Some of us are looking at the stars

“Maybe it is just me but I think getting a solar system at any price would be a bargain.”

ANU VC Brian Schmidt on an ABC story about a man sold a pricey “solar system” via Twitter yesterday.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

James Guthrie looks at ANU’s books – another uni big in property.

plus, Universities will open but that does not mean students want to be on campus. Samantha Hall (from Campus Intuition) has ideas on encouraging them. Hers is a new contribution to Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

There will be more from Dr Hall at CMM’s Reimagining the lives of the lectured conference next week. Sign-up here.

and, Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the power of youth in life, and university administration.

Who you going to call? den Hollander a VC again

Jane den Hollander becomes Interim VC at Murdoch U

With former VC Eeva Leinonen already in Ireland and Romy Lawson, who is acting, leaving at the end of the month, (she’s moving to Flinders U), Murdoch U Chancellor Garry Smith knew who to call.

Jane den Hollander becomes Interim VC on November 1, “bringing her extensive leadership to guide the university while we transition to a new vice chancellor.”

That transitioning may take time – Mr Smith advises the selection committee has “recently commenced interviews for the permanent position.”

 Professor den Hollander retired as VC of Deakin U in June 2019 and moved back to WA, where she was not retired for long. The following February she became Interim VC of UWA, following the departure of Dawn Freshwater, taking charge as the COVID-19 crisis kicked in. She led the university until Amit Chakma arrived in July.

Strong start, great finish

CMM and partner’s “Reimagining the lives of the lectured” will have a strong start Tuesday with four (no less) VCs talking about how universities can serve the communities they are part of

And there’s a great finish today week with two discussions on the coming student experience;

* What’s next for the text: “is there life in the old book yet, or can LMS do a better job,” with Blake McKimmie (Uni Queensland), Roxanne Missingham (ANU), Claire Macken (RMIT) and Colin Simpson (Monash U)

* What will get students back to campus, with Shirley Alexander (UTS), Max Fox (QUT Student Guild), Samantha Hall (Campus Intuition), Margaret Sheil (QUT) and Stephen Parker (Higher Education and Research Group)

You can sign up here.

Researchers as workers

The Australian newspaper reported yesterday a proposed class action on behalf of people who receive a scholarship under the Commonwealth’s Research Training Programme

The claim appears to be that they are employees who research and should accordingly be paid according to their university’s enterprise agreement.

Queensland Workcover had a similar idea, albeit for rather different reasons, back in 2019 when it wanted to collect worker compensation premiums from universities, to cover PhD students with stipends. The Australian Higher Education Industrial Association responded, “PhD candidature does not involve the provision of labour for reward. It involves the provision of scholarly activity for the attainment of an educational qualification. The relationship is that of a student and educational institution, not that of employee and employer,” (CMM July 8 2019 and January 20 2020).

James Cook U wins against Peter Ridd in High Court

Dr Ridd loses his appeal against the university dismissing him

What this is about: Dr Ridd was sacked by James Cook U in 2018 for actions following his criticising research at the university on the state of the Great Barrier Reef.  The university said he had breached its code of conduct in the way he criticised colleagues. Dr Ridd replied that his comments were protected by the intellectual freedom clause (14) of the enterprise agreement then in place at JCU. He sued and won in the Federal Court, before a full bench overturned that decision. Dr Ridd then appealed to the High Court which has found against him.

However, this is not a definitive defeat for the rights of academics to speak out on areas of expertise.

What it means for academic freedom: The High Court found the university was within its rights to sack Dr Ridd because some of his actions, subsequent to his initial criticisms, were in breach of the university’s code of conduct. But the court did recognise the protective power of the enterprise agreement. “The best interpretation of cl 14, having regard to its text, context, and purpose, is that the intellectual freedom is not qualified by a requirement to afford respect and courtesy in the manner of its exercise. That interpretation aligns with the long-standing core meaning of intellectual freedom. Whilst a prohibition upon disrespectful and discourteous conduct in intellectual expression might be a “convenient plan for having peace in the intellectual world”, the “price paid for this sort of intellectual pacification, is the sacrifice of the entire moral courage of the human mind”, the court, quoting John Stuart Mill states.

