but the cash comes from Canberra and the spending rate is growing faster than earnings

Nobel Prize advice: don’t publish porridge

Amazing outcome: a uni lobby backs federal government proposal

Incredible achievement: UNSW announces academics moving to teaching-focused jobs

and what Simon will say next: how Birmingham could get his higher educ plans through the Senate



What does Peter really think?

Peter Doherty explains what not to publish

“Don’t be too obsessed with this whole status thing in publication. A lot of it is a waste of time. Increasingly with papers that go to Nature or Science, the editorial process can be so protracted with so many requirements that you end up with a paper which is totally unreadable and you have no idea what it’s about or what these people are trying to say the reviewers have turned into a porridge. You don’t want to publish porridge.” Peter Doherty Nobel Prize, 1996,  Facebook .

And what about Sally?

The ACTU says Murdoch U isn’t Australian

“To the management of Murdoch University: cancelling an agreement is out of step with community standards. It’s not fair, it’s not Australian and we won’t accept it. To the VC: I have one message- don’t do it.” ACTU secretary Sally McManus on the Murdoch U request for the Fair Work Commission to cancel application of the now expired enterprise agreement. It wants the National Tertiary Education Union to accept the take-it-or-leave-it deal offer for a new one and is piling on the pressure. The FWC will hear the application in a couple of weeks.



Cashed up in Queensland

Queensland’s universities are in good financial shape, but they are increasing spending faster than their earnings are growing

The Queensland Auditor General reports the state’s seven universities were financially sustainable in 2016, all able to comfortably cover short-term liabilities. The AG suggests their only significant problem in terms of current ratios is deciding what best to do with the cash cluttering up chancelleries.

However, the size of surpluses were declining last year and while expenses grew by 4 per cent the rate of earnings increase was less than half that. And while overall income of $5.2bn was up 1.9 per cent on 2015 the system’s financial strength was driven by demand driven funding from the feds, with teaching income up 17 per cent between 2012 and 2016

There were mixed results for international sales. While overall student numbers were steady and revenues up (more postgrads meant a 32 per cent fee rise 2012-2105) USQ, CQU and Griffith U all had declining international numbers.

On 2015 figures, at 28.3 per cent state system spending was also well up on the 27 per cent national average of expenditure on non-academic employees. James Cook U had the lowest, 25.2 per cent and University of Southern Queensland the highest, 35.6 per cent. The figures for the three major metros were University of Queensland, 26 per cent, Griffith University 29.7 per cent and QUT 30.5 per cent.  “Queensland universities have an opportunity to improve their efficiency of service delivery,” the auditor observes.



Innovator to UNE

Jonathan Powles has started as PVC Academic Innovation at the University of New England

Professor Powles moved from the University of Canberra, where he directed the teaching and learning centre. Prior to UniCanberra he was curriculum director at ANU’s School of Music.

Company WSU keeps

NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley opened a new campus for Western Sydney U on Friday

Mr Foley did the honours at WSU’s pathway college campus at Olympic Park, “dedicated to English language programs, which are having a transformative effect on the lives of students.”

With the campus in Mr Foley’s seat of Auburn inviting him to speak was entirely appropriate but was there no minister or MP from the state or federal governments willing to turn up?

WSU tells CMM that it was “delighted” that Mr Foley did the honours, and “is closely engaged with all political representatives throughout Western Sydney in the interests of supporting the region’s development. The university does not disclose its event invitations.”

Good-oh, but either the Liberal Party is letting WSU know it does not much collectively care for it, or the university is demonstrating the political company it prefers to keep.

Croft to Clayton

Monash appoints its dean of engineering

Monash U has appointed Elizabeth Croft dean of engineering, “after an extensive global search”. She joins from the University of British Columbia, where she is an associate dean and a professor of both mechanical engineering and engineering economics. She leads research on robots in manufacturing. Professor Croft will join in January, until then Jeffrey Walker will act.


Happy with HEPPP

A peak university lobby is backing (yes, backing) a government funding plan

The Innovative Research Universities group has endorsed the government’s plan for the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme. In the lead-up to the May budget there was speculation that HEPPP was gone but Education Minister Simon Birmingham acted on its achievements (http://campusmorningmail.com.au/uni-sas-lloyd-lets-loose-budget-not-good-for-future-prosperity/ CMM May 22) and kept the programme, with changes.

The government now proposes allowing universities to spend HEPPP grants over the life of the activities they fund, instead of in the year awarded. University accountability for the cash will flow from a three-year access and participation plan. Evidence of outreach activities is also required. There are a bunch of specific accountability details still to deal with but overall the IRU is ok with the approach.

“The changes, if implemented, will give long term certainty through a standard payment per low SES student and remove reporting that hampers creativity in best use of the funds in favour of targeted reporting of major outcomes,” IRU states.

But what’s with “if implemented”? The HEPPP plan is part of the government’s higher education package, the one that includes  funding cuts. An improved HEPPP could be collateral damage.

From Adelaide to Iceland

The University of Adelaide is updating its alumni database and graduates who respond can win a trip for two to Iceland

Yes Iceland, where the university’s slogan “seek light’’ applies, albeit only in summer – although even then a tour highlight “check out the stranded icebergs” might put off people who think the country’s name is agin it. As Chief Scientist Alan Finkel describes his January holiday in Iceland; “as we huddled in the cold, with the vapour from a geothermal power station billowing on the horizon, surrounded by endless white-capped basalt boulders, my wife looked at me mournfully, shivered and said “I want to go back to Earth!’ “Or in this case, Adelaide.



Rebuilding the past brick by brick

Lego Classicists has  created a Lego Sir John Nicholson, founder of the University of Sydney museum of antiquities named for him 

CMM suspects this is an homage to the university’s tradition of explaining antiquity via Lego. The museum has Lego Pompei, Colosseum and Acropolis exhibits. “Be on the lookout for, a Lego Pliny the Elder and Pink Floyd playing an amphitheatre, the museum suggests.

Just count them!

UNSW says staff response to the offer of teaching only jobs is “incredible”

Vice Chancellor Ian Jacobs wants 25 per cent of academic staff to have switched to education-focused jobs by 2025 a part of his ten-year plan and the university reports, an “incredible response to education focused roles.” So how many makes “incredible”? Offers closed at the start of May, with just 170 staff expressing interest and 150 getting the nod, from the 4000 or so staff now in research-teaching-service positions.

What Simon sells next

The education minister has signalled a strategy to pass his higher education package in the Senate

The Senate passing the government’s school education funding package was a big, really big, win for Simon Birmingham. It was also a successful test of how he could do the same for his higher education scheme.

Minister Birmingham had two objectives for schools, saving money and establishing an outcomes-based funding model. Sufficient senators were prepared to give him the latter for not much of the former.

It’s the same with higher education. Cabinet wants the minister to save money, demonstrated by the 2.5 per cent funding cut for each of two years (which reduces the rate of increase in university grants for ever-more). But Senator Birmingham also has a more important policy plan, to tie 7.5 per cent of the Commonwealth Grant Scheme to as yet unset performance metrics – with money moving from providers that do not meet targets to ones that will do. The first will save money but the second creates performance incentives in the system.

Based on the Senate crossbench response to the school’s deal there could be enough support for performance metrics in return for less of a cut in funding, (morning Senator Lambie, hello Senator Xenophon, more investment in training? what a good idea Senator Hanson).

Sound unlikely? A week ago so did Gonski 2.0