The Mitchell Institute explains what abandoning young people to ignorance costs all of us

Plaudits of their peers: the three Aus universities academics admire

While other unis push for teaching-only staff Western Sydney decides to give them a miss

Deakin’s MOOCs of the morning


Vote one vet

The University of Sydney boasts that 14 of the 50 finalists to star in Bondi Vet are its graduates. Pshaw (and possibly piffle) replies the University of Queensland which says that 15 studied with it. Apparently, a popular vote will decide the star of the show. Present front-runner is Murdoch U vet Peter Ricci. Cottesloe Vet if he wins?

Cyber stars

Edith Cowan U and the University of Melbourne have won federal funding for academic centres of cyber security excellence.

The two universities will share $1.9m over four years “to help build the required expertise and job-ready skills needed by industry and government.”

Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham says they will encourage the study of cyber security and commercialise research.

Edith Cowan U says there are already 1000 graduates from its cyber security programme and its clients include the West Australian Police, Australian Federal Police, Cisco, Interpol, Woodside, Emirates Airlines and the federal government’s Computer Emergency Response Team.

Prestige picks

Three Australian universities are among the world’s top 70 in a global survey of academics.

 The University of Melbourne ranks 46th on a Times Higher ranking  of the world’s most highly regarded universities. The University of Sydney and ANU are also in the top 100, both in the 61-60 band.

The ranking is based on a survey of 10 500 “experienced, published researchers,” who told journal publisher Elsevier what they think.

US and UK institutions make up the global top ten, with Harvard, MIT and Stanford followed by equal ranked Cambridge and Oxford.

The next five are UCal Berkeley, Princeton, Yale, the University of Chicago and CalTech.

The University of Tokyo at 11 leads Asian universities, followed by Tsinghua (14) Peking U (17) and Kyoto (25).

Healthy honey

UTS microbiologist Nural Cokcetin is runner-up in the British Council’s three-minute Fame Lab contest at the Cheltenham Science Festival. Dr Cokcetin qualified for the world challenge when she won the Australian heat in May, describing her research on the antimicrobial and prebiotic properties of honey, (CMM May 8).

MOOCs of the morning

Deakin U is ready to run a suite of community service courses.

Deakin University has short MOOCS in the works on resume polishing, infant nutrition, dealing with diabetes and caring for the elderly. There is, among others, also one on understanding property prices, (well it would not be Australia without real estate). The courses are all offered via Future Learn.

As community services these are up to the great work done by the University of Tasmania, with MOOcs on dementia, managing addiction from the University of Adelaide, the  University of Queensland’s series on helping people with intellectual disability and Curtin U’s analytics for teachers.

As ways of demonstrating a university’s commitment to service they are impossible to beat. That they are also brilliant ways to attract prospective students to fee-paying courses is entirely coincidental.

Griffith research leaders

In the week when VC Ian O’Connor became an AC Griffith U has

 announced its own VC awards for research.

 research leadership: Paul Tacon (rock art sites)

early career research: Lyndal Bates (road policing)

mid-career/senior researcher: Vicky Avery (drug discovery)

research supervision: Cordia Chu (from the Centre for Environment and Population Health)

research group/team: Michael Good and the Laboratory for Vaccines for the Developing World

In the wilderness of acronyms

The estimable NCVER has updated its guide to training bureaucracy, no not to training, to identifying the bureaucracies and processes that make it happen, or not.

Radhika Naidu, John Stanwick and Kelly Frazer have produced a guide to the wilderness of acronyms, mausoleum of policies and labyrinth of boards and committees, agencies and authorities that have made Australian vocational education and training policy a model of incomprehensible federalism for two generations. If you feel the need to know whether Mayer followed Finn, or the other way around and whatever happened to OPCET (no, it is not a possum) you owe them a drink. They could probably do with one.

Slow growth in cultivating cash

Alumni of AsiaPacific universities are yet to embrace giving with a survey finding a life-long 2 per cent median graduate donation rate.

The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education figure is based on responders from a sample of 31Australian universities, two each from New Zealand and Singapore plus five from other countries. However, CASE suggests this is due to medians giving programme existing for just a decade, when fundraising take decades to hit 10 per cent plus success rate.

While universities focus on the standard channels, major gifts, phone and mail soliciting crowdfunding has already become a significant source, used by 37 per cent of the survey sample.

Focus off teaching-specialist roles

While universities around the country push for more teaching-only academics it’s the reverse at Western Sydney U.

In a message to staff DVC Denise Fitzpatrick says teaching-focused roles are not a viable way “to meet the needs of a large proportion of casual academic staff.” The university will phase them out with staff in them transitioning to mainstream academic roles. She has also told staff the university “continues to recognise” that an academic workload has three components, “teaching, curriculum and associated scholarship,” research and “governance and service contributions.”

Professor Fitzpatrick adds that WSU is working on a model that accommodates staff focusing on different components at various career stages.

While this differs from the push for teaching-only roles at other universities, WSU is very much on-song with the national move by managements to reduce the codification of conditions. “We don’t believe we require an enterprise agreement to stipulate how academics will work together collegially to develop and implement workload policies. We are seeking to develop an enterprise agreement that is more streamlined and clear,” Professor Fitzpatrick says.

The endless cost of absent education

Australia is creating an endless underclass with young people who do not complete Year 12 

 Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute has calculated the individual cost and economic and public funding impact of young people who do not complete school and have not engaged with education or full-time employment by their 24th birthdays. The numbers are staggering. Each of them costs the state just under $413 000 over a life-time, translating to an $18.8bn lifetime cost for the whole cohort.

The answer is education, but getting the 37 000 young people who left school early in 2014 into the education and training system is a huge and undoubtedly expensive task. But it’s cheaper than leaving them to rot. If there was case for a HEPPP-style programme that designs schemes to engage the disengaged the Mitchell makes it.