But it’s still way short of the Great Eight

plus new money for industry-linked research: University of Melbourne dominates the market taking half of ARC Linkage Grants

Is demand driven student funding under threat

and Heads Up: the week’s winners at work

Desperate measures

“Hypnotist attracts a crowd at during O-week at La Trobe University,” is there nothing LT U will not do to get numbers up? (Thanks to the sub who wrote the on Emma D’Agostino’s story in the Bendigo Advertiser.)

Anderson to Canberra

Ian Anderson is leaving the University of Melbourne to become a deputy secretary in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Professor Anderson is now PVC Engagement at the university where he holds the foundation chair in indigenous higher education. In PM&C he will coordinate a review of COAG’s response to the Closing the Gap targets for indigenous health and social disadvantage. The review will frame national policy on the issues for the next decade.

VCs who worry too much

Andrew Vann makes a strong case for demand driven funding, writing that putting students at the centre of the higher education system has improved their experience; “universities used to be criticised for being insufficiently focussed on the needs of students. I haven’t heard that criticism so much lately,” the Charles Sturt vice chancellor argues in an essay for Universities Australia. Good-oh, but is anybody arguing? While Labor research spokesman Kim Carr’ worries universities enrol too many people ill-suited to higher education study there is broad and bi-partisan support for the policy, starting with Simon Birmingham. Thus Professor Vann quotes the education minister; “it is important that … we don’t go back to an era where government bureaucrats sit in a dark room and randomly allocate places in different courses to different universities.”

And yet Professor Vann is not the only university leader who talks, or writes, as if demand driven funding is at risk. Across the country there are vice chancellors who fear Treasury officials wants student centred funding capped and that they will get their way. Then again, there are others who like the idea of fewer students being funded, as long as the savings are spent on research.

CMM suspects that Professor Vann does not have much to worry about – the community has bought the bipartisan case for all but open-access to university. One thing the government does not want is another campaign claiming the conservatives want to restrict access to study, along the lines of $100k degrees.

Classier commemoration

A learned reader points out that Barrf Rd, named for a 19th century registrar, at the University of Sydney lives up to its name, being a dead-end drive, a pot-holed promenade to an underground car park. (CMM yesterday). In contrast, Mr Barrf’s wife, Jane Foss Russell is commemorated by the newish student administration building.

Melbourne’s strong links

The University of Melbourne has won six of eleven new Australian Research Council Linkage Grants, to be announced this morning.

This is the second set of Linkage Grants, approved under Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s new quick turn-around scheme. The new arrangement, which requires the ARC to decide on an application within six months, is designed to assist industry partners, who like to know whether funds allocated to research will be required. Today’s grants, generally in the $300 000 – $600 000 ranges bring research projects closer to commercial release. Industry partners backing projects include CSL, the Reserve Bank, Melbourne Water Corporation, Origen Energy, Santos and Incitec Pivot. The successful universities are:

University of Queensland: * developing lighter and stronger plastics for manufacturing,

QUT * cross-generational park (as in a walk in the … ) use.

University of Adelaide: * petroleum exploration.

University of Tasmania: 3D * printing for portable chemical analysis.

University of Melbourne: * medicinal applications of Mallee eucalypts, *monitoring water storage for disease, * new therapies from cell biology, * thermal-image sensors for pest control and precision agriculture, * synthetic films for banknotes, * fertiliser production

Curtin University: * in-car devices and simulator to assess dementia in drivers.

What’s in a name

From the UK comes a Telegraph report of a vice chancellor who spent-up on air travel, a Professor Sir Nigel Thrift.

UniMelb management says union has it wrong

The National Tertiary Education Union at the University of Melbourne says management has inimical ambitions for wages and conditions under the next enterprise agreement. CMM yesterday reported union concerns that management wants to cut pay for casual academics take professional staff out of the national classifications framework, “link salaries to an unstated ‘efficiency factor’ and wants the power in a new agreement to sack academic staff for “engaging in unpopular public comment. Last night management replied, “there is no reduction to the casual hourly rate of pay contemplated in the university’s drafts agreements, rather the university is proposing to identify opportunities to offer more secure periodic employment for casual employees and equally is proposing to identify opportunities to offer continuing employment for fixed term employees.”

“The university has a clear and previously approved policy protecting academic freedom of expression. At no point has the university acted to restrict academic freedom of expression,” a university spokesman added.

Remote research rewarded

The University of New England announces the winner of “the ‘oldest and most prestigious Poggendorff Lecture Award”.  Sadly, it is silent on the other Poggendorffs but this one goes to the university’s Andrew Robson for his “significant contribution to agricultural research in remote sensing.”  The honour is awarded by the Royal Society of New South Wales.

