Even lovelier in a line-up

Flinders U research confirms the Cheerleader Effect, that we all are more attractive to the beholder in group photos. And it does not matter where in the line-up we are.  “Our findings suggest that if you are looking to increase your own attractiveness, you could do so by appearing in a group, though you needn’t worry where you appear,” Daniel Carragher and colleagues conclude.  But does it work for vice chancellors? Clearly further research is needed using portrait and group shots of Colin Stirling, David Lloyd and Peter Rathjen.

On the right road for infrastructure

There is the usual uni, uni, uni, oi oi oing from institutions with something to spin in the new QS subject rankings. But is Australia strong in areas targeted for growth? With caveats about what is actually being measured, and not all fits are exact, the results for reputation and research in discipline areas specified in the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap are:

For life sciences and medicine Australia has 24 universities in the world top 500 and eight in the top 100: UniMelb (14), UniSydney (15), Monash U (28), UoQ (30), UNSW (=49), UWA (58), UniAdelaide (84) and ANU (=90).

In engineering and technology there 19 in the first 500 and seven in the first 100: UniMelb (=27), UNSW (=27), Monash U (=36), UniSydney (=39) ANU (=46), UoQ (=64) and RMIT (=100).

In natural sciences: 21 institutions make the 500, and six the 100: ANU (=28), UniMelbourne (=28), UniSydney (43), UoQ (=67), UNSW (=71) and Monash U (74)

Architect of his own demise

President Trump has nominated Jon Peede, senior deputy chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, to become its chair. Mr Peede says this is a “distinct honour,” which is generous, considering the job Mr Trump wants him to do. For the second year in a row the White House’s proposed budget includes US$42m to fund “the orderly closure of the agency,” (CMM February 14)

Really big in international business ed

No Plan B if China turns the tap off: A reader learned in the ways and wiles of Beijing suggest that the comrades are not about to advise families considering an Australian university that re-education camps are much closer to home. But the learned reader does say that the international education industry needs a plan B just in case the renminbi river’s flow slows.

What, you ask, like the government’s  international education strategy, prepared for the some-time, short-term international education minister, Richard Colbeck? That’s not the one, CMM replies.

Looking like work from consultants Polly, Anna & Pangloss, the Colbeck paper was big on euphoria (free trade agreements are ‘triffic for education) but light on evidence of what Australian universities should do if China started acting like a dictatorship and suborned the aspirations of its citizens to foreign policy objectives.

Unis big in businessBut while export education experts say an implosion isn’t likely a slow decline in numbers is possible. In addition to Beijing bad-mouthing Australia, improving quality in the local system there  could lead to more Chinese students staying at home. Degrees in demand could also change – a problem not just in the China market. If this happened in business education, for example, a range of Australian universities which rely on international enrolments in management and commerce, generally with a big proportion of students from China would be in strife. Granted things might be better for those with off-shore campuses in expanding economies, but overall some Australian universities rely heavily on the bized market.

The most recent Department of Education and Training figures reveal 15 public universities where international students account for 50 or plus per cent of people studying management and commerce. Universities where business schools are most reliant on international enrolments are: Murdoch U (80 per cent of students are classed as international), Federation U (73 per cent) Victoria U (70 per cent), UniWollongong (67 per cent), RMIT (65 per cent), ANU (67 per cent) and UniSydney (63 per cent).

Universities with international business enrolments accounting for more than 20 per cent of total students are: RMIT (25 per cent), Federation U (23 per cent), Murdoch U (23 per cent), Victoria U (24 per cent) and Wollongong U 22 per cent).

More bang for a buck

There is a new defence CRC. Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne has announced a research programme to use additive manufacturing to create customised explosives. But the partners will need to be quick, and frugal – RMIT, Flinders and Cranfield (in the UK) universities plus partners have two years and $2.6m to develop 3-D printing of munitions. The first Defence Cooperative Research Centre for Autonomous Systems, received $50m over seven years (CMM July 7 2017).

Unis endorse Government proposal (but just the one)

Universities Australia share(s) the Turnbull Government aspiration,” UA announced Friday. But only one mind.

While there was a cool response to Education Minister Birmingham’s speech at the UA conference last week, the peak body backs the government’s decision to implement the Higher Education Standards Panel recommendations to stop industry bodies using professional accreditation standards to stick their bibs into university services already regulated by TEQSA (CMM February 28). UA and partner in previous work on the issue, Professions Australia, “thank Minister Birmingham and the Higher Education Standards Panel for their work and will continue to assist the process.”

Uni brands mean what academics want them to mean (including nothing at all)

University marketers should accept that their brands mean whatever academics want them to, if qualitative research on the thinking of business researchers in two Australian and two UK business schools applies.

A learned reader recommends Sanne Frandsen (Lund University, Sweden), Manto Gotsi (Westminster Business School, London), Allanah Johnston and Andrea Whittle (Newcastle University, UK), Stephen Frenkel (UNSW) and Andre Spicer (University of London) who write in the European Journal of Marketing that “branding emerges as a slippery, loosely bounded concept in (academics’) discourse, sometimes used in connection with reputation, image, ethos or values.”

This is significant, they suggest, as all four schools invested in branding and saw faculty “as key to delivering brand promises.”

The problem for brand-message keepers and custodians is that academics think the brand should mean what they want, when they think about it all.

The researchers found three responses among interviewed academics to their school brand; ignorance or irrelevance, ok if it advances their careers, a “veneer” separate to “true values’ of school.

This is very bad for branding given; “academic faculty embody the university brand through their research, teaching and wider engagement activities. As such, they can ‘make or break’ any brand promise,” the researchers suggest.

But rather than attempting to convert academics to the faculty faith the researchers argue marketers should make the most of what they have and “allow rather than deny the multiple logics circulating in university settings, leaving the brand open to pluralistic interpretations.” If only because they do not have much choice.

“Top-down sense-giving efforts at branding will elicit more faculty resistance, turning more ambivalent or even positive responses to branding towards more cynical positions.”

BHERT Awards: great achievements, easily explained

New research for Universities Australia finds $10.6 billion a year of all Aus business income comes from collaborations between business and higher education. Which makes the case for companies and universities with great stories to tell participating in the Business Higher Education Round Table awards.  This year BHERT has made entering quicker and easier – from now to March 24 it is accepting one-page statements of achievement. Those that make the cut will go to a full assessment for this year’s awards, announced in November.

How the feds can fund regional study hubs

In the great tradition of connecting pork producers with barrel makers the federal government has announced a $700m  regional growth fund. Entrepreneurs focused exclusively on assisting regional communities will see many opportunities in the scheme. However at first glance there are none in education – schools, for example, are barred. But that is only at first glance.

The fund is for “common-use infrastructure or private use infrastructure that will deliver significant and sustainable benefits to the region by creating jobs and flow-on benefits to the economy.” One criteria for grants is “increasing connectivity including access to education and government services.”

What like the new “regional study hubs” programme, which will help people “study courses locally delivered by distance from any Australian university, by providing greater access to study support and infrastructure,” (CMM February 21)? In addition to what the Department of Education and Training provides, successful hub proposals will have to fund some of their own spending. What better source than the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities? Local governments with good links to universities form an orderly queue.