There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

There’s a way for universities to understand the challenges regional and remote students face, listen to them. Janine Delahunty sets out why motivation and determination to succeed at study aren’t always enough. It’s this week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.


 Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on working out what is best for students

Tom Smith and James Guthrie (both Macquarie U) on the way casual staff are lost in university statistics and why we need to count people not accounting abstracts

Marnie Hughes Warrington (Uni SA) on the Night Train, where industry-university partnerships grow and change together. “The best universities shape-shift with their communities,” she writes

But unis are looking at the stars

Space is the applied research go, again

Swinburne U announces its Space Technology and Industry Institute, which will work on an “interplanetary refuelling station on the Moon” among other projects. It’s an important step forward in the ongoing growth and development of the Australian space industry, Swinburne states.

And Curtin U has $500 000 from the WA Government for its “bid to launch miniature spacecraft for deep-space missions.”

Plus, UWA announces its International Space Centre, “to seize new opportunities for knowledge transfer, technology development, impactful research and education in the space sector.”

Tech unis: as pragmatic as possible

You know the holidays are absolutely over when budget submissions arrive, thanks Australian Technology Network

With its pal, Uni Newcastle, the ATN presents a classic from its pragmatic playbook. Rather than urge the Treasurer to give vice chancellors red bikes and ponies the ATN presents broad employment-related and applied-research themes.  Thus the network suggests,

* “direct support to encourage more businesses to employ research graduates, PhD students and embrace innovation”

* involve universities in Industry 4.0 initiatives

* direct supports for workers seeking to up-skill and re-skill via enterprise-based learning, including continuing the short-course approach, “on a subject by subject basis.”

* equity-focused funding for participation in the government’s national priority areas

“The government and community response to the pandemic has put Australia in an enviable position. We now have the chance to make the most of this hard-earned opportunity and the lessons we have learned during the pandemic. Australia’s future prosperity relies on providing opportunities across our whole society and sharing the benefits of this prosperity,” the ATN argues.

Astute stuff, which could come from government budget talking-points for MPs, it may well.

Achievers in the wide world of wonks

The Grattan Institute knows its stuff and just ask Australian researchers about water

The Australian Institute for International Affairs is the leading ANZ policy shop in the new ranking from Uni Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Programme.

But the top spot in the Pacific palls when presented on the global list of 174 institutions. The AIIA is 71st in the world, followed by the Lowy Institute for International Policy (76th) and the Centre for Independent Studies (118th).

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute is 11th on the global list of defence research, the NZ Centre for Strategic Studies is 64th and the Commonwealth Government supported Institute for Regional Security is 104th.  ASPI is also 33rd on the foreign policy list, followed by Lowy (55th). Lowy also rates on the science and technology list (60th).

The Grattan Institute ranks 56th in the world for domestic economic policy and 41st on education. It is also 41st on the health policy list and 47th for social policy.

Australia is best represented on the water security policy ranking, where Griffith U’s Australian Rivers Institute is number one in the world, followed by the Centre for Water Economics (ANU) 9th, the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities (16th), CSIRO (25th), La Trobe U’s Centre for Water Policy Management (31st) and UNSW’s Water Research Centre and Global Water Institute (33rd and 34th). The International Water Centre (48th) also at Griffith U is the last local institution among the global top 74.

Uni lobby calls critics for inconsistent criticism of China-ties  

The Innovative Research Universities lobby asks why MPs keen on minex and agriculture exports to China are down on universities who educate the country’s students

There is “a double-standard in some instances when it comes to views on the higher education sector,” the IRU argues in a brief addressing submissions to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security inquiry into security risks in universities.

“Many industries considered essential to our economy depend on China at a much higher rate than education – yet do not attract anything like the same level of rhetoric and concern from politicians and other interested commentators,” the IRU argues.

The lobby points to minex and agriculture exports to Chinese markets being worth three and four times the ten per cent of universities’ revenue “China provides.”

And it contrasts other exports with the overall benefits Australia enjoys from education. “Rather than simply shipping a product offshore, international education attracts students from over 150 countries to come here and contribute to Australian society, sharing their cultures, languages and histories with Australians. We gain far more than money as a result.”

Lest anybody miss the point the IRU adds, “politicians and other commentators who wish to criticise this fact would be better targeting other sectors with an even higher concentration on the Chinese market.”

The IRU similarly weighed into claims that foreign interference can shut down free speech on campus. It’s submission to the Intel committee inquiry includes; “All up, the number of cases and their detail do not suggest any major problem with freedom of speech or academic freedom due to foreign interference. … Parliamentarians and others who believe in free speech should support the open exchange of these views,” (CMM January 25).

What works for COVID-19 and climate change

Science and Technology Australia stands up for peer review

A Senate committee is taking evidence today on MP Zali Steggall’s private member’s bill to establish a climate change commission. Ms Steggall took the seat of Warringah from Tony Abbott at the last federal election.

Her bills have attracted extraordinary interest, with 636 submissions, most from private citizens, to the Senate inquiry. But there’s a bit in the substantive bill that attracted peak-body, Science and Technology Australia, the requirement that the act be applied, “with regard to the best available academic peer reviewed research.”

And quite right too, STA suggests.

“Climate change is, at its core, a challenge outlined in facts, science and evidence. As a comparative example, Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic relied on the best available medical and scientific advice to inform the best possible policy decisions. …

The approach that has protected Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic needs to be applied to climate change. The best available evidence is not only integral in climate change modelling, but in mitigating the effects of climate change already being felt.”

Once that would have gone without saying but now not always now. Last year coalition senators questioned the culture of peer-review in scientific research in a Senate inquiry into water quality around the Great Barrier Reef, (CMM October 30 2020 and September 16 2019).

Dish de jour on international education menu


Fewer pies and more poutine

Australia’s education kitchen is open for home-delivery but it’s closed to international students who want to eat-in. So, people in our major export markets are looking at what’s on Canada’s menu.

Reports are emerging that international students are taking a pass on remote-study offers from Australian institutions, preferring to go where they can study in-country.

According to Ganga Dandapani from Canam consultants, in India, “it could well be that students are choosing Canada over other countries where borders are closed currently.”

While Canam specialises in the Canadian education market, (it’s in the name) it has also been sending students to Australia for 20 years. But for now, the Canadian market is where demand is. This week, the agency is hosting a “Canada Conclave” in the run-up to the country’s August intake. Ms Dandapani says pre-registrations are just shy of 10,000.

This reinforces a Navitas study late last year which reported 65 per cent of agents saying prospective student interest in Canada was up, compared to other destination nations.

Fewer meat pies and more poutine

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent.

Appointments, achievement

AGL “digital innovator” John Chambers joins Swinburne U’s council.

Martin Green (UNSW) wins the Japan Foundation prize for resources, energy the environment and social infrastructure for his research on photovoltaics.

Sven Rogge (UNSW) is the incoming president of the Australian Institute of Physics.