Weight watchers

Monash University is big on research against obesity, except when it is not. Last month it had a treats day, with a chocolate fountain at Caulfield campus and marshmallow roasting stations  at Clayton (CMM August 11). And on Wednesday the university turned on a free lunch for Caulfield students, “hot chips and gravy.”

New med school places in a Queensland hospital set a painful precedent in NSW

The feds have come good with medical student places for the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, which might not be good for a proposed medical school in NSW

Health Minister Greg Hunt yesterday announced Canberra will fund 50 places at the hospital, filled by students from Griffith University’s medical school. The announcement means the bells-and-whistles new centre will be a comprehensive teaching hospital, with University of the Sunshine Coast providing health science courses.

This is a big win for Griffith, USC and local Liberals, including member for Fairfax, Ted O’Brien, who says doctors who study in regions are more likely to stay on and practise in them. It is less of one for Assistant Health Minister Dr David Gillespie, who is waiting on the results of a review of the distribution of medical school places before announcing whether Charles Sturt and La Trobe universities get the new Murray Darling Medical School they have long lobbied for, using the same argument as Mr O’Brien.

While more places for Griffith U’s existing operation has not especially upset the med school establishment, universities with regional training centres on the MDMS’s proposed patch are adamant in their opposition. Dr Gillespie will either upset them or have to explain to CSU and La Trobe while the Sunshine Coast is no precedent for their plan, which will not go down well at either uni.

A point made last night by La Trobe University VC John Dewar and his CSU colleague Andrew Vann, who welcomed the new training places on the Sunshine Coast, and renewed their congratulations at this year’s opening of Curtin University’s medical school. “We look forward to a government decision on a new Murray Darling Medical School for the benefit of everyone in regional New South Wales and regional Victoria later in the year,” they said.

Love your research, just not much

QUT tells academics they can’t apply for big research grants

Researchers at QUT are unhappy with management’s process to approve research applications for 2018 ARC and NHMRC grants. Aggrieved academics suspect the university wants to improve its hit rate in the hugely competitive schemes by culling applications in advance. Some see this as an infringement of academics’ responsibility to undertake research and a bit rich, given management sets individual performance objectives for researchers. The last assessment process is said to have knocked out a third of applications. And who says, researchers ask, that QUT’s assessors know what the peak research agencies will like.

However, management is having none of it, telling CMM; “QUT is seeking to provide our academic staff with better opportunities for success through higher quality applications that receive feedback during the application development process.

Swinburne IT expands

A learned reader points to the 22 jobs in IT roles that Swinburne U has advertised in the last couple of days, mostly at relatively high levels, with “manager” or “senior” in the title. So what does it mean, retrenchments or did a bunch of people all get sick of the grind at the same time?

Neither, it appears Swinburne is spending up on IT. According to Chief Technology Officer Patrick Ramsden it is part of plan for the university to “reach the next level of digital maturity.” “The plan includes significant investment in training existing staff to build a workforce that is above industry benchmark as well as the recruitment of staff to add new capabilities. The recruitment plan sees an increase in the number of staff in the IT division.

Education funding for all: Tanya Plibersek signals universities are not the only game in town

Labor education shadow Tanya Plibersek was backing open access yesterday, but not necessarily to university. “We believe that every Australian who is prepared to work hard, to apply themselves, who has got the intellectual gifts should be able to gain a place in a university. Not based on their parent’s income but based on their ability to work hard and their smarts.” Good-oh, so that’s demand driven funding sorted. Um, not necessarily, Ms Plibersek continued;

“But we see also that university is not the only path for young Australians. At the same time as we’ve seen university funding continue to grow at a more modest pace in recent years, we’ve seen massive cuts to TAFE, to vocational education and to schools. We need to have an education system that works for children, before they start school with well-funded pre-schools, right through the school years, through vocational education and university.”

What, like Labor education minister Craig Emerson’s 2014 plan to spend more on schools by spending less on universities?

Good news on training attrition is still bad news

Publicly funded VET providers are increasing completions according to a new analysis

The estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research says publicly funded trainers are graduating more students, with improvements pronounced for higher level certificates and diplomas. The NCVER bases the findings on its own statistical analysis of data and trends.

The research finds that while actual Certificate III completions were 47 per cent in 2012 they are projected to have increased to 55 per cent in 2015. For Certificate IV completions are assumed to have moved from an actual 46 per cent in ’12 to 52 per cent in 2015. The improvement for diplomas was 49 per cent to 56 per cent.

