What a coincidence!

On day two of the campaign Uni Newcastle announces a partnership with the NSW state government to create a new campus

It will be in Gosford NSW and make a second on the Central Coast (Ourimbah is long established). Make that a third, if the university’s  recently officially opened Central Coast Clinical School and Research Institute, also in Gosford, is included (CMM March 15).

The Commonwealth announced funding for the new project in 2019 but there was no mention yesterday of what the Morrison Governments LNP state colleagues are committing.

The launch yesterday was attended by state ministers and sitting Liberal member for the Gosford-anchored seat of Robertson, Lucy Wicks. There was no mention of Labor’s  Emma McBride, who represents the adjacent electorate of Dobell being there.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Franziska Trede and Sonal Singh UTS) make the case for “concrete action to create university cultures that enable all students and dismantle structural inequality in higher education. This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

plus James Guthrie (Macquarie U) and Brendan Parker (RMIT) add an accounting perspective to the debate on using peer review in the next edition of Excellence for Research in Australia. Universities with staff publishing in the same journals can receive very different ratings –  they demonstrate.

with, Angel Calderon (RMIT) on  the QS subject rankings – Aus unis are ok, for now.

No auditing alarums

The Australian National Audit Office announces its 2022-23 draft work programme. Universities can relax

Of the 120 plus proposals there are but three covering Department of Education, Skills and Employment programmes.  One of which will interest, but not alarm universities, is funding for regional and remote students to participate in HE.

Call for a social contract at Uni Melbourne

Senior scholar and union activist Joo-Cheong Tham calls for a new enterprise agreement approach

In a comprehensive paper for the National Tertiary Education Union, Professor Tham sets a context for enterprise bargaining at the university.  “There is a crisis at the University of Melbourne,” he writes, “the pandemic has laid bare a broken operating model based on insecurity, inequity and flawed governance.

He points to management failings including, work insecurity, underpayment of casuals, continuing restructures and workloads. “These dynamics have produced toxic workplaces in  parts of the university, he states.

What is needed, Professor Tham argues, is “a movement for change led by staff, one that is animated by a vision of the university true to its ideals.”
He proposes “three pillars” for the  next enterprise agreement.

* job security: including improved rights for sessional staff to convert to continuing employment and casual employment only for “short-term ad hoc work”

* equity: among 14 claims are, “democratic workload regulation,” “minimum research allocation for academic staff” and an unspecified pay-increase

* “good governance:” claims include, directly elected committees to oversight working conditions, “protection and promotion of academic freedom” and “transparency and consultation on senior executive pay”

NHMRC signals “intervention” on gender-imbalance

National Health and Medical Research Council announce a five-month delay in opening 2023 Investigator Grants, from this August to next January – there’s a big reason

Funding will still start in January 2024. The delay is due to the council, “exploring options to address the gender disparity” in Investigator outcomes with “sector-wide webinars”  and “in consultation with its Women in Health Science and Research committees.

“NHMRC appreciates that any intervention will require careful analysis, detailed modelling, broad consultation and potentially significant changes to the grant guidelines,” the council announced yesterday.

Investigator Grants are essential to the new funding model the NHMRC introduced in 2018 and are intended to fund “highest performing researchers” at all career stages (CMM May 26 2017).

But for their first three years, more men than women applied for and were awarded IG grants and, “ higher overall funding was awarded to men than to women.”

When the NHMRC refers to men, it means, “the predominance of male applicants at the most senior levels of the scheme, where budgets tend to be largest.”

This  “is a major factor underlying the award of more grants and more overall funding to men than women.” (CMM February 4).

The NHMRC has long acknowledged something needs to be done about gender disparity in grant funding (CMM March 20 2017).

It has put itself on notice to do it.


Successful PhDs: starter skills really matter

People applying for doctoral programmes need more in their pitch than academic achievement – they need to demonstrate abilities, notably communication, research and interpersonal skills

To identify what PhD programmes look for in candidates Lilia Mantai (Uni Sydney) and Mauricio Marrone (Macquarie U) analysed selection criteria in 13 500 advertisements for PhD places on a European research recruiting platform. In a new paper for Studies in Higher Education they report, “many attributes requested in PhD student recruitment are what is commonly referred to as transferable skills.”

