That’s quality, cap Q

“Quality training providers” are invited to apply for the government’s new voced loan scheme, assistant minister for VET Karen Andrews said yesterday. But in case anybody missed the point, she said it again in the same statement, “ only high quality training providers can offer taxpayer funded VET student loans.” And again, “our focus on quality remains at the forefront of Australia’s VET system.” And did she tell you, “ I encourage high-quality training providers to apply to offer VET Student Loans.”  The ghost VET FEE HELP stalks the corridors of power still.

UNE staff vote no confidence in VC

Staff see a structure they do not like

University of New England management isn’t selling staff on the proposed new structure. Among other unhappy alliances it would put law in the same faculty with agriculture, which does not strike some staff as a natural fit. And humanities staff fear being forgotten if joined to the large and powerful school of education.

Staff met this week to discuss the plan and endorsed an expression of no confidence in VC Annabelle Duncan, and interim provost and DVC Joyce Kirk.

UNSW into Africa 

UNSW is engaging with Africa. There is a new student exchange programme with the University of Cape Town, funded by ex Westpac boss Gail Kelly. Arts and engineering students did a field-course on conflict resolution last month, through Gulu University in Uganda. And Babere Chacha is at Kensington for six months, “laying the groundwork for a collegiate relationship” with his Laikipia University in Kenya.

Extending academic links makes scholarly sense now and will make commercial sense later –  when it comes to international students coming to study here one day Africa will be the new Asia.

Reaction to CQU payrise: staff at other unis should not get their hopes up 

Not all are impressed with the 10 per cent pay hike in the deal done at Central Queensland University

Australian Higher Education Industrial Association, head Stuart Andrews agrees with the view that the CQU deal involves salary increases which are very generous. He is also at pains to point out that the annual 2% increases over 5 years are unlikely to be matched by other universities, with other offers across the country being less than 1.5% per annum.

Management consultant Andrew Dempster agrees, telling clients yesterday that an early agreement, which CQU’s is, does not necessarily set a precedent. “Last round, CQU was also one of the first universities to settle. CQU’s headline pay increase then was 4% per year, around a percentage point higher than universities that followed. “And if, if, Education Minister Simon Birmingham gets his funding cuts through the Senate universities may not be able to afford to follow CQU, he adds.


Speaking his mind

Lisa Denny suggests that technology is undermining our ability to write well and I’m like, yeah, well, dunno, whatever,” CSU VC Andrew ‘eloquence’ Vann at a Hobart seminar, yesterday.


Present at the creation

Ernst Raetz was present at the creation of university comms. He was around for so long at La Trobe that CMM assumed he was on holidays when he went quiet earlier this year. In fact he had quietly retired. The Raetzian paradox was that while rigorous in celebrating LT U he was an unassuming man.

Mr Raetz joined the university from the now gone Melbourne Herald 40 plus years back to publish the staff newsletter – which he produced on his own press. This was in the Mesozoic era of the media, when reptiles of the press received Raetz press releases in the mail – although he would send reporters breaking stories by taxi.

The pace may have changed but no one now recognises what makes a good yarn better than he did.

System fail in cyber security courses 

Back in February the feds announced it would name selected universities, “academic centres of cyber security excellence.” They would be universities, “on the frontline training up the cyber security professionals combatting the threats Australia faces,” Education Minister Simon Birmingham said. Nothing has happened since, which seems strange or it did until Adam P Henry’s new discussion paper, Mastering the cyber security skills crisis (for UNSW Canberra) appeared.

Mr Henry examined various Australian masters programmes to discover, “only modest alignment” between them and the knowledge, skills and ability set out in US Government work standards. “Universities have an obligation to work with industry and government to ensure that cyber security programs are more directly preparing students for the workforce,” Mr Henry suggests.

STEM in strife if uni science funds cut

The deans of science peak body warns that proposed funding cuts will “seriously undermine Australia’s efforts to prepare its young people and its economy for the future.”

The Australian Council of Deans of Science has responded to a Universities Australia analysis of the impact of the government’s plan by discipline funding group (CMM Tuesday).

“Australia’s university system is the bedrock on which its STEM capability is built,” the deans warn.

“The higher education system has never properly funded research. This flaw in the system amplifies the impact of budget changes on STEM faculties as a variety of hidden cross-subsidies and misunderstood connections come into play.”