The highest graduation subject area for 2015 was physical sciences (63 per cent) followed by society and culture (59 per cent) and health 58 per cent). The only discipline the NCVER expects to have a lower 2015 outcome than the actual completion rate for 2012 is education, projected to decline from 59 per cent in ’12 to 51 per cent in 2015.

Of course another way of looking at the figures is that at best the training system has attrition rates of 45 per cent.

HEADS UP: Winners this week at work

Sarah Pearson from the University of Newcastle will represent Australia in the Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Turkey and Australia innovation group. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced Dr Pearson’s appointment yesterday. The MIKTA, “aims to increase mutual understanding, deepen bilateral ties and find common grounds for cooperation.” Dr Pearson joined UniNewcastle in March, becoming PVC Industry Engagement and Innovation (CMM March 22).

Linden Ashcroft and Kelly McKinley are joint winners of the 2018 Moran Award for History of Science ResearchDr Ashcroft will study the motivation and findings of Australian weather observers before the creation of the Bureau of Meteorology in 1908. Ms McKinley, a PhD student at the University of Adelaide will study Australian attitudes to genetic modification starting in the ‘70s.

Curtin University has named Kingsley Dixon and Steven Tingay, John Curtin Distinguished ProfessorsProfessor Dixon was WA Scientist of the Year in 2016. Professor Tingay was WA Science Ambassador in 2012.

The University of Western Australia Business School Board has new members, much like the old ones. Shell Australia’s chairman Zoe Yujnovich joins the board replacing a member who is standing down, former Shell Australia Chairman Andrew Smith. Incoming Wesfarmers managing director Rob Scott replace present Wesfarmers MD Richard Goyder. And CEO-elect of grain coop CBH Group Jimmy Wilson rejoins the board.

The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, at Curtin University, has announced its 13 research grants for 2017

Lead researchers and projects are:

Natalie Lloyd (Curtin U): how communities in engineering can increase equity group participation in the industry.

Robin Barnes (UniTas): impact of positive community attributes on regional students participation in higher education

Bernadette Walker-Gibbs (Deakin U): aspiration and outcomes in low SES students first university assessment

Lisa Hartley (Curtin U): barriers and support in accessing higher education for people seeking asylum

Jenny Gore (Deakin U): role of communities in shaping student aspirations toward higher education

Sarah O’Shea (UniWollongong): a “digital story telling” exploration of attrition in a low SES regional cohort

Wojtek Tomaszewski (UofQueensland): socioeconomic outcomes of graduates from advantaged/disadvantaged students

Ryan Naylor (LaTrobe U): institutional culture and structural bias in support/retention of low SES students

Fiona Shalley (Charles Darwin U): Indigenous student completion rates at two regional universities

Andrew Harvey (La Trobe U): design principles to protect student equity in performance based funding

Matt Brett (La Trobe U): establishing baseline data on student demographics and outcomes of students enrolled via third party providers and non university providers as basis for analysis of performance funding, sub bachelor programmes and provider category reform

Deanna Grant-Smith (QUT): low SES participation in postgraduate study and outcomes after completion

Ian Li (UWA): comparison of equity/non equity student pathways after graduation



All the Eureka Award winners for 2017

Environmental research: Catchment Sediment Budget Research Team, Griffith University

Data science: Geoffrey Webb, Monash University

Interdisciplinary scientific research: Aboriginal Heritage Project, University of Adelaide and South Australian Museum

Infectious diseases research: Scabies Research Team, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute; the Kirby Institute; St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney; and Menzies School of Health Research

Innovation in medical research: Colvera Team, CSIRO; Clinical Genomics Pty Ltd; and Flinders University

Innovative use of technology: FREO2, University of Melbourne

Early career researcher: Madhu Bhaskaran, RMIT University

Safeguarding Australia: Richard Mildren, Macquarie University

Scientific research: Bacteria Busters, Swinburne University of Technology

Emerging leader: Andrew Whitehouse, Telethon Kids Institute

Leadership in innovation and science: Salah Sukkarieh, University of Sydney

Outstanding mentor of young researchers: Justin Gooding, UNSW

Innovation in citizen science: Ngukurr Wi Stadi bla Kantri (We Study the Country) Research Team, Macquarie University; Yugul Mangi Rangers; and Ngukurr School

Science journalism: Julia Peters, Wain Fimeri, Jordan Nguyen, Riley Saban, Ili Baré, Lizzy Nash

Sleek geeks, primary school: Amelia Lai and Caitlyn Walker, PLC, Sydney

Sleek geeks, secondary school: Eliza Dalziel, Claire Galvin, Georgia Hannah, Anna Hardy, St Monica’s College, Queensland