First quick-approval Australian Research Council grants announced

plus George Institute and UNSW announce partnership

and spreading cultural capital in education around: what the world can learn from Australia

Happy new year

UTS VC Attila Brungs  wished everybody a happy new year of the rooster, courtesy of the People’s Daily online on Saturday. Just in case people were wondering he also mentioned what a “dynamic, innovative young and energetic place” is UTS and that it is “an excellent place to study.” No, the university did not lay-on fireworks.


Education Minister Simon Birmingham has announced the first research Australian Research Council Linkage projects awarded under the government’s continual assessment process. “The Linkage Projects scheme supports our researchers to work with innovators outside the traditional research sector to find solutions to real-world problems and improve the translation of research into broader outcomes for businesses and the community,” Senator Birmingham says.

In the past projects were announced according to an annual timetable but in November the government moved to continual assessment, to encourage industry-university collaboration.

The University of Wollongong and five partners are awarded $675 000 for a project to improve extend the life of railway tracks by improving stability. The University of Queensland, with partners including BHP Billiton, Newcrest Mining and Santos has $1.2m for three grants to lift productivity in minerals extraction and processing.

These are the sort of research that the Linkage scheme regularly funds but until now applicants had to keep resources ready to roll for up to nine months until grants were announced. Now the ARC says it will fast track high, and low, ranked applications to allow winners to start working without waiting on assessment of all other applications. The ARC will also now consider proposals previously knocked back.

Other people’s money

New Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Arthur Sinodinos congratulated Australian of the Year Professor Alan Mackay-Sim on Friday saying he is right “to remind us to take the long view when it comes to research and the need to invest in new treatments that reduce future health costs.” Easy for the senator to say, what with neither the Australian Research Council nor the National Health and Medical Research Council coming out of his budget.

Bell to ANU

Cultural anthropologist Genevieve Bell, now with Intel’s corporate strategy group is joining ANU’s faculty of engineering and computer science.

New pals, by George!

The George Institute for Global Health was created in 1999, with “the support” of the University of Sydney Medical School. It has grown to have annual revenues of $60m and 150 staff working on preventable illness and injury especially in the Asia Pacific. It’s a high-prestige global venture affiliated with with Oxford and Peking universities as well as UniSydney, and, as of Friday, the University of New South Wales. For UNSW the deal delivers a new research partnership, part of its new 2025 plan. For the George it means money, with UNSW committed to “a significant investment in ground-breaking collaborations.” Initial joint research work will include non-communicable diseases and injuries; clinical trials; epidemiology and biostatistics; and ‘big healthcare data’. CMM can only imagine the welcome University of Sydney medical researchers will give their new partners.

You have to ask

The Graduate Management Association of Australia has published its 2016 list of MBA five star providers which are (in name alpha order); Deakin U (domestic and international), Griffith U, La Trobe U, QUT, (executive and other), Uni Adelaide, UofQ and UniSA (onshore). The complete ranking is part of a venture with publisher Hobsons, explained here. Maybe this is why the whole GMAA MBA ranking is available on application only.

Sharing cultural capital

Just weeks after the annual attrition-is-out-of-control stories education academics Trevor Gale and Stephen Parker have weighed into the argument, asserting that the expansion in university places has not led to a big increase in participation by students from low SES backgrounds and that those new students did not drop-out at increased rates. The two Australian HE researchers, both now at the University of Glasgow, argue; “contrary to popular perception, having a larger proportion of students from low SES backgrounds does not drag down an institution’s retention rate. Rather, those institutions with proportionately more low SES students are comparatively better at retaining them and institutions with proportionally fewer low SES students are comparatively worse.”

However, they suggest, this is ignored by elite universities and their pals in the press who talk up the growth in student numbers as a threat to quality. In fact, the distribution of the cultural capital which helps students succeed at university is wider in Australia than older, more stratified societies.

“The Australian example sends European researchers a warning about the self-serving tendencies of popular discourse and its simplistic representation of complex issues in the media and elsewhere. The crisis of retention espoused by elite institutions is often motivated by an interest in maintaining distinction and preserving advantage, which media interests are happy to accommodate. However, issues of retention are too important to be subjected to politicisation and self-interest. The warning for European researchers is not to take for granted where the problems of student attrition lie. Persistent problems, such as student attrition, sometimes require re-imagining if they are to be resolved.”

Good-oh, but given the Group of Eight advocate low SES entry schemes independent of demand driven funding and that just about every other university group plus government and opposition support DDF – it seems to CMM elitists are out of luck.

Good for UoQ better for Deakin

The University of Queensland is pleased that it’s School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences rates fourth globally for sports science by CEOWorldMagazine. No CMM had not heard of it either. The methodology seems straightforward and the top of the list lines up with the Academic Ranking of World U univerities sports sciences list released last year (CMM December 9). The University of South Carolina is number one on the CEOWorld list and number three on ARWU and UoQ fifth. Curiously UoQ does not mention another Australian uni which does well on both, Deakin is third on CEOWorld and number one on ARWU.

Kiwis keen on campus

Maybe New Zealanders did not get the memo about the importance of post secondary education. While Australians pile into courses, across the ditch participation is declining. According to a new government report for the year to June 16, Kiwis 15 years and older in education peaked at 14 per cent in 2005 and is now down to 11 per cent. According to the Ministry of Education, “changes have taken place against a background of a stronger labour market since 2010, which has influenced students’ decisions on whether to study or not and contributed to the lower rates of participation in tertiary education.”

But New Zealand has not loss faith in education as an engine of prosperity, with the decline focused among people who will choose work over study if they can get a job. The drop is largely driven by declines in certificate enrolments while the per centage of people taking out student loans to fund bachelor degrees increased from 58 per cent to 70 per cent between 2006 and 2015.