Where do highly educated and well paid people like to live? Hint, it’s not regional Tasmania

Who left the editor in the locked room

Swinburne’s Carolyn Beasley announces the new Australian Journal of Crime Fiction, “a new online peer reviewed journal.” She is calling for“scholarly and critical studies of works that fall within, or challenge the conventions of, the crime fiction genre.”

Hospital pass

The University of Adelaide has signed off on its new medical and nursing school, to be built in the new Royal Adelaide Hospital precinct. This is a big deal indeed, involving over 1000 university health and medical researchers and teaching staff as well as 1500 students, which Premier Jay Weatherill was trumpeting yesterday. Problem is the deal could be, should be bigger. For a start the government has no room in the precinct for the university’s dental school (something to do with the government downgrading public dentistry) and while the women and children hospital is supposed to move there by 2023 the government did not mention sending the university’s 500 researchers with it in its pre-election announcement, a point the Liberal’s made last year.This is something they might be able to address, if they ever work out how to win an election.

Graduates together

For a generation politicians of all persuasions have emphasised increasing the number of Australians with post school qualifications. And new Australian Bureau of Statistic data for north Brisbane, inner city Sydney and south-east Tasmania  indicate it is occurring, with significant growth in the percentage of people holding a Certificate III or above. In Brisbane higher education drove the growth, with the per centage of working age people with a bachelors degree growing from 12.2 per cent to 19.2 per cent in the decade from 2001. Overall 52 per cent of residents had a Cert III or higher, up 15 per cent and significantly above the national figure of 49 per cent. However the main driver of growth is young people with qualifications moving into the area.

Despite 14 per cent growth southeast Tasmania (ex Hobart) is still 8 per cent below the national figure and much of the increase is due to older higher qualified people moving in.

In contrast inner-city Sydney and the southern fringe is an education hub, with three universities and the state’s peak TAFE. The region attracts young, highly educated people, making it the highest qualified of the top five regions for education in the country. It shows in the region’s income – between 2001 and 2011 median household weekly income increased by 63 per cent, compared to 46 per cent for all of Sydney. None of this is especially surprising, a densely populated urban area with four major education institutions is going to generate jobs and appeal to educated people as a place to live. But it makes Richard Florida’s famous point about the creative class and the way its members stick together.

Conversation as vocation

Back in February Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane asked a House of Reps committee to inquire into vocational education (so is a Senate committee). You wonder why he bothered given his department conducted focus groups in March and April with representatives of industry, registered training organisations, industry skills councils and Australian Apprenticeship Centres across the country. And frank they were too. The criticisms were common, inconsistency between systems, a focus on providers rather than employers and students and an emphasis on qualifications not skills. It will be frighteningly familiar to anybody who remembers the Hawke-Keating training reform agenda back in the ‘90s. But while people recommended a mass of specific changes a Victorian participant nailed the problem, if not the solution, calling for; “a clear, articulated, national vision of the outcomes the VET system is expected to achieve, and work back from there for a definition of quality outcomes.” Ye gods, there is a generation of conferences in that one.

Vanity publishing

Nobody in Australia knows how much universities pay journal publishers, which seems strange when all the lobbies warn how research is underfunded. Every dollar spent on paying for journal space is one less outlaid on research. In comparison the Brits want to know what is going on and Research Councils UK (seven bodies spending 3bn stg) has established an inquiry into how its open access policy is going. The inquiry will look at responses by academics from different disciplines and whether institutions are spending more on green (available only to journal subscribers for a period then publicly available  to all without charge) or gold access (authors/institutions pay to publish in subscription driven journals). The RCUK adopted the gold standard following the Finch Inquiry but at least it is trying to find out what is occurring. In particular the inquiry will investigate how much RCUK money is being spent on publication – which will be a number worth knowing. Both the Australian Research Council and National Health and Medical Council require research publications they fund to be open to all and many universities mandate green open access, but with less exclusion clauses than chasms for academics who want to publish in prestige gold journals. At what cost? Somebody should find out – and the only somebody I can think of with the clout to ensure cooperation is the minister/ministers who allocate research funding. On the day when some many public agencies are the chop I fear I am calling for an inquiry.