At Swinburne students do the talking 

But what do you really think of ASQA? Your chance to tell-all in the new VET regulation review

 plus: Murdoch U wants the power to cut wages and conditions: It’s on its own, for now


and: Blowing in the wind: there’s more to innovating than great new products and services

Not queuing, drowning

“Jack didn’t have to queue to board the Titanic, so why should you queue to get your ID card? Get the star treatment by coming in before O-Week or after Week 1,” the University of Queensland suggests students get their IDs early. Um, Jack drowned. A promotion best put on ice.

Open Day of the Day

If students get what they see at Open Day life at Swinburne U is a blast.

 There’s a mass of course information at  Swinburne U’s Hawthorn campus Open Day on July 30, presenting study as student-centric, job-focused, as well as fun, a whole bunch of fun.

OD events include a pitch-perfect business ideas competition where visitors can watch Swinburne students strut their stuff. There is a games arcade where visitors can play digital diversions developed by Swinburne students and learn about making their own plus a flight simulator used in aviation courses as well as interactive displays in fitness, forensic pathology and neuroscience.

The OD guide is put together in the style of the university’s Knowing campaign, launched last year and targeting 18-25 year olds, with a swag of stories written by Swinburne students who can write.

It is a very professional package without the feel of an agency ticking the research boxes and mimicking language heard in focus groups. The students who write the site are a great advertisement for Swinburne’s media coms courses. Great Open Day campaign. Great recruitment brand.

A piece of the action

Edith Cowan U wants a slice of the defence research pie

With the federal government committing $730m to its Next Generation Technologies Fund the Perth universities is recruiting a, “director, defence research and engagement.” The one year contract position to “increase ECU’s presence externally and to optimise our programmes across the university.”

ECU has a cyber security defence centre which focuses on terrorism and an interest in autonomous unmanned vehicles which it might want to explain to the $50m Cooperative Research Centre for Trusted Anonymous Systems announced on Thursday, “to deliver game-changing unmanned platforms.”

Murdoch U on its own, for now

Universities across the country are watching Murdoch U as it argues for ending its existing arrangement on wages and conditions – but observing and acting aren’t the same

Murdoch’s move matters: Universities and union activists are warily watching Murdoch University’s application in the Fair Work Commission, being heard now, to cancel wages and conditions set under the now expired enterprise agreement. If allowed Murdoch could replace the old terms with lower/worse new ones set by the industrial award. It is a strategy to sell the university’s offer for a new agreement, which the National Tertiary Education Union says is mean with money and reduces workplace rights.

This is an argument with national implications. While Group of Eight members run their own campaigns, many other universities talk tactics through the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association. A Murdoch win in the FWC would encourage others to follow, with low pay offers and radically simplified employment terms in their offers, on a promise of reverting to the even worse industrial award if they are not accepted. AHEIA is also anxious to ensure that Deakin U‘s recent agreement, a pay rise of around 9 per cent for an average staffer over the life of the deal and a continuation of a role for the union in oversighting working conditions, is not picked up elsewhere. But the union wants lot more Deakin-like deals.

Who’s watching: Industry observers say James Cook U and Western Sydney U could follow Murdoch if it wins in the FWC, the last agreements are expired at both and negotiations for new ones are stalled. The NTEU is asking members to vote to authorise taking industrial action if required at JCU. At WSU the union is telling staff; “management are retreating by baby-steps from their earlier wholesale deletion of entire clauses. But they are still resisting any serious consideration of our members’ key priorities as signalled in our log of claims.”

But not acting: However, neither university management appears to ready to go the full Murdoch. JCU observers say there is nothing to indicate management wants to move from go-slow to shock and awe surprise attack.

At WSU managers have not moved as fast as the union wants but close observers say officials are signalling they want to settle. The university is holding fora for staff and explaining how reasonable their offer is. This does not impress the campus branch of the union, which says management is not moving on “restricting casualisation, safeguarding job security, protecting HEW levels, or enabling serious consultation with professional staff in their work units.” However there are suggestions that management is prepared to talk on conditions and might even up their pay offer, now 1 per cent per annum for each of the three year’s of the agreement. But not by much,  it seems “(Vice Chancellor) Barney (Glover) does not want a two in the headline pay offer” an expert observer of WSU says.

Unions not for budging: While no one on the union side at JCU or WSU will say what they will settle for it is clear what will not make them budge – and that is a threatened return to the industry award if Murdoch creates a precedent. “The union does not scare easily at WSU,” a long-time observer of the NTEU there says.

