Voting aye, talking no

Legislation to impose admin fees on higher education providers for the government administering the student loan schemes was in the Reps last night. In the absence of government speakers shadow minister Tanya Plibersek and MPs seized the chance to denounce the government on higher education. Yes, Labor supports the bills, they just did not talk about them.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features today David Myton talks to Deakin University VC, Jane den Hollander about the university’s innovative linkages with business and industry and its rapidly growing Cloud campus – all off the back of a huge digital transformation … and the role of a certain Steve Jobs.

Applied research and how to fund it

Karen Andrews has kicked $60m more into the industry growth centres, to keep them ticking over for two more years. The Industry, Science and Technology minister announced the money at a Parliament House event yesterday, where the centres strutted their stuff.

The case for translational research: Also yesterday the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering reminded government and Opposition that commitments to science research are incomplete unless technology and engineering can translate them into the economy. “It is the application of science through technology and engineering, winning social support for those steps and ensuring that industry adopts technology and has viable business models that will drive our prosperity,” Academy chair Hugh Bradlow says.

A job for the growth centres: Sounds a bit like what the six industry growth centres, including cyber security and medical tech and pharmaceuticals, could do. Ms Andrew says they are about “getting industry and researchers working together, and managers and workers properly skilled, to support Australia’s transition to smart, high value, export-focused industries.”

So how’s it going?: Apparently well enough for the feds to fund another two years and Ms Andrews pointed to all sorts of activity, $63m in partner investment, helping over 150 Australian businesses secure contracts and grow export sales.

Good-o, but there is a bunch of consultations and plans on the programme’s webpage.

And there’s another idea: Learned readers ask whether the programme’s funding could be usefully allocated to a translational science research fund, which scientific lobbies propose.

Labor research spokesman Kim Carr suggests that Ms Andrews has re-announced a budget allocation, when detail on the programme performance is what is needed. “Industry wants to better understand what have been the impacts of the growth centres and what they have delivered. The government should release the review of the growth centres that informed this decision to  extend their funding for a further two years.”

Review, what review?: The one officials mentioned in Senate Estimates in October, when they said the $60m was “subject to a review” of the centres’ performance.

What bankers say

UNSW urges attendance at the Australasian Finance and Banking Conference “to hear about Hurdle Rate, Basel III, Contingent Convertible Mechanisms and sudden death.” It’s  organised by the university’s school of banking and is on next week in Sydney. Presumably ‘sudden death’ covers what not to say at a royal commission.

Union’s McGowan slams Murdoch U over court case

Union chief Matthew McGowan has slammed Murdoch University over its failed application to restrain his National Tertiary Education Union from publishing criticism of the uni.  As CMM reported yesterday, WA Chief Justice Peter Quinlan, declined to grant an injunction, citing the university’s “relatively weak case” and “the adverse effect that an injunction would have on freedom of expression.”

The act of parliament that established Murdoch University, requires that it serve the public interest in ‘promoting critical and free enquiry, informed intellectual discussion and public debate within the university and society’.  To attempt to stop publication of an article that reported the concerns of their employees runs counter to the functions of the university,” Mr McGowan, national secretary of the National Tertiary Education Union said.

The university’s case against NTEU official Gabe Gooding and the union is still expected to go to trial

Morton Bay beauty

UWA is assured a top-spot on any international university tree-ranking with news all is well with the Moreton Bay Fig that lost a third of its limbs last month, here.

Group of Eight points out international education elephants

The Group of Eight unveiled elephants in a government consultation on increasing international enrolments in the regions. “While studying in the regions brings many advantages, so do the large metropolitan centres, and many students travel to Australia to experience life in our cities. We must be careful not to inadvertently damage our core attractiveness while attempting to broaden our appeal,” is how the Go8 announced elephant one.

And it illuminates elephant two – risks created by tinkering with immigration to assist regional universities. “The Go8 therefore urges caution in the way that international students are discussed in the context of migration settings, due to the high level of risk of inadvertent messaging.”

Overall, the Eight warns against, “any policies designed to impact the behaviour of international students must be found to bring national benefits that outweigh the risks.”

Of the Go8’s recommendations three urge the government not to do things. The other three suggest minimal measures.

