Launch of the day

UWA announces “the world’s first electric hydrofoil” (and, sorry about the next bit) “jet-ski”

It’s the work of the university’s Renewable Energy Vehicle Project (REV partnered with Perth start-up Electro.Aero, and funded by lithium producer Galaxy Resources.

“It is much quieter, more energy efficient and produces no emissions compared to petrol powered-alternatives,” UWA announces.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning Damian Barry on why we need reform of higher education governance and why it isn’t happening.

Plus, Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s take-out from the Studiosity student-first symposium.

From UN to ANU: Julie Bishop’s new challenge

The former foreign minister is ANU’ next chancellor

Ms Bishop will take over in January, replacing Gareth Evans, another former foreign minister.

Announcing the appointment, Pro-Chancellor Naomi Flutter said Ms Bishop met the university community’s requirements for a new chancellor, “someone who understands our distinctive role as the national university –contributing to matters of great national and international significance –and someone who appreciates the transformative power of universities, through their teaching and research.

“In Julie, we have such a person. Her credentials for this critical university role are exceptional. I am confident she will serve our university with distinction.”

This is smartly strategic step – Ms Bishop is one of the most admired and respected women in Australia public life and as the former foreign minister she will open doors for ANU everywhere.

Ms Bishop commenced as she meant to go on yesterday, with a message to staff, all staff, not just management (and she called academics “faculty” which went down well with many).  “ANU is world class in terms of education and research and is our nation’s leading university,” she added (which went down well with everybody).

But not everybody backs Bishop

Within an hour of her appointment criticism commenced

In part this was because she was government minister when Christopher Pyne tried to deregulate student fees.

But there was also arcane-ANU alarm that Ms Bishop might back proposals in the 2014 Walker governance review, for staff and students on council to be individually elected, rather than appointed on the basis of representative positions held.

Successive coalition governments never got around to legislating the review, but it is on the list for this session.

Auditor’s elephant stamp for the ARC

 A performance audit of the Australian Research Council found (nearly) all well

The Australian National Audit Office reports favourably on the ARC’s management of the Commonwealth National Competitive Grants Programme.

The ANAO concludes;

* guidelines are clear and consistent with policy

* processes to, “assess grants, manage conflicts of interest and provide funding recommendations” are “mature and effective

* arrangements to manage actual and perceived conflicts of interest in the NCGP process are “appropriate

Criticism, such as it is, isn’t all that critical. The ANAO suggest while KPIs for grants are relevant, “not all are reliable.”

“Assurance arrangements could be more risk-based to provide greater assurance that administering organisations comply with grant agreement requirements and the program is achieving its objectives.”

And the ANAO reported universities wanted the ARC stop setting application due dates in February-March.

Overall however, “university stakeholders were strongly supportive of the ARC and indicated that the ARC’s administration of the NCGP was effective.”

An even bigger build at ANU

The university has been talking up its campus building programme, but we ain’t seen nothing yet

The university has recently completed the $260m Kambri complex, five new buildings, plus shops and service providers, around a tree-lined promenade. But this is but a Hameau to the Versailles the university aspires to, announcing yesterday a 20 year plan to transform the campus, with seven separate hubs. There is no information on costings.

Although the university is careful to make clear Kambri predates the plan they share an emphasis on integrating with the environment and respecting the campus’ Indigenous heritage.

Inevitably Clark Kerr’s Law* applies, with promises to do something about parking, with 13 sites identified for multi-story station, to reduce pressure on surface space and help make possible “cross-campus promenades”.

The first stage, now to 2023 “incorporates” 16 thoroughfare and construction projects.

 * “… and parking for the faculty”


National training regulator focused on “administrative trivia” says MP

ASQA cops a comprehensive serve in parliament

The Australian Skills Quality Authority’s “broadly over-reaching and focus on over-compliance has now almost gained ASQA an affectionate term for an absolute focus on administrative trivia,” Andrew Laming (Liberal – Queensland) told the House of Representatives, Wednesday night.
What he said: Mr Laming’s speech addressed ASQA’s processes and culture, focusing on the way it assesses the performance of Registered Training Organisations and cited claims of inconsistency in audits and over-zealous enforcement.

He offered anecdotal evidence to make his case, including one ASQA warning that a training organisation could be liable for an $11m penalty
“Snuffing out an RTO by simply telling it, ‘If you want to take on this decision, there’s the door to (the) Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and lawyer up,’ is not the conduct of a regulator that is building confidence in our sector,” Mr Laming added.

