It’s only a matter of time

“It’s not just finding ways to connect your toothbrush to the internet,” (Tanya Plibersek on the applied technology research challenge, speech today). But you can bet somebody’s working on it. Scroll down for a report on her address.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Chris Campbell (Griffith U), Kathryn Coleman (Uni Melbourne) and Melissa Cain (Australian Catholic U) wondered how teaches are coping with teaching on-line in the pandemic. So, they asked them. The news is good. This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the benefits of learning rather than googling.

Macquarie U plans for new research reality

Management is scaling back 2024 targets

A staff briefing by DVC R Sakkie Pretorius warns “workforce and funding changes across the sector called for a revision of some 2024 research targets”. Those specified are, “a 20 per cent reduction in publication research income and HDR completion targets.”

However, the 2024 quality targets are unchanged100 per cent of research at “four-digit level” in the 2023 Excellence for Research in Australia (the Australian Research Council defines level four as “above world standard”). And “a sustainable position in the top 200 in terms of international university rankings,” stays an aim (there is no mention of a specific ranking).

However, there is a new approach to internal funding, “cultivating multi-disciplinary research” which is “key to achieving impact.”

Faculties will now bid for funding using the new FOCI model (Focus, Opportunity, Consilience, Impact) which will have an “increased strategic focus on multi-disciplinary research in areas of strength.”


Claire Field warns there are short courses that are way too, short


More than one in every nine courses funded through the $1bn JobTrainer scheme is significantly shorter than it should be

If an undergraduate degree takes only 6 months to complete is it still an undergraduate degree?

This is not a question besetting higher education but the equivalent question in VET should be front of mind in negotiations for the next National Skills Agreement.


Because more than one in every nine (13 per cent) courses funded through the $1bn JobTrainer scheme is significantly shorter than it should be, given its classification on the Australian Qualifications Framework.

Keep in mind these are priority qualifications identified by states and territories as crucial for Australia’s economic rebuild post-COVID 19 and funded jointly with the Commonwealth. It is not a random list I compiled to highlight a few anomalies in the sector.

Of the JobTrainer courses there are eight Certificate II qualifications ranging from two weeks to four-month duration when they should be a minimum of six months.

33 Certificate III qualifications are between 14 days and 10 months duration when the minimum should be 12 months.

 Four Certificate IV courses run from just six days to 540 hours, when the minimum should be six months (or approximately 600 hours).

At diploma level there are seven short courses (two months to 30 weeks) when the minimum duration is 12 months, and 14 of the Advanced Diploma courses are under the minimum 18 months.

What purpose does the AQF have in VET if it is being applied so indiscriminately and what value do these short courses offer learners? These are the questions policymakers should be confronting.

At this stage only four jurisdictions (ACT, NSW, SA and WA) have published comparable data on the MySkills website of the JobTrainer courses they are funding. There are also other issues which warrant attention, including the number of courses with mandatory pre-requisites which serve to exclude the young people the scheme is supposed to assist.

 Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector

Hopes for a happy new year for international student arrival

It depends on how the states plan how, and where to quarantine them

Education Minister Dan Tehan says that while getting Australians off-shore back for Christmas is the priority after that, “we can then move to look how we can safely start to bring international students back into the country.”

Mr Tehan told Chris Kenny on Sky News that plans from state and territory governments on how they can safely do this are due at month end.  And if their chief medical officers sign-off on “opportunities to safely quarantine people outside hotel quarantine, then that’s something we are prepared to discuss and look at with them.”

A new story filed for UTS journalism

UTS has a “well-established tradition of educating journalists” – but a review says j-academics need to do better on research

UTS creative writing head Craig Batty is off to UniSA (CMM November 2) and three senior people in the journalism programme are leaving, which creates opportunities for change.

One is for journalism and creative writing programmes to be combined. CMM asked head of journalism Monica Attard if this was happening and she replied. “Craig will be sorely missed. But I look forward to leading a renewed journalism and writing discipline and working with the extraordinarily talented group of academics in both disciplines.”

Other ideas are in the review of UTS journalism submitted this month by its chair, Oscar Westlund, from Oslo Metropolitan University inNorway.

The review found UTS has “a well-established tradition of educating journalists, with strong connections to the national media industry.” But, (there are quite a few buts in the review) researchlacks international impact or thematic focus.”

What to do about this and “advancing digital journalism studies” are a big issue in the review.

Professor Westlund and colleagues recommend,

* “aggressively establish UTS as a national hub for journalism innovation, media start-ups and research

* that people in the journalism programme work with the university’s Centre for Media Transitions, for “nuanced and critical engagement with issues relevant to the news media, journalism and society and offer opportunities for lifelong learning”  (The review thinks well of the centre, which Professor Attard co-chairs).

* priority for digital journalism studies, with a focus on research funding “to build track-record over the short term”

* strategic partnerships to develop workforce skills, “these include innovation, creativity and responsible use of technology.”


Plibersek’s human touch for supporting science

Labor education and training shadow Tanya Plibersek positions research as service in an astute address to a tech conference today

Ms Plibersek plans to talk about the mission of engineers, developers and scientists, “to improve human life and society and to free people from the burdens weighing them down.”  She will point to past innovations in the ordinary that improved past lives, like the s bend in plumbing and the washing-machine and more exalted ones needed now, in green energy and a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I know that there’s been a lot of debate about technology and jobs. But the truth is, the best progress is about enhancing human capacity,” Ms Plibersek is expected to say, pitching Labor as a supporter of science, from funding UG teaching to building public confidence in research.

This is smart politics. Education Minister Dan Tehan speaks up for science as generating jobs and growing the economy. Ms Plibersek is creating space for Labor by making the case for research to do both these but also as a community good.


New NUW, now with added WSU!

Western Sydney U joins the NUW teaching, research and innovation partnership

In 2017 Uni Newcastle, UNSW and Uni Wollongong set up NUW, to collaborate on teaching, research and innovation. CMM thought it was a big idea, with, “the policy mass to attract resources to the conurbation it serves,” (CMM May 31 2017). And now it adds more mass, with Western Sydney U joining as a joint venture partner.

It would be unfair to accuse the original NUW of acting with immoderate haste (CMM August 3 2018). But Western Sydney U now sees its potential, to serve “the interests of our shared communities, as VC Barney Glover put it yesterday.

It’s not as if WSU was in need of friends. With UTS and Uni Sydney it has a research institute created to, “transform the relationship between the university and government sectors, policymakers, industry and community,” (CMM December 6 2019).

But with WSU the new NUW has the mass to attract community attention for its works and make it hard for Canberra and Macquarie Street to ignore its ideas.


Liz Burd will join Griffith U in February as DVC E. She will move from PVC Learning and Teaching at Uni Newcastle.

Lesley Head (Uni Melbourne) is elected president of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

In January Patrick Keyzer becomes dean of law at Australian Catholic University. He moves from La Trobe U.

Mark Hutchinson Uni Adelaide) is named Science and Technology Australia’s president-elect, to take over next November. Other new members of STA’s executive are, Jas Chambers (Bureau of Meteorology as secretary, Sharath Sriram (RMIT) and Chloe Taylor (Western Sydney U).