Uni Sydney builds AI-infused Corona Chatbot to support students with COVID-19 queries
On-line courses to end home-town advantage
Frank Larkins warns: research students seriously impacted by campus closures
Australian universities facing long-lasting financial and academic stresses
Teaching on-line – what students want
No issue Monday
Monday is a public holiday in half the country, including CMM’s bit, making an excellent excuse for a day off. Back on Tuesday.
There’s more in the Mail
In Features this morning:
* Cathy Stone (Uni Newcastle) on the mass of students who don’t study on campus and why universities should stop policies and processes designed for school leavers, here .
* A learned reader explains how the government’s international student visa risk rating works and why it matters for universities here.
* Plus, an insider’s view of NHRMC Investigator Grant peer reviews by Wendy Ingram (Adelaide Medical School, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, University of Adelaide) here.
And on Tuesday Erica Southgate (Uni Newcastle) on how AI will change education
What do you expect?
Seen at Flinders U yesterday a sign stating, “recent snake sighting in this area”. Verily, there are serpents in paradise
Murdoch U’s new objectives for academics
The university has a “final framework” for academic workloads – including ambitious research targets
The document, released to staff Tuesday, includes consideration of staff-consultation concerns, including proposed publication and research income requirements, set out in a previous draft (CMM October 2).
But not everybody is convinced the new requirements are achievable. “It’s like moving the high jump bar from 10m to 7.5m – sounds like a lot, but it’s still not jumpable,” a learned reader suggests.
Still, everybody has an idea what they are up for: While there is debate about detail on the timing of some objectives, overall the document sets out university practise for academic probation and promotion plus education, service and research workloads. The university tells staff it builds on work starting in 2015, when “research active” was first defined.
According to the university, the promotion process is not rigid in requiring that all specified achievements are met, “you are required to make a case – there is no set number of examples. And management commits to assessing performance, “relative to opportunity,” which involves, “giving consideration to working circumstances and arrangements as well as career history.”
So, what’s the problem: Some of the hard metrics is what.
Certainly, some of the more ambitious research income targets for professors are scaled back. In the last draft, a top engineering academic had to bring in $158 000 (presumably per annum). Now it’s $120 000. In agriculture-veterinary science, where $280 000 was required now it’s $211 000. And in history and archaeology the $83 000 for a Level E and $31 000 for a Level A are reduced to $48 000 and $14 000 respectively. But it appears to some that they will need to be meeting these targets by 2022, not long given the time ARC/NHMRC applications take and their less low than subterranean success rates.
Publishing requirements are also challenging, it appears deliberately so, “I especially appreciate the fact that we want to set our research goals high enough to reach the level of universities that are above Murdoch in the rankings,” is a staff feedback quote in the framework.
When fully in place, professors will need to publish at twice the average annual rate for their field of research and the most junior academics at half the average.
Management obviously thinks it is all doable but last night some research-active staff were not sure, wondering what life would be like in teaching-specialist roles.
If rights collide on campus
The IRU identifies two specific issues for universities in the government’s religious freedom bills
While the Innovative Research Universities “strongly support” protections against religious discrimination, the group’s points out, “there is no serious suggestion of a problem with religious freedom on campus.”
But in a submission on the legislation IRU sees two issues where it, “could conflict with the effective operation of a university.
The lobby suggests staff and students should not be permitted to proselytise in class, to the “detriment” of students learning. “It is not clear whether the proposed laws would permit a university to constrain this kind of religious-driven activity where it conflicts with educational goals.”
And the IRU recommends the government drop the proposal to allow employers to direct staff on out of hours’ expression, if it would cause “financial hardship” to an employer. “Damage to a university’s academic reputation, for example, could potentially be more damaging to a university than financial loss alone.” The submission suggests leaving the issue to “the general principles of the bill”.
Do these devils in the detail remind you of anything? How about proposals for an all-university free speech code? As the IRU puts it; “as with the debate around freedom of speech, however, it is relatively easy to agree a principle but more difficult to define how such a principle will be applied in real life, particularly when balanced against other, existing rights.”
Ranking arts: not the usual result
Hard to credit, but it is as long as 24 hours since universities were applauding their last ranking results – but Times Higher has helped with a league table of arts and humanities
Like last year, this is not the standard clean-sweep of top spots by the Group of Eight.
