Sweating the smart stuff to defy dementia


plus UNSW academics invited to take teaching-only path


had a bad week? At least you aren’t at NZ’s Lincoln U


and Heads Up: big winners of the working week


He said it

“Senior staff strategy session at the zoo. Countless metaphors could apply.” University of South Australia VC David Lloyd yesterday, via Twitter.

Path about to be more travelled

The restructure at UNSW rolls on with an open meeting next Thursday for all academics interested in the new Education Focused career pathway. People who quite like their existing teaching and research work mix but whose managers have other ideas should probably get along as well. Management has long said teaching-focused positions will “equal career status to research with a clearly defined progression framework up to professor level.” No doubt they will say it again next week.

Happy birthday CQU

Which Vice Chancellor Scott Bowman says became a university 25 years ago yesterday.

Sweat the smart stuff

The excellent Wicking Centre at the University of Tasmania is the source of a model for the MOOC as scholarship in the service of the community. Some 70 000 people around the world have enrolled in its Dealing with Dementia with 40 per cent of them completing. And now the learned researchers at Wicking have a new MOOC, Preventing Dementia. Co-director James Vickers says that people whose engagement with education when young was low have a higher risk of developing dementia than those with more years of learning. And this might apply as out brain’s age; “we know now there’s quite a lot of plasticity that’s retained in adults and older people,” he says.

Which makes the case for reducing the risk of dementia by studying it, at any age.

“If you give your brain exercise to do, it has to be fairly intensive. We think it’s a little bit like CrossFit, it’s probably not just one kind of brain exercise that is effective, you have to do multiple exercise,” Professor Vickers adds.

Good-oh but CrossFit? A MOOC so exhausting you want to throw up is perhaps not the most encouraging comparison.

Stellar social media

In Fast Company magazine Christina Farr names her top ten scientists who use social media to explain their work. They’re all in the US, apart from an expat in Oslo and the celebrated AstroKatie, otherwise known as University of Melbourne theoretical astrophysicist Katherine Mack. She is certainly a social media maven having tweeted 81 300 times, with a (sorry) stellar 107 000 Twitter followers.

Westpac research fellows

Back in 2014 Westpac  created a $100m scholarship fund, which it says will pay for 100 schols in five categories a year “forever”. This year five research fellows pick up $110 000 per annum for three years plus research support. The five and their fields are: Amy King (ANU), international relations in north east Asia, Nicholas Opie (UniMelbourne), biomedical engineering, Jessica Heerde (UniMelbourne), quantitative social research, Tom Aechtner (UoQ), (media and religion impacting on anti-vaccination arguments) and Maja Cassidy (UniSyd), (physics).

About time too

The harrumphometer was at code-red yesterday as critics responded to the government’s vet student loan legislation now before the parliament. While the learned Mark Warburton has pointed out to problems in the plan (CMM Tuesday) other critics all but denounced the legislation for not including a time-machine so that the VET FEE HELP disaster could have been stopped before it started.

But there is one bit of the bill that should be popular – compelling people to appear before the new VET ombudsman (under existing ombudsman powers) and making it an offence not to answer questions or provide documents. Imagine if a government agency had this power under the old legislation – or maybe not, there was a bunch of evidence that the scheme was being rorted which was missed.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham says the Department of Education now has a team helping students ripped off by VET FEE HELP rorters and $19m in study debt has been “fully or partially re-credited.” On the Australia National Audit Office’s figures this means there is just under $1.2bn in loans issued inappropriately still out there.

Murdoch U on its own

While Kim Carr’s Senate spray directed at Murdoch University management on Wednesday generated attention IR observers suggest that negotiations between the National Tertiary Education Union and the three other public universities are progressing and that deals are not far off.

But what do they really think?

The New Zealand university auditor has just had a look at Lincoln University and was not all that impressed with what it saw.

“There is a need for much more robust strategic planning related to teaching and learning, with objectives which can be evaluated and appropriate key performance indicators. An apparent lack of external referencing and academic benchmarking was an issue raised in the previous audit which remains relevant and did not appear to have been addressed in any systematic way.”

That must hurt, but so will;

formal policies and processes in some academic areas were of concern. In particular, policies, processes and expectations related to assessment and moderation needed attention, as did the provisions and procedures for appeals, academic grievances and complaints.

But for polite suggestions that a management rethink is needed it is impossible to beat; “because of its small size and the consequentially smaller pool of staff, Lincoln might be challenged to cover the full range of academic leadership roles which is normal for a university of any size. Similarly, the need to encompass a breadth of responsibilities within single roles might lead or have led to a dilution of impact in particular areas.”

The NZ Academic Quality Agency uses the reporting style of the former Australian Universities Quality Agency which used to visit campuses and report, politely but scathingly on what it found. The tradition continues across the ditch.


The week’s winners at work

Higher education programmes and partnership developer Lesley Halliday has moved from Macquarie U to academic support provider Your Tutor. Dr Head is now GM Academic Services at Your Tutor, which provides after-hours academic support for students at half Australia’s universities.

Emmanuel Kuntsche will join La Trobe U in August as a professor and head of the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research. He now holds appointments in alcohol research in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Hungary.  

 Monash U is not rushing to appoint a replacement for Helen Bartlett who has left her post as head of Monash Malaysia to become VC of Federation UAndrew Walker, who joined Monash Malaysia as VP Academic in November will become interim PVC there and serve until November.

Michael Adams will stand down as dean of law at Western Sydney U at the end of June. After leave he will return to work at the university in 2018 as professor of corporate law and governance.

Daryl Higgins started work this week at Australian Catholic University as director of the of the Institute of Child Protection Studies. He moved from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, where he was deputy director.

The University of Adelaide has appointed Bev McQade IT chief, she joins from SA WaterMs McQade replaces Mark Gregory who moved to Flinders U to become VP corporate services.

The University of Melbourne and King’s College London have appointed Bronwyn King their inaugural Joint Distinguished Fellow in Australian StudiesDr King is a radiation oncologist and “an acknowledged leader in the fight against big tobacco investment.” S

Leigh Clifford is the new chair of the University of Melbourne fundraising campaign, Believe. He replaces Allan Myers who was appointed the university’s chancellor last year.

James Angus from the University of Melbourne will chair the federal government’s new advisory council on the medical use of cannabis. Professor Angus also chairs the Victorian government’s committee on the issue.