They wished

TAFE’s contribution to Australia will be the key topic in Canberra today with the inaugural ‘TAFE for Australia’ showcase at Parliament House,” TAFE Directors Australia, yesterday.

Not quite, during the day what with the unpleasantness in the Liberal Party. But then in the House of Representatives around 5pm Labor shadow education minster Tanya Plibersek, said; “a government without a plan for education and training has no plan for Australia’s future.”

Flinders U union warns academics to brace for change

An academic restructure is imminent at Flinders U and the union is warning people at risk.

A couple of weeks back VC Colin Stirling told CMM the university “is formalising our research expectations of staff” with performance metrics to be set by academic rank and discipline.

“The university invests significant academic resources in research and it is appropriate that we should expect to see high quality outcomes as a result,” he says ( CMM August 9).

According to National Tertiary Education Union branch president Andrew Miller, “the cull lists are real and the university’s plans to shrink the teaching and research academic workforce are building momentum.”

Dr Miller says two groups of academic should brace for impact.  Some staff “will fall foul” of new research benchmarks. Others at risk, “teach smaller ‘unprofitable’ topics that don’t attract large student cohorts. This does not mean such staff aren’t excellent teachers teaching important material, but it does mean the university might deem staff with ‘unpopular’ discipline knowledge surplus to need.”

“We must be ready for the change proposals coming our way. Jobs will be on the line,” he says.

To which Flinders management replies that the NTEU insisted on creating teaching-specialist positions via a formal change process and, “the university is considering how it might meet this union requirement.”

Crash and burn

“It seems that all Australian prime ministers are destined to be on some variant of a Shoemaker-Levy Nine orbit,” ANU VC Brian Schmidt, via Twitter yesterday, works on material for a stand-up show at Club Stromlo. S-L9 was a comet that crashed into Jupiter.

SA uni merger plan: multi-function foolishness, says Blandy

Economist Richard Blandy has strong connections to South Australia’s three public universities. Here’s what he thinks of the proposal to merge two of them of them, UniSA and UniAdelaide.

“The proposed amalgamation would, in fact, worsen the probability of Adelaide becoming a pre-eminent higher education city by reducing the spur of competition and the gains from collaboration – where such gains can be seen to exist by people with skin in the game.

“This nonsense could have come straight out of the spiel for the Multifunction Polis.”

For readers under 50 the MFP was an Australian-Japanese idea for a high-tech community in Adelaide, which went nowhere. Still, if Professor Blandy had really wanted to dismiss the idea he would have suggested the State Bank of SA would have loved to fund.

Sexy smarts or whatever works

While CMM has no idea what it means for Honey Badger and admirers, Giles Gignac and Clare Starbuck from UWA find there are limits to the levels of intelligence and good-nature that people find attractive in possible partners.

The authors surveyed 380 young people in Perth on what they found attractive.

But as for people who find the cerebral sexy, there is no correlation between a person’s intelligence (real or self-assumed) and the brain-power that appeals to them.

All at sea on navy build skills

At the rate the naval construction workforce programme is going graduates will be ready to start work on the replacements for the submarines not yet being built.  The Naval Shipbuilding College, established in April, does not actually teach anybody to build anything. Instead, its first tasks are to, “establish industry workforce requirements, build capacity and annual throughput at education and training facilities around Australia, increase key entry-level trade qualifications to meet initial construction demand, and boost apprenticeship opportunities.

Which leaves voced and universities to launch their own partnerships. Like the University of Tasmania’s Australian Maritime College, which teaches maritime engineering and hydrodynamics and yesterday signed a pathways deal for maritime engineering courses, with WA’s South Metro TAFE.

Good-o but does anybody know how many workers and in what skills the navy-build will need.

Cash case for humanities research

Just three recent Australian Research Council future fellowships went to classic humanities scholars (philosophy and literature) and back in May lobby leaders complained at the tiny fraction of research infrastructure funding that will be delivered to their disciplines, ( CMM August 6). It seems to some that the funding system is stacked against the humanities and that they need more money of their own.

University of Melbourne DVC R Jim McCluskey certainly thinks so, telling the recent Melbourne hearing of the parliamentary inquiry into  research administration that medical researchers can compete for more sources of research funds than those in the humanities.

“If you’re a medico like me you can go to the National Health and Medical Research Council—$850 million a year thereabouts—you can go to the Medical Research Future Fund and if you are clever enough you can frame the research grant as basic biological science, which it very often is and go to the Australian Research Council,” he said.

“That means it’s a very uneven playing field, and so the notion of having a little bit more funding for the humanities and social sciences I certainly would vote for. … the grand challenges we face as a nation cannot all be solved by technical solutions.”

Old information

The feds must have used an old CV of Belinda Robinson in announcing her appointment as chair of ACARA (CMM yesterday). Ms Robinson says she is no longer on CSIRO advisory boards that of the Minex Institute, or the government’s international education coordinating council.

Facebook friends as UAC and Charles Sturt Google-on and LinkIn

The NSW Universities Admissions Centre is always active in defending centralised university entry systems. It takes seriously claims that the ATAR is being gamed, pointing out that, “studying particular subjects won’t guarantee a student a high ATAR – what really matters is how well the student does, compared to everyone else,” (CMM April 24).

And it protects its market by making applying via UAC easy. As in a new scheme with Charles Sturt U, which allows students to register with its multiple campuses, via Google, Facebook and LinkedIn.

From Lincoln’s end to Canterbury they wend

There is news across the ditch that will surprise as many as nobody, with Lincoln U and the University of Canterbury agreeing to talk merger. Apparently, the plan is “to keep NZ at the forefront of leading-edge land-based science, commerce, management and design.” However, some suggest it is also about addressing Lincoln U’s sorry state. The NZ university auditor has found LU needs “more robust strategic planning related to teaching and learning” and that “formal policies and processes in some academic areas were of concern.” Nor was the university community up to the challenge, “because of its small size and the consequentially smaller pool of staff, Lincoln might be challenged to cover the full range of academic leadership roles which is normal for a university of any size.” CMM February 2017).

Lincoln U is now led by James McWha (ex VC UniAdelaide) who was pro-chancellor. He took over when Robin Pollard (ex Monash Gippsland) stepped down in March. Professor McWha committed to stay until Christmas (CMM March 29).


Cindy Shannon (ex UoQ, now with UniMelbourne) will join QUT next month as professor of indigenous health.

Lina Pelliccione is inaugural PVC of Curtin U’s new campus in Mauritius. Professor Pelliccione is now deputy PVC for Curtin’s humanities faculty.