There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Keith Houghton (Higher Education and Research Group) on block teaching – for some institutions, its time has come  HERE.

plus, Merlin Crossley (UNSW) makes the  case for invigilated exams – they are to assessment what the Erg is to rowing.

What are the ways to sell VET

Skills Minister Brendan O’Connor has commissioned the Reps’ Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training to inquire into, “the perceptions and status of vocational education and training.”

Which is interesting, what with the inquiry being into helping VET, not the just government’s TAFE fave.

The ToRs are four;

* info for students and how that funded by the Commonwealth may be improved

* perceptions and status of VET, including international best practice

* partnerships between VET providers and employers

* Commonwealth programmes and “intersections” with states/territories, industry “and philanthropic efforts”

Submissions are due March 1 – which should be plenty of time, what with the vast amount of relevant research already undertaken by the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research

Australian Research Council tinkers with national interest test (there’s still one)

DVC Rs  will “certify the national interest test statement” in research bids, “confirming that the statement clearly and simply explains the benefit of the research to Australia”

Programme assessors will also use the NIT statement, “when they are considering the benefit and impact of the proposed research.”

The change appears intended to address the widely-loathed ministerial veto over ARC recommended grants while maintaining a consideration of the national interest in funding research. As Education Minister Jason Clare put it, “it is my view that the National Interest Test (in research applications) should continue, but should be clearer, simpler and easily understood,” (CMM August 31).

The ARC announcement may be sufficient to calm the winds of protest that followed former acting education minister Stuart Robert’s culture-warring NIT veto of six  Discovery Programme applications on Christmas Eve (CMM January 25) . However national interest tests will still go to the minister, “who makes the final decision on grant funding.”

Question is whether this will help the ARC with Margaret Sheil and colleagues’ agency review. One of Professor Sheil’s instructions from the government is to consider how the council can “maintain the trust of the research sector,” (CMM August 31).

As Universities Australia put it late yesterday, “we look forward to further information of the exact nature of the revised National Interest Test and thank the government and the Australian Research Council for backing our researchers and the vital work they undertake on behalf of the nation.”

Global quals: what’s in it for Aus

The Commonwealth Parliament’s  Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommends Australia ratify the Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications

Reasons why include,

* “for Australian qualifications to be recognised and accepted worldwide would add to the value of an Australian qualification”

* “a framework for the recognition of qualifications gained both through traditional and non-traditional learning modes”

* Australia maintains “full autonomy” and its recognition system already complies with the convention.

And then there is the one that seals the deal,

“The committee notes the role Australia played in chairing the drafting committee and in achieving unanimous agreement for the Global Convention’s adoption in November 2019.”

Angel Calderon (RMIT) made the case for the convention in CMM HERE.

Clare hits the applied research accelerator

Education Minister Jason Clare introduced the bill for a major new programme into parliament yesterday

It’s Australia’s Economic Accelerator which, the explanatory memorandum advises, will “create a clear and structured career pathway in innovation and commercialisation focused research and drive reform of the existing funding and reward structures in Australian universities.”

“What, like the previous government’s Economic Accelerator?, you ask.  That’s the one (CMM February 3).  In opposition Labor signalled broad support for the Accelerator and it delivered in the budget, with $420m across the forward estimates.

The programme will support researchers from bench stage, including PhD students. Those that make it through assessments will be funded through to market-ready, in large part via CSIRO’s Main Sequence Ventures

Researchers will be supported by “priority managers,” commercial-focused experts in the seven broad industries that are priorities for the government’s National Reconstruction Fund, (resources, agriculture, transport, medical science, renewables/low emission, defence capabilities, developing robotics, AI, quantum tech).

The priority managers will report to an advisory board which will advise the minister on the programme and develop a five-year research commercialisation strategy. The eight-member board will “represent government, industry and research sectors.”

Prior to the election there was talk that CSIRO would have a hand in managing the priority managers and supporting the AEA board – although there was disquiet about the influence that would allow the agency (CMM April 1). Now observers suggest some of this work will go to research consultancies. Whatever the government’s intent, an announcement is expected in the next week or so.

The government talks up the importance of discovery research, in August Mr Clare asked the Australia Research Council for mechanisms to identify, “the highest quality university research in Australia, particularly basic research, beyond the current functions of grants reporting” (CMM August 31. However, with the AEA it is picking up the applied research pace. “It will fill a gap in the current research commercialisation landscape by funding translational research from early-stage research into a product that shows viability for industry partnership and investment,” Mr Clare said in the House yesterday.


Iain Mackenzie (Griffith U) becomes chair of Natural Hazards Research Australia, the successor to the former Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. He succeeds Katherine Woodthorpe.

Tara Murphy becomes head of the physics school at Uni Sydney.