Plus Chief Scientist Chubb speak out on vaccination

They’ve got an awful lot of courses in Brazil

But there’s still room for student exchange and research collaboration with Australia. A ten-institution Universities Australia delegation spent two days this week meeting with a dozen Brazilian institutions. Apparently it was such fun that everybody agreed they should do it again next year. Brasilia, Canberra – hard to tell them apart really.

ANU June 1

Classier than Kensington

It’s nowhere near as grand as Monash Tuscany, but a University of New South Wales studio apartment in the hip Marais district of Paris can’t be a bad place to stay. It’s available for three-month periods to UNSW staff and postgrad artists, performing artists, architects, musicians and art scholars and 2016 applications close on July 24. The bad news is there is a service and maintenance charge. The good news is that a couple and child can squeeze in. The great news is that it’s three months in Paris.

Charting the case for vaccination

For decades Chief Scientist Ian Chubb has stayed afloat in the troubled waters where the ocean of policy meets the sea of politics navigating controversy by sailing where the evidence takes him. And yesterday he spoke firmly indeed on the importance of vaccination.

“Like many Australians, I grew up in the shadow of polio, diphtheria and measles. … I believe we have an obligation to maintain and extend the protection we now enjoy to the generations to come. … Our scientists remain on the frontline against disease, developing new vaccines to protect us and better ways for vaccines to be administered. As a community, we need to support them – and as individuals, we need to be informed.

“I hope we will not allow the remarkable achievements of the past to blind us to our obligations in the present.”

Professor Chubb was announcing a new paper, published by his office and written by staffer Simon Prasad, who makes the case for the safety of vaccines and sets out the herd immunity thresholds for diseases including measles (up to 94 per cent), polio (86 per cent) and smallpox (85 per cent). “Recent disease epidemics in developed nations demonstrate that a fall in vaccine coverage in the community will inevitably lead to the re-emergence of diseases of the past,” Dr Prasad warns.

Active Andrew

While Andrew “the stroller” Taggart is only acting vice chancellor he is working hard to shape the future of Murdoch University. For a start, the university is set to start recruiting a PVC International EngagementProfessor Taggart said he was focusing on international strategy when he spoke to CMM  last month. Murdoch staff are also wondering what he has in mind for the position of provost now Ann Capling has resigned. And Professor Taggart is out and about on campus talking to departments about the future. All very active for an acting vc, holding the fort while the university recruits a permanent one. As for the alleged insurgency among supporters of former vc Richard Higgott (now under investigation by the WA Corruption and Crime Commission) and allies of Professor Capling, all seems quiet.

Rank ratings

The US Government’s college ranking President Obama announced in 2013 is supposed to start before the new academic year in a few months, but the feds have gone quiet on progress, perhaps because they want to get it out before Tennessee Republican (and sometime resident of Mosman, in Sydney) Senator Lamar Alexander notices. Senator Alexander is long on the record promising to legislate against the ranking, he again promised to do it this week. The former secretary of education (for Bush I) likes information on colleges but objects to the government providing it, he also argues producing a useful ranking is beyond officials because of the diversity of the 6000 US post secondary institutions. “There is a clear case to be made for the federal government using its authority to gather data like these for postsecondary institutions that receive taxpayer funding, but little precedent for the government producing … a taxpayer-funded popularity contest,” he said in the Senate 12 months ago today.

CMM wonders what the gentleman from Tennessee will make of Chris Pyne’s Quality Indicators in Learning and Teaching, due for publication by August. Or whether he is happy with the much criticised US News and World Report ratings, the much questioned league tables ratings from QS and THE and the universally bamboozling U-Multirank. That’s the thing about league tables, everybody knows what they don’t like but can’t agree on what they want and who should create it.

Lights, camera, copy!

The Macquarie University community is debating DVC A John Simon’s green paper, which proposes requiring students “participate in and conduct research” and emphasises “employability,” (CMM April 7). A meeting on Wednesday set out, if not solved, a bunch of the issues involved, including assessment. Thus Cathy Rytmeister (Learning and Teaching Centre) asked; “in a tech-rich world is the ability to make an expository YouTube clip more important than the ability to write an essay?” CMM wonders which would be the harder to plagiarise.

China leads, India languishes

Times Higher is promoting its new Asia ranking, making much of the increase in top Chinese universities. China now has 21 universities in the top 100 up from 15 in 2013. Additionally, all six in Hong Kong are in the top 50. In contrast, Japan has 19 on the list, down from 22 two years ago and 15 of them have dropped down the list, by an average 5.8 places. This is all evidence for dramatic warnings that Japan must act to protect its position lest it be overtaken by China. Fair enough, but isn’t this a bit like warnings that China will shortly have a bigger GDP than the US, which rather ignore per capita income and output.

For all Australian exporters the Indian outcome is perhaps more interesting – with just nine universities in the top 100 the country is still a long way short of meeting its own needs for elite education. Problem is, the bureaucracy that stifles local universities also impedes international entrepreneurs.

Spain keeps it complicated

Yet another ranking was released yesterday, the CYD analysis of 560 degrees across seven disciplines at 60 Spanish universities. But this is not the standard league table of the TH and QS kinds. Instead it uses the u-Multirank methodology that compares similar institutions on a scale from very good to ordinary rather than listing all universities from notional best to worst. U-Multirank has copped criticism for requiring vast amounts of data and being hard to use, it also lacks the popular appeal of a straight best to worse list. The test of success will be how many other national raters take it up.