The eyes have it

“The importance of eye contact might be all in our heads,” Edith Cowan U promoting research yesterday, via Twitter. Who would have thought.

Victoria goes it alone on enterprise bargaining (again)

Victoria U is having another go at securing staff support for an enterprise agreement, without union agreement.  Given university management got thumped when it tried this last year this is brave indeed.

Where this came from: Late last year the university’s first proposal went down in a screaming heap, with the National Tertiary Education Union vigorously opposing it and staff voting decisively no. With 54 per cent of eligible VUites voting just 23 per cent supported the offer. While the proposed pay rise, born, management said of tough times, was not popular, VU watchers also pointed to general disquiet over changes to conditions for some teaching staff and the overall impact of the transformative block-teaching model being introduced, (CMM September 25 and September 10).

What’s different: This time the university has come over conciliatory, telling staff the university’s circumstances are getting better and improved terms are possible. DVC Marcia Devlin says savings and increased student demand have lifted VUs finances and management is now offering five pay rises of two per cent over four years. In September, the university offered four rises through to 2021, ranging from 1.4 per cent last year to two per cent in ‘21.

What’s the same: But changes in working conditions remain, probably inevitable given the block-teaching model, which is now looking sufficiently sucsessful to restore the university’s financial situation. Management says it will put the proposal to a vote, February 14-18, and the union says it opposes it. With management going it alone, again, the NTEU is unlikely to roll-over and has called a member meeting for Thursday, urging them “to send VU management (a) stronger message this year.”

“The NTEU will, like last year, wage a strong ‘vote no’ campaign and we encourage all members to become active in this vital campaign to save terms and conditions at VU.” The union has called a member meeting for Thursday.

Campaign commitment of the day

Labor promises to make Southern Cross U “a flood research powerhouse” (presubly hydro-generated ideas). Shadow education minister Tanya Plibersek says in government Labor will provide $12.3m for the National Institute of Flood Resilience at the university’s Lismore campus. The institute will include a (NSW) northern rivers flood response centre. The university already is home to the National Centre for Flood Research.

Finkel fans of science writing sponsor new prize

Australia has a new $10 000 award for long-form science journalism (2500-4500), to be part of the Eureka Prizes. The new awards will reward the author, or two authors, of a piece “judged as having expertly crafted a story from the wide world of science – including technological, engineering, mathematical or medical topics – into an engaging and accurate narrative for the public.” It is not just for employees of print and e-mastheads, specifically welcoming, self-published stories and blog copy.

The new prize is supported by the Finkel Foundation, what the charity of Chief Scientist Alan and science journalist, author and publisher Elizabeth? That’s the one.

Big year for international educ earnings

International education contributed $34bn to the Australian economy, according to Minister for Education Dan Tehan, following the release of Bureau of Statistics December figures for trades in goods and services.

æOver decades of investment, hard work and the commitment of world-class scholars, teachers and administrators, Australia has established a global reputation as a leader in higher education,” the minister said.

Not forgetting his base, Mr Tehan is the member for the rural Victorian seat of Wannon he added the government, “is working to promote regional Australia as a destination for international students, so our regional communities can also enjoy the economic and cultural benefits that international students bring.”

Social Sciences lobby’s clever call for budget cash

The social sciences peak body calls for education funding the government wants for the National Disability Insurance Scheme to be used for relevant research.

And it proposes a new research funding mechanism, income-contingent loans for industry start-ups that partner with universities on R&D.

The Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia’s budget submission says cash transferred from the dormant $3.8bn Education Investment Fund, “could be used to support research needs and infrastructure for social innovation in areas related to the NDIS – for instance, in disability or health. This allocation would be consistent with the best intentions of the EIF and those who suggest its deployment in the NDIS.”

ASSA also argues for restoration of research funding, notably the $134m cut from research support in December’s MYEFO and it urges the government against, “taking too narrow an approach to the fields of research which should be supported.”

STEM research may well deliver good investment returns, but so do other areas of research, including the social sciences and humanities, particularly given many of the emerging pressures Australia faces internationally and domestically.”

The academy also warns low shares of research funds going to social sciences, “have been casting doubt on the standing of the robust review processes that underpin Australia’s reputation for research excellence.”

It accordingly calls on government to enlist the Australian Council of Learned Academies, to “open wide consultations concerning research policy and design of research administration with senior research scholars.”

Perhaps the best idea in a smartly subtle submission, which avoids the obvious self-interest of some education and research interest-groups, is the idea of giving universities control of a new applied research loan programme, paid back out of income.

“Linking the scheme to large, well-managed organisations in the form of universities, guarantees proper selection procedures and financial oversight, as well as providing mechanisms that can be put in place for mentoring and assistance,” ASSA asserts.

Deakin goes major on micro-creds

Deakin U continues to position itself as a leader in the para-qualifications market, sponsoring a conference on micro-credentials and accreditation, in Melbourne next month. It’s a pitch to professional associations, including workshops on how micro-credentialing can work presented by Engineers Australia and the Marketing Institute.

Deakin expanded its skill certification service in November, with an agreement with the Australian Marketing Institute. Its Deakin Co subsidiary is also talking to the NSW Universities Admission Centre about using the university’s micro-credentials to match outcome based assessments to the Australian Qualifications Framework.

QUT leads appointments, achievements

QUT starts the year with seven senior appointments:

Peter Anderson, becomes director of the Indigenous Research and Engagement Unit, described as a “new role with broader remit”.

Rowena Barrett, moves from head of the management school to take up a new role, Executive Director, entrepreneurship.

Policy mandarin and political advisor John Byron becomes the inaugural director of government relations and policy.

Cathy Ford, joins as Chief Information Officer, from Queensland Health.

Mark Harvey, moves from a DVC position at the University of Southern Queensland to become VP for business development.

Angela Barney Leitch becomes PVC (Indigenous Strategy). She joins from the Queensland government where she was director of indigenous policy and partnerships.

Kevin Ashford-Rowe moves from Australian Catholic U in Sydney to become PVC for digital learning.


Ann Brewer joins the board of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. Professor Brewer is dean of the University of Newcastle Sydney campus and a former Uni Sydney DVC.

The University of Sydney and Westmead Hospital have appointed Jan-Willem Alffenaar to their joint chair in clinical pharmacy. He joins from the University of  Groningen in the Netherlands.

Paul Bonnington and Kimbal Marriott, both Monash U, have thought leader awards from US life sciences, diagnostics, and chemical analysis company, Agilent. They will receive undisclosed funding, plus “products and expertise” for their work in data analytics, machine learning, information visualisation and AI.