Making the open access case

Open access experts Colin Steele and Danny Kingsley make a comprehensive case for open access to research funded by the Australian taxpayer in Campus Morning Mail, here. If you don’t know how publishers privatise reports of publicly funded research read them, and weep.

Keeping calm and carrying on

Ian “the gent” Young is the most adamant and articulate supporter the Pyne package has among the Group of Eight vice chancellors – never wavering and never avoiding a chance to make the case. Admirers and opponents both have high expectations of another frank speech from him at the National Press Club tomorrow. The following week Education Minister Christopher Pyne will speak there. Given the demonstrable distaste many in the education media have for higher education deregulation I wonder who will get the tougher treatment.

Medalling for modesty

“If Griffith University was a country we would be running fourth on the Glasgow medal table right now. Great start by our students and alumni at the 2014 Commonwealth Games” – Griffith Facebook page, yesterday. ANU also podiumed for self-praise, reminding us that backstroke winner Ben Treffers studies there. And the University of Queensland is very pleased that it has eight winners. The University of Canberra made the most of the rugby news (the campus based team the Brumbies lost on Saturday) celebrating a bronze for the Sevens, one of whom is UC’s Tom Cusack. Making the most of what he has La Trobe restructure leader Richard Speed delightedly reported student Emma Cox’s sixth place in the shooting.

How long before somebody suggests Australian universities compete as a separate country?

Market at Work

Private provider Navitas announced an ordinary annual result yesterday; booking a $23m impairment charge following Macquarie University’s decision to terminate the pathway college program. Two other write-downs add a further $7m to debits. Overall net profit was down 30 per cent, to $50m. Otherwise it was a solid result, with three divisions increasing revenues from 13 per cent to 20 per cent and overall revenues up. As to the future, Navitas assured the market that the impact of Macquarie’s move, will “be mitigated by replacement initiatives.” So that’s all right then. However, chairman Rod Jones is not assuming a golden future from deregulation. “Budget reforms to Australia’s higher education sector proposed in May 2014 will likely have a positive effect across all divisions though these are yet to be ratified by parliament.”

Pattison prepares

Pip Pattison is beginning to make her mark at the University of Sydney, which she has newly joined from Uni Melbourne. As DVC Education Professor Pattison is talking of experiential learning, where students are researchers, instead of the present passive experience Sydney students complain of. She promises a working paper in a month or so.

University bites back

The University of Adelaide has bit the bullet in its stoush with the state government over dental education. The university had hoped the government would move the public dental hospital it funds, so that the university’s well regarded dental school could go with it, to the new Royal Adelaide hospital and research complex. The general idea was that having patients close to academics and students is a good thing. That the existing hospital is long in the tooth also made the case for the move. But the government says it does not have the cash and it is also putting the service the university now runs up to tender. The motivation for this kick in the teeth is said to elude the university, dental schools are monstrously expensive to run and there isn’t another in the state. It also upset Dr Jack Gaffey from the Australian Dental Association (South Australia) who deplored the tender, “the SA Government has now decided to give an equal opportunity to other universities which have never been involved in this highly specialised field or said they wanted to be. It’s not a fish and chip shop,” he said last month. Yesterday the university announced that it would build its own community clinic as part of the School of Dentistry. There are suggestions UniAdelaide is still happy to talk to the government but will go ahead with a clinic serviced by its own dental school regardless.

 Loud Labor lost

Labor leader Bill Shorten’s alarmed opponents of deregulation in his fighting speech to the weekend NSW Labor Conference. Not for what he said but what he didn’t. Mr Shorten denounced proposed healthcare changes loud and long, but deregulation of higher education, not so much. This appears in-line with Labor running strong in the Senate while staying shtum in the Reps, which makes sense for anybody who does not think there are a lot of votes in higher education. For a start, Labor shadow minister Kim Carr is in the upper house as are the Greens. To run dead on higher ed there would gift the issue to Christine Milne and her colleagues. The Senate is also where the Palmer United Party senators and Ricky Muir, plus independents Nick Xenophon and Bob Day will decide the fate of the Pyne package. But, and it is a big but indeed, the main game is the Reps, where the existing and alternative prime ministers sit. And there Labor is strangely silent. Education Minister Christopher Pyne did not face a seriously hostile question in the last session, there were no MPIs and shadow assistant higher education minister Amanda Rishworth was silent, apart from a Facebook Q&A on July 15 and tweets on July 16, at least till yesterday, when she talked about “Abbott Government plans to increase student fees and debt” at Flinders University Orientation Week.

Kim kicks on

In contrast to Labor’s low profile in the Reps it did not take long for Senator Carr to follow up on Kwong Lee Dow’s warning that regionals would not do well in a deregulated market (CMM yesterday). “There is no truth in Christopher Pyne’s constant refrain that regional universities and students will be the big winners from his changes. … Professor Lee Dow’s reputation as an expert in the field is unquestionable and the government would be wise to heed his words,” Senator Carr said. Yes, everybody has heard it all before from Senator Carr but him quoting the enormously respected Professor Lee Dow is another receptacle of rhetoric altogether.

What’s in a name

Fred Hilmer obviously intends to leave no loose ends for his successor at the University of New South Wales, even addressing the perennial problem of names and livery. Yesterday Professor Hilmer announced that the Australian School of School is now the UNSW Business School. Perhaps this will end all the memories of the once famous Australian Graduate School of Management, but I doubt it – if there is one issue that upsets academics more than the share of teaching income management takes off the top it is the way marketing directors are always trying to create consistent names and livery. The Vice Chancellor also advised that the College of Fine Arts is now UNSW Art and Design. Professor Hilmer was at pains to assure everybody that the changes followed wide consultation “with staff, alumni and external stakeholders,” but I’m guessing there will still be people who yearn for more independent identities.