But no muddle-headed ones

The University of Adelaide announces a conference on the science of the much-loved but under-studied southern and northern hairy nosed and bare nosed wombats. It’s on Monday-Wednesday next week and yes, Ruth Park will probably get a mention in Jenny Carter’s paper on wombats in literature.  CMM discovered the programme in a burrow here.

Adelaide Advertiser likes uni merger

The Adelaide Advertiser is barracking for a merger between the universities of Adelaide and South Australia now being considered.

Yesteday the Times of the Torrens reported construction of a city towerblock, to accommodate more international students with the developer citing the merger-idea as a reason. “The fact that talk of the university merger is already starting to resonate with major developers bodes well for the state,” the Advertiser editorialised.

It follows a weekend pair of ‘Tiser opeds on a merger. David Lloyd (VC-UniSA) made the yes case and Peter Rathjen (VC-UniAdelaide) presented the other affirmative argument.

Even in these digital days what the only big newspaper in town thinks matters

Student services staff happy to help

People who think university administrations would run smoothly if it weren’t for students will have conniptions over Michelle Gillespie’s new paper. Ms Gillespie, from Swinburne U, surveyed staff on customer service for the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management. She found:

* staff in student services think their work is worthwhile, even though over a third feel unrewarded for their efforts

* workers are confident they can answer whatever students ask, although some “bounced” people with questions they couldn’t, sending them to somebody else

* while individuals think they can do better they say their colleagues are doing great jobs

* experienced student services people learn best from colleagues rather than formal training courses.  This, Ms Gillespie writes, is the “most notable conclusion.” “The way we deliver training to our staff needs to shift away from formal methods, such as training manuals and tutorials.”

Overall it’s good news; “A student-centric workforce of staff motivated by the love of their job can be achieved; the key is developing team leaders, supervisors, managers and subject matter experts to achieve this goal. Staff who have the skills to do their job well are more likely to be confident in their role.”

QS grad employment stats: working with the data out there

A learned reader reports a university did ok in the QS graduate employment ratings (CMM yesterday) without supplying any info to the ranking agency. Some of the metrics QS uses are publicly available but other’s aren’t. The LR suggests that the university does much better in the Australian Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching graduate outcomes report. Good-o, but the QILT institutional stats are not public – which is one reason why people still promote QS.

SA Government’s modest plan to attract more international students

The South Australian government is looking for an international education led economic expansion. “Having more international students drives construction in the CBD, improves city vibrancy and has a great effect in terms of retail spend and tourism,” Premier Steven Marshall says. Yesterday he released a new report from consultants Deloitte making the point.

Sadly, Deloitte also reports international student growth in SA growing at half the national 12 per cent rate in 2015-17. Market share fell half of one percent, to 4.5 per cent.  And SA is competing for the same students as the other states – those from India and China.

But not to worry, the Marshall ministry is on the case.

The government promises, “a new international education strategy.” There is a new ministerial advisory committee and StudyAdelaide has an extra $2.5m, “to market the city as centre of educational excellence.”  But first the  marketers will need to explain to people in Asia where Adelaide is.

Unis and industry talking more but there’s a STEM disconnect

Business organisation Australian Industry Group reports members are engaging more with universities. Work placements are up 6 per cent to 36 per cent, recorded in the 2016 survey and research partnerships are up 8 per cent to 23 per cent. Connections with VET providers are strongest (22 per cent), on apprenticeship issues.

Employers also report problems recruiting people with STEM skills, which is curious, given anecdotal complaints of science and IT un and under employment.

UoQ announces it is talking to the Ramsay Western Civ Centre

The Ramsay Western Civ Centre has invited the University of Queensland to express interest in a partnership. Last night the university told staff that it had agreed to, “explore compatibility and areas of mutual interest,” with the Centre.

Ramsay’s new move comes as management at the University of Sydney announces it will continue with staff consultation on a possible agreement, despite an arts and social sciences faulty board meeting on Monday where the mood on Ramsay ranged from appalled to ambivalent.

The University of Queensland is keen to keep initial discussions low-key, presumably to stop a repeat of the early and often outrage among staff at ANU and now at the University of Sydney. Last night UoQ management was advising, “only senior humanities and social sciences staff and key executives are having input at this preliminary stage.” The university adds it will “consult more widely with staff and students” if discussions proceed beyond the first stage.

However, management adds this stage is only exploratory, “any partnership would be contingent on agreement with UQ’s longstanding principles of institutional autonomy, intellectual freedom and independence – these are critical matters for the university.”

The university makes the case for considering a deal, which would deliver anticipated millions of dollars to fund teaching new degrees, on the grounds that, it could “strengthen our already highly regarded humanities curriculum, which encourages students to think historically and critically.”

Back in July the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union laid down its non-negotiables for agreeing to a Ramsay Centre on campus; ““any suggestion of surveillance of teaching or ideological monitoring of staff’s teaching or research is completely unacceptable and in violation of principles of academic freedom,” the union said (CMM July 26). This sounds like what management has specified – but sounding like and agreeing on detail might be different.

Labor asks for ideas on spending extra equity access cash

Labor is asking universities for proposals on spending $174m in new money to expand access to higher education access for disadvantaged Australians. Shadow education minister Tanya Plibersek announced the funding last week  (CMM September 5) and is now inviting ideas on how to spend it.

“The new ongoing funding will go towards mentoring support and other specialised programmes designed to boost aspiration, confidence and opportunity in underrepresented and disadvantaged communities.”

Ms Plibersek says the funding is additional to the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme.

Appointments, achievements

Digital sociologist Deborah Lupton is moving to UNSW from the University of Canberra, where she is now centenary research professor of communication.

A former dean of arts at Kings College London is taking up the same job at the University of Melbourne. Russell Goulbourne will start in January. His research interests cover 17-18th centuries French literature.

Nadine Kasparian from UNSW has won a 2018-19 Harkness Fellowship in healthcare policy and practice. She will spend the 12 months at Harvard U and Boston Children’s Hospital.

Syed Islam is the new dean of science, engineering and IT at Federation U. Professor Islam moves from Curtin U where he is dean of international international strategy and entrepreneurship in the science and engineering faculty.

University of Newcastle academics have won the medicine category in the British Medical Association’s book awards. Nick Talley and Simon O’Connor win for the eighth edition of their text, Clinical Examination.

The Australian Academy of the Humanities has announced the short-list for its 2018 Medal of Excellence in Translation. David Holm for Hanvueng: The Goose King and the Ancestral King, An Epic from the Guangxi in Southern China (Brill, 2015). Julie Rose for Simon Leys: Navigator Between Worlds by Philippe Paquet (La Trobe University Press/Black Inc. Books, 2017) (Simon Leys was the pen-name of sinologist Pierre Ryckmans. Geoff Wilkes for The Greater Hope by Ilse Aichinger (Königshausen and Neumann, 2016) (a novel of anti-semitism in Nazi Austria)