Tudge moving HE off the election-agenda

The education minister will use selective kindness to smother opposition from within universities

On research: Alan Tudge has declared translational research is vital. “We want academics to become entrepreneurs, taking their ideas from the lab to the market. We want them to be properly rewarded for their breakthroughs and their engagement with business. … We know that more innovation activity will lift our nation’s productivity,” he says (CMM March 1).

It is a bit hard to argue with, and last week Universities Australia chair Deborah Terry did not try, backing the government on translational research in a speech. (CMM March 10). Certainly, Professor Terry also pointed to the importance of basic research but that’s the bit the government will ignore when it claims universities back its plan.

On teaching: On Friday Mr Tudge launched Australian Catholic U’s new campus at Blacktown in western Sydney. “The impressive facilities will open up hundreds of opportunities for people to study in one of Australia’s fastest growing regions,” Mr Tudge said (via Twitter) adding there was a one-off 200 national priority places for nursing study. As with research, it signals that the minister is a friend to HE when it serves the community.

It followed his flagging a review initial teacher education Wednesday, in which he warned. “l will be impatient with education faculties that are not implementing evidence-based practices. It is the kids that miss out!” (CMM March 12).

Smart politics of the bob each way variety:  When researchers complain that pure science is being undervalued Mr Tudge will be able to point to his support for universities researching in the national interest. And when culture-war critics complain about research they do not like the minister will be able to point to where he wants the money to go.

And when the same conservatives denounce teacher education faculties he will be able to point to his new review. And if the teacher education lobbies kick-back he could respond he is acting to help students.

The minister is looking to suck the election-oxygen out of two issues which generally are good for the Opposition and Greens.