Not that “Medici Effect”

Aleksandar Subic invokes the ““Not that Medici effect”” (below) at Swinburne; the “flourishing ideas and creativity” as occurred in 15th century Florence. Presumably this does not include the Medici clan’s murderously creative approach to holding power and making money.

Top to toe with tech-eng expert Hugh Bradlow

In Features this morning Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering president Hugh Bradlow presents his monthly pick of transformative technology, from a computer chip smaller than a grain of sand to a super-size solar farm. At the top – a pacemaker for the brain, at the toe – an app that fits shoes to you. Plus more, here .

Chief Scientist Finkel asks the question: are we at “peak paper”

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel was in his usual state of informed optimism when he addressed the Postgraduate Research Conference yesterday. For a start, he explained why this worst of all possible worlds, could be, well, worse, and he urged PhD students to ignore those who say working life is worth only worth working in universities. “I have no patience for people who tell me that a person with a PhD who starts a company, or goes into the public service, is a waste of a good academic researcher. The purpose of a PhD is to allow talented people to develop their strengths and choose their direction,” Dr Finkel said – he should know, it’s what he did.

The CS also set out his big questions for the research system, including:

the future for the scientific paper: “the peer review system is critically overloaded. Page charges are high, and so the critically important methods section is left out. Alternatives pop up overnight because the barriers to entry are low. And the irony is, we’re working so hard to generate papers, we don’t have time to read anybody else’s.” So are we at peak paper? The doctor says no, “the scientific paper has endured for a reason, and it still holds. It’s an efficient way to structure and communicate information.”

pressure to publish: “let’s contemplate a rule that you can only list a maximum of five papers for any given year when applying for grants or promotions.

dedicated funding for replication studies: “should we consider awards for high-quality studies that yield negative results and don’t confirm a hypothesis or previous finding?

an ethical journal stamp: to demonstrate sources of quality research and distinguish them from predatory journals for “people in the community who aren’t scientists, and don’t know anything about impact factors and journal rankings and editorial standards.”

Plenty of profs

The professors association at the UniofSydney suggests “corporatised university businesses run by managers” get in the way of teaching and research (CMM yesterday). However the learned Peter Bentley (e-i-c of the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management) responds administrator numbers at UniSyd are up 41 per cent since 2001, Level A (the part-timer paygrade) academic numbers grew by 115 per cent and there are 89 per cent more top ranked ones. “Too many professors and casuals?,” he asks.

At Flinders you get what you park for

Flinders U is hiking the cost of parking for staff and – (you might want to sit down if easily shocked) – the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union is outraged. The university is leaving student parking prices alone, at $100 a semester, but is doubling the cost of a half-year permit for staff to $200. This, the comrades complain will hurt low-paid workers worse, whicb is fair enough.

The university responds there are hour/daily/monthly options, so people can pay for the parking they need and the “parking experience’ will improve, with real-time signage stating places available in a car-park, app based payment, and did they tell you it is designed to “reinforce our student centred ethos.”  Queue complaints from postgrad students who get a bit of teaching.

Hot research sauce at Swinburne

Swinburne U opens its new Innovation Precinct today, in a former fire-station, where DVC R Alexksandar Subic says the university will keep cooking with its “secret sauce” – researchers having, “freedom – the licence – to step back from their habitual way of viewing concepts and problems.”

Breakthrough ideas rely on a diversity of perspectives. They rely on inclusion and diversity. We have the best chance of coming up with great new ideas when we mix diverse approaches, fields, cultures and backgrounds – something we have always known instinctively here at Swinburne,” he says.

Professor Subic will point to projects and applaud alliances that are already producing products and services from Swinburne. But his main message is less about what is occurring now than what Swinburne’s sauce of “diverse and inclusive teams cutting across functions and identity,” can accomplish.

“ One cannot inject an ability to innovate or be creative. You can however provide the right environment – a favourable ecosystem, an enabler of ideas and capabilities, a place where ideas will turn into global products and services.”

Blockchain student placements  

Sydney tech company Lakeba  announces a partnership with Macquarie U to “provide practical exposure and active involvement in blockchain developments for students.” They will participate in Lakeba blockchain development projects.  This is the first Australian student placement programme in blockchain development CMM knows of.

International student numbers up again: cracking half a million two months into the year

International education is going from strength to strength,” Education Minister Simon Birmingham says.

There were 509 000 international students in Australia in February, up 12 per cent on the same month last year, according to new federal government figures, released this morning. All up the university market grew by 16 per cent and VET 15 per cent.

The China market stayed strong, with sector-total PRC starts up 6000 to 47000. There were 30 000 commencing university students from the PRC, up from 25 000 in ‘17.

Students from China made up 31 per cent of the market, more than twice, second placed India with 12 per cent. The next three markets Nepal, Malaysia and Vietnam combined generated 13 per cent of students. However Senator Birmingham points to strong growth in newer markets, Nepal (up 54%), Colombia (29%) and Brazil (27%).

“Australia is uniquely positioned to meet the demands of an increasingly competitive international education market, the minister says.

Games universities will have to pay

Universities are planning how many students they will enrol and in what disciplines next year, when most basic government grants will be set at  2017 levels and how they will present it all to the public.

The Innovative Research University group is looking at one, or a combination, of three options. Set student targets by funding level to match the basic government grant. Enrol more students than the number needed to generate the grant. And emphasise enrolments in discipline areas “where the student contribution is the more significant revenue stream.

That universities can decide how to use their government funding for students is a smallish but still poisonous chalice. It gives them more flexibility than in 2005-2012, when the government specified enrolments by funding-cluster, with rules governing over-enrolment. But if they increase student numbers in disciplines that generate the best margins they will face claims they are teaching yet more lawyers and accountants, “which only stimulates the unhelpful we have too many graduates debate.“

Whatever they do, the  public focus should be “on the impact for students, potential students and their families not the financial challenge,” an IRU observer suggests.


Appointments and achievements

Former Myer boss Bernie Brookes has joined Swinburne U’s Customer Experience and Insight Research Group as an adjunct industry fellow. “After a long and prestigious career, Mr Brookes is ‘giving back’ by bringing his extensive experience in industry and continuing passion for retail to CXI,” Swinburne states. As Myer shareholders can attest, Mr Brookes is well-placed to advise on retailing in difficult circumstances.

Pia Ednie-Brown from RMIT wins the Australian Council for Graduate Research’s 2018 award for excellence in leadership  Professor Ednie Brown is honoured for outreach, research and course material. The award was announced in Adelaide on Monday.

Other awards went to; Kim Bennell, Rana Hinman, Tim Wrigley, (University of Melbourne) for research supervision and Vito Mollica (Macquarie U) for industry engagement.

Desmond Bermingham is appointed CEO of the Australian Council for Educational Research (UK). He joins from the UK Department for International Development. ACER has contracts in the UK for assessment services and university selection processes.