Who knew!

“A research degree lets you find interesting answers to big questions,” UTas advertisement, Facebook, yesterday.

Two blues at Monash U

Monash U management already has one blue over teaching and staffing in the arts faculty, with students and staff upset about the size of in-person classes and the conditions and availability of work for sessional teachers. Protests have occurred for a month but it seems management and the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union are talking and will talk some more. Whether this will be enough to placate students is another issue. “It’s interaction with teachers that makes an education valuable. … We’re asking the university to give us that contact with an educator that is, we’re pretty sure, kind of the whole point of being at university,” a student petition states (CMM March 16)

Now there is another blue over evening lectures at the Clayton campus.  The university is implementing a “targetted-scheduling framework” which specifies any lecture that is repeated must have a run after 6pm, “to provide flexibility and choice to students.” This can be a problem for staff with family responsibilities and there is concern at Clayton that it is being imposed on staff with no regard for their needs. The NTEU is saying the university is obliged to consult over the change and that moves to impose the policy will put it in breach of the exacerbation provisions of the enterprise agreement. (The union also proposes that if the university fails to consult again it should donate $100k to an independent charity – no harm in asking).

When devices unite

Curtin U is trialling an inverted speed bump – a hatch over a slight drop in a road surface opens when radar detects an approaching vehicle at speed. But what happens if Actibump comes to an internet-of-things arrangement with Kip, the university’s autonomous bus?

Admissions centre more than the ATAR

The NSW Universities Admission Centre (which applies the ATAR) is upping its profile, with a new logo, a regional TVC, “wherever your dreams take you, your journey starts with UAC” and a website service targeting prospective UG/PG university students with information on the how and why of applying for higher education.

The campaign launches as UAC introduces new products, notably a blockchain release of tertiary admission ranks that rolled out to 74 000 NSW/ACT students for this academic year.

This is smart stuff. UAC as student service is a big change from its old role of advising students of rationed university places and it counters the Mitchell Institute and allies questioning the foundation-idea of the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank as the main university admission measure. Even if the ATAR becomes less widely used admission centres will surely be needed as part of alternative entry schemes, if only to avoid the cost of individual unis expanding their own entry bureaucracies.

Big energy CRC announced

Two Round 19 CRCs were announced yesterday, for food waste and future fuels. They join the minerals exploration CRC  announced last month. CMM knows of at least more successful centre to be announced for the round.

Details on the Fight Food Waste CRC are sparse but it certainly involves the SA state government and the University of Adelaide. It will work on co-product development and reducing product substitution for food and wine producers.

The Future Fuels CRC will research using hydrogen as a fuel in the existing gas network and continue the work of the Energy Pipelines CRC. Undoubtedly coincidentally, ministers yesterday also announced $100m for a pilot programme converting Latrobe Valley brown coal into hydrogen fuel for the Japanese energy market.

How the system is supposed to work

UoQ research team leader Geoffrey Goodhill and colleagues have retracted a 2016 paper after the authors found errors in the computer code used for data analysis. The paper, “A mathematical model explains saturating axon guidance responses to molecular gradients,” was published in the journal eLife. They voluntarily retracted the paper because its findings “would require substantial corrections.”

Regulator lifts conditions on La Trobe U pathway provider

Navitas partner college with La Trobe U, La Trobe Melbourne, is all-good with TEQSA, with the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency ending conditions on the registration of Navitas Bundoora, imposed in December 2016.

Back then TEQSA renewed NB’s registration for seven years, subject to three conditions; demonstrating “continued responsibility to improve student performance,” demonstrating there were student performance KPIs and implementing a “systematic and cyclical review and update” of HE policies. TEQSA said it was acting because of “identified risk regarding: “corporate and academic governance, deteriorating student outcomes, issues identified with LTM academic staffing profile, increasing student load, high student/staff ratio and a high attrition rate.”

The agency has now decided Navitas has met the requirements for KPIs and review/updating policies.  But the need to improve student performance remains.

The college offers diplomas in business, IT, engineering, psychology, health and mediacomms.

New visa numbers point to growth in international education, for now

Higher education study visas granted in the first three quarters of the current financial year were up 10 000 on 2016-17, to 124 000, according to new figures from the Department of Home Affairs. However the trend is not strong, with total education visa applications down 7 000 to 117 00 for the year on year third quarters

Immediate demand from China held up with, the number of PRC students granted visas up 6 per cent, to 44 602. Visas granted to Chinese students for all visa categories increased by 4 000 to 54 000. Some 22 000 Indian higher education students were also granted visa, up 5 000 on the first three quarters of 16-17. Total Indian visas also increased, from 19 000 to 25 000.

But China applications are off, down 4 000 to 45 000 in the year to February, compared to the first three quarters of 2016-17.


Appointments and achievements

Penelope Dobson is the new deputy chair of ANSTO. The pharma industry executive joined the board in 2014.

ANU’s Colin Klein has $450 000 from the university to fund five years’ research on links between, “computationalist theories of mind” and neuroscience. The grant will fund post docs and host conferences.

La Trobe U announces Abbas Kudrati, a part time professor of practice in cyber security has won a Middle East Security Award from the Chief Information Security Officer Council. When not a LT U he is CISO at KPMG.

Energy entrepreneur Lachlan Blackhall will lead a new ANU programme on integrating battery storage with the electricity gridDr Blackhall is a founder of Reposit Power which develops systems to aggregate distributed energy storage into electricity networks

The Australian Research Council has announced panel chairs for the inaugural round of the engagement and impact assessmentRichard Dunford (UNSW): social sciences. Gerard Goggin (UniSyd): creative arts and humanities. John Grundy (Monash U): science and tech. Terry Nolan (UniMelb): health and life sciences. Maggie Walter (UniTas): Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research.

Jane Hamilton is the new dean of business at La Trobe U. She moves up from professor of accounting at LTU.

Ben Eggleton becomes director of the University of Sydney Nano Institute. He is now director of the university’s Centre for Ultrahigh Bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems.

Laki Kondylas is the new head of strategic projects at Flinders University’s New Ventures Institute. He moves from the SA Department of State Development.