plus Southern Cross to (finally) vote on pay 

Survey shots

Good on UofQ undergraduate Georgina Mattock for the survey she is conducting as part of her studies on parental attitudes towards childhood immunisation,  here. Members of the medical community can talk until they go blue in the face about childhood vaccination being as safe as it is essential (they don’t because they have had their shots against blueinthefaceitis). But it does not do any good with the anti vaccination movement. This survey should generate all sorts of information about popular beliefs and community concerns, as long as people with barrows to push don’t pile in.

ANU June 3

Putting it to a vote

While most universities are starting to think about the next enterprise agreement a few are still working on the one to cover the deal period we are well into. But management at one of the leading laggards, Southern Cross U, wants to pick up the pace and has decided to stop negotiating with the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union and will put an offer to a staff vote.

Yesterday management confirmed that while CPSU members supported the offer the NTEU didn’t and as a result the university would put a deal direct to all staff, without the customary union endorsement. The pay deal offers an annualised 2.4 per cent for five years. The NTEU responds this is lower than the 2.6 per cent that was offered in negotiations. “No job security, no pay rise, not sure who would vote in favour of it,” branch president Kate Mitchell says. We will find out.

The IP tango

Warren Bebbington and the Advanced Manufacturing Council have perfected the R&D IP tax tango. “There has been discussion of incentives to change university behaviour but it takes two to tango, and industry needs incentives too if they are to become more actively engaged in R&D with universities,” the University of Adelaide vice chancellor told a CEDA forum yesterday. And in its submission to the government’s tax white paper the AMC urges a doubling of the R&D concession for industry if the project partners are “an approved Australian research institute or university.” Professor Bebbington also asked why any large business would invest in Australia research when India and China provide greater R&D tax concessions and Singapore’s is close to ten times the 45 per cent the ATO allows. And he suggested increasing the tax concession to 60 per cent for R&D involving IP “would have a significant effect on business collaboration with higher education.” Further, incentives so entrepreneurs with a big idea can employ a research student or early career researcher, “would help to bridge the gap between concept and start-up.”

The AMC agrees; “we need to improve Australian research and innovation impact across the board, particularly with the SME sector. Current measures for collaboration are not driving the right behaviors and outcomes.”

Professor Bebbington said South Australia’s small business base made funding research particularly important in the state. He nominated agriculture, unconventional gas, medical research and defense industries as industries where the state’s research base can generate growth.

DET v Austrade

Austrade thinks Latin America is a growth market for education exports, so does the Department of Education and Training. But does this merit both agencies running their own trans-Pacific programmes? DET official Ann Baley is back from visiting Columbia, Brazil and Mexico where she signed an MOU, “that will see the establishment of a bilateral joint committee for ongoing policy discussion and exchange.” Good-o, but couldn’t Austrade people already there have done that? The Commission of Audit recommended “significantly reducing” Austrade and handing “residual functions” to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. At least it would give Education and Training new people to compete with.

Awkward for ASQA

Private training chief Rod Camm renewed his call for a national training ombudsman at a Melbourne conference yesterday. CMM wonders how that went down with fellow speaker Chris Robinson, head of the Australian Skills Quality Authority, which is charged with regulating all vocational education and training providers.

High strategy science

Australia’s defence science system needs a shakeup, given the high-tech dimensions of conflicts to come, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. “As a leading scientific and technological nation with a relatively small population, Australia should capitalise on defence science as a cost-effective hedge against an uncertain security future,” Alan Gray and Martin Callinan argue in a new report.

Among a mass of recommendations focused on the defence community they emphasise new systems and cultures, “to enable scientists and researchers to move as seamlessly as possible between academia and private and public laboratories.” And they call for a science community approach to address issues that cross discipline boundaries; “an Australian Defence Innovation Projects Centre (ADIPC) could co-fund joint academic, public and private sector projects that tackle emerging disruptive technologies of concern and interest to the Australian Defence Force.” Yet another example of the need to get researchers out of their silos.

Over-educated, under-skilled

“Higher education institutions lag behind market demand: on the one hand they continue to train people in subject areas where market demand is limited and on the other hand they do not fully equip their students with the skills required for positions related to their studies,” no it’s not a leak from the forthcoming Labor higher education policy on the need for compacts. Rather, its Margit Molnar, Boqing Wang and  Ruidong Gao’s new OECD economics paper, “Assessing China’s skills gap and inequalities in education.”

Online anthropology

UoQ is running an encore edition of its MOOC, World101, which introduces core concepts in anthropology and uses them to examine contemporary issues, migration, indigeneity, multiculturalism and so on. According to platform edX, the course provides, “a knowledge and understanding of current world issues relating to identity, power and everyday life as experienced in a variety of places by a variety of people.” The eight-week course requires 2 hours a week and it will run until April. UoQ says the first run attracted 16 000 starters. This is great brand-building but, like so many MOOCs its hard to see the university making a cash return on investment.

One way passage to India

This week is much like last week for South Australian Training Minister Gail Gago, who plans to reserve the vast majority of next year’s publicly funded training places for TAFE. The private training lobby is outraged, SA industry groups are upset, the local media is sceptical and federal minister Simon Birmingham is threatening to allocate funding to providers direct. And now The Advertiser reports that childcare training places will decline and that the resulting shortages will push up fees. On top of that the state opposition is claiming there is a plan to close Modbury Park TAFE, which would restrict access to public training for a big chunk of Adelaide. If there were ever plans do it I’m guessing they are gone now.

What Minister Gago needs is good news to divert attention from what is surely going to be a back-down. And the best source of market expanding news is in India. The feds and private providers are talking up the opportunities for Australian training for trainers there, what with the Indians saying they need half a billion VET graduates by 2025. TAFE SA is working on a deal with an Indian government agency that could lead to an 80 000 student college, but it must be going slowly. Surely if there was anything at all to announce Ms Gago would take passage to India to announce it and stay there for as long as she could.