Numbers to crunch

With a quiet budget for higher education, time must have weighed on the ed feds because they have collected and released historic data from the HE research collection. Research income by university is now available for 1994-2016 and research publications for 1995 to 2014. Hours of fun to be had as the data confirms your prejudices.

The big budget issues and first reactions

It was a quiet budget for education and training but a good night for STEM and medical research.

Student places: There is $28m for 500 new sub degree and enabling course places for rural and regional students. And $14m more for bachelor places in the previously announced study hubs. There is also funding for the states to “arrest the decline in apprenticeships.”

Research infrastructure: “Recognising the importance” of the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap the Government is investing $1.9bn of new money over 12 years. This is on top of space funding, medical research and specific spends on super-computing already announced. The infrastructure spending should mean outlays keep pace with CPI.

Med research: New money includes $240m for a Frontier Science Programme, “to develop innovative medical ideas, research devices and treatment. And the Medical Research Future Fund is projected to reach an extraordinary $20bn in 2020-21.

R&D tax incentive: “Better targeting” will save close to $2bn across the forward estimates, a move which higher education researchers will approve of and entrepreneurs who rely on it will loathe.

Medical training in the bush: The government has not given Charles Sturt and La Trobe universities the medical school they have long-lobbied for. But it has addressed the need for more medical training places in the regions. And to maximise political benefit the feds have expropriated the CSU-LTU name, creating the $94m Murray Darling Medical Schools Network, involving a bunch of medical schools.  This is better for the med ed establishment than a new competitor but the bit they will not like is there is no lift in med student places. Student places at the MDMSN will come from the existing schools.

Reaction: Perhaps the uni lobbies are all out of outrage but the response to a budget that did not give much but at least did not take any extra away was on the positive side of polite.

Universities Australia president Margaret Gardner set the tone; “a $393 million boost for major research infrastructure and 500 newly-funded pathway places into university for regional Australians are “a solid down-payment on future economic growth … investing in these facilities is like laying the rail and road networks of the 19th and 20th centuries – it’s productive infrastructure to deliver tomorrow’s discoveries, industries, start-ups and jobs.”  Certainly, Professor Gardner added the “good news is tempered by the ongoing university funding freeze,” but she could have gone in much harder.

The National Tertiary Education Union certainly did; “the unanticipated increase in government revenue could have been used to reverse their decision to freeze public investment in future university education and training, president Jeannie Rea said.

But Science and Technology Australia came close to being pleased; “the government has listened to the need to restore support for major science agencies and invest in research infrastructure to position Australia as a leader in global STEM research and innovation. “This is a good budget for science” Andrew Holmes from the Australian Academy of Science said.

And there was realpolitik from the Regional Universities Network with chair Greg Hill saying the “budget emphasis on regional higher education was well-targeted and welcome.”

And you don’t often hear that on budget night from a uni lobby.

Griffith U sticks to process

Griffith U’s restructure process runs so discretely (yesterday’s issue) that another proposal is released without much attention, to change leadership and management in library and learning services But a learned reader advises that the four managers whose jobs will go if the plan proceeds certainy noticed it. Yes there are four new jobs they might get, but three are at a lower paygrade.

Griffith manages to keep things calm by sticking to process. CMM suspects Jane Banney has something to do with this. Ms Banney was well-regarded as HR director of the University of Queensland and her decision last year not to renew her contract was widely lamented (CMM May 30 2017). She is now at Griffith U directing the student-school administrative review.

No, it’s still dead

Extinct pigeon species related to dodo found,” UNSW breaking news yesterday. Sadly, they meant fossilised remains, not your actual breathing bird.

Chief Scientist’s truck-load of ideas

Yes, it’s only May but CMM is conferring speech of the year award on Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, for an address yesterday to a road transport conference. “What the truck?” CMM readers would never say, but Dr Finkel delivered his usual erudite, amusing, inspiring address with applications way beyond the rooom he was working.  He talked of the  challenges that confront people with new ideas, about the endless effort required to win public support for innovation and keep the community’s confidence.

Strange to relate, there was not a word about higher education but Dr Finkel’s had messages for truckies applies to universities.

Regulation is a friend if it protects consumers and pushes progress.

The new frontier is ideasartificial intelligence, data analytics and the blockchain.

And quality is what counts;  “quality is remembered long after price is forgotten.”

Uni performance data still under the QILT

Where are the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching results for 2017? Universities received their reports in December but the system-wide comparisons are not released. The 2016 survey was released in April last year (CMM April 12) and the 2015 data in March ’16 (CMM March 4 2016). So when do we see the 2017 results? Who knows, the Social Research Centre (an ANU subsidiary) which runs, and releases QILT for the Commonwealth has not responded to a request for a date.

Appointments: Marcia Devlin to Vic U

Marcia Devlin is to join Victoria U as DVC and senior VP, she will take charge of the university’s transformation office. Professor Devlin joins from RMIT. She was DVC learning at Federation U 2014-2017. She replaces university council member Rhonda Hawkins, who stepped up when Kerri Lee Krause left for La Trobe U last May, ( CMM May 22 2017).  VU says Professor Devlin “will help guide … its mission to help any student from any background to be successful.” She starts next month.

 Vijaya Sundararajan joins La Trobe U next week preparatory to becoming new head of the department of public health in July. She now leads a research team at the University of Melbourne and St Vincent’s Hospital.

 Tamson Pietsch from UTS is the new NSW state secretary for the Rhodes Scholarship. This UTS advises, is the first time the Rhodes has removed itself from the University of Sydney, ever.

U21 turns 21

Days after Ian Jacobs (VC, UNSW) pitched universities as engines of economic growth and social improvement his university and the other 24 member institutions in the Universitas 21 (sorry, no idea) group meet at the University of Melbourne today to celebrate its 21st anniversary.

U21 was founded by then UniMelbourne VC Alan Gilbert, for research-intensive universities to collaborate across continents. UNSW, UnIMelb, UoQ and UniAuckland are the ANZ members.

The conference will consider big data in teaching and learning.

Curtin looks west

Curtin U has converted a JV facility in Mauritius into its fourth international campus. Curtin Mauritius is located at what was the Charles Telfair Institute, which delivered Curtin programmes.  The new campus joins ones in Singapore, Dubai and Malaysia. CTI also teaches WA TAFE programmes.