All politics is local

Labor promises La Trobe U $5m for a “rooftop solar farm” at its Bundoora campus. The announcement was made by shadow climate change minister Mark Butler and Ged Kearney, candidate for the new seat of Cooper, which includes Bundoora. There is no word if the money comes from the proposed $300m university future fund.

Lobbies line-up for Labor R&D plan

Research lobbies back Labor’s plan for a 10 per cent tax incentive for businesses that form research and development partnerships with universities and research institutions (CMM yesterday)

Tony Peacock from the Cooperative Research Centres Association calls it, “a big commitment’ putting Labor on the path to its target of 3 per cent of GDP on research and development.

Science and Technology Australia welcomed, the commitment, which, “will greatly enhance our capacity for research.”

Universities Australia extended its approval (CMM yesterday) saying, “a premium tax concession would boost the number of businesses that tap into the wealth of expertise inside universities and enhance innovation in Australia.”

The Australian Academy of Science also endorses the proposal; “we welcome Labor’s commitment to reforming the R&D tax incentive, particularly the inclusion of a collaborative research premium to foster industry/academy research links.”

As for a business backlash from industry investors who like the existing tax benefits the coalition wanted to, but never did, reign in, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry backed Labor’s proposal;

“Australia produces some of the finest researchers in the world but we can do much better at collaboration between universities and industry. …, The culture and practice of collaboration and commercialisation of research ideas needs to improve. This is a good step to encourage that,” ACCI CEO James Pearson says.

Murdoch U on its international student standards

Four Corners’ claims are “not true,” “manifestly wrong” and “incorrect” VC Eeva Leinonen says

Professor Leinonen wrote to staff yesterday to “respond to the overarching claims made by the ABC programme on Monday night,” with “an evidence-based snapshot of our performance, outcomes, strategy and satisfaction across our international student activities.”

Specifically, she states:

* Murdoch U has not built a surplus by increasing international enrolments. “International onshore student fees are just one of the university’s many revenue streams and represent just 15% of our total revenue”

* Murdoch University has not lowered entry standards, including English language requirements for international students. “Murdoch maintains admission and English language proficiency standards that are in line with those across the sector.”

As to the core claim, that the university admits inadequately prepared international students, Professor Leinonen says this is incorrect, adding, “where there have been areas of lower performance, we have taken measures and seen improvement.”

She details seven specifics, including “tripling our resourcing of peer-assisted support” and adding comms skills units.

“I understand that the kind of media coverage we have received this week can be distracting. However, the real story is positive,” the vice chancellor says.

Macquarie U announces a business school

Macquarie U has changed the name of the Faculty of Business and Economics to the Macquarie Business School

This appears to complete work dean, Stephen Brammer started when he arrived in January 2017. In October that year he announced a new structure for the then faculty to include the Macquarie Graduate School of Management and the Macquarie Applied Finance Centre, a job done by the following January. And now the new school “retains and celebrates the best of MGSM and MAFC ensuring Macquarie remains a strong global competitor in this space.” While that may mean whatever the dean desires there is no faulting how he brought staff with him – throughout the whole restructure he consulted, consulted and consulted again.  Some MGSM veterans are said to be unhappy at the end of a grand name, but no one can say they didn’t see it coming.

Intellectual freedom protected at James Cook U

The crucial clause in the enterprise agreement continues says union

Last month Federal Court Judge Vasta found James Cook U had unlawfully dismissed scientist Peter Ridd, because his criticism of university research was covered by a clause in the old enterprise agreement, protecting academic speech (CMM April 18). However, in an opinion piece in The Australian (April 26) Dr Ridd warned that “the vital sentence about the supremacy of intellectual freedom,” is deleted from the new agreement.”

Not so, says the National Tertiary Education Union’s Michael McNally, JCU members refused to see it removed. “The intellectual freedom clause remains unchanged in the new agreement, and the provisions of clause 14 that Justice Vasta used as the basis for finding the sacking unlawful are likewise unchanged.”

Funding the right sort of student demand

Tanya Plibersek sets the university accountability she would require as education minister

In an interview with Tom Tilley on Triple J the shadow education portfolio minister repeated the conditions attached to the reinstatement of demand driven funding.

“We want to work with universities to make sure that universities really are focused on the needs of their local community and the national need when they are designing courses. We want to make sure, for example, that we are not over-graduating numbers of students in particular areas where they are not likely to go on and find a job.”

Ms Plibersek added that, “a lot of universities do go out of their way to make sure that they are responding to the sorts of jobs that are likely to be available.” However, she made clear Labor would want, “arrangements with universities where they explain to us how they are meeting the national needs and the needs of their local community.”

Victoria U to transform curricula

VU is transforming how it teaches now it is starting work on what

Victoria U plans to roll out its small-group, single-subject intensive-study block teaching model across all UG years. Now the university announces it will transform the curriculum, inviting its community to advise on a new academic programme.

In a discussion paper DVCs Marcia Devlin and Grant Dreher suggest VU will need to meet the needs of future graduates for, “reskilling through their working lives, creating significant growth in short courses, non-award courses, lifelong learning relationship models and potentially the need for shorter, more time-effective degrees.”

They propose priority disciplines in higher education and VET that VU should focus on, in both existing delivery modes and potential micro-credentials.  And they set out principles for planning, notably; “all programmes will include advanced technology offerings that provide capability that can be leveraged across the university as a whole – to help all VU students increase their ‘tech readiness’”.

Devlin and Dreher also potentially put established VU programmes on notice. An employment focus in courses may mean, “we will need to consider how reshape and repurpose the general degrees (Arts, Science).”

What’s in an NZ name

Great timing by Victoria U of Wellington, that’s WELLINGTON!

In July VU of W wanted to change its name to UoW, to avoid confusion with other unis around the world named for the late queen. This upset people who liked the established name but the university was adamant – until it wasn’t.

After months of argument on Tuesday the university’s council decided the name would stay the same, although branding would change to emphasise the city. This was a day ahead of NZ education minister Chris Hipkins announcing universities would now need approval of parliament for name changes.


Sally Wheeler becomes PVC International Strategy at ANU, sharing time between the new appointment and her continuing role as dean of the College of Law. Professor Wheeler joined ANU from Queens U in Belfast in January 2018.

Prue Monument joins the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency from the national charities regulator. Ms Monument will become TEQSA’s inaugural executive director for quality assurance and regulatory operations.

Rowena Harper is moving to Edith Cowan U, where she will be director of the Centre for Learning and Teaching. Professor Harper leaves the University of South Australia.

Portfolio movements at Griffith U: DVC A Debra Henly adds the senior DVC role to her responsibilities. She replaces DVC R Ned Pankhurst who retires. Sheena Reilly, Pro Vice Chancellor (Health) will act as head of the Gold Coast campus until year end. Andrea Bishop becomes PVC R and will act as DVC R while Professor Pankhurst’s successor is recruited. Professor Bishop is now director of the Research Office.

 Susie Robinson will join the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility as executive director. She will be based at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus. Dr Robinson is now with consultants (and CMM partner) HECG.