There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Nicholas Fisk (UNSW) compares and contrasts the Australian Research Council with the National Health and Medical Research Council.  “The ARC has had a blinder of a year, and not in a good way, he understatedly suggests.

plus with blended learning set to stay , Lisa Tee and Susan Blackley (Curtin U) write on creating on-line laboratory and practicum course components. Theirs is Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s first 2022 selection for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

and David Chinofunga (James Cook U) on access to advanced maths in schools. He warns disadvantaged students are missing out on courses that build careers.

ARC experts demand legislation to ensure its independence  

Close to 150 members of the Australian Research Council’s College of Experts warn, “we cannot safeguard the independence and legitimacy of the Australian Research Council’s decisions” without legislation

In a letter to Acting Education Minister Stuart Robert and outgoing ARC chair Sue Thomas, the college members call on the current and future governments to, “maintain the rigour and integrity of the ARC’s grant assessment process by, “ending the minister’s use of the National Interest Test to make unilateral decisions on individual projects outside of the peer review process.”

On Christmas Eve the ARC announced Mr Robert had not approved six projects recommended for Discovery Programme funding.

The College of Experts members’ letter also calls for “continuing to require senior research expertise of all members admitted to the ARC College of Experts.”

This appears a response to Mr Robert’s December 6 letter which asks the ARC to, “review the operation of the College of Experts and brief me on options for expanding the pool of people who participate in the college to include experts from backgrounds beyond universities, in particular those from industry and other end-user groups.”

The College of Experts members’ letter adds to the outrage at the acting minister’s intervention in research approvals. The summer has seen a range of complaints from individuals and discipline groups.

What has not occurred is a system-wide response.

On December 24 Universities Australia tweeted, “we will be pursuing this matter, on behalf of our members, with the minister as a matter of the highest importance.”

As of yesterday, UA was still pursuing.

We have written to the acting minister raising our deep concerns over the decision to override the rigorous process of expert review and reject six Discovery Project grants,” it responded to CMM questions.   

Labor commits to ARC independence

Tanya Plibersek has intervened in the controversy over government vetos of council approved grants

The shadow education minister says she would “never reject a grant on political grounds.” The commitment comes in a response to a letter from academics protesting acting education minister Stuart Robert’s Christmas Eve veto of six research projects recommended by the ARC.

“Should I become minister for education, I am committed to approving all ARC grant applications that are recommended by a rigorous ARC peer review process and that meet the conditions set out in the call for applications,” Ms Plibersek states.

Research on student activism on climate change was one of the six HASS projects Mr Robert refused to fund.

“This government has a record of decrying ‘cancel culture” while at the same time censoring academic research it does not like,” she adds.

According to Ms Plibersek, the role of an education minister, “should be to ensure that the ARC’s grants processes are rigorous, fair and transparent and that the ARC has competent leadership and is functioning well. The independent agency should then be allowed to do its work without political interference.”

Orderly exits at Uni Sydney

Stephen Garton steps down as senior DVC but will retain an “advisory role”

The university the change yesterday. He follows other, long-planned, exits. DRC R Duncan Ivison signalled last October he would leave in March. Tanya Rhodes Taylor (Vice Principal, External Relations) announced a February departure last July. And former DVC E Pip Pattison left at the end of the year, which she had scheduled last March.

Sports science gold for Deakin  U

The university is number one in the new Shanghai Ranking for sports science – again

Deakin was in top spot in the first edition of the ranking (2016), which learned readers suggested was a world first for an Australian university – and then did it again the following year (CMM September 19 2017). It was in third place in ’18 (there was no ’19 league table) and third in 2020.

Deakin U wins in what is, as usual, something of a top-ten local derby, Uni Queensland is 7th in the world and Victoria U ninth. All up there are 12 Australian universities in the global top 50, with another six in the 51-100 group.


Government to internationals: be our guest (workers)

A student visa is now a temporary permit to work all-hours

The federal government will refund the $630 visa processing charge already paid by international students now out of the country who return in the next eight weeks. And new applicants for student visas will not pay it at all if they lodge in the same period.

The government has also dropped all restrictions on international students working. As of yesterday, there is no limit “on student visa holders working hours across all sectors of the economy.”  This applies to all on-going students and new arrivals who start a job prior to their courses commencing.  The all-hours rule will be reviewed in April.

Makes a change from April 2020 when Prime Minister Morrison made it plain that internationals without the resources to support themselves should go home (CMM April 6).

And it could create an impression that this new rule is about Australia’s economic, not students’ education, interest.

As Independent Education Council Australia pointed out yesterday, “the priority of members is to ensure their students can meet the course progression requirements associated with their student visas.”

Appointments, achievements

Iain Hay (emeritus professor, Flinders U) is named a Fellow of the American Association of Geographers.

Doune Macdonald will act as DVC A at Uni Queensland, from April, replacing Joanne Wright (scroll down).

Swinburne U announces Philip Roe as chief information officer and Nigel Waugh chief people officer.

Uni SA announces nine “creative industries” appointments.  * Michael Bentham, from Uni Melbourne, in screen production * Erik Champion, from Curtin U, in architecture * Aaron Davis, previously a Uni SA casual, in architecture * Kath Dooley, from Curtin U, in screen production * Chrisanthi Giotis from UTS, in journalism* Guy Keulemans, from UNSW, in industrial design * Kim Munro, from RMIT, in digital media * Fanke Peng, from Uni Canberra, in industrial design * Rongrong Yu: in architecture from Griffith U *

At Uni Sydney science dean Ian Young leaves to become dean of biological and environmental science and engineering at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. Joanne Wright will become DVC E, moving from Uni Queensland.