Straight from the heart

Members of the Flinders U community formed a 200-person heart shape in the campus plaza the other day. Speakers called on management “to reaffirm its commitment to the health and wellbeing of people and culture.” Generous of them, a learned reader responds, to assume that any university management anywhere ever cared about campus culture.

Florey Institute has big plans for UniMelbourne money

There is alarm among some staff at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health as they contemplate a consultant report on directions to take after scientific director Geoffrey Donnan retires. Nor is everybody at the University of Melbourne particularly pleased. ““The whole document is vague but it certainly sets the power struggles out for all to see,” a Florey watcher tells CMM.

The plan proposes a dual leadership structure with a “basic science lead” working alongside a new scientific director who is a clinical scientist. Or vice versa.

It also proposes basic neuroscience areas should adapt from existing divisions, “reorganising into themes that are more contemporary.” And the report suggests three clinical pillars, stroke, dementia and epilepsy, be allocated among participating hospitals.

The overall approach is not embraced by all at the Institute; “Florey staff are upset that the research focus is streamlined and neglects many important areas of research career researchers and their staff/research assistants have contributed to immensely,” CMM hears.

The consultants also suggest the Florey become the flagship for all University of Melbourne brain research, recommending; “an unambiguous and clear branding of the Florey as the oversight structure for all of neuroscience at the University of Melbourne.” This includes creating at least four university co-funded Florey chairs. But what, an observer asks, “does UniMelbourne get out of putting all these funds into the Florey?”

However, Professor Donnan tells CMM that, “in implementing any recommendations which involve change, adjustments always need to be made. In this case, any initial disquiet about the impact on basic science were explored in a series of workshops and scientists are fully supportive.  Basic science underpins every major advance in neuroscience and is integral to the Florey’s future.”

The big campus IT issues for 2018

IT consultants Gartner report a survey of 230 university CIOs finds 59 per cent “expect significant business model change due to digital transformation.” You’ve got to admire the optimism of the other 41 per cent a learned reader remarks.

Peak US university IT administrator organisation EDUCAUSE reports what is engaging the experts, announcing the top ten issues for 2018; information security, student success, institution-wide IT strategies, all of institution data-enabling, student-centred technology, “institutional funding realities, IT staffing and structures, data management equal with) digital integration and change leadership.

University not the only answer for education opportunity in regions say equity experts

University isn’t the entire equity answer in education for regional students, according to a new research analysis from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education at Curtin University.

“High university attendance by regional students isn’t always the right indicator of success. What works in skills development and what is relevant to shaping the lives of people in regional Australia is what matters most.”

If that is not heresy enough for the regional university establishment the paper dares suggest research has “underestimated, under-appreciated and under-researched”the challenges and responses involved in serving the diverse and distinct needs of regions.

“While many businesses and industries in regional Australia require university education, many regional jobs are focused on practical and hands-on skills, which a well-funded forward-looking VET course may be better placed to provide than university. Competitive tension between the two pathways would be lessened if nested courses of study, offered sequentially by different institutions and recognised by all higher educational institutions, allowed for greater transition between the VET and university sectors, as well as a higher recognised status for VET.”

Wonder why universities with country campuses are keen on the sub-degree market?

Kristjanson appointment

Linda Kristjanson is appointed to a federal government taskforce on aged care workforce strategy. The Swinburne U VC  has “an extensive research career in palliative care.”

Siemens software splash at UWA

Tech giant Siemens is investing $447m worth of industrial software at UWA for academics and students to use to “boost local innovation” in local industries including energy, engineering and shipbuilding. Projects include a “virtual twin” of an LNG plant. Eric May from the university’s Centre for Energy says the whole project will allows UWA “to deliver education across all engineering disciplines in a completely new way.

This Siemens announcement follows the company’s commitment of $135m in manufacturing software to Swinburne University in August ( CMM August 15).

There is speculation that Siemens has industrial software valued at $400m to give to other Australian universities.

No Waiting to run agriculture at UniAdelaide

Waite no longer (sorry) if you want to run the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine. After 30 years at UniAdelaide dean Mike Keller retires from running the Waite campus-based school at the end of the year. His successor will find the results of a recent review on the desk, which set out how to increase translation and commercialisation of research and what “aspects” of engagement and innovation to develop. But the new dean should not worry about impossible tasks, the review was only asked to identify “fixable” impediments.

Learning platform Intersective makes the cut for CSIRO support

Edtech startup Intersective is one of the first four major investments by CSIRO investment fund, Main Sequence Ventures. Intersective will use the cash to enhance and expand their “experiental learning platformPractera, which provides employment-skills development study tasks and training programmes. Intersective clients include, UNSW, QUT, the University of Sydney, Boston University and the NSW state government.  Co-CEO Beau Leese says Intersective’s priorities are market growth and product development, “collaboration with publicly funded applied research groups in data science and machine learning to deepen our capabilities there.”

In terms of exports Mr Leese points to opportunities in India, where the federal government talks of skilling 200m people. “With English as the language of instruction and high smartphone penetration we see India as an enormous opportunity,” he says. The company is also working with RMIT in Vietnam on a student e-skills portfolio and a micro-credentialling app.

With negotiations involving other investors continuing MSV’s commitment to the company is not public.

Flinders goes Glocal

Flinders University students participated in a Glocal Classroom simulation last week. Glocal, created by Malmo University, provide simulations of international workplaces, where teams of students; “collaborate across digital domainschallenging online and on-campus students to grapple with digital communication technologies and time differences while maintaining active collaboration,” (CMM October 31).

Flinders’ Susanne Schech says Malmo and her university have partnered since 2014, with Flinders creating the simulation used last week.

Macquarie U announces academic awards

The Macquarie academic staff awards are out. Winners in selected categories are:

Student-led award for excellence in teaching

Govand Azeez, Julian Dight, Christopher Forbes –Arts

Prashan Shayanka Mendis Karunaratne, Liyu HeAlex Belli – Business and Economics

Anita Szakay, Annette Magee, Mandy Yeates – Human Sciences

Mark Butlin, Liz Schroeder, Taryn Jones – Medicine and Health Science

Matthew Mansour– Science and Engineering

Teaching excellence

Jana Lay-Hwa Bowden, Business and Economics

Prashan Shayanka Mendis Karunaratne, Business and Economics

Wayne Warburton, Human Sciences

Verity Pacey, Medicine and Health Sciences

Distinguished professors

Michael Gillings, biological sciences
Michelle Leishman, plant invasion and restoration ecology
Nicole Packer, chemistry
Bill Thompson, psychology
Michael Withford, photonics