Plus Great Eight’s healthy share of  medical research grants

What a surprise!

The National Party Federal Council endorsed an old standard on Saturday, more money for country kids to attend university, who would have thought. But council kept clear of demanding funding to help regional universities deal with deregulation – which is what VCs are calling for. Probably not the best time to admit bush campuses might struggle to compete if the Pyne package passes.

Great timing

The joint conference of the associations of tertiary education managers (ATEM) and facilities managers (TEMC) starts in Cairns this morning, with delegates assembling to discuss “adapting in a changing environment.” Impossible to fault the organisers for topic and timing – if deregulation occurs the people who ensure colleges and universities operate efficiently will play crucial roles. Look for keynotes by demographer Bernard Salt on the demographic trends that will shape tertiary education and ANU’s Michael Wesley on “risk and competition.”

Nice work if you can get it

Austrade’s Warsaw office reports that 27 Australian universities are attending the 26th European Association for International Education conference in Prague next month. The theme is “stepping into a new era,” which I suspect is not a reference to the Pyne package. Cynics ask what’s the Czech word for junket – but what can you expect from cynics?

Camm to ACPET

Tbe audience paid especial interest to Rod Camm’s address at the Australian Council of Private Education and Training conference on Friday, not least because his appointment as the council’s CEO was just announced. He also spoke yesterday at an OECD seminar in Sydney on vocational education across Asia.

This is a big appointment for ACPETMr Camm knows the training sector inside, outside, upside, down. After a long career in the Queensland training system he replaced Tom Karmel at the National Centre for Vocational Education Research in August last year. It is also a big appointment for Mr Camm. If the Pyne package passes parliament the private sector training sector will compete against TAFE in the diploma/sub degree market and against public universities on a relatively equal basis, receiving 70 per cent of what universities receive for a student in a Commonwealth Supported Place. But with opportunity comes responsibility, “the challenge for ACPET’s members is about quality, without it we have nothing,” Mr Camm says. He adds that TAFE, notably in NSW is well positioned to compete in the expanded sub degree market.” And while he acknowledges critics of private sector education and training point to cases of “rorting” in Victoria this does not disqualify non government providers overall. “Look at non government schools, there’s no reason we can’t play a similar role.”

TAFE talks

The TAFE directors conference starts today, also in Sydney, with speakers from the UK, Hong Kong and New Zealand. The locals include ANU’s Valerie Bratithwaite, co-author with Kwong Lee Dow of the report that trammelled TEQSA’s ambitions.

Fred looks forward

Outgoing UNSW VC Fred Hilmer was in New York last week, where alumni were honoured to hear him “articulate his vision.” Bit late now, but I’m sure his replacement UK academic Ian Jacobs, who starts in February, will want to hear all about it.

IT elite

Flinders University’s Richard Constantine is Chief Information Officer of the year, in the Australian Computer Society, the Australian Information Industry Association, and the Pearcey Foundation awards, announced on Friday night, He is honoured for the $14m “connecting Flinders” wireless network for teachers and students. According to the university, this is the first time a university IT chief has won the award. NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Mary O’Kane was also honoured on Friday night, being awarded the 2014 Pearcey Medal for lifetime achievement.

Grants to Great Eight

Health Minister Peter Dutton announced 119 National Health and Medical Research Council fellowships and four grants on Friday, spread among 25 or so universities and research institutes. As usual, the usual suspects scooped up big swags of the $70m distributed. The Group of Eight universities accounted for nearly half the cash, $29.43m. But even here some of the great are greater than others. Monash and Melbourne received around $7.5m each with Uni Sydney ($6.45m) and UoQ ($5.95m) also doing well. In the institute sector Walter and Eliza Hall received $7m and the Baker IDI $6.5m.

ARC on the up

There is what looks like a bonanza for the Australian Research Council buried in the explanatory memorandum for Mr Pyne’s bill. Extending the forward estimates to 2017-18 results in “additional spending of $759m.” Sadly, that’s total not extra cash. However, the ARC is ahead. While the government’s efficiency dividend knocks $75m off the agency in 2015-16 the recently announced Future Fellowships kicked $139m back in for a net $65m gain.

Found in translation

A reader suggests potential Chinese business students are looking askance at the (newly named, yet again) University of New South Wales Business School. BS, the reader suggests is an expression Chinese speakers of English all understand. What’s worse, the characters for BS in Mandarin translate as hunzhang which in simplified Chinese is said to mean, um, bullshit. I asked a Chinese speaking engineer who said that in fact the word means scoundrel – but for marketing a business school this is no better. What were UNSW Global staff in Hong Kong thinking, or were they not asked about the name change?

Unspecified opportunities

The NSW Vice Chancellors Committee is very pleased that the Universities Legislation Amendment (Regulatory Reforms) Act 2014 received the vice regal tick last week. “Universities increasingly need to operate in a commercially agile market, and these amendments will allow universities in NSW to remove some outdated practices, allow more autonomy in the management of their lands and finances,” committee convener and Uni Newcastle VC Caroline McMillen said. Um, to do what in particular? Alas the committee’s statement did not explain.

The yanks are coming

The Brookings Institute reports the number of international students on US campuses increased from 110,00 in 2001 to 524 000 in 2012. China and Saudi Arabia were strong sources of growth. And this is before US universities really started trying to grow international sales!