The deans call on senators “to rethink” the government’s funding plan.

How education can unleash the tiger in Tasmania

Peter Rathjen has an idea – a very big idea

The need for change: For two hundred years Tasmanians have looked for industries that can use the bounty and beauty of their island to create sustained and sustainable economic growth. And yet the state has long had the lowest, or close to it, standard of living in the country. The reason, according to University of Tasmania VC Peter Rathjen, is the absence of education. Professor Rathjen has long argued “talented Tasmanians are being sidelined from meaningful economic participation by a lack of skills development.”

The aspiration: So, he developed a strategy to ensure young people, especially in the north of the state, have both reason and chance to stay in education after school. And he created a plan to put higher and further education at the centre of the state, literally by re-locating core campus activities to the CBDs of major centres, and conceptually, by convincing the community that education can expand the economy.

He has successfully sold both, with the feds funding major capital works in Launceston and the state’s governing class backing the expansion of education, notably sub-degree programmes for industries where there are skills shortages.

In November 2016 the Hobart Mercury named the VC second most important person in the state. “All sides of politics listen when Rathjen says education is the future of Tasmania,” the paper announced.

Rathjen is leaving to become VC of the University of Adelaide but the foundation of his plan is in place and he has set out his thinking in a farewell address, presented to a Hobart conference yesterday, “reimagining and revitalising communities through higher education – engaging, informing, learning.”

The eight pillars of the plan: (i) Match higher education to the system – the university’s unique relationship with the state underpins Tasmanian progress (ii) A research agenda inspired by the island, with global thinking on local problems and local innovation taken to the world (iii) research and teaching support innovation in the economy and encourage entrepreneurial values in graduates (iv) increased access, affordability and flexibility to open higher education for a new generation (v) energise the cities, with university life in their centres (vi) empower regions with research, innovation and workforce skills to drive growth (vii) engage in policy and practise with the university developing and delivering public policy (viii) international engagement, with the university serving as a conduit of people, knowledge and innovation off and onto the island

A portable plan: But will it fly? Vice chancellors at universities with the potential to play a similar role in their regions want to know and four were at yesterday’s conference, Barney Glover (Western Sydney U), Sandra Harding, (James Cook U), Simon Maddocks (Charles Darwin U) and Andrew Vann (Charles Sturt U).

Others attending with a keen eye for ideas with a future, included Universities Australia CEO Belinda Robinson, NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Mark O’Kane and that most astute of public policy economists Saul Eslake.

Heads up: winners of the week at work

The University of Notre Dame at Fremantle has appointed Gervase Chaney, dean of medicine. He moves from the new Perth Children’s Hospital, where he was executive director for commissioning.

 Claire Bowers, senior marketing comms manager at Monash U, is moving to La Trobe University.

 Historian Alison Bashford returns to Australia as a professor at UNSW. She moves from Cambridge University. The historian of imperialism and the environment was at Harvard U and the University of Sydney from 2009 to 2014.

QUT emeritus professor Nathan Efron is the International Society for Contact Lens Research’s Reuben Medalist for 2017

The University of Western Australia has created the world’s first chair in human lactology. Professor Valérie Verhasselt, now at the Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis in France takes up the chair.

Reserve Bank board member Kathryn Fagg has won UNSW Engineering’s Ada Lovelace Medal, awarded to a woman engineer for her contribution to the profession. The Faculty’s two other awards for women engineers have gone to NSW state surveyor-general Narelle Underwood (B Eng UNSW) and Monash U biotechnology engineer Cordelia Selomulya.

Carmelle Peisah is elected to the board of the International Psychogeriatrics Association.  Professor Peisah is a conjoint professor at UNSW and a clinical associate professor at the University of Sydney.

Human Resources director Nick Rogers is leaving James Cook University. According to JCU he “has resigned for private family reasons and will return to the UK to be with his family.“

Elaine McFadzean is the new GM at the University of Sydney business school.

David Reeve is confirmed as Chief Innovation Office at Macquarie University, after acting in the position for six months.

Music producer and engineer Mark Opitz  has joined ANU’s music school as a visiting fellow where he will work with staff and students in the ANU‘s new “world-class high-end recording facility.

UWA announces Owen Davies is its new chief marketing officerMr Davies joins after a decade at Crowns Resorts, most recently at Crown Perth, celebrated for its casino.