There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

There’s a way for universities to understand the challenges regional and remote students face, listen to them. Janine Delahunty sets out why motivation and determination to succeed at study aren’t always enough. It’s this week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.


Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on working out what is best for students

Tom Smith and James Guthrie (both Macquarie U) on the way casual staff are lost in university statistics and why we need to count people not accounting abstracts

Uni not so super

Times are tough and are going to get tougher for savers who like cash

The national university superannuation fund tells members whose savings are in cash that, “negative returns may be applied to your investment.”

The fund explains this is due to the impact on cash deposits of the Reserve Bank’s “historical low” cash rate.

“Small fluctuations in the value of cash assets may see your cash balance achieve a negative return on any given day, and possibly reduce over time,” UniSuper warns.

Vice chancellor salaries “should be open to scrutiny, says VC

Uni New England VC Brigid Heywood tells her local paper, she welcomes a proposal for a NSW government review of senior HE people’s pay

(Andrew Messenger in the Armidale Express had the yarn).

It follows a NSW Legislative Council committee report which recommends the state’s Auditor General review, “the current system that sees university vice chancellor paid 25 or 30 times more than many of the people undertaking the core work of universities,” CMM (January 25).

CMM asked if Professor Heywood wanted to expand but UNE responded, “her observation was made on the principle that VC salaries should be open to scrutiny. Aside from that comment, she would prefer not to engage in public debate around the issue.”

CMM also asked the NSW Vice Chancellors’ Committee if it had an opinion, but was told that member universities are best placed to respond to the Legislative Council report.

Tom Smith and James Guthrie report NSW vice chancellors pay listed in 2019 annual reports ranged from $1.4m for Ian Jacobs at UNSW to $640 000 for Professor Heywood, CMM November 11 2020).

Getting and staying research active at ACU

In November Australian Catholic U updated the criterion for staff to be considered “research active” and thus eligible to supervise higher degrees

Staff who want to qualify and continue as such must be assessed at “world standard” in their annual research performance review. This also matters for staff members’ workloads.

And it supports ACU’s “research intensification strategy” – which is important. As Michael Tomlinson points out, the new provider category standards require universities to research at, or above world standard in at least half their fields by 2030, (CMM December 6 and  (CMM January 20).

ACU is not expected to have any problem reaching the research floor, give “world standard” pretty much means average, in the Australian Research Council’s categories.

But it could help the university reclassify academic staff who don’t make the annual grade as teaching-intensive.

Corridor of cash for MATRIX

The national maths partnership has US$600 000 over three years for “fundamental research in the mathematical sciences

The cash will come from the Simons Foundation, founded by mathematician and hedge fund manager, James Simons.

MATRIX will use the money for activities including fund travel grants, collaborative seed funding and fellowships.

The cash flow will start next January, on the assumption international borders will stay closed in’21.

MATRIX is a partnership of Uni Melbourne, Monash U, ANU, with Uni Queensland and the seven-member ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers associates.

Big picture budget bids from tech eng academy

The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering presents proposes two big-picture ambitions and one immediate outcome in its budget submission

ATSE urges the government to accelerate development of solar and wind generated electricity to achieve net zero national emissionsby 2050, if not earlier. And it calls for more STEM education in the compulsory school years, plus a “coordinated, national policy to overcome the various factors that discourage girls and womenfrom studying STEM, and that limit their opportunities to pursue careers in STEM-underpinned organisations.”

ATSE also advocates a 20 per cent premium for collaborating with public researchers in the R&D tax incentive.  “Australia needs to rethink the way public money is applied to research through a renewed focus on research commercialisation into high technology, high-value industries that drive economic and jobs growth.”

Cyber chorus on-song

The NSW Cyber Security Standards Harmonisation Taskforce presents its findings for seven industries, including education. It’s a document with top level-support – no less than five industry VIPs contribute introductions.

Peak lobby calls for budget help

The Innovative Research Universities group warns that for international student numbers the worst is yet to come

The lobby’s budget submission warns that international student commencements were down 23 per cent at the end of last year and that is members face up to a 50 per cent decline for first semester this year. With border restrictions in-place here, international students will go where they can.

“The low risk of Covid-19 in Australia may appear a factor to favour Australia, but students need to be able to come here to gain from that low risk of disease. For many students, there is no greater risk in the US or UK than in their home country,” IRU argues.

“The Commonwealth Government needs to work with the higher education sector and the state governments to make available safe and workable quarantine solutions for international student entry into Australia,” the lobby states.

Plus, more money for research is needed

The IRU acknowledges the extra $1bn kicked into research last year, calling it, “the first step towards a revamped research funding system.”  But what is needed now is a research resource, like the Medical Research Future Fund, “to sustain Australia’s leading position in world research output post-Covid-19.”

IRU does not suggest a figure for any fundbut the MRFF’s $20bn is a nice, if unlikely, round number.

Appointments, achievement

ANU announces Maryanne Dever will be PVC Education and Digital (from April). She will move from UTS.  Also in April at ANU, Royston Gustavson will become Dean, Academic Quality. He will split his time between this role and his professorship in the Centre for Social Research and Methods.

Alex Held (CSIRO) has a (small) planet named after him. It goes with winning the Harrie Massey Award from the Committee on Space Research.