Well, that’s a relief

Not everyone spent their time in lockdown last year making a gigantic inflatable sculpture of Dr Jane Goodall’s chimpanzee David Greybeard,” RMIT breaks the bad news yesterday, via Twitter,

Be not bereft. “artist and RMIT alumnus Lisa Roet did.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

 Kim Carr calls for a back to basics in research. Senator Carr suggests ministers “do not understand the history of science, and of scholarship more broadly.”

 John H Howard on what was wrong with the international student boom, “rather than disrupting the Australian higher education system, (it) has contributed to its distortion – away from the needs and requirements of Australian students, industry and the community,”  here. Part two in a CMM series.

Judie Kay and Sonia Ferns on why we need a national approach to Work Integrated Learning. Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s selection this week for her series, Needed now in Teaching and Learning.”

Marnie Hughes-Warrington (Uni SA) and friends on the PhD as start-up, the doctorate is just starting to hit its stride.

 Carolyn Evans (Griffith U VC) and Adrienne Stone, with Jade Roberts (both Uni Melbourne), address the big free speech issues on campus in their new book Open Minds. There’s an extract here.

La Trobe U management warns up to 300 more jobs must go

“The challenges we face have not diminished,” VC John Dewar said last month (CMM February 19). He meant it

The university expects revenue to be $702m this year, $78m less than 2020 actuals, Professor Dewar told staff yesterday. And so, to deliver the target surplus of $11m, costs will need to be $691m, $97m lower than last year. This is on top of 2020’s $48m in savings .

That means more job cuts. Last year there were 300 full-time equivalent voluntary redundancies (translating to 335 people).

This year LT U needs to lose another 250-300 FTE.

Dirk Mulder warns: China and Australia at a fork in the international education road


There will be no going back if the wrong path is taken

Robert Frost’s 1916 poem “Two Roads” classically speaks of life-choice, of reaching a fork in the road, where compromise is not possible.

China and Australia are just about there, having to make a choice on whether Chinese students will study here or in other countries. And once made it will be hard to retrace the path.

The recent Chinese state media warning against studying in Australia (CMM 8 Feb) and the education ministry’s announcement that Australian partnerships in China have “insufficient investment in high-quality education” (CMM 15 Feb) are a precursor to what may come.  This week there was more.

CMM understands Austrade will not participate in the China International Education Exhibition Tour (20 and 21 March) which it had long planned to be part of. While details are yet to come to light, it appears the cause is a breakdown in relations between Chinese and Australian officials.

In a more direct turn of events, education agents in tier two and three cities in China have recently received communication from the local state education bureaus, expressing concerns around the promotion of Australian Education.

As Frost wrote; “two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference.”

Let us hope the course governments take over coming weeks ensures a commitment to students and that the deep relationships that have been formed between our countries over many, many years can continue. With both sides clearly posturing on trade we desperately need a senior statesman who understand the implications of present events, for many years to come, to choose the path.

We are approaching a point where there is no turning back.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent


So, they can slam-son

The Sacramento Kings (their majesties play basketball) announce a partnership with Australian Catholic U’s Sports Performance, Recovery, Injury and New Technologies research centre. The King’s think is it a “natural fit.”  Bit of a stretch distance wise though.

Uni Tas “long-term sustainable” says VC

Management seems pleased with the 2020 result

“With the collective efforts of everyone (the university) delivered on our strategies, lived within the financial guard rails, met a better than break-even result and beat our cash target,” a staff presentation states.  With savings made exceeding a $28.7m decline in international revenue, the university had a core operating result of $2.7m.

And with around 200 staff gone through VRs and early retirement, VC Rufus Black appears positive about the future for the survivors.

“What we have been doing over the last 12 months is making ourselves more long-term stable. … we are at the size we want to be, we are at a long-term sustainable size,” he told ABC Radio in Hobart, the other day.”

With enterprise agreement negotiations this year a learned reader wonders how long management talking up finances and not crying-poor will last. “Staff gave up a 2 per cent pay rise during COVID-19 last year (CMM June 24) they will want something in return for that sacrifice.”

