Prestige parking

A learned reader says it is nice UNSW has a single parking space for its one Nobel laureate, Sir Fraser Stoddart, who starts next January (CMM yesterday) but U Cal Berkeley has had need of 28 such berths this century. Sometimes CMM readers can be cruel.

Not worth the paper if written on: UoQ goes to test e-marking

From next semester the University of Queensland will not mark multiple-choice questionnaires completed on paper. “Given the university’s investigation and use of alternative assessments … it is difficult to justify allocating limited resources to a technology which no longer fits our current strategic objectives,” DVC A Joanne Wright tells course leaders. Not all of whom are pleased; “no consultation, no insight into the impact, no explanation, no alternative, no awareness that assessment is largely been finalised for semester 1, 2018,” a learned reader tells CMM.

Upset staff have a chance to explain what they do not like about the new arrangement. “Please can you let me know if this will affect your school and if so, any concerns that you have about this,” Karen Moni acting associate dean for HASS asks colleagues.

Jacobs at Go8

Ian Jacobs is the new chair of the Group of Eight. The UNSW VC is now deputy chair. He replaces University of Queensland VC Peter Hoj.

UniSA’s David Lloyd faces the new funding realities

Vice chancellors met in Canberra yesterday as the implications of the end of the demand driven system and two years of funding cuts sink in. For the University of South Australia’s David Lloyd the challenge is both practical and political. For a start, he wonders how he will pay for places already committed in pathways programmes, including for students in regional SA, already grossly under-represented in university. And where will the engineers needed to staff the $90bn defence construction plan come from when the cost of teaching them is already underfunded by 20 per cent. As for nursing, “our funding does not pay for clinical placements,” he says.

Politics will also be an issue as the government allocates growth places from 2019 on a now unknown basis. “I have a sneaking suspicion there will be sweetheart deals in regions and marginal electorates,” Professor Lloyd warns.

Rather than wait for disaster he says universities must start a debate now on what is to be done. “We need to convey this to the community, it can’t be just us talking to ourselves.”

And that conversation needs to address realities. For a start he dismisses suggestions that universities spend munificently on marketing and what they do spend is inevitable, given the nature of the demand driven system, until its recent end. And he rejects claims that the system is awash with cash. “There were six universities in deficit last year and best guess is there will be eight this – that’s 20 per cent.”

Professor Lloyd says it is all very well for the government to talk about allocating future places on the basis of performance, but the metrics will need meaning. “Employability! Good, but what does it mean,” he asks. But the vice chancellor does not dismiss the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching, “QILT sampling needs to be better but it asks the right questions – I like the transparency.”

However getting the rewards measurement will have to be part of a broader discussion about “what universities should look like.”

That will be a debate that inevitably involves politics. While Professor Lloyd says while he sees nopolitical heat” around the minister now, “it will be a local issue which will put pressure on Canberra to address the level and allocation of funding.

“I am not looking for a hand-out but some conversation on how to flex the system to meet needs,” he says.

But the first discussion will be with UniSA staff in a fortnight to talk about how to fund growth this year. Given Professor Lloyd says the end of the demand driven system “is a cap on ambition” and that his state “does not get a fair bounce” the reason he continues committed to grow is clear.

Murdoch U moves on enterprise bargaining

Michelle Narustrang has left Murdoch University. Earlier this month the Fair Work Commission dismissed her bullying case (CMM January 19).

In an unrelated move, the university has also changed membership of its enterprise bargaining team. Word from the west is that university leadership has had it with a hard-line enterprise bargaining approach. Last year Murdoch U won Fair Work Commission approval to cancel wages and conditions under the previous agreement. Management has not done it but the power to did not go done well with all staff nor did it lead the National Tertiary Education Union to budge. Late last year VC Eeva Leinonen said she wanted a deal by Christmas, which did not happen.

Previously fixed management positions on discipline processes, academic workloads and conditions fixed term contracts are now more flexible. “As we resume negotiations this year, I wanted to let you know that the university is prepared to re-examine some key issues that remain unresolved. In the interests of progressing towards reaching an agreement, we are open to making further changes on these issues,” Chief Operating Office Darren McKee told the chancellor, vice chancellor and eighteen senior staff in a Monday email.