* state and federal governments coordinate “existing activities”

*  “maximise the benefit of the considerable footprint of many Australian education providers, including Go8 universities, across the regions, to encourage international students towards engaging in a regional experience”

* extend clinical placements in regions for international medical students.

Prince to leave maths institute

Geoff Prince is giving it away after 14 years with the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, nine of them as director. AMSI has 40 institutional members and is active in expanding and enhancing maths education programmes and advocating for the discipline.

Professor Prince will leave on December 21 – he’s surely counting the days (sorry). His  successor is expected to be named next week.

UNSW takes the cake for budget savings

UNSW finance managers are not tolerant of the fripperies of faculty life. A statement of allowable outlays says no to the university funding cultural celebrations, Chinese New Year, for example – “not appropriate” unless it is a UNSW event. It’s a also big nyet to catering for meetings (unless essential to “facilitate the conduct of university activities”) because “meals/coffee are a private expence.” And it’s nix to staff celebrations of birthdays, weddings, welcomes, anniversaries and etc, “university funds must be used appropriately and therefore such items are not appropriate or allowable.” Most of the 20 page plus policy addresses obvious and necessary issues, economy airfares, budget accommodation and the like, but a learned reader remarks, making savings one birthday cake at a time, is onerous indeed.

Glyn Davis speaks out on real campus crises

The ANU conference on campus free speech kicked-off last night with an address by former University of Melbourne VC and present ANU fellow, Glyn Davis.

Professor Davis identified crises in universities, just not the one conservative critics argue exists.

Claims of a crisis require evidence.  A crisis means trends that can be measured, frequent examples that demonstrate consistent worrying behaviour, proof of an organised assault on an underpinning principle of public universities.

All are conspicuously absent. You cannot take isolated events and inconsequential statements and argue that some-how they sum to a case.

Around the globe there are real threats to academic freedom – oppressive new laws in Hungary and Turkey, tightening party control in China, the arrest of scholars in the Middle East, violent clashes between left and right on American campuses.

And there are issues closer to home, funding policies that make universities dependent on international students and donors, new security laws that circumscribe areas of research, overriding safeguards designed to make research funding decisions transparent and non-political.

These are the challenges to institutional autonomy and campus freedoms we should discuss, not some confected calamity.

Protestors do not consistently bully academics or speakers they find unacceptable.  Dissenting academics are not routinely driven from office by colleagues or critics.  Student politics continue on campuses across the nation without notable violence or acrimony. 

Trivialising a fundamental principle by tying it to meaningless ‘hostility’ tests is dangerous.

If requesting civility in a student code is an assault on free speech, what will we say when real dangers arrive? 

Achievements: including U Newcastle and La Trobe U staff award highlight

Geordie Williamson from the University of Sydney is the Australian Mathematical Society medalist. Peter Taylor from the University of Melbourne receives the George Szekeres Medal for research. The Gavin Brown best paper prize goes to Nicholas Beaton, Jan de Gier, Anthony Guttmann ( Uni of Melbourne), Mireille Bousquet-Melou (Uni Bourdeaux) and Hugo Duminil-Copin (University of Geneva).

Maree O’Keefe,  Uni Adelaide, health and medical sciences, is the (UK based) Higher Education Academy’s 1000th principal fellow. Principal fellows have, “wide-ranging academic or academic-related strategic leadership responsibilities in connection with key aspects of teaching and supporting learning.”

The University of Newcastle has announced its 2018 staff awards. The major category winners are: Teaching excellence, Denise Higgins (Health and Medicine). Professional staff, Jodie Herden, Lyniece Keogh, Paris Knox, Kathryn Sutherland (all Health and Medicine).  Early career researchers, Elise Kalokeronis (Science), Jordan Smith (Education and Arts). Research supervisor, Anna Giacomini (Engineering and Built Environment).

La Trobe U’s (many) staff awards are also released. Winners in some of the notable categories are: VC awards for teaching excellence, Brian Grills (pathophysiology curriculum) and Professional writing teamCatherine Padmore, Hester Joyce, and Tonya Stebbins. Research excellence, Josephine Barbaro from the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre and the 15 member Rural Medical Model Training Team. VC award for living La Trobe’s cultural qualities, Antonia Lamanna.