Plus push for an end of exclusive ERA

Now for the hard part

Swinburne’s course rebuilding and university rebranding strategy now includes a new cinema spot, which sums the project up. It features staff talking about student issues and explaining how they are there to help, to make study at Swinburne a learning and life experience worth having. An experience, “where the getting of wisdom exceeds the supply of knowledge,” says dean of law Dan Hunter, an adventure where academics “salute the adventurers,” as PVC Geoffrey Brooks puts it. Now all the Swinburne community has to do is deliver on the promise.

CEF June 15 2

Engaging impact

The timing could not be better. Yesterday, the Innovative Research Universities group proposed a new research metric to demonstrate and encourage an industry focus. It’s necessary, the IRU argued, because existing measures are based on academics talking to each other more than people in industry

“A significant factor holding back universities’ capacity to extend research activity to improve support for industry driven research is the emphasis on income from national competitive grants, publication output and citations and the way in which they underpin the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) assessment and most international ranking systems.”

The proposal came as the Australian Research Council released its searchable compendium of every grant allocated since 2001. As CMM reported yesterday, this demonstrates the dominance of the academic elite Group of Eight universities as funding front-runners on grants. And with ERA 2015 due by year’s end the IRU argues a complementary measure that emphasises industry connections is essential. According to the group, “we should measure the excellence of industry driven research to go in parallel with the excellence of investigator driven research.”

The IRU isn’t on its own in suggesting an engagement measure, or something similar. The Group of Eight and the Australian Technology Network have addressed the idea and in April the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering released a complex plan for a Research Engagement for Australia ( April 24).

A big advantage in the ATSE plan is that it could be done with existing data sets. But it isn’t big enough for the IRU, which argues that a discipline-based measure cannot accommodate the way industry solutions draw from multiple research areas. The IRU prefers using multiple data sources, which are assessed by a panel. Initially institutions would be rated on a three-point scale.

It’s an entirely plausible idea and it adds to the options for an engagement/impact debate. But without a political push all the ideas will go nowhere. For all the grumbling about ERA, academic researchers understand its measures and the idea of cross-disciplinary assessment to gauge industry contact will be incomprehensible to scholars in silos who see no reason to talk to other departments, let alone anybody off campus. To move the debate along it is up to Industry Minister Macfarlane or Education Minister Pyne to say something.

Mindhive 1

Lit every which way

Uni Wollongong has a virtual mine (CMM yesterday) but the University of the Sunshine Coast is not in3D darkness with its new multi media, and dimensional (!) interactive teaching facilities detailed, here.

All is revealed

The British Medical Journal will require data for all articles on clinical trials from July. “Making anonymised patient level data from clinical trials available for independent scrutiny allows other researchers to replicate key analyses, reduces the possibility that studies will be unnecessarily duplicated, and maximises use of the information from trials—an important moral obligation to trial participants,” the BMJ states.

OLT awards

Education Minister Chris Pyne has announced grants, “to develop and drive innovation in higher education teaching and learning,” plus 11 fellowships, “to help the higher education sector embrace emerging technologies for course delivery and student support and ensure better alignment between higher education and industry needs.” The awards are via the Office for Learning and Teaching, yes the very agency the feds are closing down to replace next year with a university based research programme.

The OLT used to function on a every education faculty wins a prize, handing out a bunch of small awards but this year there are just nine, with relatively large budgets.

Stephen Billet from Griffith U leads a multi-university team that will develop programmes for students to apply their learning in the workplace. Health disciplines will be trialled with others to follow. The grant is worth $435 000. Griffith also leads research into “virtual field trips” for hospitality students. “Increasing student numbers, time limitations and demand for online alternatives to face to face learning experiences has led to an urgent need for technology enhanced solutions to practice-based learning in hospitality,” Dr Anoop Patiar says. The budget is $273 000.

Martin Clarke from Murdoch U leads a project on veterinary graduates’ employability ($349 000), Barbara Bolt (UniMelb) and colleagues have $215 000 for research ethics education for creative arts and design students. Seamus Feagan from Uni Newcastle leads a $347 000 project on refugees in higher education. Matthew Hillier (UoQ) has a $500 000 project, involving nine universities to work on processes and platform for e-exams in high stakes, supervised environments. University of Sydney staff have carriage of two projects. Aspro Simon Barrie is investigating how PhDs can “better prepare” the future academic workforce, especially for teaching ($349 000). Dr Gabrielle Russell-Mundine is examining “culturally competent service learning” in Aboriginal community-controlled organisations, ($435 000). In a project which will surely have an enormous impact Professor Julie Mills from the University of South Australia and colleagues have $240 000 to investigate how school leavers decide what to study a university.

ANU June 3

Harder than it sounds

There is an emphasis in yesterday’s OLT fellowships and grants on work to ensure graduates are employable, which sounds like what TAFE Directors Australia’s Malcolm White was  talking about when he commented on the way “work integrated learning” has become the new big thing in universities. “The carrot of uncapped Commonwealth subsidised places for sub degree programs has focused vice chancellors on the world of VET like never before. But without an internal university culture and history of working in the triangular relationship of teacher – student – employer, are they merely taking a walk by themselves?”