Plus U-Multirank – the best underrated higher education ranking 

Everybody’s happy

“Absolutely delighted to be joining the Murdoch Uni team as the new vice chancellor, Eeva Leinonen, tweeted yesterday.

“Great to have you with us!” Murdoch’s Centre for University Learning and Teaching, replied.


Fine design takes time

Training minister Scott Ryan will kick off consultations with VET providers on the promised redesign of VET FEE HELP this week. The tour starts in Perth and takes in state capitals, plus Cairns. The senator is going to have to consult fast. The new system is due to start next year and given the government cannot afford any more student funding problems, design will take time.

U-Multirank’s relevant ranking

The new edition of U-Multirank is out, with a mass of details about 1300 universities and very different conclusions to the commercial league tables. U-MR compares similar universities and looks at overall performance on ten indicators to create a more nuanced picture of performance than regular research rankings. While the US dominates research citation, with 18 of the top 25 spots, for example, the leadership ranks change on a measure of publications with industry partners. On this ranking 17 of the top 25 universities are European.

U-MR’s great strength is allowing prospective students to compare universities (scored from A to E) on dozens of areas of performance, including 13 disciplines.

That’s the good news, the bad news is that European Union funding runs out next year and it is unclear where the money will come from for U-MR to continue as an open-source indicator of higher education performance. As it stands, on a rating of the market impact of university rankings U-MR is way behind THE and QS.

U-MR now includes data on 28 Australian institutions, which makes us something of an outlier to the product’s main market in Europe and for prospective students here QILT deliver most of what they want. Still, U-MR is worthwhile for the alternative to the top down lists other rankings use.

Quick Boy Wonder, to the Bat Overreactor

What is going at UWA? A few weeks back the university sacked staffer James Mitton for being rude about management. And now the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union reports a bloke was investigated for working an unauthorised second job while on leave, on the basis of his making a joke on Facebook about moonlighting as Batman. Apparently the university insists on approving second jobs to ensure there is no conflict of interest. CMM can’t see the need on this one – there are no super heroes working on the university’s restructure.

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Budget to slug students

Simon Birmingham turned on a flashing neon sign, with David Speers on Sky News yesterday, reading “degrees to cost more in budget.” The education minister again mentioned an increase in the share of course costs graduates will pay via HECS HELP, to 50 per cent is a number “open for discussion” he said.

But as to deregulated degrees, there is nothing doing if the numbers in the Senate stay the same. “I want to make sure that I work through a cooperative process, so that the next time we bring legislation to the Senate, we actually do have broad public understanding of why these reforms need to be instigated – to deliver on innovation to deliver on the financial sustainability objectives we have – and the best possible chance of securing support to bring them into law. “

While there is bad news for students there is also a hint that universities might share some pain. Senator Birmingham talked of the need “to find savings in higher education” without “taking money away from universities in terms of what they overall have to spend.” With the innovation agenda in place and funding for infrastructure programmes locked in the government could cut funding for teaching while claiming to have increased higher education resources overall.

Frazer to oversight future of medical fund

The advisory board to oversight the Medical Research Future Fund is announced, including a mix of researchers with big reps and industry insiders. Chair is Queensland researcher Ian Frazer, surely the best possible choice. Want more applied research? The bloke who created the cervical cancer vaccine will know what to do. His board colleagues include UofQ VC Peter Hoj, NHMRC chair Anne Kelso, venture capitalist Yasser El-Ansary, Flinders U biomedical engineer Karen Reynolds and Doug Hilton from the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes. The board is tasked with developing and publishing research priorities every two years.

Dr Hilton’s membership will undoubtedly be welcomed by the institute sector as AAMRI lobbied hard for the MRRF describing its campaign as, “involving countless meetings with all sides of politics, and bringing peak bodies and the sector together to advocate for this transformational fund.”


Fast food CRC applications

Applications for the 18th round of CRCs have closed, with 15 bids making it on time. Details of the bidders aren’t known but CMM hears there is a big food and agriculture presence, building on the momentum of the recent free trade agreements. The rural research and development corporations have such a presence that bids from the farming sector are put together efficiently and fast, a research watcher says. This contrasts with other discipline areas where expected bids did not make the deadline, generally because industry support was not there by deadline. CMM does not know if this is why the bid for a CRC to speed up bringing drugs to market did not make the deadline (CMM February 23) but whatever the reason the failure surprised well-informed people.

In contrast, the South Australian government moved fast, getting behind bids in a way not seen since Peter Beattie’s Queensland “smart state” strategy. There is an Adelaide presence in five proposals.

As to the success rate, with 91 bids for the first round of shorter duration CRC Projects the speculation is no fewer than two and nor more than four full CRCS will get up.


Detail on dollars

While TEQSA says it will not identify higher education providers when publishing their financial data the learned Alex Usher says we should consider the case of Canada where the national Association of University Business Offices publishes an annual survey of its members. “Users have indicated that the publication is a comprehensive reference source for the financial data of universities and colleges in Canada, CAUBO states.