Caltech cracks 10 million free reads

Think open access can’t challenge for-profit publishing? Consider Caltech

Caltech’s open-source and searchable archive of research publications has just passed 10 million downloads since its creation in 2008.  Some 50 000 articles, 8000 books or book chapters and 3000 technical reports are available.

Passing 10 000 puts Caltech behind downloads for the open repository at Harvard U (11.7m) but ahead of MIT’s 7.8m. Sone 73 per cent of all the research Caltech’s repository holds is open access.

Someone to count on

ANU is recruiting a chief financial officer. The position is in the portfolio of the highly- regarded chief operating officer Chris Grange.

Brief has to be best

The review of VET regulation is underway

Assistant minister for training Karen Andrews has opened submissions to Valerie Braithwaite’s Review of VOCED regulation.

“I want to ensure that ASQA has the powers it needs to protect students, employers and the public against providers that don’t meet high quality standards, and to uphold those standards,” Ms Andrews says.

There are eight specific questions for submissions to address, focused on protecting consumers and ensuring quality courses, each with a 150 recommended limit on answers. The intention of this may be to restrain people with a great deal to say on Question Seven; “How effective are the enforcement powers of ASQA for ensuring a quality VET sector and how might they be improved?”

With Kwong Lee Dow, ANU’s Professor Braithwaite co-authored the celebrated review of the first incarnation of TEQSA which led to its complete restructure.

Alpha innovators in Adelaide

In the week when South Australia announced the world’s biggest power-producing battery its oldest university launched  a big ideas incubator. But while keeping the lights has universal appeal, without demand other innovations go nowhere

ThincLab Adelaide got a bit lost in the Elon Musk fuss last week.  The University of Adelaide’s new innovation hub will be home to 50 start-ups on the North Terrace campus. The resource centre will be home to start-ups in health and exercise, agriculture, aerospace and automotive engineering, environment, energy, digital gaming, science communications, and food and drink.

“We see ThincLab as a place where unconventional thinkers can give their ideas an unfair advantage. It’s home to creative thinkers, to disrupters, people who are willing to challenge the norm and give new ideas a go,” says Noel Lindsay, UniAdelaide’s PVC entrepreneurship.

Great idea, but not all innovations that work, well work: Innovating isn’t easy and even great ideas that create products and services that better serve existing markets, or have the potential to create new ones, fail because they exceed the market’s “absorbitive capacity, explained by Jason Potts and Stuart Thomas from RMIT and two Spanish colleagues. “Demand side innovation adoption is constrained by not only consumer budgets (prices and income) but also by the skills and abilities of the consumers to understand and effectively use the new technology,” they write in a new paper on why Australian windsurfers abandoned innovators.   As technology improved in the ‘80’s the industry focused on high-end products at the expense of encouraging new users to enter the sport with less smick kit. “As equipment evolved further in sophistication, materials and expense, for aspirational participants and recreational and social users it became increasingly difficult to keep up with their peers, leading to technical overshooting where the pace of innovation exceeds the absorptive capacity of the user community,” they write.

Build it and they may not show up: There’s a message in this for UniAdelaide, and all other incubators;

“a wide potential for innovation in a new activity (e.g. in an emergent sport industry), is not a sufficient condition for said activity (i.e. the sport industry) to prosper, develop, and consolidate in a successful way. As the model shows, the demand-side of the market must be able to absorb the new innovations. Consumers, both new and existing, must be able to understand novelties and be able to effectively use the new products in order to buy them. Otherwise, the innovation potential cannot develop.”


Another Murray Darling recruit

The Murray Darling Medical School has a planning dean ready to go if the government decides to give it any students

Charles Sturt and La Trobe universities have appointed Richard Hays planning dean of their proposed Murray Darling Medical School. Professor Hays led the introduction of medicine at James Cook U, which MDMS supporters see as a model of establishing a new regional medical school.

Professor Hays has recently returned to JCU from service as dean of medicine at the University of Tasmania.

However, last month his dean, JCU’s Richard Murray, co-authored an article arguing the expansion of rural clinical schools and regional medical schools to train more medicos for the bush only did “half the job,” that “we must increase the number of specialist training positions based in regional centres.”

It’s a view shared by existing medical schools with regional training programmes, notably the University of Sydney, which go on to argue that funding for more postgraduate places is needed more than a new stand-alone medical school.