Plus ANU’s Ian Young had a win this week

Dicking around

Kim Carr press-release yesterday, “Pyne’s package is putting students off”. Christopher Pyne’s statement in reply, “Carr goes off half-cocked on university applications.”

Blowing their own trumpet

The University of South Australia is setting up a HELP-eligible jazz degree, building to 200 places over three years, at its Mount Gambier campus in partnership, with James Morrison. Full degrees will start in 2016. Mr Morrison will teach there and becomes a professorial fellow. Teaching staff will be employed by the James Morrison Academy of Music but degrees will be awarded by the university. Everybody who admires Mr Morrison know this is a coup. He is a global talent of astonishing creativity (there are a couple of CDs where he plays every instruments bar percussion) and it is amazing that he lives here rather than in the US or Europe where the markets are. He is also a great discoverer and nurturer of talent, he found Emma Pask when he visited her school. This is a big win indeed for Uni SA VC David Lloyd – and it also makes the case of another commentator who argues Australia needs to emulate the American tradition of elite specialist colleges in country towns that attract students from across the country. Now who was that again? Um, music academic and University of Adelaide VC Warren Bebbington. Good to see the pair on-song.

Uni SA has also submitted a tender to the state government to provide public dental services, in cooperation with University College London. Success would involve Uni SA establishing a dental school and as such is a direct challenge to the University of Adelaide which has long had a monopoly on dentistry in the state. Jazz, dentistry, it can’t be long before Professor Lloyd bids to build submarines.


ACU appoints its own

It’s a big month for Australian Catholic University’s Tania Aspland, who steps up to become the university’s executive dean for arts and education. She replaces Claire Wyatt-Smith, who became head of ACU’s new Learning Sciences Institute last month. Earlier this month Professor Aspland was appointed chair of the national deans of education.

Look! above Parliament! It’s Optimism Man!

As super powers go a mastery of House Representatives standing orders is perhaps not all that impressive – so how fortunate for Education Minister Christopher Pyne that he is also Captain Cooperative. Or so he told Janine Perrett on Sky News yesterday when she asked him what chance his deregulation package had in the Senate. The minister said for the eleventy-first time that he had talked to cross-bench senators, some already six times, and that “80 per cent of something is better than 100 per cent of nothing.”

“My office has been very closely involved in briefing them and their staff, and the more information that they are getting, the more inclined they are towards amendment, sure, but the centre-piece of the policy, which is the deregulation of the university system … that ambition is still in place and I believe that there will be a reform.”

Is he bluffing? I doubt it. PUP Senator Dio Wang for one has listened to the University of Western Australia and private providers in Perth and Labor is quieter on the package. The Opposition certainly has not pursued Mr Pyne in Reps Question Time this week.

Tick the box

Cooperative Research Centre  Programme supporters are starting to wonder how seriously Department of Industry officials are about the programme review. The submission portal uses a tick the box format and while offline responses are welcomed it seems completed surveys rather than considered written responses are what is wanted.

Winners of the week

Some achieved, some stuck at it and some just kept their cool in another grinding higher education week.

It began very well for the Faculty of Medicine at Monash, which led the field with 107 National Health and Medical Research Council grants, worth $70m. While the party-line at Clayton that it is all down to the researchers insiders say Provost Edwina Cornish and Vice Provost (R) Pauline Nestor had more than a bit to do with the bid.

The National Tertiary Education Union also put in a winning team-effort this week. The union has continuously campaigned against higher education funding reductions since the Emerson cuts of April 2013 with speeches and social media, advertising and demonstration. This week a collective of comrades published a parody of The Australian showing what deregulation could deliver. That the idea of $100 000 degrees under deregulation is now widely assumed to be inevitable is largely down to the union’s energy.

Christopher “Captain Cooperative” Pyne had a quiet week- at least by his standards but he did announce the higher education deregulation legislation will go to the Senate next week. Whatever the vote, there is no faulting Minister Pyne for energy and commitment. Mr Pyne has bet his career on deregulation – it is hard to imagine him just minding the existing system if his reforms fail in the Senate after a couple of attempts. He wins for being game to have a go – and for balancing many balls. His school curriculum reform plans proceed and yesterday he signalled an imminent announcement on moves to encourage STEM study at university.

Senator Bridget McKenzie (NationalsVic) also did well, chairing the Senate Estimates education committee. She oversaw a marathon hearing on Wednesday with grace and this less than a week before the Senate committee on the deregulation legislation is to deliver its reports. The one from government members is expected to be immensely important in making the final case for change to cross bench senators.

But for a stellar performance it is impossible to ignore ANU VC Ian “the gent” Young. Throughout the deregulation debate he has made his case in a modest, measured style, which keeps the focus on the issues. He did the same in Senate estimates on Wednesday, answering questions from Senator David Leyonhjelm (Liberal Democrat – NSW) on the university’s sale of fossil fuel shares on grounds of social responsibility with a calm, courteous command of detail. He saved ANU from another beating over a decision, which has attracted a fortnight of criticism.



Old in the service

People who subsist on sessional teaching and wonder whether they have any chance of an academic career will cheer a seminar at UTS on Thursday, which will address the problem of an ageing academic workforce, but “few opportunities for new entrants in a tight financial environment”. Speakers include University of Melbourne provost Margaret Sheil, Department of Education a/s higher education Robert Griew and L H Martin director Leo Goeddegebuure.