Minister Pyne has made a friend

A word with Amanda

What a bit of luck! The Academy of Science has convened “an eclectic group of 60 of the country’s most eminent thinkers from a diverse range of disciplines,” “to plan for the future of Australia.” And one of them is Commission of Audit member Amanda Vanstone. It’s an opportunity to explain the importance of education funding I suspect many of her colleagues will take up.

In the money

At the beginning of the year Tony Abbott made it plain that he was a friend to medical research, which may be why he ensured his name, along with Health Minister Peter Dutton, was on yesterday’s announcement of $559m in National Health and Medical Research Council grants. Despite suggestions last night that grant timing was really a budget cut (yesterday’s announcement is said to be down on Labor’s comparable number) this is one commitment the government is keen to keep. In fact the PM’s position was good news back then for the research elite and it is good news now – with Group of Eight universities picking up a swag of cash. Melbourne University and Monash accounted for $145m in grants between them. Add in the other G8 institutions and the sandstones picked up close to $350m. Then there are the specialist institutes, which received around $120m meaning there was not much left for new medical schools and other research agencies – some 25 scored nothing at all. Overall 19 per cent of applications were successful with the big winners being the Menzies School of Health Research (37 per cent successful applications,), the Macfarlane Burnet Institute (34 per cent) the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (33 per cent) and the Mater MRI in Brisbane (32 per cent). According to the Association of Medical Research Institutes, which was lightening fast with its analysis, 42 per cent of the money went to Victoria, 26 per cent to NSW and nearly 16 per cent to Queensland. Overall funding for salaries was better, with a 30 per cent success rate. While females secured just a third of grants, over half the early career fellowships went to women.

Eternal optimism

Jeannie Rea points out that if the government introduces the university funding cuts, which Labor announced in April but did not legislate, before the new Senate sits Christine Milne and Bill Shorten would have the numbers to block them. Well, it’s not completely impossible.

Oh good, another committee

The NSW government is seeking submissions to its plan for StudyNSW, an agency designed to claw international student market share from other states. In 2011 NSW’s education export share was 37.3 per cent, down on the 10 year 38.1 per cent pa average. Apparently StudyNSW “will be lean and agile” (this must be why the discussion paper devotes so much space to governance models). But what will it do? Well there is the usual, a marketing strategy and a web presence, (hosted on Austrade’sFuture Unlimited,” site) and the potential for meetings, many meetings. But does NSW need a state strategy at all? The reason for going with Austrade online might be a clue. “State-based international education websites are not cost-effective as students consult country and institutional websites, not state-based ones.”

Money not talking

National Tertiary Education unionists at UWS Parramatta were out yesterday, citing ten reasons for industrial action- all to do with work conditions. And they have not even started arguing about money.

What a coincidence 

Education Minister Chris Pyne’s call on TEQSA to reduce red tape was selectively released on Tuesday afternoon, just when the quality agency’s annual report went public. The report includes a slab on reducing red tape, quite a sizeable stuff. But from what the minister made clear yesterday it looks like a case of too much too late.

Spreading himself about

In his Farewell Address yesterday the modest Bob Carr announced he was taking up a part time appointment at the University of Sydney’s Southeast Asia Study Centre, the subject’s “premier interdisciplinary centre of academic excellence.” He is also going to be an adjunct professor at UNSW, “where I look forward to the opportunity to work through the lessons I have learned as premier and foreign minister about Australia’s engagement with Asia, and especially China”. Do you reckon he will call himself professor?

Pleased with Pyne

Australian Catholic University Vice Chancellor Greg Craven piled on the praise for Chris Pyne in an Aus oped yesterday. “Pyne has a healthy suspicion of adolescent achievement as the guarantee of lifelong good teaching. Instead he believes great teachers have a vocation and you can’t program a vocation,” he wrote. Professor Craven should know, ACU has one of the largest teacher education faculties in the country and not all its students are high academic achievers. The VC is also pleased that Mr Pyne wants to reduce red tape in education because it burdens school teachers and students to no good purpose. “All the while, the very experts who devised the regulations and wrote the tests grimly tell us things are getting worse,” Professor Craven added. Good-oh, but where do the officious experts hail from? From university education faculties is often where, except ACU’s of course.

Beginning as he means to go on

Shadow minister for universities Kim Carr denounces delays in Future Fellowship applications yesterday, via Twitter. “Delaying fellowships shows govt’s chaotic approach to public admin w real impacts 4 ppl who need security& certainty.” Chaos, or the time caretaker conventions, elections and cabinet-making take? Good to see the senator settling happily into opposition.

Glutton for punishment 

After ten years as University of Adelaide VC James McWha has obviously not had enough of running universities. He is the new vice chancellor at the University of Rawanda. Can’t fault his sense of adventure.

Make of it what you MOOC

It’s as if the European Commission does not quite know what to make of MOOCS but wants to appear involved, just in case, so they have released a list of how many are being taught where. The Spaniards lead with 83. No. I have no idea whether this is significant.