La Trobe U’s basket of ideas

VC John Dewar announces an IGA has opened in the Bundoora campus Agora. So there’s a supermarketplace of debate.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

There’s a bunch that can be done to support students’ mental health. Nicole Crawford (National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education) and Sheridan Emery (U Tas) explain in Features this morning.

Dr Crawford is a panellist on student mental health at the Needed Now in Teaching and Learning conference, Thursday May 27, 11.30-12.30 AEST. Book a ZOOM spot, here.

PlusMerlin Crossley (UNSW) asks “where are the clones?” but concludes “there (don’t) have to be clones.”

And, Angel Calderon (RMIT)  examines the Nature Index and Scopus indexed publications and reports good results for Australian universities in 2020. And the worse to come may not be as bad expected all over.

Just in from the “we see what you did there” desk

UNSW reports, “endangered wallaby population bounces back after ferals fenced out.”

Don’t tick the patent box warns Kim Carr

In Features this morning the Labor policy maven explains the not big benefits and roll-call of risks in the Government’s proposed innovation incentive

The government plans to reduce the tax rate on patent income to 17 per cent, for biotech companies at first. This, warns Senator Carr, creates “an incentive for multinational companies to move their intellectual property around between jurisdictions.”

A much better way to create incentives for Australian manufacturers is to improve the Research and Development Tax Incentive, as discussed (and do not tell CMM you did not see this coming) in the Review of the Three Fs.


The mail’s in the mail at Uni SA

People can now watch their in-boxes filling up

The university announced staff email was back yesterday, after being off-line for over a week.

Email and other systems were taken off-line the weekend before last as IT responded to what was first described as technical issues and then as a “security precaution.” The university was not commenting then on what had happened but observers suggest it was a cyber-attack using Ryuk file-encrypting ransomware (CMM May 20).

Management is still not commenting beyond stating “the cyberattack has been reported to the relevant authorities.”

There is no evidence that staff records were compromised (as occurred in the massive Uni California hack, (CMM April 7)) and Uni SAers are said to have not missed email much.

It’s day three of Needed Now in Teaching and Learning (the conference)

At 11.30 an all-expert panel discusses “Future work and learning in a disrupted world: the best chance for all”

Join Claire Field (Claire Field and Associates), Helen Huntly (CQU), Sally Kift (Australian Learning and Teaching Fellows), Megan Lilly (Australian Industry Group) and Beverley Oliver (Edubrief).

And at 1pm, people who can really answer the question discuss “On-line learning: what have we learned?” Panelists are Chie Adachi (Deakin U), Shirley Alexander (UTS) Phill Dawson (Deakin U), Michael Sankey (Charles Darwin U) and Cathy Stone (Uni Newcastle).

You can ZOOM-in via here.

Triple crown for Chown

Steven Chown (Monash U) is a 2021 Australian Academy of Science Fellow (scroll down for all the others). Last week the French government awarded him a medal for his work on the Antarctic environment. In April, he became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

QUT’s northern and exposure

There are rumours that QUT and Uni Sunshine Coast are talking merger. If they are they are speaking softly indeed

Perhaps suggestions come from the pair’s past. In 2017 QUT gifted its Caboolture campus to USC (CMM June 16 2017).

Or perhaps the rumours are right about a partnership, just wrong on the place, partner and purpose.

QUT has just signed an MOU with Bundaberg Regional Council to cooperate on agriculture and renewable energy research.

No campus and too far north but at least the compass setting is right.

Ian Jacobs’ optimism at UNSW

Despite the pandemic and international uncertainties the vice chancellor is “optimistic about our longer-term finances”

Last year’s “painful but essential” staff cuts and reductions in other spending, “have ensured financial stability for 2021” UNSW VC Ian Jacobs told staff yesterday.

“The proactive steps we all took in 2020 enable me to give you reassurance and confidence about our current circumstances. …I am confident that we will not need to make any additional major changes to expenditure or staffing levels this year, he added.

The vice chancellor reported a 2020 deficit of $19m, ahead of the planned $32m. Last year UNSW reported it had covered 80 per cent of the then expected $370m 2021 shortfall by making $180m in savings and using $115m in reserves. A voluntary redundancy programme cut a further $36m and 256 FTE positions were abolished (CMM September 16). Standard and Poors reports UNSW also raised $250m last year “to shore up liquidity (CMM April 28)

Professor Jacobs, message expands on a previous reassurance (CMM April 28) but his state of the university approach appears intended as a circuit breaker from last year’s pain. “Despite pandemic uncertainty and international uncertainties,” the vice chancellor is “optimistic about our longer term finances” and he points to positives including,

* term one enrolments above “load plan” with “strong local commencements” and international students off-shore, “staying with us on-line”

* research wins and strong fundraising

* expanding on-line PG courses

* a “flexible working strategy

* plans for businesses and “staff and student spin-outs” on campus.

