“The bright coloration of rosellas can be predicted from space,” Deakin U announcement yesterday. Good news for everybody wondering what to do with that satellite they bought on whim at an Aldi special buy.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning – David Myton’s regular wrap on what’s happening in the world of highered.

Union says Ramsay link risks Uni Wollongong’s reputation

University of Wollongong management says the Ramsay Western Civ deal is done and an approved degree will start next year (CMM yesterday). But the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union says the approval process is not complete and calls on Council (which meets tomorrow) to “address the actions of the vice chancellor in the process of approving this proposal.”

The union has assembled a detailed brief arguing management has not met all the requirements of the  Fast Track Approval process, invoked to have the new Ramsay-funded degree in-place for the 2020 academic year.

The core of the comrades’ claim is that the degree fails to meet the policy’s clause 4.1.b, which states there must be, “a demonstrated benefit to the university in fast-tracking the proposal without compromising: the reputation of the university.”

But while there is considerable criticism of the Ramsay Centre’s academic approach and relationship with UoW in social and legacy media, university management appears to have anticipated this argument – including academic endorsements of the degree content in its announcement.

App of the Day

Researchers are adding sensors to the Fitbit exercise monitor to measure wearers’ skin humidity and temperature. UNSW urban climatologist Negin Nazarian, with Clayton Miller (National University of Singapore) and Fitbit developers intend to create a measure of conditions, customised to an individual exerciser’s environment, which can also send data, crowdsourcing environmental information. CMM hopes Dr Nazarian writes the user-manual when they launch, CMM struggles to understand the info Fitbit sends him.

Calm sailing at Flinders U

There is no faulting management and union at Flinders U for keeping issues separate. The two sides have slugged it out over a restructure for years but have kept enterprise bargaining out of it. And now, National Tertiary Education Union branch president Andrew Miller tells staff, that the EB year “has started positively”.

“We are very close now, with important discussions taking place to finalise academic workloads and discipline procedures (both with proper safeguards). Salary and superannuation will be discussed at the next meeting. That means we’re close. As ever, the Flinders bargaining team will not settle for a second-rate agreement.”

Possible without federalism

Across the ditch the Adern Government will bringing 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics into a NZ Institute of Skills and Technology. “Instead of each campus being limited by what it can afford to deliver, it could leverage the resources of the whole Institute with a mix of face-to-face, online and blended learning,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins, says. Helps when you don’t have to convince state governments.

Mining research strikes gold

The feds have opened the 7th round of Cooperative Research Centre Projects –short-term industry-led collaborations to quickly develop new technologies and solve specific problems. The new round is for mineral exploration. Experts approved yesterday, with the CRC Association’s Tony Peacock saying, “there is a massive amount to do to build on Australia’s quite incredible natural advantages in this sector.” And the Australian Academy of Science welcomed the round as advancing its prospecting proposals for “non-bulk” minerals notably, copper, cobalt and rare earth metals, that “can’t be easily found using conventional exploration approaches.”

In what might be a coincidence, but could be wily Kim Carr across his shadow portfolios, Labor also announced a minex initiative. In government, an Australian Future Mines Centre, will, “co-ordinate exploration work and lead the scientific research and development necessary to explore under deep cover.” The $23m funding will come via the Australian Research Council.

The science academy also liked this one. “Australia needs new geoscience, technology and infrastructure to boost the rate of discoveries for base and precious metals and deliver Australia’s major new mines of the future,” the Academy’s Phil McFadden says.

China’s English language market: huge but hard  

The good news is that hundreds of millions of people in China want to learn English, the less great outcome is they like to study at home, on-line, with enrolments increasing from five to 25m in 2008-17.

New research for peak ELICOS provider, English Australia accordingly counsels caution; “providers need to recognise the result-oriented approach and consider developing a product that delivers short-term results, thereby avoiding a long tail of dissatisfied customers who could undermine the benefits of a standalone ELICOS program.”

Even so, China now provides 24 per cent, around 45 000, of English-language learners in Australia.

The federally-funded research was undertaken by Austrian researchers, StudentMarketing and a comprehensive resource it is too.

Iron-persons at Defence Science

Defence Science and Technology is doubling a research fund for universities working on “enhancing the cognitive and physical performance and resilience of military personnel,” which started with $4m in 2016. UNSW, Deakin U, Victoria U and Uni Canberra are already part of the programme.

Targeted research areas include physical and psychological augmentation, which sounds all  Tony Stark, but undoubtedly isn’t.