But is this consolation prize or precursor for a new Charles Sturt, La Trobe medical school


plus: sprays of the day – at UTS and UNSW the union is unhappy


Curtin council approves Dubai campus


and ANU’s Hughes Warrington calls for  “credential accelerators”

Low ratings all round

The bad news for some student recruiters is that broadcast media has finally notice the QILT student satisfaction rating and reported UTS‘s last place and scores that were not-so-great for some of the Group of Eight. The good news is that Jeannette Francis’s dissection was on SBS – watched, CMM suspects by more UTS staff than prospective students.

Apps of the morning

People at risk of manic episodes can be helped at the first sign of strife via a new app to be trialled by mental health support group SANE. The app will log changed behaviour in a sufferer’s mobile use and notify the person’s nominated contacts. UNSW head of psychiatry Philip Mitchell advised on the project. Brilliant, just brilliant.

Also at UNSW, environmental engineering student Alfonos Firmo is going hard at developing a fitness app, using sensors in mobile phones.  The app counts reps and follows movements in an exercise to track technique and reduce injury. The e-trainer, from Mova Motion, is now free at the app store but Mr Firmo and his developer colleagues are looking for investors when their start-up funding ends in May.


No cure-all, whatever the doctor orders 

There are more training places for medical education in regional cities but no sign of what this means for new med schools.

More med ed for regions: Every university with a medical school, and those that want one, are sweating on the federal government’s review of the distribution of medical training places, said to be set for release at month’s end. On the Sunshine Coast there is a push for places for the super-shiny new hospital. Uni SC teaches nursing there but without an allocation of medical training places no university with a med school can get involved. And the Charles Sturt and La Trobe U high-profile proposal for a Murray Darling Medical School rolls inexorably on.

As a Nationals MP, assistant minister for rural health Dr Gillespie is acutely aware of the argument that doctors who train in the bush are more likely to practise there but the existing medical schools argue they offer ample opportunities for students to spend time in the country. Given no one expects an overall increase in medical training places in hospitals, Dr Gillespie has the system speculating wondering whether his Easter eve announcement of regional health training hubs and three new university departments of rural health is all he has to offer.

The hubs: “will work with local health services to help move medical students through the pipeline, enabling students to continue rural training through university into postgraduate medical training, and then working within rural Australia.” They are awarded to: NSW: UNSW, University of Notre Dame, ANU, University of Sydney, University of Wollongong, University of NewcastleNT: Flinders University. Queensland: University of Queensland, James Cook University. South Australia: Flinders University, University of Adelaide. Tasmania: University of Tasmania. Victoria: Monash University, Deakin University, University of Melbourne. Western Australia: University of WA.

The departments: The University of Notre Dame (for Broome and Kimberley), Charles Sturt University (for south and central NSW) and University of Queensland (for the state’s southeast) will establish UDRHs to “support current health workforce priorities in their region, and expand support for clinical placement activity for nursing, midwifery, dental or allied health students.” But note, not doctors.

What next: So are the hubs consolation prizes for medical schools in Queensland, NSW and Victoria which will lose places to the Sunshine Coast hospital and the MDMS – or is the department at Charles Sturt a signal that there is no money in the budget, again, for the Murray Darling Medical School?

Whatever the decision, Dr Gillespie knows people will not be pleased, which is probably why he told Kim Bartley from the (Dubbo) Daily Liberal the review is in the hands of Education Minister Simon Birmingham and “our two ministries. ” But which people? Some long-time observers of the MDMS bid say they expect CSU’s rural health department to be the precursor of a full-scale medical school, that CSU VC Andrew Vann has led a remorseless campaign which is supported by National Party MPs on the ground. Others suggest existing medical schools are used to getting their way, that those with training places west of the Great Divide will complain loud and long if they lose any to a new med school.


Judged by their peers

Students rated UNSW just under the national average for their learning experience in the 2016 Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching, which might be a driver of the new peer review of teaching, underway this year as a voluntary assessment for teaching academics applying for promotion. It will become compulsory in 2019.

Go8’s invests in India

The Group of Eight used last week’s trade excursion to India to sell its top-shelf strategy of recruiting elite students and partnering with elite institutions. And PM Turnbull  appointing University of Queensland chancellor Peter Varghese to create the government’s India trade strategy sends status signals about the Eight New Delhi will note.

The Go8 focuses on higher degree students from India, enrolling 60 per cent masters and 20 per cent PhD, nearly half the Indian postgrads in Australia. And now the Eight is focusing on growing future research links with a scheme to foster two-way traffic among doctoral researchers from both countries. A taskforce chaired by UoQ VC Peter Hoj and Devang Khakhar, Director of the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay, in Mumbai, is set to report in six months.