Professor Jacobs also said he is “hopeful of an announcement in the very near future” on “steps to allow our international students to travel to Australia as soon as possible.”

Claire Field on creative tensions for Victorian VCs


With the vice chancellors of Monash and Melbourne universities plus RMIT not participating at last week’s CEDA lunch, it was a chance for the Victorian VC ‘newbies’ to shine – as well as La Trobe’s John Dewar.

Their discussion elegantly captured the tensions the sector is currently grappling with.

Take, for example, research commercialisation/industry engagement. Swinburne’s Pascale Quester reasoned that although businesses had previously seen research as a “freebie”, they would invest in it now where they saw value in it.

Other VCs were more cautious. Professor Dewar argued that while more industry engagement was a positive for universities, it was not a solution to the decline in international student revenue and the associated impact on research funding. Iain Martin from Deakin U pointed out that no university anywhere in the world had built a sustainable funding stream from the commercialisation of IP.

Dewar also made the case that Australian universities potentially need to specialise. Interestingly, earlier in the discussion other VCs had spontaneously spoken of their universities’ points of difference/specialisations.

Adam Shoemaker from Victoria University highlighted the benefits of running a law school in the Melbourne court district, including sub-leasing floors in their vertical campus to law firms – with lawyers becoming adjunct professors and VU students undertaking internships in the firms.

Professor Quester highlighted Swinburne’s intention to include a work-based component in all (or almost all) courses as a key differentiator. And Duncan Bentley from Federation University spoke about their hi-tech precinct, noting that IBM has been co-located with the university for more than 20 years and Morwell is being reborn as an innovation hub.

The other areas of creative tension related to on-line education and international students.

Professor Bentley spoke of on-line programme management companies readily creating and delivering engaging and personalised on-line learning in ways most universities struggle to do. He also commented that Fed U is looking seriously at OPMs, although in later comments he singled out other commercial university partners for making hundreds of millions delivering services universities used to deliver themselves

Both Martin and Quester reflected on having been well advanced with online learning pre-COVID, as well as the importance of more personalised learning at scale – another area of tension given the Minister wants students back in university lecture theatres.

And then there was the discussion on international education – some of that’s already been covered and the rest will need to wait for next week.

 Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector

Unis Aus announces the second student safety survey

It will run in September

Universities Australia advises the survey will collect data, “on the scale and nature of university student experiences of sexual assault and sexual harassment.”

It will follow a March pilot at ANU and Charles Sturt U.

The full survey will use a representative sample of 10 000 students at each university.

It is designed by Anastasia Powell (RMIT) and will be conducted by the Social Research Centre (the people who create QILT).

The survey follows the first, 2016, survey but UA advises, while this year’s, “builds on and extends the foundational survey …there will be key differences, including behavioural questions on sexual assault.”

UA adds, “comparability between the prevalence rate of the 2016 survey and the 2021 survey will be limited.”

Appointments, achievements

David Lloyd (Uni SA VC) is a new deputy chair of Universities Australia, joining Margaret Sheil (QUT VC) in the two roles. John Dewar (La Trobe U VC is previously announced as in-coming chair.)

Douglas Proctor joins Swinburne U as PVC Global Engagement. He moves from University College, Dublin.

Ken Sloan (Monash U DVC) will become VC of Harper Adams University (ag and animal sciences) in the UK.

 The Australian Academy of Science announces its 2021 Fellows

* Steven Chown (Monash U) * Arthur Christopoulos (Monash U)

* Gregory Clark (NextDC, NextDC (tier IV certified data centres) ) * Susan Coppersmith (UNSW) * Brendan Crabb (Burnett Institute) * Mark Dawson (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre) * Yihong Du (UNE)

* Robin Gasser (Uni Melbourne) * Glenda Halliday (Uni Sydney) * Rob Hyndman (Monash U) * Dorrit Jacob (ANU) * Catherine Lovelock (Uni Queensland) * Barbara Nowak –(Uni Tasmania

* Andrew Pitman (UNSW) * Barry Pogson (ANU) * Ian Reid (Uni Adelaide) * Alison Rodger (Macquarie U) * John Sader (Uni Melbourne) * Margaret Sheil (QUT) *Gordon Smyth (the medical research organisation formerly known Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research)

 * Vetha Venkatesh (Deakin University) * Hala Zreiqat (Uni Sydney)