It concludes the university’s original censure of Dr Ridd, in 2016, “was not justified.”

What could happen now: Enterprise bargaining is variously underway or imminent at universities across the country, which provides an excellent opportunity for union and university negotiators to strengthen and expand codified protections for academics to comment – academics’ “areas of expertise” could include the way universities are run.


“It’s a sax Jim ….”

Astronomers at Uni Sydney have discovered signals coming from the Milky Way  “which fit no currently understood patterns of variable radio source,” (via Twitter yesterday).

What do you reckon, an alien quartet keen on Coltrane?

Prescriptions for the Medical Research Future Fund

The MRFF needs a new five-year strategy, the MRI peak body has ideas

The Association of Medical Research Institutes’ proposals include,

* the National Health and Medical Research Council join with the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board, which oversights the MRFF, to create an “overarching” health and medical research strategy, including research workforce planning

* a means to identify emerging health service and research needs, including consultation with stakeholders

* a research translation plan for MRFF priority areas

There’s also one that’s really hard to argue with, “make strong investments in infectious disease research, drug development, and new technologies.”

So does the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering

The ATSE likes plenty of the present priorities and wants four new ones,

* climate change impacts: “proactive approaches to improving the health system’s capacity to adapt to and mitigate its impacts”

* women’s health: “chronically under-studied … creating a strong potential market globally with pharmaceutical and medical technology targeted to their particular health needs”

* future health services: digital transformation, “to avoid retrofitting health systems and services to meet the demand”

* resilience: “COVID-19 has exposed and exaggerated weaknesses in health services and systems, from staffing and skills to supply chains”

New rankings, familiar results

Uni Melbourne dominates Australian entries on four new Times Higher discipline rankings, being first in country on three and second, behind Uni Queensland on one. Overall, there are strong Australian showings in all global top 100s

Business and Economics

Uni Queensland =39 (41 last year), Uni Melbourne 43 (40), Monash U =53 (=67), UNSW =55 (57), ANU (=69)


Uni Melbourne =5 (11 last year), UNSW 24, ANU 28, Uni Sydney 30, Uni Queensland 74, Monash U 80, UTS =81, Uni Wollongong 83, U Tas 84

Social sciences

Uni Melbourne 37, ANU 38, Uni Queensland 71, Monash U =91


Uni Melbourne 19, Monash U 20, Deakin U =53, Uni Queensland = 53, Uni Sydney 58, Macquarie U =69, UNSW =69, Uni Adelaide = 90, UTS =90,

Appointments, achievements

Tara Brabazon is leaving Flinders U where she is dean of Graduate Research. She is moving to Massey U in New Zealand.

Alex Brown is appointed professor of Indigenous genomics by ANU and partner Telethon Kids Institute.

Tony Driese is Uni Southern Queensland’s inaugural PVC First Nations Education and Research. He moves from ANU.

Flinders U announces new professorial fellows. Harald Janovjak (now at Monash U) and Krasimir Vasilev (Uni SA) will join its Health and Medical Research institute. Melanie MacGregor, moves to the College of Science and Engineering from Uni SA.

Susan Le Mire is appointed interim PVC Student Learning at Uni Adelaide. She steps up form Deputy Dean, Learning and Teaching in the Faculty of Professions.

The National Library of Australia announces its 2022 fellowships. Sue Green (Charles Sturt U), Susan Herner (Uni Adelaide), Alison Holland (Macquarie U), Ryan Johnson (Uni Sydney), Annie McCarthy (Uni Canberra), Gwyn McClelland (Uni New England), Julian Meyrick (Uni Adelaide), Madelyn Shaw (US independent scholar), Paul Turnbull (Uni Tas), Kate Warren (ANU), Annie McCarthy (Uni Canberra).

KPMG partner Warwick Shanks is elected a deputy chancellor of Uni Wollongong. He will replace Elizabeth Magassy who will step down at year end.

Mark Young is leaving La Trobe U for Uni Tasmania, where he will start next month as Director, Future Student Journey.