DECRA could be today

The Australian Research Council announces applications are open for 2021 Discovery Early Career Research Awards. But a learned reader points out that DECRA 2020 results are not announced. Word, is they will be today.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning Dirk Mulder on the good, bad (that’s China) and ok-ish results in new international student numbers, here  .

And James Smith (Menzies School of Health Research-Darwin) on the need for a performance framework for Indigenous HE outcomes, here 

A chair of one’s own

“One of the joys of being dean of arts at Uni Melbourne is that we have, in partnership with (the state) Library of Victoria, the fully endowed Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature, which puts us at the forefront of national conversations about the future of Australian literature.” Russell Goulbourne, via Twitter yesterday. Coincidentally, Uni Sydney was reported Wednesday as in need of external funding for its chair in Australian literature.

Flinders U to pay members of council

A bill to amend the university’s act, is in the SA parliament

It would empower Flinders U’s Council to, “from time to time, determine that a member of the Council be remunerated.”

The University says this is needed because, “university council members like other board members carry significant responsibilities and risk of personal liability, and remuneration reflects the increasing complexity of governing council roles and considerable time commitments.”

To which the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union responds; “universities exist to serve the public interest and council members should serve council for no other reason than to serve the public good. Personal profit should not come into it. This legislative change appears to signal the further shift of the university away from being a not-for-profit education provider to a fully-fledged corporate entity, with a board of directors, director’s fees, and corporate allowances.”

Flinders U is setting no precedent – the university states 33 universities, “have the ability to remunerate their board members.”

But which ones and by how much? The Flinders U bill states council, “may fix different amounts of remuneration for different members of the council according to the office held by the member or any other factor the council considers relevant.”

Heaven forfend that council members ever get the idea that while they are all equal, some are more equal than others.

Flying too high

La Trobe U fully funds student travel costs to Vietnam or China as part of its international sustainability experience subject

It’s a summer semester unit taken at the end of first year and just the thing for undergrads, “passionate about making a difference to our world.” Apparently, the subject, “will expose you to new cultures and industries while helping tackle the global issues of sustainability and environmental impact.” Great move by LT U to support students.  Trouble is, a learned reader suggests, getting there requires a long flight, not the most environmentally sustainable mode of travel. Are there not dirigibles available from the university’s air-wing,

Lobbies quiet on Coaldrake

No complaints counts as praise for the review of provider category standards

University lobbies are quick with policy comments, (often along the line of, “while the Treasurer announcing all Commonwealth revenue will be spent on universities is welcome, more resources are needed if Australia is to be internationally competitive). But responses to Peter Coaldrake’s review of provider category standards (CMM yesterday) were few and brief.

Universities Australia was on the record with an hour of the review’s release, welcoming the recommendation that research continues to be foundation for requirement of universities (CMM yesterday).

But that was about it from the major university groups. “Provider category review consistent with expected outcomes. The uni definition tightening goes with the argument that research is crucial to the role. The real interest is whether the national institute category goes ahead and the treatment of those within it,” Conor King from the Innovative Research Universities tweeted yesterday. “That’s it?” CMM asked. “What is there to say? A good, plausible report,” he replied.

High and no cost quals

The government is legislating to allow aviation students to borrow more and teachers in remote schools to pay nothing 

A Bill before parliament will allow students in flying courses access to the same HECS HELP borrowing as medicine, dentistry and veterinary science, $152 000 this year. Access to the higher cap for people studying to be commercial pilots is said to be necessary to cover training courses and Civil Aviation Safety Authority ratings.

But people who teach for four years in a very remote location will have the HELP debt wiped on their first teaching qualification. John Halsey (Flinders U), author of the government’s January 2018 review of regional, rural and remote education, backed the move yesterday, “it is very encouraging to see the Australian Government continuing to focus on the complex challenge of attracting and retaining teachers in very remote schools and communities.”

Union to make its case for a hearing in James Cook U v Ridd

The court will hear its arguments for intervening

James Cook U is appealing the Federal Court judgement that it was wrong to dismiss Peter Ridd for his criticisms of research at the university. The court found he was protected by academic comment provisions in the applicable JCU enterprise agreement.  The National Tertiary Education Union has applied for leave to intervene –the union has long argued that the best free-speech protection for university staff is to have it codified in enterprise agreements.

Justice Rangiah directs the NTEU to present its submission on why it should be allowed to intervene on the enterprise agreement issues in JCU’s appeal by December 20, with a ruling at a date to be fixed. The university is required to respond to any submissions made by Dr Ridd and the union’s draft submission by January 20.

So, the union is in now, but could still be out.

What happens will be watched closely way beyond JCU – there are university managements which would prefer protections for staff to speak out to be in institutions’ codes of contact – rather than in enterprise agreements.

ASQA cops a federer of a serve in the Senate

Stirling Griff says the Australian Skills Quality Authority was created in 2011 but “issues in the VET sector” have not improved

Senator Griff (Centre Alliance – South Australia) pointed to “inconsistent course duration and audit unpredictability” as “two of the main concerns that remain entrenched eight years later.”

“The impact of both is huge. It means that potentially many students each year have been receiving substandard learning from training providers, and that includes both TAFEs and private providers. Poor regulation and inconsistent course duration has led to many VET certificates being looked upon by some employers as having little or no value. Students of these courses are paying good money to study and to receive their VET certificates, only to find out when they try to secure employment that their certificate is worth nothing.”

Speaking in the Senate yesterday, he cited course quality issues in aged care and early childhood education and criticised ASQA over its regulation of Registered Training Organisation.

“Much needs to be done to lift the VET sector, and ASQA needs to step up to the plate,” Senator Griff said.

Appointments, achievements

Mike Archer (UNSW) wins the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology​’s Romer-Simpson Medal for lifetime achievement

Also at UNSW DVC Enterprise Brian Boyle becomes a professor emeritus

Monash U announces the Vice Chancellor’s staff and student Diversity and Inclusion awards. Staff honoured are; Nick McGuigan, Alessandro Ghio, Sudha Mani, Lisa Powell (Monash Business School) and Vivienne Mak (Pharmacy)

The International Education Association of Australia annual awards go to,

Distinguished contribution to international education: John Hudzik (Michigan State U)

Tony Adams rising star: Julian O’Shea, founder Outbound (“practice-based learning programs for entrepreneurs and university students”)

InnovationCraig Cowdrey, Christopher Marr, Peter Burnheim, Sonder (“24-seven virtual and in-person support for times when you feel unsafe”)

Best practice: James Martin, Insider Guides

Outstanding PhD thesis: Alexander Stutz, Internationalisation of the medical curriculum: a multiple case study of German and Australian medical schools (QUT)


PM’s Prizes for Science

Mathematician Cheryl Praeger was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science last night. The UWA emeritus professor was the first woman president of the Australian Mathematical Society. According to UWA, she was the first pure mathematician to win an ARC Federation Fellowship (2007-2012) and the first mathematician to be  WA’s scientist of the year in 2009.  UWA adds her mathematical work features in more than 400 journal articles, and calls her, “one of the most successful academics in the southern hemisphere.”

“Maths really holds the answer to anything we want to do in life,” Professor Praeger said.

Other award winners last night include

Innovation: Peter Czabotar, David Huang, Guillaume Lessene, Andrew Roberts (Walter and Eliza Hall)

Life Scientist: Laura Mackay (Peter Doherty Institute)

Physical Scientist: Elizabeth New (Uni Sydney)