University announces six-month review of Arndt-Corden Economics 

Unity ticket on applied research: thunderous agreement at the CRC conference

VETerans decide to try higher ed

Clash of the titans, Glyn Davis, Andrew Norton and NUS president Sophie Johnston to debate what is fair for students to pay


plus: Brian Schmidt goes over the moon


Metaphor of the day

“Unfortunately, our native mammals have not developed sufficient anti-predator strategies to coexist with foxes and cats – essentially making them sitting ducks.” Thomas Newsome from Deakin University’s Centre for Integrative Ecology on the environmental good dingoes can do by controlling red foxes.

News that’s fit to print

From people at Monash, the university that can print a jet engine, and friends, comes a first Asia-Pacific  conference on additive manufacturing. It is being put together by people from Monash, RMIT and Swinburne and promises, “to provide an opportunity for industry professionals and thinkers to come together, share knowledge and engage in the type of networking that is vital to the furthering of the additive manufacturing industry.” It’s on at the start of December at RMIT. A manufacturing industry that relies on research rather than low labour costs is exactly what Malcolm Turnbull wants – he should deliver the opening address.

Man on the moon

Yesterday was national simultaneous story-time and at the National Library of Australia ANU VC Brian Schmidt did the honours, reading a picture book about a cow’s many attempts before finally jumping over the moon. To assist the less astronomically inclined among the three-year-olds in his audience Professor Schmidt took his office (120cm by 50cm, or so it looks) model of the moon with him.

App of the day

The University of Tasmania and the state government have launched their Tourism Tracer, now in its second stage. The project uses smart phones which visitors to the state are given and load with their demographic details which tracks where they go during their time in Tasmania. The data loads to an industry intel dashboard.

Oh good, more biz educators

Given how tough times have been in the VET sector it isn’t especially surprising that providers want to work in the calmer higher education system. According to a new report from the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, the number of registered training organisations applying to TEQSA was up from five to seven in the March quarter, with 48 RTOs at various stages of assessment.  Overall applicants in the substantive assessment process increased from 20 to 28 quarter on quarter. Institutions looking to teach management and commerce accounted for 75 per cent of applications.

How much and from whom?

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum which removed two references in the constitution that discriminated against Indigenous Australians. The federal government marked it with an $128m education package, most of it for schooling. However, there is $4m for “raising aspirations for tertiary studies,” which does not sound like much but $25m for STEM scholarships, which is more like it. Some $15m of the fund is for a STEM academy for girls. The feds say the academy will “seek” additional “corporate and philanthropic funding.” But who will do the fundraising?  Further and better particulars are in order.


ANU economists under review

ANU economist Jenny Corbett will review the university’s Arndt-Corden Department of Economics.  Professor Corbett, now head of the university’s Japan Institute, is tasked with “working with colleagues to develop a new strategy” for ACDE, which studies Asia-Pacific economies. The new role is additional to her appointment at the Japan Institute.

“In her new role, Professor Corbett will work with ACDE colleagues to review current activities, identify the school’s considerable strengths, and develop a strategy to help the school meet the emerging needs of a rapidly-changing region,” the university’s Crawford School of Public Policy says.

So, what’s the problem?  There isn’t one, according to Helen Sullivan, director of the Crawford School, to which ACDE belongs. “Professor Corbett’s appointment and the development of a new strategy for Asia Pacific economics reflects our desire to secure and strengthen our contribution and position in this field. The context for higher education means that we are always looking for appropriate new funding sources to support our work.”

“I will be developing strategy to build on ANU’s position as the country’s leading centre of expertise on the South, Southeast and East Asian economies and to rejuvenate our profile.  There is some rebuilding needed following several retirements, which gives the opportunity to identify new directions for research in the changing regional context,” Professor Corbett added last night.

But ANU observers suggest a university budget model that relies entirely on student load does not address the needs of specialist centres working in areas that are strategic priorities for the university and that what ACDE needs is money from central management. As for the idea around the ANU traps of expanding ACDE’s research to cover broader areas of Crawford School strength, in environmental and public policy for example, some suggest that it is important that ACDE keep its distinct identity.

Depends how you define “fair”

“What is a fair amount for university students to pay?” the Grattan Institute asks. You can find out on June 6 when University of Melbourne VC Glyn Davis, National Union of Students president Sophie Johnston and higher education policy expert Andrew Norton discuss it. Details here.

Way to go yet

UNSW management is very pleased with the number of academics interested in teaching-only roles, with 160 expressions of interest at the end of April. With just on 5000 academics and a target of 25 per cent in teaching only positions by 2025 it’s a start

New dean of law at WSU

Steven Freeland is the next dean of law at Western Sydney University, replacing Michael Adams. Professor Freeland has been a professor of international law at WSU for 15 years. Adams will take leave before returning to WSU as professor of corporate law and governance next year.


Unity ticket on applied research

Everybody at the Cooperative Research Centre Association was in furious agreement yesterday that cooperation in research is a very good thing indeed, especially cooperating with agencies to money to spend. Like the $730m Next Generations Technology Fund in defence and the $250m Industry Growth Centres Programme, as well as industry. While the prime minister doesn’t talk innovation as much as he used to, research that drives jobs and growths is what the government wants. As Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Arthur Sinodinos said yesterday when he opened the new round of CRC applications; the government is supporting 36 CRCs as part of the ongoing work to commercialise leading-edge research taking place in our universities and research institutions. … We expect successful proposals to involve strong partnerships between industry and research to improve industry productivity and competitiveness. Applications that are industry-led and focused on practical outcomes to major industry problems are encouraged to apply.”

Labor’s Kim Carr made a much grander case for CRCs and what they do, or should do, (including public-benefit research), telling the conference; “I’m particularly keen to promote the CRC program and other innovation programs, because it does not only go to the capacity to build the economy of the nation. It goes to the legitimacy of the state itself.”

The problem, is that many voters think ‘innovation’ is a synonym for unemployment. As Senator Carr said;

“I take the view that unless we can build public support for innovation we won’t get the money that is so important for building capacity in the country. This is especially important in regard to manufacturing, and it worries me that public commentary is so often about the negative view that manufacturing is going to decline.

“The answer is not to pretend that there aren’t serious risks to prosperity and social justice. The answer is not to pretend that we can turn our back on technological change. A luddite response to the future is not going to work. There has got to be an approach in which we can actually talk to the public about opportunities, not just threats. … There has to be a public policy framework that embraces the flexibility of the smart factory. That flexibility can be a spur to innovation. It can be creative, not destructive.”

CMM hears it went down well, but then again the CRC community are not the people who need convincing.