so do QUT, Macquarie and James Cook

plus U Tas meets state need with new associate degrees

Bebbington says campus is where it’s at

and Heads Up! the week’s big job news

Computer says “Swans”!

Swinburne stats professor Stephen Clarke says the university’s footy tipping computer programme predicts a 57 per cent chance of a Swans win on Saturday. The programme has run for 36 seasons – originally on a mainframe, which must have been as big as the MCG.


Meeting market need

The University of Tasmania is launching associate degrees in agribusiness and applied business via a new university college, based in Launceston and teaching across the state.

The courses will combine on-line study with “some face to face attendance.” According to UTas, “they are more ‘hands on’ than traditional university degrees, and will involve work integrated learning components embedded in every discipline subject.” The university says they will appeal to career changers, up-skillers, credential seekers and students not ready for full degree study. People who complete the courses can articulate to bachelor programmes.

According to VC Peter Rathjen, associate degrees are an answer to two Tasmanian problems; “communities of lower skills and high unemployment and, secondly, industries currently constrained because they can’t access an appropriately skilled workforce.”

This will surely cheer Kim Carr up, before the election the then Labor higher education spokesman proposed a similar idea to meet this very purpose, (CMM June 16)

Magical power of property 

In a headline first written by Roman Empire property writer Desiderabilia Domum the University of Sydney reports, “high mortgage debts leave homeowners vulnerable to economic shocks.” You don’t say. But what is interesting is that UniSyd researchers, Garry Barrett, Kadir Atalay and Rebecca Edwards have found that as people’s sense of housing wealth grows they reduce working hours. Why is it Australians abandon reality when they think the market value of their home is rising?


Industrial-strength dispute

It’s enterprise bargaining business as usual at Murdoch University where union members will vote next week on taking protected industrial action to protest management ‘s position on a new agreement. According to National Tertiary Education Union state secretary Gabe Gooding, the “Murdoch University management team has held to an ideological position that is not in the interests of the wider university community.”

As usual Murdoch management did not respond to a request for comment.

Bebbington backs on-campus study

Although he thinks universities will soon give lecture content away for free on-line, Warren Bebbington is keen on the campus, where university education will continue to occur, focusing “on experiential learning in labs and seminars.” The University of Adelaide VC has told a California conference this is because “graduates will need the enduring attributes of an independent researcher–generic skills such as problem-solving, analysis, critical writing and the capacity to work in a team–that will allow them to adapt to several types of work, including some not yet imagined.”

Acquiring and assessing such skills are “best attained on campus from direct interaction with a lecturer, rather than on-line,” he said.

Professor Bebbington was not just floating an idea –the “small group discovery” teaching and learning model is already operating at Uni Adelaide.


Prize picks

It’s Nobel Prize time come Monday, which gives the marketing mavens at Thomson Reuters a great chance to spruik their Web of Science research metric, by announcing “citation laureates,” researchers whose work is so cited that they are “Nobel class.” Not, you understand that this is a prediction but according to TR’s Christopher King, “in the last 14 years, 39 of the selected researchers have gone on to win the prize – nine in the same year in which they were named citation laureates, 16 within two years of the distinction.”

So if anybody feels like a patriotic punt, put a few quid on the Nobel for medicine going to “citation laureate” Emeritus Professor F A P Miller from Walter and Eliza Hall, whose work revolutionised understanding of the immune system.

Still waiting

Federation U is farewelling VC David Battersby who retires at the end of the year – the Gippsland campus event was on Wednesday. But finding a replacement is taking time. While the process started in April in August Chancellor Paul Hemming told staff last month there was nothing to announce. (CMM August 4). There still isn’t. Yesterday Dr Hemming acknowledged to the Federation U community that it is “a long process for staff” but added “the recruitment is advancing well and gathering momentum with a strong field of candidates,” presumably excluding at least one who withdrew. Dr Hemming promised an announcement before Professor Battersby goes.

Seoul sister

The University of South Australia will host a King Sejong Institute, the Korean equivalent of Confucius institutes. UniSA says this will enhance its  already strong focus on research and business links with the Republic of Korea. There are 140 KSI’s around the world. The programme is named for the 15th century monarch who created the Korean alphabet.

Friends of the Three Fs

The Review of the Three Fs (aka the Ferris, Finkel, Fraser recommendations on federal tax treatment of R&D funding) is well regarded by peak higher education bodies. An “incisive response” the Group of Eight announced, “an important step,” Universities Australia asserted. The Australian Technology Network graciously declared it was “pleased”.

Understandably so. There was much for universities to like in the report (CMM yesterday). UA pointed to the proposed 20 per cent incentive for businesses working on research with publicly funded agencies. The Go8 also endorsed incentives for organisations hiring STEM PhDs. As did the ATN.

This is goods news for Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Greg Hunt – he will need supporters when the critics commence complaining about the Three Fs proposal for a $2m cap on the cash refund for research and development expenditure.


