There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Bradley Smith (James Cook U) and Peter Bentley (Innovative Research Universities) review the ARC’s new data visualisation tool, which brings together information on research grants now spread across multiple sources.

On-line outreach programmes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are needed now. Katelyn Barney and Hayley Williams (both Uni Queensland) explain why. Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s pick of the week.

Merlin Crossley moves beyond zero-tolerance grammar policing which makes people feel excluded. A focus on intent and meaning in students’ work is what

Hope for Indonesian language courses but time is tight

A month ago, 14 universities taught Indonesian language programmes. Now it’s 12 and there’s a warning more could go

Last month La Trobe U announced a “cessation” of Indonesian (CMM November 12) and this week Murdoch U included the language in disciplines it plans to teach-out (CMM December 2).

Liam Prince (Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies) fears others will follow.  In 1992, 22 universities taught Indonesian but after three decades of declining enrolments he warns courses in the 14 were variously “teetering on the edge of financial viability” pre-pandemic or being cross-subsidised.

“Niche or marginal disciplines like Indonesian not ‘paying their way’ are going to be very lucky to survive into 2021 and 2022,” he warns

Mr Prince acknowledged that the government’s new UG study charges that cut the cost of language courses, “might be just the kind of simple, compelling message that sees Indonesian language enrolments tick up nationally over the next few years. But we won’t get to test the efficacy of the new policy settings if Indonesian language departments fail to survive COVID-19.”

How state auditors can help more

Australian state auditor generals generally examine university financial statements but they could do more if they chose. The NZ Auditor General certainly does

Across the ditch, AG John Ryan has just reported on the University of Auckland buying a $5m house which VC Dawn Freshwater (yes the former UWA VC) rented from it.

The report sets out the how and why of the purchase and Uni Auckland accepts the report’s findings, and acknowledges there were shortcomings in the university’s handling of the purchase process.”

Mr Ryan also makes a point that his Australian colleagues could consider, “it is important that public organisations manage sensitive expenditure appropriately and are aware of how it might be perceived. Otherwise, public trust and confidence in an organisation can be damaged or diminished.”

So, can state auditor generals here do more than examine university financial statements and point to operational and accounting issues therein? CMM has asked the NSW Audit Office, which replied, “the Auditor-General may at any time make a report to parliament on any matter that arises from or relates to the exercise of the audit or other functions of the Auditor-General and that in the opinion of the Auditor-General should be brought to the attention of Parliament.”

International education: realism and optimism

Lobbyists want governments to open-up for appropriately quarantined international students. The feds are not for pushing

Federal education minister Dan Tehan made that plain on Radio National early yesterday.

Mr Tehan said quarantine plans are in from WA and the Northern Territory, one from NSW is expected, the ACT, Victoria and SA need more time and he was waiting for advice from Queensland and Tasmania.  As to where students accepted are quarantined, that’s up to state and territory chief medical officers.

But will not Canada and the UK, lure students away? Mr Tehan responded neither nation is as successful as Australia in controlling COVID-19. Which rather makes the core policy point, “we have to take into consideration how we have dealt with the coronavirus pandemic in this nation, and then look at how we can safely bring international students back.”

There was similar realism on international education when the Council for International Education met later in the day

The council consists of Mr Tehan and five other ministers, with eleven “international education experts and practitioners.”

The council communique includes optimism, “As countries around the world look to their skilled workforces to lead economic recovery from the impacts of the pandemic, Australia has a key role to play.”

“Australia’s world class institutions and liveable cities will remain a drawcard for those seeking an overseas study experience, while the nation’s success in managing and then recovery from COVID-19 will do much to reassure students and their families.”

But there is also realism, with a new strategy to be created by mid-year; “reflecting both new trends and enduring strengths, it will enable the sector to diversify, provide greater connections and opportunities for students and providers.”

How do you say “elephant in the room” in Mandarin?

ICAC warns: “opportunities for corruption” in SA uni cultures    

The Independent Commissioner Against Corruption surveyed staff of the three public universities about integrity. The takeout for management isn’t great

Where this came from: In March ICAC announced an “integrity inquiry” into the universities – not an investigation into anything specific. The three VCs urged staff to participate in an anonymous survey (CMM March 17).

What ICAC found: The results of surveys and feedback, “identify areas of weakness, tension and risk that could provide opportunities for corruption,” Commissioner Ann Vanstone reports.

“The tension described by respondents between ensuring financial sustainability and maintaining standards of education, research and student intake may provide numerous opportunities and pressures for corrupt or inappropriate conduct. Those risks must be explored and effectively managed,” she warns.

And staff aren’t confident that uni leaderships are on the case.

“Some managers were praised as being highly effective, but the majority of comments were negative, particularly complaining of management disinterest in staff problems, immunity from criticism, freedom to engage in wrongdoing, and tightening control over behaviour and dissent.”

