New Linkage Grants: from physics for kids to creating composers

There are 13 new Linkage grants announced in the Australian Research Council’s March release. Projects CMM thinks he understands include;

UWA and partners are funded to “test and evaluate a seamless progression of learning modern physics through primary and secondary school.” This follows research that found, “it is possible and beneficial” to teach Einstein’s “paradigm of space, time, matter, light and gravity” to eight-year olds.

The University of Melbourne will lead developing a model to simulate streamflow, needed to assess the impact of drought.

Monash U and the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta will research how five to eight year olds learn maths

QUT and partners will consider how regional arts funding can have “lasting impact for end- users”

ANU, ANSTO and Sydney Harbour Bridge managers will explore cleaning it with lasers, to conserve structural integrity and iconic status

UoQ and the (presumably state) DoT will develop data analytics for traffic movement.

In very bad news for people with teen-age neighbours, researchers from Western Sydney University have $335 000 to develop a “novel computational partner” which will “output musical structures” to meet user-desired features, “while encouraging innovation and exploration”

“The expected outcomes will be a tool for musicians, but also for untrained people, young and older, allowing such untrained people to make personalised music.”

Ultra-applied research

The UNSW-CSIRO Industry PhD programme will be rolled out in Western Australia

At UNSW, the four-year programme includes a six-month industry placement. It is “designed to create research and innovation leaders of the future who are work ready, understand the needs of industry and have the know-how to collaborate with others.”

It’s now been picked up by UWA, plus Curtin and Edith Cowan universities, all in partnership with CSIRO.

People in the programme will be paid $40 00 a year, and access CSIRO’s professional development programme.

The “initial focus” in the west is on resources and agriculture research.

Ramsay degree debate back on at Uni Wollongong

Uni Wollongong’s Ramsay western civilisation degree denounced in  context of the Christchurch massacre and management responds

The University of Wollongong’s academic senate meets today and observers suggest critics will want to raise the way management adopted a degree funded by the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

Degree denounced as praising “western supremacism”: The meeting follows an open letter to Senate members yesterday by arts academic Anthony Ashbolt. Dr Ashbolt invites senate members to; “contemplate the damage this has already done to the image and reputation of the University of Wollongong. Moreover, in the light of recent tragic events involving a right-wing terrorist, I ask you to connect certain dots, to recognise the origins of an ideological discourse that seeks to defend western value systems against the onslaught of ‘political correctness’.

“When attacks like those in Christchurch are carried out in the name of western values, it really is time for universities to begin thinking critically about western civilisation, rather than resurrecting courses that are paeans of praise to discredited western supremacism.”

No connection with terror says dean: Yesterday Dean of Arts Theo Farrell responded to un-named “individuals,” who “have attempted to suggest that there is a connection between university education on Western thought, traditions, and culture, and acts of terror directed against people identified as somehow non-Western, non-European, or otherwise categorised in an exclusionary, essentialist way.”

“Whilst I can understand that, at first glance, such an argument may have emotional appeal for some people, a moment’s reflection reveals it to be fallacious,” Professor Farrell wrote in a message to staff.

“Our BA in Western Civilisation is precisely designed to challenge the kind of essentialist thinking that underpins exclusionary ideology, and it will explore how Western and non-Western thought, traditions and cultures have and can enter into dialogue, interact and beneficially influence one another over time.”

In December, the university described Professor Farrell as “leading UoWs engagement with the Ramsay Centre.”

What this could have to do with senateVice Chancellor Paul Wellings approved the degree in January independent of usual academic process, using a fast-track provision in the course approval rules (CMM February 13) However critics claim the Ramsay degree fails at clause 4.1.b which requires, “demonstrated benefit to the university in fast-tracking the proposal without compromising: the reputation of the university.”

Monash U unionists warn of a long day’s journey into night

Enterprise bargaining drags on

Members of the National Tertiary Education Union at Monash U will take half-day protected industrial action next Wednesday, protesting the pace of negotiations and outstanding issues in enterprise bargaining – much the same as they did in October. Back then they were cross about pay, management’s proposed discipline procedures, workload changes – and the absence of an agreement after 15 months of talks.

They are still upset about how long negotiations are taking but the headline issues have narrowed to “genuine job opportunities” for casually-employed academics and an extension of the span of hours, in which the professional workforce can be required to work a standard shift, to 8pm. The union says, “this represents a substantial pay cut for those currently earning overtime rates for these unsociable hours.”

Victoria U to roll out block teaching model across all courses

Block teaching works for first-year students so it is being extended

As long expected, Victoria University will roll out its block teaching mode for all VET and university-level courses by 2022.  According to VU “large impersonal lectures and passive learning in semester-long units of study are replaced by small groups engaged in block mode learning.”  The university claims the block model frees students from, having to juggle multiple subjects with competing demands,” provides them with “access to immediate feedback” from staff and allows, “more personal connected and collaborative learning experiences.”

UNE union demands management be accountable to staff and students

It’s round three at UNE

NTEU members at the University of New England are picketing campus this morning, “campaigning for a more collegial and transparent workplace – one where management has greater accountability to staff and students.” It’s part of the union’s enterprise bargaining campaign for better workload regulation, change management and performance management. The NTEU also wants “better outcomes” in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment and conversion to full-time work for casual staff.

It’s a third round for this year’s industrial wrestling at UNE, with union and management having won one each. But in January the Fair Work Commission told management that it could not change academic workloads in an existing school, just because it was moved to a new faculty (CMM January18). But last month the Commission backed management in a case of what the existing enterprise agreement should have said on pay-rates for casual teaching staff as opposed to what it actually did. The NTEU, and casual academics teaching on-line in the School of Education lost (CMM).

Needed: a qualifications framework which works now

The Australian Qualifications Framework needs to be less enforcer and more explainer.

The AQF needs updating to cover changes in how Australians learn, “addressing the various forms of shorter courses and the array of options across tertiary education and training,” the Innovative Research Universities proposes in its submission to the framework review underway.

The IRU also asserts that with its original regulatory role now dealt with by dedicated agencies the AQF now should assist; “it needs to convey clarity about the system … (and) define in sufficient detail the nature of the major qualifications and their relationship to each other.”

Specific recommendations include:

* present the “full suite of tertiary delivery in its broad descriptive aspects” and include short courses, “capable of being so presented”

identify enterprise and social skills relevant to specific qualifications but not tie them to a specific AQF level

* reflect “significant stages in acquisition of learning and skills”with multiple qualifications attached to them

* not creating a credit point system based on notional hours for course delivery


Alec Webb is acting executive director  of the Australian Technology Network. The ATN policy analyst stepped up following the departure of Renee Hindmarsh.

Kim Copeland has started as Charles Sturt U’s director of student safety and wellbeing.alec