New ways in (open)ish access

CSIRO announces it “has begun the journey” towards open access

CSIRO says it has signed agreements with discipline publishers, plus journal giant Elsevier, “to publish CSIRO science for readers to access for free.” Which is good, but is the organisation picking up publication fees, (Elsevier is big on gold OA)? CMM asked. “Agreements that CSIRO has entered into for publishing its own research allow Gold Open Access publishing,” an organisation representative replied.

CSIRO Publishing (“editorially independent”) is also offering OA, signing agreements with institutions covered by the Council of Australian University Librarians. These appear to be of the pay to publish kind, except when they aren’t.

CSIRO charges open access fees, to recover peer review and publication costs. However, these don’t apply for some of its journals, if authors are “from an eligible institution.” But all authors can deposit the accepted version of a manuscript in an institutional repository or on a personal website without an embargo period.

MIT makes the monograph open access

Humanities academics wedded to books as in paper between covers books have been able to avoid the OA argument by pointing out it applies to articles generally in STEM fields.

MIT has done something about that, announcing Direct to Open, a “first-of-its-kind sustainable framework for open access monographs,”

The deal is that from next year all new MIT monographs will be available on its e-book platform. A library that wants a copy will be able to buy access, not just for itself but the world.

It’s an alternative to “the traditional market-based business model” for monographs, which is now unsustainable without subsidies. MIT suggests monograph sales are now 300-500 units, down from 1500-1700 in the ‘90s.

MIT will report progress in a year, for other institutions to follow, “with the aim of making it possible for many more scholarly monographs published each year by university and other mission-driven presses to be discovered, accessed, and shared broadly.”

Getting what research institutions have already paid for

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has kicked US$2m into  The Lens, which “ingests, cleans, aggregates, normalises” and serves over 225m plus scholarly works, 127m plus global patent records and more than 370m patent sequences. “Research institutions and their funders currently pay private corporations almost a billion dollars a year for tools to discover, analyse and measure data around research publications – even those they have published or funded,” The Lens states.

Personal accounts stay free but there are now, “low cost licences” for an open data based toolkit, “that bridges science and business.”

 Dolt of the day

Is CMM. Dr Prashan S M Karunaratne’s (Macquarie U) first name was missed in Monday’s issue.

UNSW does free speech protection its way

UNSW is circulating a consultation draft of an academic freedom and freedom of speech code, which it thinks superior to the French Model Code about to be legislated by the Commonwealth Government

What UNSW says: “We therefore propose to adopt the Code, except where it offers less protection of freedom of speech than the UNSW position. Where that is the case it has been modified to reflect our position that freedom of speech at UNSW is no different to that elsewhere in Australia and is only limited by the law,” VC Ian Jacobs tells staff.

Sounds straightforward but Professor Jacobs is not just nailing his colours to the mast on principle, he is standing firm against the wishes of former education minister Dan Tehan.

Where this comes from: Last year Minister Tehan commissioned Sally Walker to assess how universities were going in implementing Robert French’s code. Professor Walker gave nine gold stars, 14 elephant stamps and four ticks to various university codes, but six “had policies that were not aligned.” Mr Tehan responded that “he strongly urged” the six to “take action” by year end.

To which UNSW replied, ““UNSW is totally committed to academic freedom and freedom of speech and our existing policies and procedures go further than the Model Code’s requirements, which impose certain limits,” (CMM December 9).

What happens next: With Labor signalling it will not oppose the bill, passage through the Senate seems certain.

And that might be that, unless Mr Tehan’s successor Alan Tudge wants to take UNSW to task. The reasons not to are obvious, a dispute with a university which declares itself in furious agreement with the broad purpose of the bill is a waste of political oxygen on an issue that most voters do not care about.

Unless of course the minister sees an opportunity in whatever the High Court decides in Ridd v James Cook University, a case seen by many, including coalition supporters, as a test of academic freedom.

If the court upholds the Federal Court ruling that JCU was within its rights to dismiss Dr Ridd for misconduct for his strong criticism of the university and some of its researchers, his supporters, including federal coalition members and senators, will demand the government act to protect academics who wish to speak-up but fear being sacked. And if the High Court finds for Dr Ridd, whatever its reasons, his supporters will demand Mr Tudge enforce  what is now his free speech legislation as is, to ensure no other academic has to go through his long legal process.