priority. That’s first and foremost the reason why I am stepping down, to take a little bit more care of my body.”

But he also plans to return to his “great passion – of being a provocateur around the future of work, digital education, (and) what has to evolve in skilling.” Professor Bean will have a continuing role at RMIT, in part as a continuing professor of digital education.

Dr Switkoksi was also interested to know how RMIT would fare this year after Professor Bean’s departure. “I am absolutely convinced that because of you and your wonderful leadership and the commitment of council, an extraordinary council and all of the leaders who stepped up last year … I know I am stepping down and leaving this institution in some very capable hands,” the vice chancellor replied.

Professor Bean was appointed by RMIT in 2014 from the UK’s Open University. His five year plan the following year built on both’ institutions strengths in digital delivery and employment-focused courses. As he put it in 2018, “digital disruption is changing the way people study, work and live and many of our students are looking for flexible, targeted and industry-focused learning options.” (CMM May 29).

He got the disruption bit right. Yesterday the university was reporting most student services operational, but some were still down, in whole or part, including printing on campus, the “mydesktop” study resource, course guides and some of “myRMIT”.

This appears to be a continuing part of a problem which began on February 19, and is widely speculated, (but not by university management) to be an RMIT  defence against a phishing attack.

Government’s DIY ideas for uni-industry research co-operation

Education Minister Alan Tudge wants research that translates into Australia-advancing products and services (CMM yesterday). There is a paper on ways it could be done

For a start, universities need to change: They lack “an innovation culture,” with “performance management and rewards focused on quality of academic output and citations.”

And that is bad for business:  “Grant application processes are more geared towards academic rather than commercialisation objectives. Government university research funding is allocated largely to projects over a long period of time with no evaluation or assessment for commercial impact. Timeframes, process and effort required to obtain research grants can deter businesses from engaging and collaborating with universities and academics.”

Four ways to fix this: the discussion paper sets out issues to address;

Mission-driven research: “Selected areas of national priority should align with areas of commercialisation opportunity and business need.”

Stage-gated design: “a scheme to commercialise university research should fill a gap in the current research commercialisation landscape by funding translational research; progressing ideas from early-stage research into a product that shows proof of concept and viability for industry partnership and investment.”

Incentives for participation: Which is the expensive bit, so the discussion paper is carefully worded to make nothing that looks like a hint of a promise. But the questions the feds ask provide an idea what the government wants. “Should existing incentives for commercialisation within a scheme outweigh publication incentives? Should universities have “skin in the game” … to identify the best ideas to fund and the most efficient and effective pathway to commercial outcomes?”

Making friends: “universities might consider rewarding researchers who have achieved success in industry-based commercialisation for academic promotions, encouraging greater mobility between sectors, as well as greater engagement.”

Anybody interested has until April 9 to contribute ways of agreeing with the government’s ideas