Group of Seven leads discipline rankings

The Times Higher Education 2016 World University subject rankings are out with Australian institutions rating in the global top 100 for all discipline groups.

Engineering and technology: Monash (45) UNSW (56) UniMelb (=64) UoQ (68) UniSyd(83)

Life sciences: UoQ (32) Uni Melb (37) ANU (39) UniSyd (60) UWA (67) UNSW (=88), James Cook (95)

Clinical, pre-clinical and health: UniMelb (13) UniSyd (35) Monash (41) UoQ (43) UNSW (81) ANU (=86) UWA(=86)

Computer science: ANU (40) UniMelb (42) UNSW (51) QUT (65)

Physical sciences: ANU (38) UniMelb (74) UNSW (83) Monash (97) UoQ (98)

Business and economics: ANU (36) UniMelb (39) UniSyd (51) UNSW (52) Monash (63) UoQ (73)

Social sciences: UniMelb (23) ANU (34) UniSyd (56) UNSW (66) UoQ (67) Monash (=100)

Arts and humanities: ANU (25) UniMelb (41) UniSyd (49 ) Macquarie 97

The results are not especially surprising. The Group of Eight dominates and the University of Melbourne leads the Eight, being the only member to appear among the big 100 in every discipline. Except that the Go8 is the Group of Seven, it’s the cruellest of cuts for the University of Adelaide, which did not make any of the discipline lists.

But other universities did with James Cook U 95th in the world for life sciences, QUT 65 in computing and Macquarie 97 in arts and humanities.

Bright light

There’s more bad news for South Australians interested in ways to keep the lights always on. Chief Scientist Alan Finkel estimates all the lithium ion batteries produced in 2014 could meet global electricity demand for 46 seconds. Dr Finkel was addressing the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Wednesday where he set out the global challenge to create ample low emission electricity. But lest he inspire Green deplore-a-grams the chief scientist made it clear that while Australia was strong in nuclear energy research, “the appetite for nuclear baseload is small.” So how will the world generate all the low emission electricity it needs? Dr Finkel says no one knows but is sure we will find out. “Human ingenuity is a mighty tide – and we simply have to surf on the optimal waves.”

No CMM Monday

CMM is taking Labour Day off. Back Tuesday.

the week’s winners at work

Clive Baldock is leaving the Australian Research Council, where he is executive director for STEM, physical sciences and IT. He is returning to the University of Tasmania to take up the new role of PVC R and D. Baldock’s replacement at the ARC is Stephen Buckman, director of ANU’s Research School of Physics and Engineering.

Adam Shoemaker has started as VC of Southern Cross University, he joins from Griffith U where he was academic provost.

Flinders forensic scientist Adam Linacre is the new president of the Australian New Zealand Forensic Science SocietyProfessor Linacre is an authority on developing new technologies in DNA typing.

The Royal Institution of Australia has named new Bragg Fellows, honoured for “excellence in scientific achievement and commitment to science communication.” Peter Gago is honoured for his work as a winemaker, (think Penfold’s Grange). Michael Archer, is acknowledged for his career as a museum curator and present appointment as a palaeontologist at UNSWTerry Hughes is celebrated for his career in the science of marine management. He now directs the ARC’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook U. Biochemist Zee Upton, now Singapore based, is applauded for a career as “a tissue engineer, an inventor and entrepreneur,” whose research led to the establishment of the Wound Management CRC.  British particle physicist Brian Cox is elevated for research including work at the Large Hadron Collider and for science comms on the BBC.

The Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences’ book prize short list is out: Frank BongiornoThe Eighties: the decade that transformed Australia, Klaus NeumannAcross the seas: Australia’s response to refugees and Brenda NiallMannix, (it’s a biography of the Catholic archbishop of Melbourne from 1917 to 1963).

Vice Chancellor Linda Kristjanson has transformed her management team at Swinburne U, with some senior staff leaving and others moving up. The exits include major achievers, such as Stephen Beall, who secured an enterprise agreement with the campus union, which had eluded other managers for years (CMM September 1 2015). Jennelle Kyd who created a new workload structure (CMM May 20 2015) is also going. Corporate affairs chief Andrew Dempster had already announced his exit.Stayers include Andrew J Smith taking on an enormous portfolio as VP studentsAndrew C Smith expanding his engagement role and Andrew Field becoming chief operating officer. In appointments that are Andrew-absent Rita Cincotta, now HR director becomes VP People and Culture and the CEO SarawakJanet Gregory will report direct to Professor Kristjanson. Professor Kyd will be replaced by a new hire as DVC Academic.

Barry Ninham is the Australian Academy of Science’s Matthew Flinders medallist. The award honours a researcher in the physical sciences. Professor Ninham is an emeritus professor at ANU working at the interface of physical, chemical and biological sciences. With colleagues he has developed simpler and “substantially cheaper” technologies for desalination and to clean recycled water of everything from arsenic to nuclear waste.