plus grad employment not the ATAR the big emerging issue

Hunt signals market funding for innovators

and engineer O’Kane honoured 

Green for go (quiet)

CMM tried to find out why higher education politics is so silent by ringing Richard Di Natale’s office yesterday. After all, there is always something aggrieving the Greens. But not just now, the leader’s office says the parliamentary party still hasn’t allocated portfolios.

Fri Aug 19

Fox and Flinders friends

All Flinders University students will have access to at least one unit in entrepreneurship from next year in a deal announced today with Temple University’s Fox School of Business. The university is also offering a new business bachelors in innovation and enterprise, plus a year long Bachelor of Letters in entrepreneurship, to bolt on to other degrees. It will also be offered on-line. The university will additionally provide mentoring relationships via its New Venture Institute.

“We recognise that careers are evolving and the workplace of the future will look very different to today’s. Around 70 per cent of young graduates will start their careers in roles which will substantially change or be obsolete in the next 10 to 15 years,” Flinders VC Colin Stirling says.

Some 12 study modules created by FoxSB will be adapted for South Australian circumstances. Flinders will also use the Fox Roadmap programme, which tracks student progress on a range of “enterprise behaviours”.

The Philadelphia based Fox’s on-line MBA was number one in the last two US News and World Report rankings.

This is seriously smart stuff. Universities around the country recognise that employment outcomes is what students will increasingly value as the number of graduates competing for work grows (below). Having a comprehensive product meets student needs and also positions Flinders as student-focused. As Professor Stirling puts it, “partnering with Fox means Flinders students will gain the core skills to enhance creativity, embrace innovation and think like an entrepreneur on a global scale.”

Mandarin for “scooped”

The August issue of the University of South Australia news has a story about lecturer David Caldwell who is overseeing a dictionary of AFL terms for use in developing the game in China. Um that will be the footy translation the Wall Street Journal published a story about on July 12.

Hunt’s innovative approach

Innovation Minister Greg Hunt says he is contemplating a new funding source for innovating companies in the $20m to $200m range, which can have “real difficulty in finding investment capital.” “I will be exploring with the sector the value of a broader national innovation fund based on matching debt or equity, rather than grants, for this mid stage commercialisation,” the minister said yesterday. It’s a sensible response to the cost of cash one research policy watcher said last night. “Money is cheap for government now and Mr Hunt is willing to fund more near commercial work if he gets his investment back over time.”

It’s a smart move, part of a pattern that is shaping an emerging insider assessment that Mr Hunt gets the portfolio and knows what he wants to do with it, perhaps including the estimated $3.5bn (next financial year) Research and Development tax concession.

A review of the policy was waiting for Mr Hunt when he started the job but he has not revealed what is in it or what he will do about it (CMM August 9) and yesterday was no different . Understandably, so the concession is loved by business and loathed by publicly funded researchers who say it generates a bunch more tax savings than research outcomes. But last night observers suggested the investment fund is a way to justify a cut to the R&D tax reduction or at least tougher qualifying conditions for it.

ATAR isn’t the only argument

While policy people brawl over what the Group of Eight thinks about student-centred funding they are missing the brewing mother of all blues about university study, which will be over whether it is worth the effort. Gavan Fernando made the point yesterday on , the most-read news site in the country. While the story included the argument over ATAR’s, it featured a young woman who only enrolled at university to please her parents, got out when she decided a music course would not get her a job and is now happily employed degree-free. ABC Radio’s PM ran a similar story last night, only about a surplus of law graduates.

This isn’t an unmanageable perception problem, for now. Australians have drunk the campus kool-aid, and the importance of a university education is an article of faith. As a 2104 report by Maggie Yu and Galina Daraganova found, some 56 per cent of mothers with sons below year 12 age expect them to go to university, 71 per cent for daughters. And their kids listen to them, 49 per cent of boys and 56 per cent of girls have university expectations. Even families in the bottom 25 per cent on the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage have high education expectations, with 47 per cent of mothers thinking their kids will go to university.

But this will change, and fast, when large numbers of students, graduating courtesy of demand driven funding can’t get the jobs they think were told they would.