While attribute rank varies between countries and disciplines, prior teaching and work experience, “are considered least important.”

As to PhD’s employability, “our data shows that successful PhD applicants may possess a breadth of attributes transferable to other careers already.”

Which is good, what could be better is universities, “communicating how the attributes required for PhD admission will be applied and further developed during the PhD.”

“To further one’s employability and become ‘more well-rounded researchers, practitioners and leaders’ is so far left up to the doctoral candidate’s initiative and ability to firstly, locate formal or informal development opportunities and secondly, accommodate these in already busy PhD schedules, they write.

“We recommend embedding an explicit career development focus in PhD programmes and promote candidates’ work-readiness building on and furthering the attributes that we found might already be present at PhD admission.”

Colin Simpson’s ed tech must reads of the week

Is there still a future for online and blended teaching? from WonkHE

WonkHE can be a bit clickbaity and this piece recycles some tired tropes about pandemic driven emergency remote teaching (ERT) that leans heavily on feelings over facts and draws questionable conclusions about online/blended learning based on an emergency response. (It’s a bit like complaining that the ER department of a hospital isn’t really addressing underlying societal health issues). Nonetheless, the authors do manage to find their way to some reasonable suggestions for the future.

Economics of Squid Game from Wooten & Geerling

This site from two academics at Monash and Penn State Universities expands on their previous work in using pop culture – the South Korean Netflix smash Squid Game – to illustrate and enliven principles of economics. Ranging across game theory, micro and macroeconomics and labour principles, they offer suggested teaching activities and prompt questions for students. (Thanks to the Teaching and Learning Technology team at Monash for sharing this)

Beauty in online learning environments: A quantitative study of the impact of expressive aesthetics on student engagement in blended courses from Shane Kelley (Thesis)

This thesis from a student at Bethel University isn’t perfect (it’s a PhD, not a Nobel Prize) but it does offer an interesting exploration of the impact of aesthetic elements in the LMS on learning and teaching outcomes. In a time where the discussion about an LMS can see to focus unduly on whether it looks tired or old-fashioned, it’s worth remembering that functionality still makes a significant difference.

BioRender Poster builder from BioRender

I don’t work in the sciences but I do know that making posters for conferences can be painful when you don’t have design skills. The excitement about this tool in the responses to the tweet about it was enough to convince me that this freemium drag and drop tool is well worth a look.

PolyCam 3D scanning app from TikTok

This is another tool that I couldn’t resist having a play with as soon as I stumbled upon a video about it on TikTok. It’s a phone app that lets you 3D map a physical space and then (apparently) use AR tools to explore it. There seems to be a little bit of a learning curve but within ten minutes I managed to create a photographic 3D model of my kitchen that I could spin about to zoom-in on detail. No idea how to do the AR side yet – support materials are a little thin – but it has great promise.

Colin Simpson has worked in education technology, teaching, learning design and academic development in the tertiary sector since 2003 and is employed by Monash University’s Education Innovation team. He is also one of the leaders of the TELedvisors Network. For more from Colin, follow him on Twitter @gamerlearner

Appointments, achievements

Asthma Australia’s Career Development Awards go to Olivia Carroll (Uni Newcastle), Henry Gomez (Hunter MRI and Uni Newcastle) and Carolyn Wang (Uni WA).

The 2021 Boyer Prize for the best article in the Australian Journal of International Affairs goes to Alexander Davis (UWA) and Ruth Gamble, Gerald Roche, Lauren Gawne (all La Trobe U). It’s for “International relations and the Himalaya: connecting ecologies, cultures and geopolitics.”

Frances Kay-Lambkin becomes director of Hunter MRI. She moves from Uni Newcastle.

Gavin Reid (Uni Melbourne) is a 2022 Fellow of the Australian Society for Mass Spectrometry.