Plus Andrew Robb’s science speech: blathering, brazen bold

In breaking news

“New Business School Dean Chris Styles believes innovation will be critical in the era of higher education deregulation” the University of New South Wales reports. Who would have ever guessed?

The old college try

In what looks more like an announcement than a leak the Herald Sun reports the Melbourne Demons AFL club is considering a move to the University of Melbourne where the team could train. “An off-field partnership centred around research” is also up for discussion – and if you think that sounds unlikely you do not know Melbourne, footy club, university and city, all.

There are plenty of precedents for this demonic possession. The University of Western Sydney has a relationship with the Greater Western Sydney Giants, Victoria University, in Melbourne’s west has links to the Western Bulldogs and the University of Canberra is home to rugby team the ACT Bureaucrats, sorry Brumbies. But linking the university and footie team that bare the great name of Melbourne is a higher order arrangement altogether – imagine the fundraising potential for a team called the University of Melbourne Demons playing in the AFL. Everybody who says Christopher Pyne is keen to create a US style higher education system is accusing the wrong bloke. College football, and all the alumni loyalty – and giving – it creates could be coming thanks to the University of Melbourne and the Demons.  A premiership would raise more money from graduate fans than four quarters of earnest appeals for bequests and donations ever will. And if it does not workout with the Ds the university could talk to Geelong. After all, academic leadership is often said to be like (and I do apologise for this) herding cats.

And if elected I will not serve

Australian Technology Network Director Vicki Thomson flatly denies reports that she was approached to run for a South Australian state seat in the Liberal interest. Understandably so. Compared to the politics of higher education the politics of well, politics would be dull indeed.

Google MOOCs

And you will get Google, which has just given Carnegie Mellon a grant to work out ways “to personalise” MOOCs through machine learning (no, I don’t think the irony is intended) plus ensuring course content takes account of cultural difference. Makes sense really, people will need something to look at through their Google glasses while travelling in their Google driver-less cars.

Andrew Robb: blathering, brazen, bold

Trade Minister Andrew Robb’s Monday speech to a meeting of Nobel laureates in Lindau, Germany was blathering, brazen and bold. The address had all the familiar signs of being drafted by the bureaucracy (thus accounting for the blather). The text included sub-heads to remind the minister what he was talking about as well as dot points, because officials assume politicians cannot express themselves in sentences. The brazen bit was the way Mr Robb talked up the government’s commitment to science, pointing out  CSIRO, “ranks in the top one per cent of the world’s scientific institutions.” Um, that will be the CSIRO which took a budget beating and is sacking hundreds of staff. And then there was the bold, which was about the way the proposed $20bn Medical Future Fund will be distributing $1bn a year in grants in around a decade. The government wants, Minister Robb said, “Australian researchers to be spending more time on the work they’re passionate about; and less time applying for funding.” Um, so the Fund and the Medicare co-payment to pay for it are solid in the Senate, are they?

Off the wall

Edith Cowan VC Kerry Cox did not muck around following news of Rolf Harris’s conviction yesterday. By Perth lunch time paintings by Harris were off university walls and Professor Cox was saying this was because he, and he believed the university community, considered it the right course of action. “It is important to ECU that the personal values of our award recipients are congruent with Edith Cowan University’s values,” he said. As for Harris’s 2010 Hon Doctorate of Letters, Professor Cox said the award was made by Council, which would meet next month. He did not speculate as to what it might do – then again he hardly needs to.

Pyne polls poorly

A poll by comms consultancy EMC of federal ministers’ performance has Malcolm Turnbull on top with a net score (total approves –disapproves) of +13 per cent. Julie Bishop also had a positive rating, just, which I suspect has more to do with her unflustered presence when confronted by student protestors than the New Colombo Plan. It’s probably good that Christopher Pyne is also always unflustered – he has a net score of – 18 with 29 per cent of the sample thinking he is going ok against a substantial 47 per cent who don’t. Even Liberal voters in the poll were not impressed.

How not to set standards

The UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education has just released its 17 page consultation draft Subject Benchmark Statement: Veterinary Nursing, which includes this controversial statement; “Veterinary nurses provide professional care for sick animals and support for their owners.”

Sort of seed funding

I missed the Western Australian government’s new funding for medical research strategy when it was announced last month but it still rates a mention, if only for its insularity. The state government is not happy that WA researchers got just 6 per cent of National Health and Medical Research Council 2013 funding so it is kicking in $3m “to improve the quality and competitiveness” of researchers’ applications. The state has a $58m health and medical research commitment with a further $30m over four years announced in the state budget but wants more from Canberra. Makes a change from complaining about GST distribution.

So good they announced it twice

There were suggestions last year that the Australian Research Council was not especially pleased when the then Opposition committed $42m of research funding to James Cook University for tropical health and medicine. But yesterday showed it wasn’t so. Minister Pyne was in Townsville yesterday to announce approval of the first $15m for the project and his office naturally issued a statement. The ARC was obviously so pleased that it issued the same statement, to ensure everybody in the scientific community got the good news.

BHERT Award open

The Business-Higher Education Roundtable awards for collaborations between the sectors are open. Applications close on September 8 and the information kit is  here. The top award carries a $10 000 prize.