Long commute

Sahan Jayasinghe is an astrobiologist and he is exploring the possibility of life on Jupiter’s frozen moons,” the University of Tasmania, via Twitter yesterday. Sensible option give Hobart’s property prices but it will make for a long day.

Teacher union slams education course entry

Initial teacher education in Australian universities is “consistent with a situation” where ITE applications are treated by (sic) cash cows by tertiary institutions” the Australian Education Union claims in its submission to the Gonski II review, “To achieve educational excellence in Australian schools.”

But the AEU also proposes that ITE students should do an undergrad degree followed by a two-year masters, which VCs looking for new cash flows would surely welcome.

The AEU argues for addressing this with “a more regulated and coordinated approach to ITE funding and accreditation in Australia.” The union also calls for a threshold ATAR of 70 and equivalents on other entry pathways so that only applicants in the top 30 per cent of students are admitted to teaching courses.

The masters and ATAR questions are not especially hard for the teacher education establishment to address. The first is hypothetical until, or if, the feds decide what it will do about the distribution of funding for professional masters, beyond the universities of Melbourne and UWA. And Christopher Pyne addressed the standards issue way back – calling for improvements in ITE degrees and in 2015 introducing the national literacy and numeracy tests that teacher-education students must pass to qualify as teachers.

But an ABC interview aside, the education deans kept their heads down and VCs with big ITE programmes were not talking, at least to CMM, perhaps because they are thoroughly sick of being accused of using education students as funding fodder. They need not be – while teacher education enrolments grew by 30 per cent 2006 and 2015 they remained in-line with overall numbers as demand driven funding kicked in, holding at 6 per cent of total enrolled students (CMM September 11). And a 2015 report for the Australian Council for Educational Research estimated demand for teachers to “remain high in most states for at least the next ten years.”

Less is more, more or less

The University of Sydney Australian Institute of Nanoscale Science and Technology has a new name. As of this morning it is the University of Sydney Nano Institute. Institute director Susan Pond says, “as the institute’s workload and reach increased it was only natural that the name became compact.”

Labor’s Kim Carr backs back to basics on research

The truest of believers celebrated the 10th anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s election on Friday, including the ever-focused Kim Carr who used the event to commemorate Kev from Queensland’s commitment to research and innovation, and to contrast Labor policy with what he says is the coalition practise of announcing innovation but not mentioning shortfall funding.

“A Shorten Labor government will have to take on the task of repairing the damage wreaked under Abbott and Turnbull. Bill Shorten has set a goal of spending 3 per cent of GDP on research and development by 2030. The record shows that only Labor understands what is required to promote and sustain Australian science and research, and only Labor is willing to do it,” the Opposition research spokesman said.

But Senator Carr also used the opportunity to pitch his party to the research establishment, making the case that Labor is the friend of pure research.

“The government has shown interest only in commercialisation – in research that turns a quick buck. Australia’s ability to do basic, curiosity-driven research has been degraded. The government does not understand that if we cease to do basic research, our ability to do effective applied research will decline along with it. The record shows that only Labor understands what is required to promote and sustain Australian science and research, and only Labor is willing to do it.”

What a coincidence!

“In Brisbane for Research Conference on impact & basic research tomorrow. Some cricket just happened to be on,” David Sweeney, chair designate, Research England, via Twitter yesterday. CMM wonders if delegates from the Association of East Asian Research Universities also in BrizVegas for the conference got the joke.

UniSydney’s elite post post-doc scheme

The University of Sydney has a new “tenure track” scheme designed “to retain our best postdoc talent.” Ten annually awarded Robinson Fellowships will “create a pathway towards continuing teaching and research positions at the university,” providing four year’s salary and “up to $150 000 each year for research costs and mentoring support.”

“We know it can be extremely difficult to get a break as a young academic, no matter how good you are. The Robinson Fellowships are part of a series of programs … to recruit, retain, recognise and develop outstanding young scholarly talent, giving them a future at Sydney,” DVC R Duncan Ivison told staff Friday.