ANU is first in Aus. (33rd in the world), Uni Sydney is 2nd and 41st, Uni Melbourne is 3rd and 42nd, and Uni Queensland is 89th. The other global top 100 place goes to Macquarie U at 100. The rest of the Go8 have lower ratings; Monash U is in the 101-125 section, UNSW rates in the 126-150 group, Uni Adelaide is in the 176- 200 band and UWA in the 201-250 group.
The other unis (with apologies to any missed) that make the cut are:
151-175: Western Sydney U (adepts of the ranking arts suggest it is very close to UNSW)
176-200: La Trobe U, Uni Wollongong
201-250: Australian Catholic U, Curtin U, Flinders U, QUT, RMIT, Uni SA, UTS
251-300: Griffith U, Murdoch U
301-400: Deakin U, Uni Newcastle, Swinburne U, U Tasmania
The ranking uses the same data, “recalibrated to suit the individual fields,” as the overall THE ranking.
Journal price hikes aren’t the worst news
Journal publishers aren’t alarmed enough by open access to stop jacking up prices but increases aren’t the worse news
EBSCO Information Services advises clients that journal publishers will increase serial prices next year. For Australian dollar purchaser of $US priced products the estimated hike is 9-11 per cent, 7-10 per cent for Euro and sterling billed products.
For any institution paying list price this is not great news, but most purchasers aren’t. A learned reader suggests these are pessimistic predictions. Good o –but what of open access plans that replace fee to read with a price to publish. Ebsco has bad news there as well, “there is now real worry that a move to OA could mean lower funding for libraries as institutions look to fund the “publishing” side of OA by pulling from library budgets.”
Mario Pinto will join Griffith U as DVC R in February. He comes from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and Simon Fraser University.
Jiawen Li (Uni Adelaide) won the engineering category at the South Australian Women in Innovation awards last night. Katharina Richter (Uni Adelaide) won for science and Janet Sluggett (Monash U) for social impact. Jing Jing Wang (Flinders U) is the emerging innovator. Other winners include, Hazel Vandeleur (Uni SA) in the rural, regional and remote category and Dorothea Dumuid (Uni SA) in maths and data.
Of the week
At Charles Sturt U Tom Burton moves up to PVC for community and global engagement. He is now director, global engagement and partnerships there.
Deborah Ralston (professorial fellow, Monash U) is appointed to the federal government’s review of the retirement income system
Grace Sana is the new GM of La Trobe U’s science, health and engineering college starting December 2. She moves from the University of Melbourne, where she manages the medical school.
Deakin U announces three new Alfred Deakin professors, its highest academic honour; Brett Bryan (global change and environment), Alison Hutchinson (nursing), Craig Olsson (development psychology).
Mark Rose becomes Deakin U’s first PVC for indigenous strategy. He joins from RMIT
Company director David Armstrong will become chair of the George Institute for Global Health – he is now acting. Mr Armstrong has been a board member for five years.
Kingsley Dixon (Curtin U) has taken the professional award from the Australian Native Plants Society. Professor Dixon is director of the Australian Research Council Centre for Mine Site Restoration.
In January Kirsty Dwyer will leave the University of Canberra, where she is head of People and Diversity. She will start at Griffith U as Chief People Officer in February.
At Uni Newcastle, John Fischetti moves up to PVC for education and arts. He has acted in the post since late last year. Professor Fichte is widely recognised as a champion of Big Picture Education. The university announced the first degree using it, in public and community health, last month (CMM September 12).
UWA’s Kadam Siddique is awarded the Chinese Government’s Friendship Award, to “recognise foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to China’s modernisation and reform.” Professor Siddique is honoured for agriculture research collaboration with Chinese institutions.
The Association for Tertiary Education Management announces its annual awards, including
Outstanding Achiever: Trish McCuskey, (Victoria University)
Research Management: VU Model Strategy Team, (Victoria University)
Community Engagement: VU Engagement Team, (Victoria University)
School and Faculty Management: Professional Staff team, School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, (Flinders University)
Marketing, Communications and Public Relations: Marketing and External Relations Team, (Australian Catholic University)
People and Culture: HR Development and Engagement Team, (University of Southern Queensland)
Innovation: e-Assessments Programmes Team, (Monash University)
Student Engagement: The Tari Takuwan – Maori Liaison Liaison Services, Auckland University of Technology
Excellence in Leadership: Naomi Dempsey, (Victoria University)
Policy and Governance: Fion Choon Boey Lim, (Victoria University)