With acceptance comes hope

The University of Sydney Association of Professors convenes an hour-long Zoom discussion next Thursday, “how to respond to the declining role of the arts and humanities in universities.”

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

On Closing the Gap Day, Maree Meredith (Flinders U’s Poche Centre) reports on new approaches to improving health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

plus James Guthrie (Macquarie U) and Basil Tucker (Uni SA) on the “accountingisation” of research assessment. “Calculative practices and numbers become powerful forces determining the reputation of individuals, disciplines and the universities themselves and the progression of academics within them,” they argue.

with Frank Larkins (Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education) look at COVID job losses across the states and reports staff at NSW universities had the worst of it – with managements there appearing to anticipate more declines in student demand.

and Linda Corrin (Swinburne U) on cooking up a learning analytics storm. The ingredients are just the start. Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s new selection for her celebrated series, Needed know in teaching and learning.

QUT Pathways to Politics starts next month

It’s for women who want to learnt the mechanics of getting elected

In this third year of the programme one of its graduate is demonstrates what is achievable. Indigenous health policy planner Donisha Duff is standing for Labor in the Brisbane seat of Bowman.

There are now three university’s with pathways programmes, founder Uni Melbourne, QUT and UNSW.

Eight completers at Uni Melbourne have been elected to local government, four to the Victorian parliament and Katie Allen is the member for Higgins in the House of Reps.

Making data deliver for all students

Universities must ensure inclusive analytics

Data analytics and machine learning “quietly power” decision making and predictive process in universities. Which can be good for administrators but not all students, “if adopted uncritically they can also amplify social inequalities and historical injustice, often by stealth,” Bret Stephenson (La Trobe U), Andrew Harvey, (Griffith U), and Qing Huang (LT U) warn in a new report for the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

Data as oft argued, can be used for good, discovering discrimination in admissions and identifying students as individuals, not as part of an equity group but, the authors argue, “uncritical adoption, and a failure to maintain effective oversight, can result in a dramatic undermining of equity goals.” And they warn, “analytics-driven interventions may be either ineffective or even counter-productive, in some cases leading to self-fulfilling prophecies of failure.”

They recommend nine measures needed to build “inclusive analytics, including;

explicit equity protections be built into institutional data: “the ‘peril’ posed to equity interests in universities is not limited to teaching and learning activities but extends out beyond the university through pre-enrolment marketing and post-graduation employability projects and digital tracking of alumni”

diversify analytical expertise: “domain experts in non-ICT related fields – librarians, student advisers, recruitment officers, teachers/lecturers, etc. – are indispensable” as are ethics and equity practitioners

governance oversight: for example, “standing committees to oversee analytics, similar to ethics committees”

don’t build assumptions about groups into predictions and monitor projects in process for fairness

And above all there is culture, “In sum, we argue that Australian universities, and equity advocates within these institutions, should advocate for a fully democratic, and decidedly human and “in-house”, process of machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

Disclosure week at UNSW

 Starting Monday, staff must report “conflicts of interest, foreign affiliations and paid outside work”

And when the university refers to staff it means all fixed-term and continuing people. Completing the form will take 30 mins for those with nothing to declare but academics should not just paste last year’s answers. This year’s form is updated.

One clause that continues allows unrelated work, such as, “running a dog walking business,” – researchers be warned if anybody from an embassy approaches with puppy treats.

Three into one on agenda if Labor wins in SA 

Vice Chancellors could include their CVs in congrats notes to Peter Malinauskas if he is premier after the election on Saturday

The Labor leader has a long-standing policy of establishing a university merger commission (CMM November 2 2020). “The harsh truth is that each of our universities alone are too small and too undercapitalised to make it into the list of top international universities,” a policy statement says.

The commission would be “headed by an eminent commissioner with higher education experience” and tasked with deciding if a merger of the three public universities is in the interest of the state economy and would serve the welfare of South Australians.

If it is then a merger, “will be a first term priority.”

Don’t sweat the very small stuff

Australia does not have courses in nanotechnology manufacturing but it’s not a problem

The Australian National Fabrication Facility and TAFE SA report what needs to be done to, create “future-proof jobs for Australians, while making it far easier to keep manufacturing on foreign soil.”

Apparently “only a few tweaks to existing course offerings,” will do it. Good-o, although that how to do it takes a  129 page report to explain may appear admirable optimism to the uninitiated.

Appointments, achievements

of the day

Mark Billinghurst (Uni SA) is named a global top 50 researcher in augmented/virtual reality by IEEE, “the world’s largest technical professional organisation.”

of the week

Salma Ahmed (Uni Queensland) is a 2022 member of the CAS PhD/post doc programme, (it’s a division of the American Chemical Society).

Ben Colagiuri is the next head of Uni Sydney’s School of Psychology, starting January. He moves up from deputy.

Flinders U announces a new Matthew Flinders FellowOren Griffiths (Education, Psychology and Social Work) plus six Matthew Flinders Professors, * Luciano Beheregaray (evolution and conservation biology) * Justin Chalker (renewable materials) * Karin Nordstrom (Motion Vision Group) * Janni Petersen (cancer cell biology) * Nick Spencer (neurophysiology of pain) * Lily Xiao (dementia care, chronic disease management)

Lisa Kewley is the new director of Centre for Astrophysics: Harvard and Smithsonian. She will move from the ANU based Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in Three Dimensions.

Sarah Lightfoot is confirmed as CEO of UNSW Global, she has been acting in the role since August.

Werner van der Merwe joins Swinburne U as inaugural VC Innovation and Enterprise. He moves from CSIRO.

Matthew Kiernan (Uni Sydney) wins the (US) Sheila Essey Award for research on motor neurone disease.

Annette Schmiede (Uni Sydney and Uni Canberra adjunct) becomes acting CEO of the Digital Health CRC.

Margaret Sheil has a second five year term as vice chancellor of QUT.  The university locked her in early. Her first term does not expire until February next year.

Giovanni Turchini is leaving Deakin U. He will start in May as head of  Uni Melbourne’s School of Agriculture and Food.