“So far the education relationship with India has been dominated by migration objectives. That is entirely legitimate. But now we must broaden this relationship into an education partnership and the Group of Eight universities has taken an important step in that direction,” Mr Varghese says.

Curtin up in Dubai

Curtin U council has approved the university’s campus in DubaiCMM March 20), teaching IT, business and arts. It’s Curtin’s third international campus, following Sarawak and Singapore.  A new PVC will run the campus, over-sighting academic staffing, course material and teaching standards, plus enrolments, assessment and exams.


Even more senior scientist

The March for Science is on Saturday in Bendigo, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Launceston, Newcastle, Perth, Sydney and Townsville, but apparently not Adelaide. Australian of the Year, Griffith U stem cell scientist Alan Mackay-Sim is said to be marching, which is impressive. But CMM wonders whether that most senior of scientists, Chief Scientist Alan Finkel will be out in front on the day.

Sprays of the day

At UTS the staff union says it knows how students feel

Students at UTS like it least, according to a federal government table using data from the 2016 student experience survey, published by the excellent Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (CMM April 10). UTS has a satisfaction score just over 70 per cent, 10 per cent below the all-uni figure.  Campus president of the National Tertiary Education Union Vince Caughley says his members know how the students feel.

Mr Caughley says the problem is the university’s new teaching model has reduced face to face classes, “60 per cent of teaching is done by academics on casual contracts with no job security from semester to semester.”

Students would be appalled to find that more than likely their lecturer is a casual without an office or a secure job and that the university failed to listen to union concerns over the new teaching calendar,” he adds.

Not top of the class

It’s business as usual at UNSW, with the NTEU counselling caution over management’s plan to shift academic staff into teaching-only roles.  Vice Chancellor Ian Jacobs says staff who switch to Education Focused Career Pathways, “can access new levels of recognition and progression, incorporated in our new promotion guidelines, and focus more of their time on delivering high quality and innovative ways of teaching, which bring out the best in their students.”

However, the union says management has not got its lines straight about what moving means, warns young staff about taking up teaching-only without establishing a research profile and urges people considering a move to ensure the offer is in-line with the university enterprise agreement. The union also has a ruling from the Fair Work Commission that the existing deal forbids the university recruiting new staff for teaching-only roles (CMM March 3). So, management has to keep trying to convince existing staff to switch – which the union says will not be easy, telling members, “we have also heard it reported that the number of academic staff expressing interest in these roles has not been high.” Applications for the new roles close at month’s end.

Another win for Westoby

In February Macquarie U research ecologist Mark Westoby was named the inaugural Ralph Slatyer medallist (CMM February 24). Last week Professor Westoby was named one of the 44 new foreign honorary members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Education could unclog the innovation pipeline

While universities “have a pretty good handle” on the foundation factors entrepreneurs need to innovate ANU’s Marnie Hughes Warrington worries that higher education qualifications are not up to speed on upskilling. “An export industry worth as much as ours should be ahead of the curve, not following long after it,” ANU’s DVC Academic writes in a new essay on her policy-thinking page.

And yet, she frets, it is not. Proliferating micromasters and competency-signing “badges” signal people need “different credential types at different times,” which universities are equipped to provide, but don’t – sticking to traditional degree structures. “It seems strange to me that our research can fuel deep machine learning, new models of logistics and new product materials and yet the containers we use to support the passing on of those innovations are thought of in such fixed terms.”

This, she suggests, is a problem for community and campus both – that universities have the resources to provide the upskilling which is too often the absent equipment in the tool box of aspiring entrepreneurs. “Upskilling could be as much of a problem as regulation, access to financial resources or logistics. Indeed, an absence of skills in dealing with those issues could be a key cause of small business failure.”

“My wariness stems from wondering whether we have summoned all of the capabilities that we need to help micro, small and medium-sized businesses to perform at their best. I wonder this because I am not sure universities have pulled education enough into the picture of innovation, or at least thought about education as flexibly as might be the case in the innovation pipeline.”

The challenge for universities then, is to practise what they teach.

“It might be that our off-the-shelf approach to qualifications needs to take a precision, personalised turn—as business is doing—and that our next generation of accelerators should include credential accelerators that produce qualifications innovations that are just as breathtaking, creative and useful as artificial intelligence and personalised immunology.”

Ryan top cited researcher

Professor Herb Marsh from Australian Catholic University tells CMM that he is not the highest cited scholar in Australia – (CMM, last Thursday). Professor Marsh rates 228 highest in the world on an analysis of H-index scores by the Spanish Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas. However he points to psychologist Richard Ryan, who has joined ACU on a fractional .7 appointment and rates 175th most cited researcher. CSIC, quoting Google Scholar still has Professor Ryan at the University of Rochester.