While he acknowledges the catastrophe that was VET FEE HELP, “no-one would want to see a dodgy provider getting away with blue murder, and we have seen plenty of that in 2013, 2014 and 2015” he says “it appears to me ASQA is increasingly using the AAT as a vehicle for extinguishing RTOs simply by legal cost, reputational damage and delay.”

What now?: Mr Laming is chair of the House of Representatives committee on employment, education and training and as such can command the attention of ministers. Perhaps his speech will encourage the executive to look again at advice from Valerie Braithwaite, in her 2018 review of ASQA’s legislation (the government accepted nearly all recommendations).

“As a regulator (ASQA’s) role is to motivate RTOs to reflect on their performance, what they might do better and how they might go about improving their performance. Recommendations in this review favour continuous improvement over mandating quality standards that all RTOs must achieve. … Ultimately, the way ASQA should regulate for quality (as opposed to sufficiency) is to look at how well RTOs go about setting their own higher standards, checking if such standards are met, motivating through praise and encouragement and support when they have achieved improvement, and advising on options when they have not,” Professor Braithwaite suggested.

Appointments, achievements

Western Sydney U adjunct professor David Chandler is the NSW state government’s building commissioner charged with restoring the construction industry’s jerry-built reputation.

Tin Fei Sim from Curtin U is the 2019 early career pharmacist of the year, awarded by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. Dr Fei Sim lectures in pharmacy and biomed science.

Richard Kurth is the new director of the University of Melbourne’s Conservatorium of Music. He joins from the University of British Columbia.

Sallie Pearson (UNSW) joins the National Data Advisory Council. The newly created body advises the National Data Commissioner, who oversees the use of government-held information. Professor Pearson researches medicines policy at the university’s Centre for Big Data Research in Health.

Macquarie U announces the first associate fellows in its new higher degree supervision programme; Joel FullerRae-Anne HardieEmily DonMarina Junqueeira Santiago and Ying Wang (all Medicine and Health Sciences), Alexandra Kurmann (Arts) and April Abbott (Science and Engineering).

Uni Adelaide announces four state winners in the 2019 Tall Poppy science awards, Daniel King, (behavioural addiction), Giang Nguyen (probability and statistics), Nigel Rogasch(neuroscience), Danny Wilson (malaria biology). Flinders U also announces awards to Oren Griffiths and Sarah Cohen-Woods (brain disorders). Marnie Winter (biomedical engineer) and Jia Tina Du (tech access for disadvantaged) from UniSA are also awarded.

Members of the University of Sydney’s new consultative group on the French free speech review’s model code are; Lisa Jackson Pulver (DVC-I), Tony Masters (chair-Academic Board), Anne Twomey (law), Jodi Dickson (HR), Gareth Bryant (university branch of the National Tertiary Education Union), Jacky He (SRC),  Xiner Yuan, (postgrad association),Don Markwell, (St Paul’s College)  (first meeting), succeeded by Adrian Diethelm, (St John’s College).

Rebecca Margolis will become director of the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation at Monash U in February. She will replace Andrew Markus, who is retiring. David Slucki and Rebecca Forgasz also join, as associate professors.

Michael Bruenig is incoming academic dean and head of the Uni Queensland business school. He moves from head of the university’s IT and electrical engineering school.

Ever-announcing Health Minister Greg Hunt announces the advisory panel for the $220m cardiovascular health research programme: Gemma Figtree (chair), Uni Sydney. Garry Jennings, National Heart Foundation. Emily Banks, ANU. Ray Mahoney, CSIRO. Chris Nave, Brandon Capital Partners. Jennifer Tucker, National Heart Foundation. David Winlaw, Children’s Hospital Westmead. Livia Hool, UWA. Dominique Cadilhac, Monash U. James Hudson, QIMR Berghofer. Julie Bernhardt, Florey Institute.

The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education announces the 2019-20 equity fellowsNicole Crawford (Uni Tas) will investigate mental wellbeing of mature-age students from remote and regional communities. Katelyn Barney (Uni Queensland) will examine impacts of intensive outreach camps for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

In great timing, Southern Cross U appoints writer Melissa Lucashenko as inaugural Barry Conyngham Creative Arts FellowMs Lucashenko won the 2019 Miles Franklin Tuesday night.