plus Wollongong ranks for robots

and innovation: more talk than tech

Classics suit 

John Dawkins tell The Fin that we need teaching –only universities, (we could call them Colleges of Advanced Education) and Peter Noonan wants an independent public agency to oversight funding (we could call it the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission). As fashionista Iris Apfel says, “if you hang around long enough, everything comes back.”

None of this will surprise Labor innovation spokesman Kim Carr, whose support for a higher education commission and idea of teaching-specific institutes, like his immaculate suits, are timeless.


Monash piles in at Peninsula

Just six months after abandoning Berwick (CMM March 8) Monash University is making a major investment in its other outer-urban base, the Peninsula Campus at Frankston.

Last night Monash announced $20m over five years, “to set a new standard of excellence in teaching, research and collaboration in allied health, primary care, education and business.”

“The five year strategy represents the start of a new era in the life of this dynamic campus and our engagement with the Peninsula community,” Vice Chancellor Margaret Gardner said.

The university will establish new a new chair of medicine and research centres in aged care, disability and injury. The university is also “investigating” a cross-disciplinary domestic violence research unit.

Business and education will also expand study programmes, “both faculties underpin the future of the campus,” Professor Gardner said

Home away from home

There’s a new education exporter looking for sales in a big Australian market. China’s Xiamen University has a campus in Malaysia, which is enrolling 400 international students, all from China.


Complementary research

The University of Sydney has received $140 000 “from a group of prominent Australian pharmacy owners.” The money will fund a PhD scholarship now being advertised to “to promote the integrity of the pharmacist as a public health professional.” The university also has a chair in integrative medicine funded last year by $1.3m from the Blackmores Institute to research, “the impact of complementary medicines in health outcomes, including how complementary and alternative medicines interact with the current standard treatments prescribed by medical professionals.” No doubt PhD student and professor will have much to talk about.

Innovation: more talk than tech

Is the government doing innovation all wrong? And no the answer is not, Canberra should spend more money. The problem is less incentives to create new technology as encouraging people who can imagine new ways of using it to talk to each other. This does not occur easily or often, as everybody knows who has ever suggested people in discipline A should talk to people in Discipline B on another corridor. According to economist Jason Potts (RMIT) an absence of innovation is generally framed as market failure, which is addressed by government intervention. However he suggests creating new technology is less a problem than the absence of cultures that cooperate to “discover new opportunities in the early phases of a new technology. ”

“The challenge is to create governance institutions to solve this knowledge problem, and overcome the various coordination problems and hazards that stand in the way. This means dealing with problems of identifying and minimising transactions costs to arrive at effective and efficient governance institutions for pooling distributed innovation resources in order to create new knowledge.”

Potts sets out four models of cultures that create innovation as distinct from technology and concludes the challenge is to develop “the market expression of ideas about what shapes value.” In essence, innovation occurs when innovators find and then work with each other, which is a four-step process.

“First, it must solve the collective action problem of social cooperation; and then, second, solve the collective action problems of distributed knowledge; and third, specialised knowledge; and then fourth, solve the problem of local cooperation.”


Where credit is demanded

The Victorian Government is taking credit for growth in international student numbers in the state leading to a $600 bn increase in earnings from overseas, to $5.8bn. How the Vics arrived at the figure is not explained nor why it is due to what Minister for International Education, Steve Herbert describes as “our efforts to grow the sector.” How fortunate for the federal government and individual universities that the Vics are on the case.

What makes a market

Explanations of the VET FEE HELP shambles suggest the behaviour of spivs and shonks rorting the system demonstrates market failure. But this is like deploring the behaviour of vampires after they are given the keys to the blood bank. The systemic market failures were utterly inadequate regulation of providers and the absence of the information prospective students needed to make informed decisions. Rod Camm from the Australian Council for Private Education and Training, made the point about the failure of regulation last week (CMM September 20). And now he is  calling for information on VET courses that people can actually use.

“In an age of digital disruption, it is not reasonable to expect students to navigate complex government-centric web sites and reports. A student friendly solution involving interactive apps and web sites will be more effective. The approach taken in the higher education sector, including through the QILT initiative, provides guidance on a possible direction.”

Too right, the Quality Indicators in Learning and Teaching website is immensely useful for people who want to choose a university – that the states and commonwealth have not combined to create an equivalent guide to training providers is disgraceful.


Illawarra AI

The University of Wollongong team has won National Instruments’ 2016 autonomous robotics competition. The challenge for teams from 22 Australian and New Zealand universities was to build a robot that can navigate around a hospital delivering medicines and other such tasks (CMM August 22).