Plus why creating entrepreneurs is up to universities and what they can do about it 

Friday First edition

There will be a second edition of CMM later this morning when the embargo lifts on Australian Research Council grants

ANU Sept 15

Ain’t love grand!

It appears marriage is good for the heart and not just romantically. According to new research by University of Pennsylvania researchers Mark Nueman and Rachel Werner, married people have a better chance of surviving after major surgery. This of course assumes there is a causal connection between marriage and happiness.

Bit late now

A poll for medical lobby Research Australia finds 91 per cent of respondents, “believe the Australian government should support basic scientific research that advances the frontiers of knowledge even if it brings no immediate benefits.” Good-o, but’s it’s more than a little late. The time to make this case was when former science minister Ian Macfarlane and now outgoing Chief Scientist Ian Chubb were successfully selling an applied research strategy with priority areas last year. With closer university-industry links and a research impact measure likely in the government’s imminent innovation strategy the policy express has already left the funding station.

You don’t say

CMM’s predictive platitude correspondent reports  advice from Dr Chad Habel of the University of Adelaide, “young people are the key to solving global challenges in the future.”

ANU Sep 15 1

Making more entrepreneurs

Australia has a choice, says Chief Scientist Ian Chubb, we can wait for the one in a million natural-born entrepreneur to successfully seize the once in a life time opportunity to create change. Or we can make our own luck by using the education system to give people the skills and knowledge that will make them entrepreneurs.

“Universities are pivotal, as the stories of so many of the world’s most iconic entrepreneurs suggests. Some grew their businesses from university-affiliated research; many more were shaped by the people they met and the attitudes they imbibed,” Professor Chubb says.

The problem is Australian universities are not that good at nurturing entrepreneurs, UNSW rates around 35th in the world for graduates who founded start-ups recently listed on a new venture database, with ten or so. World leader Stanford U has 300. MIT teaches 40 entrepreneur courses across schools from engineering and social science. The Institute’s graduates have founded 26 000 active companies.

The numbers are in a report on universities and entrepreneurs written for the Chief Scientist by Colin Kinner, which argues that higher education is essential to creating a culture of risk and innovation but must change.

And that means more than setting up new masters. “Most academics teaching entrepreneurship courses do not have first-hand experience in a startup and therefore deliver courses that are heavy on theory and light on applied content. Many are generalist business school teachers or researchers with a primarily academic interest in the topic of entrepreneurship,” Mr Kinner writes

But the chances of change are not good; “High-impact entrepreneurship is not yet widely viewed as a legitimate activity that belongs in the university environment in Australia. … If Australian universities are to engender a culture of entrepreneurship on campus and make a significant contribution to boosting Australia’s knowledge economy, it will be essential that vice-chancellors and other senior leaders actively promote the cause and engage the university community in a dialogue about the role of entrepreneurship in the university.”

So what’s to be done that can be done? Mr Kinner sets out ten essential attributes, which should not be beyond universities to inculcate across campuses, (i) multiple opportunities for engagement/ (ii) strong emphasis on learning by doing/ (iii) concrete action to pursue ideas/ (iv) modern startup methods (e.g. lean startup)/ (v) multi-disciplinary collaboration/ (vi) engage successful entrepreneur alumni as guest lecturers/mentors/teachers/ (vii) connect with outside startup ecosystem/ (viii) make services available to students when they are ready/ (ix) allow students self-select into programs based on interest/ (x) focus on growing the individual rather than their idea

Yes, he concludes that many universities are having a go but Mr Kinner makes it clear that they can do more. Expect to see some of the ways he sets out in the government’s innovation plan.

Terrific Tasmanians

Last week protestors at the University of Tasmania were upset that there are fossil fuel shares in the university portfolio. They probably will not be pleased with last night’s announcement of the Distinguished Service Medal being awarded to professor of economic geology Ross Large, “for his research and leadership in the field of ore deposits.” Close to 40 academic and professional staff were also honoured across seven research, teaching and community service categories of the Vice Chancellor’s Awards, last night.

UniMelb bushfire

Learning on the job

There are just ten programmes preparing people to become principals at Australian schools (CMM July 28) and continuing professional development also seems short once they get the job. Charles Sturt U accredits one principal prep programme and is now getting into continuing PD, announcing a partnership with the Principals Institute of Australia to provide education and leadership degrees.

ARC plays it straight

If Michael Crichton’s report of a meeting of the Australian Research Council’s College of Experts, to consider grant applications, had come out today CMM’s too cute by half monitor would have gone off the graph (ARC grants are out this morning). In fact Dr Crichton, from UoQ, reported it for the Academy of Science at the beginning of the month – but CMM could not resist covering it today. Here’s Dr Crichton’s conclusion:

“The process I observed in the allocation of grants was highly transparent, open and fair. … The amount of work that goes into reviewing the applications and deciding on their funding potential is staggering. The College of Experts clearly works hard! There are very few egos in the process and they all appear to take their role very seriously. The last grants were treated with the same level of rigour as the first. Without a doubt, the ARC CoE would like to fund more grants but, with a limited pot of money, they must balance the number of grants funded with the amount each grant is allocated. They do this with a great deal of integrity and with an openness that, as a taxpayer, is comforting.”

Makes a change from conspiracy theories about how the ARC operates but not to worry, there will be a few of those along when ERA 2015 publishes in December.

QUT Rhodes win

QUT is pleased indeed that Bachelor of Justice graduate Harriett Horsfall is the 2016 Queensland Rhodes Scholar. This makes five Rhodes in six years for QUT.

How many is ‘significant’?

The Charles Sturt University Council has endorsed management’s proposal for a three faculty, down from four, structure. The three are education and arts, science and business, justice and behavioural sciences. According to VC Andy Vann the restructure will mean the abolition of 3.8 FTE professional and technical staff positions, which does not seem many given the long debate over the plan. However last night the National Tertiary Education Union at the Bathurst campus warned the new structure, “will result in significant job losses and the centralising and paring back of administrative and academic functions. … There is considerable uncertainty over the situation regarding continuing, casual and contract staff,” union president David Ritchie said.

Sachs back

Judyth Sachs left her post as provost at Macquarie U to “explore new opportunities and start a new phase of my professional life” in January last year (CMM January 30 2014). One of those opportunities has turned out to be higher education advisor to the NSW Association of Independent Schools, launched yesterday.

Union steps up in Lighthouse Land

The National Tertiary Education Union has intervened in the Macquarie University plan to cut jobs by decentralising the work of the learning and teaching unit to faculties. NTEU branch president Cathy Rytmeister says other central units will also be targeted. CMM hears that printing and marketing comms are under the gun. “Clearly bean counters are now running this university and there is a scramble to the bottom in order to make some budget savings,” she says. The union says it will stand up for members but there is no mention of lodging a dispute with the Fair Work Commission, yet.

Calma first to top

On Wednesday CMM reported University of Sydney DVC Shane Houston, is acting VC and asked if this is the first time that an Indigenous Australian has led an Australian university. However if Professor Houston is indeed the first in a VC role there is already a chancellor, Tom Calma at the University of Canberra. Professor Kalma will be back in Adelaide tonight to accept an alumni award from the University of South Australia (he graduated when it was the SA Institute of Technology).

More at Massey than Murdoch

Across the ditch Massey University  wants to sell 20 per cent of a suburban Auckland campus to fund expansion on the rest. In Perth Murdoch U has had plans to do the same for a decade and the university still says “initial infrastructure works” will start this year. The difference between the two projects is that it looks like the Kiwis will do more than talk about it.