Plus Macfarlane should stay in science and QUT’s big hire

Role models

Batman mentored Robin, Luke Skywalker had Obi-Wan: get ahead with RMIT Industry Mentoring,” the university announced yesterday, promoting a program that partners students “with an experienced professional for one-on-one guidance in your future industry.” This is seriously smart (the scheme that is, not the sell). It will not be long until universities are rated on career preparation. But where is RMIT going to find mentors who keep their light sabres in bat caves?

ANU Sept 15

Macfarlane’s success in Science

The education and training community is focused on the future of Christopher Pyne and Simon Birmingham in the Turnbull ministry but where will Industry and Science Minister Ian Macfarlane end up? Hopefully where he is now, at least in the science section of his portfolio. Mr Macfarlane was white-anted throughout the Abbott Government with suggestions that he was making a mess of his portfolio, which he would lose the first chance the PM got. This always struck CMM as strange. For a start, Mr Macfarlane brought a strategy to science – the lab coat legion may not like his focus on industry linked applied research but at least it is a plan to inform spending – which Labor lacked. Quick, who was Julia Gillard’s science minister? Stumped? Not to worry so was Don Farrell.

In contrast, Mr Macfarlane has actually implemented his plan, establishing and selling national science priorities and putting research impact metrics on the agenda. Granted Chief Scientist “bloke wonder” Ian Chubb did a great deal of the intellectual heavy lifting but Minister Macfarlane set the strategy.

Applications open

Proposals for Australian Research Council Linkage Grants are now being accepted. That is all.

ANU Sep 15 2

Quality QILT

Yesterday CMM suggested it would take to lunchtime before critics started on the feds’ new Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching website. He got that wrong, people were criticising QILT well before noon. But whatever its real and imagined faults this is a seriously solid product which gives Australian students what they need for a market in higher education to work, comparable information on how universities compare. QILT is not a league table, like the unfairly maligned U-Multirank it is designed to create comparisons rather than build lists, although these are easily constructed. And it relies on what students say about their institutions in major, independent surveys. It is a considerable achievement and compliments are in order for the ANU associated team, which designed the site and Griffith VC Ian O’Connor and colleagues who oversaw the product’s creation. And it should give commercial providers a scare. “QILT is a fantastic web site, lets hope this means the end of the tripe pushed by (insert name of product that annoys him)”, CQU VC Scott Bowman tweeted last night.

It took about ten hours for somebody to create a ranking out of QILT data yesterday, with the AFR reporting top ten universities for graduate employment. It did not amount to anything especially useful – that the University of Divinity leads the country is not much use to godless students but it does demonstrate how the data will be used. Markets need information to work and QILT has it covered.

On her own

“Of the more than 5000 students who attended ECU’s September graduation ceremonies over the weekend, how many can say they have secured a job in counter-terrorism?” Edith Cowan U asks. For anybody interested the answer is one – Dr Kira Harris is working on the psychology of people who leave fundamentalist groups for the Australian Federal Police.

Big win for QUT

QUT has had a good week. First it moved up 20 spots on the QS ranking (CMM September 15) and yesterday it announced a major appointment, with Matt Brown crossing the river from the University of Queensland to become QUT’s Director of Genomics. This is a big win for QUT’s biomedical research profile. In a decade at UoQ Professor Brown’s work on the genetics of common diseases has had a huge impact – where he goes researchers, and funders will follow.

criterion update

Staff not sold

Learning and Teaching Week at Macquarie U wraps up today, with a key-note on wearable technologies in education and the three minute thesis competition. It’s been a big week for an engaged community. One strong theme CMM picked up was concern over preparing students for employment at the expense of academic programmes. Given Macquarie U wants every undergraduate to have an employment placement it seems management still has some convincing to do.

Lazarus isn’t budging

If political leaders are preparing for another pass at deregulation (CMM yesterday) Senator Glenn Lazarus (Ind-Qld) has not got the memo. Here’s what he said in the Senate yesterday; “Restricting our people’s access to higher education by deregulating the higher education sector will not achieve (jobs growth) … . This is another reason why I do not support the deregulation of higher education. It will only result in a substantial increase in the cost of university degrees, which will discourage Australians from seeking to better themselves through education. I am hoping that, under Mr Turnbull‘s leadership, the deregulation bill never sees the light of day again in any way, shape or form.” Everybody clear on that?

In the money

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education reports 19 Australia and New Zealand universities are cashed up, tapping supporters for significant sums. The Group of Eight plus eleven others raised $408m last year. This was down nearly $100m on 2013, due to a spike caused by a few big gifts however the 2014 figure was 36 per cent up on the 2012 number. Overall donors grew from 47 000 to 51 000 over 2013-14. There were 31 confirmed pledges over $1m in 2012 and 54 last year. As to what it all cost, total outlays were $53m last year, making fundraising a nice earner indeed. Other than the Go8 participating institutions include, RMIT, Macquarie, QUT, Otago, Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington, Waikato, La Trobe and Tasmania.

Concise Conor

“Having lost the argument to limit bachelor degrees to the bright or from nice suburbs the exclusionist debate turns to research,” Innovative Research University director Conor King, via Twitter, last night.

Scaling down

In NSW people with Certificate IVs, diplomas, or higher will be eligible for subsidised places in Cert II and III level, according to state skills minister John Barilaro. “The adjustment means more people can access high quality, affordable training so they have the skills for the jobs of the future, and employers have a skilled workforce,” Mr Barilaro says. So people who did a Certificate IV, diploma, or even degree on the assumption that it would make them employable will now be able to train for lower level, but hopefully in demand, skills. As the graduates of the demand driven funded system hit the employment market there is going to be more of this.