Data delayed is research denied

Learned academies want government to hand-over health statistics 

The Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences are calling on COAG to cut through the regulatory state and federal clutter impeding access for research.

“Regulatory barriers that limit timely access to population and health data must be resolved to achieve better health outcomes for Australians, according to leading scientists and medical health researchers,” they warn.

They cite an NHMRC study which looked at de-identified Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) data to find an increased cancer risk for some individuals exposed to CT scans. It took three years for approval, in this case from the Commonwealth.

Adrian Barnett is on a similar case, warning of the waste of researchers’ time in pursuing approval for “negligible risk research that should not need formal oversight,” (CMM July3)

Economics for everybody

The Economics Society of Australia’s has gathered in Melbourne to consider questions and case studies of economics informing public policy

There is a poultice of papers to interest non-economists.  Daniel Melser from Monash U will surely get a call from the house-price focussed SMH about his paper on, “the impact of school characteristics” on NSW housing markets. Anybody who worries about maths pre-reqs for university study will want to read, Claire Thibout (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research) on, “the importance of self-confidence in explaining subject choices in high school.”   And Gigi Foster (UNSW) asks, “do (behavioural) economists trust regulators to tame the banks? Should they?”

Inevitable is shop-talk. Joseph Hirshberg from the University of Melbourne, presents on the (much discussed) Australian Business Deans Council journal ranking. A new journal quality list is due in December.

Decision day imminent for the Uni SA transformation plan

The academic transformation plan for Uni SA approaches the pointy end, with staff responses to the plan due Friday

Where this comes from: VC David Lloyd started the process at the start of the year, proposing a new organisation for staff, based on what is taught instead of disparate discipline groups. Alternatives were discussed in open meetings involving hundreds of staff and now leadership structures appear agreed and the university council is keen (CMM June 11).

Where people would sit: The new model would replace the existing four divisions and 14 schools with larger groups, “built around cognate clustering of programmes.” As now proposed they would be;

* clinical and medical sciences, * allied health and health sciences, * creative and design, * education and science, * engineering and technology, * social and human sciences, and * business and entrepreneurship.

The seven new AOUs would have between 2200 and 4500 students and 100 to 280 FTE staff.

Why do it: There are expected outcomes;

* breaking-down “traditional silos” and “removing hierarchical layers” for inter-disciplinary teaching and research

* devolving academic decision making and reducing the admin burden. Savings to be invested in more academic staff and “student-facing” professional roles

* enhanced teacher quality and student experience, via programme-focused organisations

* more time for teaching and research, by reducing administration

What’s next:  The plan is scheduled to take 12 months preparing for the shift, with implementing the main academic organisation changes in June-July next year and the new leaderships bedding everything down July 2020-December 2021.

Uni Queensland staff asked what they want in their new VC

The process to replace Peter Hoj has started

Yesterday Chancellor Peter Varghese invited all staff to have their say. “Exceptional academic and professional leadership are core attributes, but a role leading a complex organisation requires a combination of skills, experience and capabilities tailored to a university’s distinctive needs,” the chancellor says.

Staff are asked to address three issues: * challenges and opportunities for Uni Queensland in the next decade, *leadership qualities for Uni Queensland to continue “a global top 50 university” and * career experience to lead UQ through a time of considerable disruption,”

There’s an anonymous feedback page and Mr Varghese says responses, “will be considered when the committee drafts the selection criteria for the recruitment process.”

Professor Hoj leaves June 30 next year.

TEQSA points to at-risk HE areas

TEQSA releases a first public report on where the risks are in higher education

After six years of reviewing HE providers the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency reports the not especially surprising finding that universities are low-risk on nearly all measures, but private providers, not so much.

On major indicators universities generally accounted for half or more institution considered safe, although having any publicly funded HE institution in moderate/high risk categories does not strike CMM as good.

Last year 88 per cent of universities were rated as low risk for students and the financial position of 83 per cent was considered low risk. In contrast, 77 per cent of private providers were assessed as moderate or high risk for students and the financial position of 56 per cent of them was scored high risk.

The same patterns apply generally across all 11 indicators.

But while universities are strong on finances and staffing all is not entirely well. TEQSA reports universities rated moderate risk on graduate satisfaction are growing, from 12 per cent in 2016 to 40 per cent last year.

University execs to hear all about staff engagement

The merry funsters at the universities HE lobby are convening a conference

The Australian Higher Education Industrial Association invites insiders to its leadership and culture benchmarking Canberra conference, in September. It will focus on “trends and challenges facing the higher education sector, and driving long-term employee performance and engagement.”

Speakers include Uni Canberra chancellor Tom Calma, vice chancellors (Deep Saini – U Canberra) and Simon Maddocks (Charles Darwin U) plus university executives, government officials and a covey of consultants.

Minister Cash backs trainer

Back in April the Australian Skills Quality Authority cancelled the registration of Stirling Skills Training, the decision is stayed while considered by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal

But Skills minister Michaelia Cash has confidence in Stirling. Very learned VET analyst Claire Field points to tweets by Minister Cash on Sunday; “Stirling Skills Training has been an integral part of the vocational education scene in Perth for more than 30 years. They deliver courses and traineeships to over 3,000 Western Australians annually! Last week I had a fantastic meeting with their CEO Bala Suppiah to discuss ways we can better support young people to get off welfare and into work,” the minister tweeted.

While the AAT considers Stirling’s application against ASQA’s decision the tribunal says Stirling must “neither enrol nor train additional students.”


Susanna Scarparo will join the University of Sydney in October as PVC Student Life. She moves from ANU.

Mark Cully is no longer chief economist at the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. He has moved to lead Treasury’s regulatory reform group.

Grattan Institute inaugural CEO John Daley will stand-down next year, after 11 years. Recruiting has started.