Low-key campaign

Charles Sturt U is promised $15m for its Port Macquarie NSW campus, if the government wins the state election (don’t worry, nobody much else has noticed it either). The university is spending $46m of its own. As far as CMM can tell, this is the second HE commitment of the campaign. Late last month Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced anew a health and innovation precinct with UNSW and Western Sydney U in Sydney’s south-west. Things will be better in the federal campaign.

How ACU stripped a bishop of an honour

The Pell Centre at Australian Catholic University in Ballarat will probably keep its name for now, what with ACU stating it will not comment on the conviction of George Pell for child sex crimes, until “all legal avenues … are complete.”

They don’t like to rush things at ACU. Back in 2014 ACU’s Ballarat campus took retired bishop Ronald Mulkearn’s name off a lecture theatre after he was named in a Victorian inquiry as having protected paedophile priests.

Back then (CMM July 21 2014) asked if the university would also strip him of his honorary doctorate and was told nothing-doing, that; “the decision to award an honorary doctorate takes into account all information known to the university at the time of the award. The university has not revoked any honorary doctorates in its 25-year history and has no immediate plans to do so.”

But this changed in 2017, when the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse, investigated Mulkearns and called his behaviour “appalling.”

The university now tells CMM that it revoked his hon doc that year, “the basis of the revocation was uncontested admissions made by Bishop Mulkearns before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.”

Flinders U generates $200m for teaching and research

Flinders U will increase research spending by $100m over five years, with the money coming from its own resources. Vice Chancellor Colin Stirling announced the investment to staff yesterday. It complements a further projected $100m generated by growth in student places, to support teaching specialist positions created as part of management’s academic staff restructure.

The research funds will go to “areas of existing strength and future strategic importance”, supporting “enhanced infrastructure,” seed funding and a “significant increase” in PhD scholarships.

This is a big return on a big investment in pain and planning, flowing from a comprehensive restructure of university operations and academic workforce changes, which created new jobs but also abolished an unreleased number of existing ones. The loss of existing jobs held by specific staff members in particular was fiercely opposed by the National Tertiary Education Union.

That Professor Stirling now points to substantial saved sums and increased earnings going to core university business will not ease the understandable unhappiness of people whose jobs are gone or changed in ways they do not like. But it does demonstrates why he did it.

All three public universities in South Australia have big change plans underway (CMM March 5). As of this morning on deliverables being delivered, Flinders U is firstest with the mostest.

Keep it flexible: allocating dip and PG degree places

The government plans to bring order (and a bit of a cut) to the now not entirely consistent way it funds and allocates sub degree and PG places in universities (CMM November 14).

It asked the higher education community what it thought and now the Grattan Institute’s Andrew Norton has obliged responded with his usual insight-rich, policy-dense analysis.

While Mr Norton addresses the issues the government raises, he does make it clear that everything would be easier if the demand driven system for UG places was still in place, with sub-degree ones added, (they weren’t included originally).

Bachelor-degree places grew dramatically under demand driven funding, and international student enrolments are still growing strongly. Without fixed allocations of places or funding to institutions, places can flow between higher education providers according to their supply decisions and student demand,” he writes. But with DDF gone, he proposes least-worse options to maximise flexibility, including:

* rolling sub bachelor places into an UG block grant; so, universities can “adapt to changing student needs and demands”

* no change in allocations of places. “There is too little reason for confidence that the new use for a reallocated place will be better than the old use.”

* not allocating diploma places on “industry need,” as they are not stand-alone employment qualifications but pathways to or complementary courses for bachelor degrees

As to “the trend towards using postgraduate qualifications for initial professional entry”, he proposes continuing to fund capped places in the existing University of Melbourne and UWA bachelor-masters qualifications and to provide “demand driven funding for a range of teaching, nursing and allied health courses.” There should be a “transition of other fields back to full-fee for postgraduate coursework,” he argues.

Wilyman thesis appraised

Judith Wilyman’s 2015 University of Wollongong PhD thesis critical of Australian vaccination policy has copped a lot of criticism but Kerrie Wiley (public health research fellow) at the University of Sydney and colleagues  write, “there is no citable peer-reviewed critical appraisal of the methodological rigour of the work.” So they, “identify and appraise the thesis’ key claims” in the new issue of the journal Vaccine. They aren’t impressed.

Not by man alone

Macquarie U media says CMM is wrong to state DVC A Sakkie Pretorious hosted the university’s “Women shaping the future” symposium, that Professor Lesley Hughes co-hosted.

Appointments, achievements of the week

Angela Jones joins education content and service provider Pearson next month, as head of academic services. She will move from Torrens U in Adelaide where she is director of learning, teaching and scholarships.

Anne Simmons is the inaugural UNSW provost, with Vice Chancellor Ian Jacobs announcing her appointment to staff late yesterday.

Steve Bracks will become chancellor of Victoria University in 2021, joining another some-time Victorian Labor premier, John Brumby, who starts this month as chancellor of La Trobe UVU chancellor George Pappas will step down at the end of the year

Elizabeth Finkel is the Australian Society of Medical Research’s 2019 medallist. A biochemist by training, she co-founded science magazine Cosmos, which she edited 2013-18.

John C Warner becomes a distinguished professor in chemistry at Monash U. Professor Warner is co-founded of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry.

Katherine Woodthorpe is the new chair of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre. She replaces founding chair, the late Laurie Hammond

Martin Westwell (Flinders U) joins the board of the Australian Council of Education Leaders. He researches learning at the university and is also CEO of the South Australian Certificate of Education.

Ten Australian PhD candidates and post doc researchers in physics are invited to this year’s Lindau meeting of Nobel Prize winning physicists, two more than last year. This year’s delegation is: Katie Sizeland, ANSTO. Fiona Panther, ANU. Eliezer Estrecho and Matthew Reeves, both from the ARC centre for future low-energy electronics. Nora Tischler, Griffith University. Melanie Hampel, Monash U. Sarah Walden, QUT. Hareem Khan, RMIT. Claire Edmunds, Uni Sydney. Samuel Hinton, Uni Queensland.

NU’s Simon Williams is awarded the Peter Goldacre award for original research by the Australian Society of Plant Scientists.

Andre LuitenJohn Harnett and Martin O’Connor from the University of Adelaide have won two innovation awards at the Avalon Airshow, via their Cryoclock company. Mathew Tettlow’s Inovar Technologies won space innovation award for its nano-satellite platform. Innovar is based at the University of Adelaide’s ThincLab. Also at Avalon, Jimmy Toton (RMIT) and Graham Bell (Monash U) both won young innovator awards for using three-D printing in precision manufacturing.

James Giggacher is returning to ANU to manager the media team. He now is a hack –wrangler for Universities Australia.

Western Sydney U reports Board of Trustees member Carmel Hourigan is now deputy chancellor. BoT member Christopher Brown becomes pro chancellor.