“Look, up in the sky its Stats-Person!”

In a project not led by Professor Sheldon Cooper, researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers have worked out why the Marvel Cinematic Universe is so popular

For readers in other galaxies, the MCU consists of films about super-heroes, Thor Ragnarok, Bertie Wooster, Dr Strange, the Incredible Hulk and so on. Matt Roughan, Lewis Mitchell and Tobin South (all Uni Adelaide) analysed stats on cast-size to find a correlation between number of characters and profitability. More heroes are good.

Just the sort of economy-growing research the government is keen on.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the ideal PhD supervisor (and the six other sorts.)

Reality bites

Just in from the grinning and bearing desk

Universities Australia responds to the news that the ban on direct arrivals from China is extending to March 7. “Universities are well prepared for the further extension of travel restrictions,” Chief Executive Catriona Jackson says.

Group of Eight CEOm Vicki Thomson, goes further, acknowledging national interest trumps uni interest. “The Go8 has always held the strong position that it is not its place to request any lifting or partial lifting of this ban, and has not attempted to do so. We know the government is at all times acting on the latest and best possible medical advice.”

Hooray for Bundoorawood

Last winter La Trobe U had a stellar success when it awarded an hon doc to Indian film star Shah Rukh Khan, the ceremony attracted an overflow crowd

CMM suggested a Khan scholarship would work in the Indian education market (July 24 2019). And lo, the university has now awarded a PhD scholarship named for Mr Khan to Gopika Kottantharayil Bhasi. Ms Bhasi will move to LT U to research honeybee health. There has to be a film in this.

Expert China cabinet

Foreign Affairs has created a National Foundation for Australia-China Relations

Appointments include, dean of Australia’s China journalists, the very learned indeed Rowan Callick (ex The Australian, now at Griffith U), John Fitzgerald (Swinburne emeritus), Rory Medcalf, (ANU’s National Security College),  ANU VC Brian Schmidt, Christine Wong (Uni Melbourne) and Wai-Ling Yeung (Curtin U).

The foundation has $44m over five years, to “ turbo-charge our national effort in engaging China.” But don’t dust off applications there is no reference to research funding.

It’s Bath for Brammer

Stephen Brammer will leave the Macquarie U business school in April

The executive dean says departing is, “very much the result of pull, rather than push, factors.” Professor Brammer is returning to the UK to run the business school at the University of Bath, where he was previously a professor.

Brammer will be missed at MU. He respected academics and invested time in hearing and where he could, addressing, their concerns.

He was charged with a big job when he arrived in January 2017, creating a single bized organisation from the then tripartite teaching structure (CMM May 9 2019). He completed it, carefully consulting and methodically managing to bring people with him.

Senate ends embargoed ARC announcements

Researchers outraged that government members get to announce research grants when it suits them need be outraged no more

Labor, Green and cross-bench senators combined to secure an order requiring the Australian Research Council to provide the Senate each month with a list of grants awarded.

The government, being able to count went along with it.  Assistant Forestry Minister Senator Jonathon Duniam (Lib Tas), explained the government had way back told the ARC to “notify applicants of their outcomes under embargo in advance of any government announcement, ensuring that they are informed sooner than ever before, and that projects can be commenced and recruitment therefore undertaken.” However, critics long-claimed that this was a bit difficult to do when grants were still secret.

An embargo on ARC funding being public until government members/senators get around to announcing it was the reason for the Senate’s ruling.


Future for unis: what’s next isn’t great

Way before COVID-19 was a name, Angel Calderon (RMIT)  recognised trouble ahead for Aus universities. He sets out his thinking in a new paper

There is no other China: On international demand, he warned late last year that while, “the loss of a market the size of China’s could not be replaced by one single market”; “Australian universities need to diversify their international student recruitment away from traditional markets. He suggests focusing on middle income economies and countries with which Australia has forged strategic trading partnerships, including harmonisation and recognition of qualifications,” say Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico.

And not much young demand at home:  the 16-24 domestic commencing student cohort will grow by 1.2 per cent a year 2017-2030. “There is indeed a limited pool of school leavers to boost domestic commencing enrolments and universities across Australia face increased competition to attract school leavers.”

Where people study will change: In 2018 67 per cent of domestic undergraduates were on campus. On present trends, this will drop to 55 per cent over the next decade, with the balance around evenly split between on-line and multi-modal.

Which means: With flat domestic demand, largely funded by taxpayers, Mr Calderon suggests, “there are limited revenue opportunities in a competitive market environment.” He predicts universities are, “likely to confront;”

* tightened government financial support and increased student contributions

* emphases on outcomes-based and performance-based funding

* the need for improving access for low SES groups

* a focus on students’; wellbeing and ability to repay through the taxation system.

* missions – including who institutions serve and what national priorities they meet.

 Mr Calderon’s research was presented at the Australasian Association for Institutional Research and filed in January to the Australian Universities Review, where it is now published.

Austrade launches resources hub for COVID-19 

By Dirk Mulder

 The hub brings together already published materials, including the list of provider responses, the guide for delivering online in China and information on  the in this together campaign.

It will also create a source for future HE sector information on Australia’s response to COVID-19.

The new hub is a direct response to stakeholder feedback around bringing information together for easy access and will provide the ability for the sector to communicate with Austrade around potential other useful resources.

Why this is important : to date information and response tools are piecemeal and dispersed.  Bringing them together allows folks to engage with, and obtain up-to-date information and assets in an efficient way.

The resource hub is here.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent

Appointments, achievements

Karen Becker is the inaugural head of the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Moreton Bay campus. She moves from deputy head of the university’s business school.

Nat McGregor has left Uni Newcastle, where he was chief operating officer. He moves to the Garvan Institute of Medical Research where he will also be COO.

Ariadne Vromen joins the ANZ School of Government as the new Sir John Bunting Chair of Public Administration

Mary-Anne Williams from UTS wins a Google award to work with the company on education content development for its open-source learning platform, TensorFlow.

Universities Australia teaching awards

 Blake McKimmieBarbara Masser and Mark Horswill (Uni Queensland) are the university teachers of the year.  Other awards announced at the Universities Australia conference include.

 Teaching excellence: Kay Colthorpe (Uni Queensland). Demelza Ireland (UWA). Kate Ames (CQU). Denise Jackson (Edith Cowan U). Amy Maguire (Uni Newcastle). Richard John (Griffith U).

Partnerships:  * BCII Engagement team @ UTS – Bern Le Hunte, Amanda McGregor, Alex Baumber, Paul Brown, Betty O’Neill, Beth Wilson.  * Indigenous health education @ Uni Queensland – Leanne Coombe, Alison Nelson, Renee Brown, Jodie Copley, Anne Hill, Emma Crawford, Condy Canuto, Jon Willis, Lisa Fitzgerald, Murray Phillips. * Risk aware @ Flinders U, Uni Adelaide, UNE, UW, ACU – Amanda Dudley, Jade Sheen, Wendy Sutherland-Smith, Jane McGillivray, Reg Nixon, Rachel Roberts, Michael Proeve, Debra Dunstan, Carmela Pestell, Louise Alexander.

Student experiences: * James Cook U – Kate Sheppard, Rhian Morgan, Lisa Moody, Patrick Peacock, Kristi Giselsson, Carol Conway, Kimberley Anderson, Gabi Newman, Trina Jackson, Kerry Aitken. *  Uni Queensland – Rhea Jain, Ken Lai, Ashil Ranpara, Carlene Kirvan, John Walsh, Jacqueline Niblett, Ryan Webb, Linda McConnell, Jo Williams, Debbie Hathaway.