Murdoch management needs a deal. The three other three public universities in WA have all reached new enterprise agreements with the NTEU, leaving Murdoch looking the odd uni out.

Brammer’s big business: faculty restructure at Macquarie rolls on

Brammer’s big business: faculty restructure at Macquarie rolls on

Despite alumni anguish, the plan to roll the Macquarie Graduate School of Management into the university’s business faculty rolls on. Dean Stephen Brammer spent last year consulting staff into a stupor and is now ready to go with the appointment of new associate deans and heads of department a priority.

UWA plan for research informed teaching and learning: first step, convince staff

UWA has released a paper with VC Dawn Freshwater’s imprimatur on how to “embed the learning of research skills in all majors and courses.” The proposals are based on the university’s 2012 commitment “to foster research-informed teaching.”

The report focuses on encouraging students to embrace research focused learning; “It is possible to embed research activities into the UWA student experience, right from orientation. These experiences would encourage students to become well rounded and culturally aware graduates with relevant transferable skills for the job market.”

But it also indicates teaching staff need convincing, acknowledging a need to investigate; “why academic staff are not taking up the Graduate School of Education’s Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Training and the Centre for Education Futures’ Transforming Teaching for Learning.” The Grad Cert had 17 enrolments last year, with only seven staff completing the TTL.

“It is clear from our consultation that one way to increase the value of professional development among staff is to ensure professional development is practical, preferably close at hand, and accompanied by effective support when needed. Moreover, the existence and purpose of professional development needs to be widely promoted and articulated within the university’s education strategy,” the report concludes. Staff have until the end of February to respond.

Miller wins Japan Prize

Jacques Miller (Walter and Eliza Hall and University of Melbourne) has won the Japan Prize, for work on immunology with US scientist Max Cooper. This is the peak Japanese science award, conferred in the presence of the Emperor.


Go8 warn research at risk from foreign agents bill

The Group of Eight has renewed its criticism of a bill to identify agents of foreign powers active in Australia. Last week the Go8 warned that as it stands the bill could apply to researchers working with overseas academics and organisations and yesterday CEO Vicki Thomson explained the argument at a joint parliamentary committee on intelligence and security hearing.

Ms Thomson told the committee that the Eight intend to be “constructive not obstructionist” but went on to say the “the right thing to do is to delay the legislation until we are absolutely sure its content is fit for purpose.”

Despite “much of the Go8’s world-class research,” “being undertaken with international partners” she said, “there appears to be little understanding within the government and the bureaucracy about why the university sector is so concerned.”

She pointed to Australian of the Year Michelle Simmons’ quantum computing research at UNSW and similar research at the University of Sydney involving Microsoft as examples of what the bill could put at risk. “Ill-considered legislation or rushed legislation that makes a simple error could very well create barriers of red tape and bureaucracy to Australian researchers undertaking international collaboration in research and commercialisation. “

Ms Thomson called for “a specific academic exemption for research and the communication of research, teaching and development of joint intellectual property, (whether for commercial purposes or not).”

“Show us the money:” responses to Innovation and Science Australia’s plan

You will never guess what responses to Innovation and Science Australia’s 2030 plan focused on (CMM yesterday).

The Academy of Science liked the report, especially “a dedicated stream of funding for translational activity.” However, “this priority cannot be achieved without building our national capability in basic research to underpin the translation process.”

The National Tertiary Education Union pointed out ISA’s call for more STEM graduates comes as the government cuts university funding.

“One arm of government policy (Education and Training) is stabbing another area of government policy (Jobs and Innovation) in the back  by effectively slashing public investment in our world-class university system.”

Labor’s Kim Carr (innovation) and Ed Husic (digital economy) thought the report, “highlights the failure of Malcolm Turnbull to invest in policies crucial to Australia’s future prosperity.” “(The prime minister) spruiked an ‘ideas boom’ but all we have so far is an ideas bust,” they said.

Universities Australia argued that it would be universities that would do the work ISA advocates, and;

“Australia will struggle to become a top tier innovation nation if we don’t at least maintain our public investment in university research and education.”

The Group of Eight agreed, “The assumption that higher education in Australia will remain globally competitive up to 2030 and beyond, and at the same time significantly increase collaboration with industry, while billions are removed from the system by government, threatens to see the whole innovation plan unravel.”