No faulting him for frankness

The research obsession has its price, as revealed by Simon Anderson, University of WA dean of architecture, landscape and visual arts in his report on 2015 to the UWA academic board. A “diminution” in teaching quality was thought to be due, at least in part, to the “increased focus on research productivity,” which obviously worked with total research income up by 118 per cent in 2014. But students didn’t mind, with overall numbers “near projection.” Perhaps it’s true that people, at least in Perth, do enrol on the Go8 name, not the experience.

Focus, people

The national consultations on what research infrastructure we need drag on, sorry progress well, but close observers of the process urge people appearing, especially HASS-ites to lighten-up. CMM hears some arrive all aggrieved and complain that no one pays enough attention, not to mention money, to their important work. This is said to not go down well with Chief Scientist Alan Finkel who is fact-focused and wants to know what petitioners want and what the taxpayer will get out of it.

Young tall poppies

James Cook U is very pleased two of its scientists are among the Queensland Young Tall Poppys for 2016. The awards recognise scientists and science communicators. Dr Paul Giacomin is honoured for his work on how parasitic worms can help coeliac disease suffers. Dr Jennifer Donelson is a YTP for research on the impact of ocean warming on fish.

But while the university calls the awards “prestigious” JCU is not among their supporters, unlike the University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, University of Southern Queensland and Griffith U, which are.

QUT also had a winner, molecular microbiologist Dr Makrina Toksikar who is working on ways to drug resistant bacteria. She was anointed as the tallest of the tall poppies, a height shared with University of Queensland psychologist Barnaby Dixon. The other UoQ poppies are Dr Anna Hatton (rehabilitation science), Dr Luke Knibbs (airborne particles and health) and Dr Shyuan Ngo (motor neurone disease).

Your time starts now

Innovation Minister Greg Hunt has opened bidding for the second round of CRC Projects. Applications close on October 26. The programme is a slimmer, smaller, speedier version of the big CRCs with Ps being industry led and focused on fast solutions to business challenges. The first round saw 11 projects share $22m.


Heads up: the week’s winners at work

Mary O’Kane is the inaugural Ada Lovelace medallist. The NSW state government’s chief scientist and engineer is honoured for “her outstanding and lasting contribution to Australia through her intellect, tenacity and commitment, and through numerous and diverse roles over the past 30 years.” The Lovelace Medal comes from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of NSW. It is named for the Countess Lovelace  (Lord Byron’s daughter no less) who wrote in the 1840s what is considered the first computer algorithm.

Alan Cooper is the South Australian Scientist of the Year. The ARC laureate fellow is based at the University of Adelaide where his Australian Centre for Ancient DNA examines issues including Aboriginal genetic heritage, the evolution of human diseases and climate change. The university is pleased with the win, but not too pleased, the runners up, Kieren Mitchell and Phiala Shanahan are also on staff. The young scientist award went to chemist Justin Chalker from Flinders.

The ACT has a scientist of the year award (who knew!). This year it is ANU’s Ceridwen Fraser. A Canberra local,Dr Fraser studies is a biogeographer, who studies how plants and animals responded to past climate change as a guide to what they will do as the climate changes now.

CSIRO radio astronomy icon Bruce Slee has a stellar lifetime achievement award; the International Astronomical Union has named a planet after him, “Minor Planet 931 Slee.” Bit light on for grandeur, still it’s the thought that counts. Mr Slee’s utterly admirable story is nicely reported by Fiona McFarlanehere.

One of the big jobs at Monash U (CMM August 16) is filled, with Ken Sloan becoming the inaugural DVC EnterpriseMr Sloan joins from the University of Warwick. He previously ran higher education business development for outsourced service provider SercoMr Sloan starts at Clayton in January.

Monash’s Paul Grabowsky has won the Art Music Awards jazz category for collaboration with the Young Wagilak Group called NyilipidgiAndrew Schultz, head of the School of the Arts and Media at UNSW won the choral work award for a piece based on the last scene of Moliere’s Le malade imaginaire.

Professor John Kinsella from Curtin U’s Sustainable Policy Institute is shortlisted for the 2016 WA premier’s award for fiction. Dr Lucy Dougan from Curtin humanities is up for the poetry prize.