Monash U lays it on thick

“There’s a certain feeling you get from working at Monash University. It’s the feeling that you’re a part of something special. Something significant. So, if you’re looking for the next chapter in your career, it’s here,” MU recruitment page. With a sales-sauce like that, a learned reader remarks, the “certain feeling” may be embarrassment.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Les Kirkup (UTS) makes a (strong) case for the textbook. “A good textbook represents a coherent, lucid and authoritative distillation of years of consideration by the author(s) of – let’s not shy away from the phrase – discipline-focussed content.” This week’s addition to Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in Teaching and Learning.

Plus, Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on education-focused academics    “As I have watched the initiatives unfold in my institution I have been delighted again and again by the intended and unintended consequences.”

And, James Guthrie (Macquarie U) on the case of the disappearing casuals. Professor Guthrie explains how changes in reporting practise makes it hard to find how many staff in Victoria’s universities lost jobs last year. That’s staff as in people, not “full-time equivalents.”

Entrepreneur envy

“Israel is perhaps the most dynamic, innovative economy in the world. The Israeli success story is less about government schemes than it is about the approach and culture of businesses and universities in the countries. Education Minister Alan Tudge, speech, Uni Melbourne, February 26.

Good-o, except, a learned reader points out, that last year the Israeli Central Bureau of Stats reported 2017 start-ups there as being much the same as Australia and New Zealand, with a better rate of licensing by Australian researchers.

Libraries call for “more affordable” content

The Council of Australian University Librarians warns publishers, previous purchasing “can no longer be maintained”

 CAUL explains that despite some modest financial surpluses, universities and other members “have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic” and, unlike in the US, did not receive “significant government funding.”

“For many of our members, the level of purchasing previously undertaken by the university library sector can no longer be maintained. The reality is that scholarly content and other providers will need to move to more affordable and creative offerings to optimise access to resources and content essential for student success and excellent research outcomes,” CAUL chair Jill Benn (UWA) says.

The council calls on “vendors,” “to provide new and innovative strategies for sustainable business models.”

Feds asks experts for standard uni-industry research contracts

A bunch of research admin and intellectual property experts are invited to join a working group to create a standard contract for uni-industry research partnerships and technology licences

Commonwealth agency IP Australia is involved, with Education Minister Alan Tudge’s university research commercialisation taskforce engaging with the idea. Standard contracts that all unis would use is an idea that fits with the government’s Keep It Simple, Scientists thinking and addresses one of the reasons partnering with research organisations can get too hard for business to bother with. An entrepreneur who has done deals with universities describes being involved in a Linkage Grant proposal, which captured them in a 250-page Australian Research Council contract.

However, as well as giving research offices’ conniptions, experts warn businesses might not welcome standardised terms. The UK Lambert Agreement model, is not overwhelmingly embraced by industry there.  IP Australia already has  “tools and model contracts aimed at facilitating the collaboration process,” which learned readers say are not universally popular.


More jobs to go at La Trobe U

Staff targeted will get the word this month

A long-scheduled redundancy round starts this month to deal with finances expected to be worse this year than last. In February Vice Chancellor John Dewar told staff “the challenges we face have not diminished” (CMM February 19).

They will follow 335 people taking voluntary redundancies (300 FTE) as part of COVID-19 savings last year (CMM March 5), plus departures under two separate restructures (CMM July 17 and August 14 2020).

Staff backed Professor Dewar last year, voting for temporary cuts to wages and condition to save an estimated 225 jobs but the vice chancellor made it clear that there would still be involuntary redundancies this year, (CMM June 24 2020). “Our academic and professional staffing will be reduced to reflect our continuing core teaching needs,” a management “strategy re-set” paper stated last winter (CMM July 9 2020).

And now reductions are about to begin. The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union warns 250-300 people will be made redundant.

The long shadow of the ATAR

The Shergold Review of post-school pathways proposed “learner profiles” recording student achievements in and out of formal education (CMM July 24 2020)

The “shadow of the ATAR” looms over peoples’ choice of course, even when academic skills, “are only moderately linked,” the Innovative Research Universities warns in a submission to a review of what such learner profiles could include.

In contrast to the ATAR, a profile could provide universities with a sense of what study options suit an individual, which is good. The problem with profiles is that they could end up being used to compare people for courses where demand exceeds supply, which isn’t.

“A desire for comparability brings with it a tendency to standardise what is included and to prefer measurable information.

“Were the profile to become important to competitive selection decisions, it would force a counterproductive degree of standardisation that would then see schools assist their students complete the profile. Based on other experiences, the more complicated the process the more it weighs toward re-enforcing existing biases in schooling outcomes,” the IRU warns,

Gosh, just like the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank.

Dolt of the day

Is CMM. Friday’s email edition reported Odette Best is at Uni Queensland. Wrong, she is at Uni Southern Queensland.


Appointments, achievements

At Uni Wollongong Marijka Batterham becomes head of the National Institute for Applied Statistics Research Australia

Brendan Crabb (Director of the Burnet Institute) will chair the Australian Global Health Alliance (“Australia’s pre-eminent peak body for global health organisations”).

Barbie Panther (Deakin U) and Rowena Harper (Edith Cowan U) join the committee of the Council of Australasian university leaders in learning and teaching.

 Hazel Bateman (UNSW) is the inaugural chair of the International Pension Research Association. John Piggott (also UNSW) is a member of its executive committee.

David Sadler, UWA DVC E joins the board of UK higher education charity Advance HE.

 Mark Taylor is leaving Macquarie U to become Victoria’s Chief Environmental Scientist at end July.  

 Ross Young becomes DVC Research and Innovation at Uni Sunshine Coast. He moves from health executive dean at QUT.