UniSydney staff with an externally or internally funded fellowship expiring in the next two years and who took their PhD 12 years ago or less qualify to apply. Professor Ivison has committed the university to an equal allocation by gender across the life of the scheme.

The scheme is named for Nobel Prize winning chemist Robert Robison who was a UniSydney professor of chemistry 1912-1915.

Deakin top marketer goes

Trisca Scott-Branagan has left Deakin University for the ANZ bank. Ms Scott-Branagan was the university’s marketing chief, rated fifth top marketer in the country in a recent industry ranking (CMM October 24).

James Cook U staff agree to new deal

Staff at James Cook University have approved the enterprise agreement jointly proposed by management and the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union. The vote was announced late Friday, with 48.5 per cent of eligible workers turning out and 90 per cent of them approving the deal. It was a consensual conclusion to a tough time, neither management nor union backed away from a blue in the bargaining.

With JCU settled the pattern of consensual deals with modest pay rises and no swingeing cuts in conditions seems settled across the country. Apart from Murdoch U that is, where neither side appears interested in compromise.

UniSA partners with state on allied health

The South Australian government is partnering with UniSA to “transition” the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to a specialist rehabilitation, nursing and allied health university hospital. According to the university, it is the state’s largest provider of physiotherapy, podiatry, occupational therapy, exercise physiology, medical imaging, nutrition, pharmacy and nursing education. “We will graduate health care workers that are completely conversant with the realities of professional practice.  It also means, “the quality of care at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital will be at the forefront of innovative practice, where interdisciplinary and patient-centred practice is the standard,” University of South Australia VC David Lloyd says.

Professor Lloyd is keen on growing health business, back in 2014 when the University of Adelaide and the state government were disagreeing over funding for the state’s dental hospital, UniSA tendered for the contract in cooperation with University College London. This was seen as a step towards opening a dental school.


Pauline conversion

Don Markwell is the new head of St Paul’s College “within” the University of Sydney. Dr Markwell has served as a fellow of three Oxford colleges and spent nine years as warden of Trinity at the University of Melbourne. He was higher education advisor to Christopher Pyne during his push to deregulate undergraduate degree fees.

How much is a “multi-million”?

Bond University has received its largest private donation, a “multi-million dollar bequest” from the estate of Cora Cutmore, to the Clem Jones Research Centre for Regenerative Medicine. But how many millions make a “multi” at Bond U? The university says Ms Cutmore’s family does not want it to say.

Regional unis say they should cop no cuts

The Regional Universities Network wants to save Flinders’ U academic John Halsey some time as he slogs through submissions for his  report on education challenges and barriers faced by country kids.   RUN has produced a Regional Higher Education Strategy Framework, “to better harness the capacity of regional universities, as anchor institutions for their regions, to be facilitators of economic and social regeneration.”

“The framework provides a structure, under which relevant policies and programs, which will evolve over time, sit,” says RUN chair and University of the Sunshine Coast VC Greg Hill.

The RUN plan includes a fair few programmes for universities to expand education access, drive relevant research and be embedded in whole-of-government regional planning. As such it builds on the University of Tasmania strategy that puts education at the centre of state development.  And assuming the worst in MYEFO the plan exempts regional universities from any change to the demand driven system or cuts to the Commonwealth Grant Scheme, “in view of their regional development mission.”


Complete digital delivery with UNE offering exams online

The University of New England was present at the creation of distance study and now it is completing the cycle, testing remote exams that save students having to travel to a supervised centre.

Using a US product, a proctor observes half a dozen students doing an exam on their laptop. There are a range of security features, including “facial recognition and typing style biometrics used to verify identity” UNE’s teaching and learning director Greg Winslett and colleague Kylie Day tell CMM.

With a maximum of six students per supervisor in each exam there are obvious efficiencies to be had, but surely not not huge ones and this service seems far more focused on saving students time rather than the university money.

And there is another reason to let students type, rather than handwrite their exams, legible scripts aren’t universal anymore, or as UNE politely puts it, remote exams by laptop ends; “issues involved with marking handwritten work.”