Specific issues reported include;

* 63 per cent of survey respondents “had encountered” bullying/harassment

* 39.5 per cent state their institution is “vulnerable” to corruption / inappropriate conduct

* “significant proportions of the university workforce felt intimidated to report and / or concerned about the consequences of reporting. Four out of ten respondents stated they would be worried about their job if they reported”

* “a sense that teaching staff are under pressure to ensure students, and their fees, were retained. … Some described this specifically as being related to keeping international fee-paying students happy and enrolled”

* staff reporting, “diverse problems within research activity, such as inappropriate authorship, questionable data, poor supervision etc” and “potential problems with funding applications and use of research funds”

* “some evidence,” that “compliance with policies is a problem in situations related to grading and student enrolment, as well as among ‘high achieving’ or ‘valuable’ staff. Such staff were seen to be held to less demanding standard.”

Which means universities are at risk: The integrity of any organisation is framed by the attitudes and experiences of its staff. Organisations that struggle to listen to their employees, or to call out impropriety or to take effective action against improper conduct are at a heightened risk of corruption”

To which the three unis respond:  Uni Adelaide Interim VC Mike Brooks reminds staff that a policy and procedure review is already underway, “following ICAC’s public statement into the actions of our former vice-chancellor”.

“The survey findings provide us with a further opportunity to identify improvements to our culture, behaviours and processes.”

David Lloyd says Uni SA “will openly interrogate the effectiveness of existing processes to assure integrity in our operations. “

And from Flinders U, Colin Stirling says the university, will “examine the report carefully” and “continue its on-going staff development programme designed to raise awareness in recognising, preventing and reporting serious issues.”

Dolt of the day

Is CMM. In the list of the new Superstars of STEM in yesterday’s email edition he ended Priyanka Pillai’s surname with an l not the correct i.

Research open access works – but there’s a cost

Journal giant Springer reports research that is immediately published gold open access is downloaded 4.4 times more than subscription content

The research, conducted with university associations and libraries in the Netherlands found OA “significantly benefits non-academic audiences.”  Which is one of the reasons why, “Springer Nature is firmly committed to the transition to open research and is a firm believer in gold OA as the most sustainable and effective way to achieve this drive.”

Gold OA is a pay to publish model, which Springer (publisher of Nature) proposes to adopt next year for some of its prestige journals.  Researchers (or more likely institutions) who want research that make the editorial cut to be immediately published OA will have to stump up $A15 400 (CMM November 26).

Perhaps this is why pay to publish is called gold open access.


Appointments, achievements

Of the day

 The Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society announces its 2020 awards. Uwe Radok award for best PhD, Alessandro Silvano (U Tas). Morton Medal for leadership, Matthew England (UNSW). Meyers Medal for early career researcher, Acacia Pepler (Bureau of Meteorology). Gibbs Medal for operational forecasting, Philip King (Bureau of Meteorology). Outreach Award, Linden Ashcroft (Uni Melbourne).

Ben Boyd (Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences) has $10m over seven years from the Novo Nordisk Foundation in Denmark, where he will spend 10 months a year. His research includes the function in the human gut of nanoparticle in food, medicine and milk.

Flinders U announces the VC Awards for early career researchers; * Hailay Abrha Gesesew * Jacqueline Stephens * Alexander Sweetman * Emmanuelle Souzeau * Emer Van Ryswyk (all Medicine and Public Health) * Rachel Milte and Claire Baldwin (both Nursing and Health Sciences) * Thomas Vincent * Jennifer Young * Kasturi Vimalanathan (all Science and Engineering)

Of the week

The Association for Tertiary Education Management 2020 awards were in Tuesday’s issue, here

Winners of Australian Defence Industry Awards for 2020 include; * Excellence award and Academic of year: both to John Close, ANU – quantum physics, * Innovator of year: Francis Bennet, ANU – optical physicist.  * Academic institution: Australian Maritime College (U Tas). Training/mentor programme: ASC Shipbuilding and Flinders U

The Curtin Academy (“reward, enable and extend excellence in teaching at the university”) announces new fellows, Natalie Gasson (Psychology) Michelle Kelly, (Nursing, Midwifery, and Paramedicine), Ben Milbourn (School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology), Le Ng (Physiotherapy and Exercise Science).

Susan Dodds (La Trobe U) will be the 2021-22 chair of Unis Australia’s DVC Rs committee.

Engagement Australia’s Excellence Awards were in Wednesday’s issue, here.

Noel Hayman (Uni Queensland) wins the AMA Queensland 2020 gold medal for “improving the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.” Alan Bruce Chater (Uni Queensland) wins the medal for rural and remote medicine.

Natascha Klocker (Uni Wollongong) wins the 2020 fellowship award from the Geographical Society of NSW.

 The Law Associate Deans Research Network announce their inaugural legal research awards. * PhD: Brad Jessup (ANU). * ECR article/chapter:  Fady Aoun (Uni Sydney). * General category article/chapter: Michael Legg (UNSW).  * Book: Katherine Biber (UTS). * Desmond Manderson (ANU). *Non-traditional output:  Michael Grewcock and Vicki Sentas (UNSW), Stella Tarrant (UWA).  * Lifetime achievement: Stephen Bottomley (ANU)

The Monash U VC’s excellence awards were in CMM, Monday.

The Australian Naval Institute award its McNeil Prize to Jason Scholz. Professor Scholz (RMIT) is CEO of the Trusted Autonomous Systems CRC.

The university members of the 2020 Superstars of STEM were in Thursday’s CMM,  here.

Peter Varghese has a second five-year term as Uni Queensland chancellor, commencing in July.