Different methodology, same result

We nearly made it right through a week without a ranking but no, the new edition of the Ranking Web of Universities is out, published by Spain’s Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas. This is a ridgy didge ranking based on volume and impact of institutionson-line content, rather than surveys and bibliometrics. “The web is the key for the future of all university missions, as it is already the most important scholarly communication tool, the future channel for off-campus distance learning, the open forum for community engagement and the universal showcase for attracting talent, funding and resources,” Isidro Aguillo from the CSIC  says.

Good-oh, but this ranking’s results, at least at the top, are much the same as all sorts of others. Harvard is world number one, with the usual US institutions in nine of the top ten spots (the University of Oxford is 7th). It’s the same in the second ten, with University College of London the only university outside the US.

The  ANZ rankings are equally unsurprising with the usual eight in the top spots; UniMelb, UoQ, UNSW, ANU, UniSydney, UWA, UniAdelaide and Monash U. They are followed by the University of Auckland, and brightening star, Curtin U – demonstrating the research strategy that is pushing it up other rankings. There are some surprises in the relativities of the rest of the top 20 but across the board the list lines up with most others. Macquarie U is 11th, followed by QUT, Griffith U, Uni Wollongong, UTS, Uni Otago, RMIT, Deakin U, Uni Newcastle and Uni Tasmania.

But the local heroes are definitely that, only the first nine institutions make the global top 200 – with UniMelb (61) followed by UoQ (62), UNSW (66), ANU (78), UniSydney (90), UWA (138), UniAdelaide (144), Monash U (153) and Uni Auckland (157). There is less a gap than a chasm to tenth place Curtin U, which is 242nd in the world.

Your Tutor expands advisors

On-line study support service, Your Tutor has established an academic advisory board, including members of its management team and independent higher education experts. Your Tutor provides always-on learning support via the internet to students at over half Australia’s universities and other HE providers. Independent experts on the board include former Macquarie U provost Judyth Sachs, La Trobe emeritus professor and ex DVC John Rosenberg and UNSW Scientia Education Fellow Chris Tisdale.

Deidre departed

After five years as DVC students and registrar Deidre Anderson reports she will leave Macquarie University in April. “The time has come to move on to my next challenge. … I will commence my search for the next phase of my life very shortly,” she tells her friends.

Penalties rated

The National Tertiary Education Union condemns the Fair Work Commission to reduce penalty rates for weekend work saying it will hurt students. “Cutting pay rates will mean that students will have to work more hours to support themselves. … Difficulties balancing paid work and study is a major cause of students performing poorly, failing and dropping out of their courses. These students are then left with a HECS/HELP debt and no degree,” National President Jeannie Rea says.

It’s also crook for academics. “With thousands only being able to get casual teaching work, many also have to supplement their income with other casual work. They too may be impacted by penalty rate cuts.”


winners at work this week

Stephen Carleton from the University of Queensland has won the state theatre’s industry award for best new Australian work. The Matilda was for his play Bastard Territory, performed in Darwin and Cairns, before being picked up by the Queensland Theatre Company.

Alexandra Elibank Murray is joining Federation University as director of its Brisbane Centre, which is scheduled to open in November, offering a masters and two bachelor degrees to international students. She joins Fed U from the Challenger Institute of Technology.

Sam Huang has joined Edith Cowan U as a professorial research fellow. The expert on outbound Chinese tourism moves from the University of South AustraliaProfessor Huang is the 11th of the 20 senior researchers to be appointed in a programme announced in 2015. He follows HR management researcher Stephen Teo who joined from RMIT earlier this month.

Daphne Habibis and Lyrian Daniel have won the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute’s annual awards. Dr Daniel, from the University of Adelaide won the Federal Minister’s Award for Early Career Housing ResearcherAssociate Professor Habibis from the University of Tasmania received the Professor Mike Berry Award for Excellence in Housing Research.

Cultural studies scholar Graeme Turner will receive an hon doc from Curtin University. The University of Queensland emeritus professor was at Curtin’s predecessor institution, the WA Institute of Technology, where he did “much of his foundation work.”

Colleen Stieler-Hunt has funding from the International Game Developers Association to attend its conference in San Francisco next week. Dr Stieler Hunt researchers video game use in the classroom.

The members of Universities Australia have elected Monash University Vice Chancellor Margaret Gardner their new chair. She will take over from Western Sydney U VC Barney Glover when his term expires in May.

Mark Westoby is the inaugural Ralph Slayter medallist for outstanding biological research. ANU has minted the medal to honour the late Professor Slayter, a director of its research school of biological sciences and the first chief scientist of AustraliaProfessor Westoby is a research ecologist at Macquarie University. 

UNSW professor and “internationally renowned waste innovator” Veena Sahajwalla is honoured by India, being made a Jubilee Professor by the Academy of Sciences there. Professor Sahajwalla works on recycling the unrecyclable, such as tyres, plastics and industrial waste.

University of Newcastle radiation oncologist Mike Fay is the first recipient of the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s three-year mid-career fellowship for studying brain cancer.