There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Needed Now in Teaching and Learning

Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series is back for ‘22 – this week Sandra Jones (RMIT) and Marina Harvey (Macquarie U) on distributed leadership, why it works and why it really is needed now.

Everything in the research garden isn’t lovely and two UNSW DVCs have thought on what needs to be done

Merlin Crossley (DVC E) URL  argues government must respect the research system and get out of the way.

And Nicholas Fisk (DVC R) suggests while the ARC is in a sorry state, the fundamentals are sound.

Deans warn of minister’s “disregard”

There is way more to it than vetoed Discovery Grants

Bad news for HASS researchers: The Australasian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities responded Friday to Acting Education Minister Stuart Robert refusing to fund six ARC approved humanities and social science projects.

“DASSH believes it signals the continued disregard for important areas of Australia’s intellectual culture and life.”

But while the veto is widely condemned by researchers and their associations there is way more bad news for HASS in the government’s announced research direction.

Excluded and ignored : As DASSH deplored last month, in a letter of “expectations” Mr Robert instructed the Australian Research Council that 70 per cent of Linkage Programme funding must go to projects that “fall under” the six National Manufacturing Priorities.

Plus, he told the ARC to establish a new advisory committee, “with substantial industry, research end-user and governance representation.”

And he wants the council to “ enhance and expand the role of the industry and other end-user experts in assessing the National Interest Test of high-quality projects,”

Mr Robert also asks the ARC for advice on expanding the selection pool for its College of Experts, to include people from “industry and other end-user groups.”

Plus, he calls for more metrics in the 2024 Engagement and Impact research assessment on patents, IP and commercial agreements, with a reduced emphasis on case studies.

Less research than industry policy: All of which combine to make research funding part of industry policy – which former education minister Dan Tehan, who plotted this policy course, made clear when he told vice chancellors he wanted “greater linkages between universities and industry research and employment.”

“We can get the right outcomes, we can reshape the higher education architecture, we can make sure the sector continues to grow and we can make sure that especially when it comes to business, commercialisation and around the research piece, that we can deliver in the HE sector in the next decade,” Mr Tehan said CMM September 2 2019.

This is very bad for HASS. It suggests the humanities and social sciences “can make important contributions”  but is now in a position where it makes its case on the government’s chosen ground.

While pointing to the importance of “curiosity-driven ‘blue-sky’ inquiry” which “deepens the culture and understanding of our society,” DASH acknowledges, “some industry collaboration is crucial when considering the allocation of research funding – this turns to student employment outcomes and the technological and economic advancement of Australia.”

It’s a problem lobbies representing pure science are quick to see. The Australian Council of Deans of Science protests Mr Robert’s veto of HASS projects in the context of pure research, “ which is to support the growth of knowledge without prejudice to its future applications, many of which are inconceivable at the time of discovery.”

The disaster of “disregard”: What should be especially alarming for all researchers whose work has no immediate commercial application is that DASSH is right to refer to Mr Robert’s “disregard.” The government knows what it wants from research and appears not to care what researchers think, at least researchers working in fields with no commercial outcome.

den Hollander warns what lasting lockdown will mean for WA unis

As the WA premier defers opening the state borders the indefatigable Jane den Hollander keeps calm and carries on

But there was a hint of irritation in a Friday statement by Murdoch U’s Interim VC.  “Noting the Government recently announced borders would open on February 5, Murdoch University had been working to welcome our new and returning international students back to Western Australia and campus life.  They are vital to a thriving campus and provide diversity and energy into our wider community and hence safe and structured orientations plans have been developed.”

Plus, she had a warning that might even interest Premier McGowan, “any delay will provide universities in the eastern states a competitive advantage, and put Western Australia’s universities on the back foot, not just this year, but for many years to come.”


Many alarmed ARC experts

The Australian Research Council released its College of Experts for 2022 on Friday. Of the 213 new and continuing members  some 75 signed last week’s  open letter calling for legislation to “prevent political interference in research grants”

The letter warned Acting Education Minister Stuart Robert and outgoing ARC head Sue Thomas that without a commitment that ministers will not decide on funding for individual projects, “we cannot safeguard the independence and legitimacy of the Australian Research Council’s decisions,” (CMM January 20).

The ARC advises no members of the college for 2022 have resigned since Friday’s list was compiled.

Flinders U proposes jabs for jobs

Management has a formal change proposal under the enterprise agreement

The prop is for mandatory vax for staff (ex medical exemptions) and for people who choose not be vaccinated to be considered in breach “of a reasonable and lawful direction” and “at risk of their termination of their employment.”

A final policy is scheduled for February 4, with staff having until month end to prove vax/exemption status. The university proposes requiring a first jab by February 28, a second April 15 and boosters by dates to be set.

Vice Chancellor Colin Stirling asked staff what they thought in early December when 93 per cent were double vaxed and a further 3 per cent had a second shot scheduled. The remaining four per cent were either opposed or ambivalent (CMM December 3).

Flinders U using industrial process to propose the change appears a win for the National Tertiary Education Union, establishing the enterprise agreement as central to university policy making. Although, the union’s state branch is not especially pleased with Flinders management. “ There has been no contingency planning about what happens to this work and who will do it. In addition, Flinders management must engage in a proper risk assessment consultation process with staff and students to ensure public safety on campus,” SA state secretary Andrew Miller says.


Samar Aoun is appointed to a research chair in palliative care at UWA. Professor Aoun moves from head of palliative care research at the Perron Institute.

Bill Le Blanc  joins Uni SA as chief information officer. He is now head of tech for power company ElectraNet

Paul Watt becomes inaugural chair in musicology at the Australian Guild of Music.