University of Sydney staff say former PM’s presence will taint a graduation ceremony

plus Bragging rights: new RIA fellows announced

and a natural for the science of MOOCs



Better call Sol

Swinburne emeritus professor of media and comms Trevor Barr, has a novel out about an Australian telco, “undergoing full privatisation, under a new brand of senior managers imported from the United States.” CMM wonders whether there will be a sequel about the NBN.


Hon doc for Howard condemned

Senior academics at the University of Sydney have condemned awarding an honorary doctorate to John Howard and called for protests outside the ceremony on Friday. “To confer a doctorate on him is an insult to Indigenous people, refugees, and anyone committed to multiculturalism, peace and social progress in this country and in the world” a letter signed by 15 senior staff states. Signatories, include Jake Lynch (Peace Studies), Linda Connor (Anthropology) and Nick Reimer (English).

The letter is now circulating on campus with an invitation for other staff to sign.

It also calls on management to organise a replacement ceremony for graduands “who are opposed to having their well-earned degree tainted” by Mr Howard’s presence at Friday’s event.

The university could not be reached for comment late last night.

MOOC of the morning

The University of Newcastle is joining the MIT-Harvard edX MOOC consortium with a first offering on natural history illustration, making a change from endless IT and business courses in the MOOC universe. Newcastle’s course “offers learners an opportunity to interpret the natural world with new insights and understanding through observation and illustration.” The MOOC is based on an undergraduate degree, taught by Andrew Howells and Bernadette Drabsch. Management expects the MOOC to attract 10 000 to 15 000 people.


Shoemaker starts

Adam Shoemaker has started as VC of Southern Cross University, he joins from Griffith U where he was academic provost. Professor Shoemaker has announced his objectives; “to make Southern Cross University the most progressive, connected and student-focused regional research university.” Very wise, no actual numbers.

So that was why

Policy grown-ups are suggesting we need an independent agency to oversight higher education policy and funding, presumably like we had a generation back. But didn’t keep – the Hudson Review of the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission (1985),  pointed to some reasons why. “The structure gives rise to an inordinate amount of paper and report-writing. … (it) encourages unrealistic expectations or the ‘ambit claim‘ mentality.”

“The structure should be changed to reduce the amount of unrealistic bidding (assuming that it cannot be eliminated entirely) and to require those involved in the system to indicate specifically their priorities. In the longer term such changes should induce a more realistic attitude on the part of the education community to resource limitations and resource usage,” Hugh Hudson wrote. Of course nothing like that exists now.

Expert advice

University of Queensland students Elizabeth Baldwin and Shaun ji-Thompson have won first and second prize in the Reserve Bank’s undergraduate essay competition. Timothy Grey from the University of Sydney was the author of the best essay by a first year. They all addressed “how a low interest rate environment might affect conventional monetary policy transmission channels” and suggested alternatives. Given central banks around the world are clueless about how to do this CMM hopes the students kept the copyright on their proposals.


Linacre to lead

Flinders forensic scientist Adam Linacre is the new president of the Australian New Zealand Forensic Science Society. Professor Linacre is an authority on developing new technologies in DNA typing.

Bragging rights

The Royal Institution of Australia has named new Bragg Fellows, honoured for “excellence in scientific achievement and commitment to science communication.” Peter Gago is honoured for his work as a winemaker, (think Penfold’s Grange). Michael Archer, is acknowledged for his career as a museum curator and present appointment as a palaeontologist at UNSW. Terry Hughes is celebrated for his career in the science of marine management. He now directs the ARC’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook U. Biochemist Zee Upton, now Singapore based, is applauded for a career as “a tissue engineer, an inventor and entrepreneur,” whose research led to the establishment of the Wound Management CRC.  British particle physicist Brian Cox is elevated for research including work at the Large Hadron Collider and for science comms on the BBC.

The difference is development

Monash U has launched its Sustainable Development Institute. Led by Rebekah Brown it will work on problems, “from ending poverty and protecting the planet, to gender equality and creating sustainable cities and communities.” The Institute will offer a specialisation in the university’s masters in environment and sustainability and programmes in cooperation with the business school.

So what’s the difference between the MSDI and its predecessor, the Monash Sustainability Institute, which Professor Brown also led? As far as CMM can tell it’s the addition of “Development” to “Sustainable”.

Best books

The Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences’ book prize short list is out: Frank Bongiorno, The Eighties: the decade that transformed Australia, Klaus Neumann, Across the seas: Australia’s response to refugees and Brenda Niall, Mannix, (it’s a biography of the Catholic archbishop of Melbourne from 1917 to 1963).


ASQA an improvement

Shadow Minister for TAFE and Voced Kate Ellis has urged the government “to follow Labor’s lead and reign in the dodgy private providers that are exploiting students and rorting the taxpayer.” Good lord there’s (or rather was) rorting going on?

Not to worry, the Australian Skills Quality Authority is on the case, moving yesterday from provider risk ratings to provider profiles.

“Under this method, each provider’s profile is nuanced and dynamic, reflecting a range of data sources; this information does not translate into a single score or rating. Rather, this system allows a detailed profile for each provider, which includes a set of risk indicators.”

Good-o, CMM has no idea how this will impact on legit private providers but it can’t be any worse for stoping shonks than what has occurred up to now.

It’s hard to imagine a bigger mess than VET FEE HELP but a learned reader points to the US, where the Department of Education has just decided to no longer recognise the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, for regulatory failures in dealing with private-providers which issue sub degrees through to masters. One notable miss on ACICS’ watch was the now closed Corinthian Colleges – the DET has forgiven loans to 11 000 of its students. There is a long appeal process but if ACICS is barred colleges will lose their accreditation, which is bad for their graduates and disastrous for students, who will lose access to federal funds. It looks like the regulator regulating the regulator has taken a long time to act.