Plus low growth wages to blow uni budgets

And why HECS helps

App of the Day

Tech developer b2Cloud has won the health category in The Design 100 Aus app awards for DreamLab, created for the Garvan Institute. The app networks Android smartphones left on over-night with owner-donated data available to “solve a tiny piece of the research puzzle” of different cancers. Brilliant.


No growth

The feds fund higher education grants according to a formula based on the CPI plus the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services Labour Price Index. However, the government, being keen to save cash, foreshadowed in the forward estimates dropping the generally faster moving latter (CMM May 10 2016 and May 23 2014). But maybe they won’t bother. The PSTS LPI increased by 1.6 per cent in the year to March, compared to 2.1 per cent for all industries.

All of a sudden the National Tertiary Education Union’s wage claim of 3.75 per cent per annum for four years in Enterprise Agreement Round Seven looks just a bit harder to fund. Last month the union explained the claim on the basis of the RBA forecasting 3 per cent inflation and that a “15 per cent salary increase over four years is required to ensure thatAustralian university salaries remain internationally competitive.”  (CMM April 1).

Lager, we have lift-off

Thanks to a learned Curtin U reader for pointing to a  talk next Wednesday by that institution’s Professor Andrew Walsh on whether beer can be made in space. CMM suspects it would be cheaper to buy a slab here and send it skywards via Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Essential information

With a week to go the Productivity Commission has received nine, just nine! submissions to its inquiry into the nation’s education evidence base. And quite right too, imagine how inconvenient hard data informing debates is for everybody with an interest that needs vesting. CMM hopes that even now  detachments of dean and platoons of professors are proofing their submissions.

And if you think this does not matter, consider the warning from the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership in its excellent submission; “it is impossible to reliably answer some basic questions such as: is teacher supply likely to match demand for teachers overall and in particular locations and subject areas, to what extent are teachers teaching subjects in which they have no formal qualifications (and) do some initial teacher education programs produce graduates who are more likely to remain in the profession than others?”

AITSL also proposes a national minimum dataset.

Still not convinced? Then consider Professor Stephen Zubrick and colleagues from the Australian Research Council (succinctly named) Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course’s submission that there is plenty of data out there, it just isn’t shared across jurisdictions or analysed effectively. They also warn what happens when data is politicised “for example by linking school funding or teacher pay to NAPLAN results or attendance data.” Which is why the Productivity Commission inquiry is essential; good and more data drives out shonky stats.

DIGITAL MARKETING Strategies for Higher Education

First train to Flinders

First the Libs promise a train to Flinders University (a 650m extension of an existing line) and now an entrepreneur has plans for a elevated “sky rail,” running from the lower car park to the campus hub. The best the competition at Uni SA and U of Adelaide can do is back yet another plan for a CBD tram extension.

HECS help

Australia rates sixth in the world for the cost of bachelors and masters degrees according to a new OECD report. On 2014 figures the UK, Korea, Japan, the US and Canada charged undergraduate students more per year. Korea, the US and UK charge more for masters. It could be worse. Australia and NZ have above OECD average HE entry rates despite high fees, which means, the reports suggests; “charging high level of tuition fees compared to the OECD average, while simultaneously giving students opportunities to benefit from comprehensive financial aid systems, can be an effective way for countries to increase access to tertiary education, make efficient use of limited public funds, and acknowledge the significant private returns that students receive from tertiary education.”

Unless of course you do make HE free and tax graduates hard as many European nations do. “Striking the right balance between providing sufficient support to institutions and maintaining access and equity is challenging,” the OECD helpfully suggests.

Selling success

A new QS ranking finds the US, UK, Germany, Australia and Canada have the five best overall higher education systems in the world. The finding is founded on a bunch of QS rankings and as such is as good or otherwise as that data. Will some or another agency spend money advertising this offshore, you ask. Does the pope wear a beanie CMM replies.


Stepping up for women in STEM

The University of Melbourne is recruiting three women for continuing senior teaching and research positions in applied mathematics, pure mathematics and statistics. “The university plan seeks to increase the diversity of the workforce and the representation of women in areas they have been traditionally under-represented” the school states. And yes, the gender restriction is covered by the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act. The University of Melbourne is piloting the Science in Australia Gender Equity programme, which is applying the Athena SWAN charter, created in the UK, “in response to the chronic under-representation of women in science leadership,” (CMM June 30 2015). The charter’s third principle commits signatories to; “addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines and professional and support functions … including the particularly high loss rate of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.”

Aspiring to iniquity

A learned reader wonders what possible collective could accommodate 80 VCs and chancellors (CMM yesterday) and proposes an aspiration, for optimists or an iniquity, for realists.

A most martial mandarin

The excellent ANU Press has released a collection of essays in honour of Paul Dibb, a scholar, strategist and sometime spook (who knew!) who has shaped and influenced Australian defence and foreign policy thinking for decades. While the occasional bloviator still criticises Professor Dibb’s enormous role in setting defence direction in the ’80s essays this collection demonstrates he is a policy maker informed by scholarship and engaged on the most fundamental task of any servant of the people – the defence of the Commonwealth. A snip at $35 in print or free as a PDF. Open access is what ANUP is all about.

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