Peak uni lobbies slam Birmingham’s plan as unfair and obscure


La Trobe’s recruitment campaign is “all kinds of clever” (just ask the uni about it)


QS winners (and losers): the unis that go up (and down) over three years


Does ASQA have the power it needs: ANU’s Braithwaite reviews the vet regulator’s legal firepower

QS, it stands for quietly satisfied

“Rankings need to be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s a good day as president when your university hits the top 20.” ANU VC Brian Schmidt perfects the modesty brag, about the university’s national number one in QS, via Twitter, yesterday.

No issue Monday

It’s the Queen’s Birthday Holiday on Monday in most of the country and CMM is taking the day off. Back Tuesday.

Another clever campaign

La Trobe announces it is “all kinds of clever” and it can help students who want to be.

La Trobe U has a new recruitment campaign, rolling out on Melbourne public transport now, with TVCs to follow on Sunday. “To own tomorrow you need to be all kinds of clever. And we can teach you how,” the TVC assures.

The campaign substantiates it with references to teaching and research areas, “world-class molecular science, art institute, law school and even a wild-life sanctuary.”

“Clever adapts to new situations, thinks differently, connects people, clever takes the lead. To own tomorrow you need to be all kinds of clever,” the university assures prospective students.

“The ‘all kinds of clever’ construct was chosen after extensive market research on what factors students look at when making a decision on where to study,” a university spokesman says.

The question La Trobe has obviously already decided it knows the answer to is whether people in the market for a university will associate the message with the benefits of higher education in general, or La Trobe, in particular.

“Clever” certainly appeals to people in HE. In 2014 Universities Australia ran a campaign making the case for research funding called, “keep it clever.”

Norton in the middle

“And on my far right, Andrew Norton” – moderator Jim Middleton introduces the Grattan Institute analyst on a panel discussing HECS, Tuesday. Surely not “far” right.


 Unknown and unfair

The Regional Universities Network is calling for a “transparent, fair, exhaustive and inclusive consultation process” on Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s proposed reforms before “further consideration.”

Too little detail is available to be able to model the full impact of the complex suite of reforms, (there are) fears that there will be serious consequences for regional universities, students and communities arising from the package,” says RUN chair and University of the Sunshine Coast VC Greg Hill.

RUN’s submission to a Senate inquiry into the government’s bill warns that its members depend on government funding more than city universities and will accordingly take a bigger hit from the proposed two years of reduced funding. An increase in course costs for students and a lower threshold for their loan repayments will also have an impact on participation rates at regional campuses.

While RUN welcomes funding for sub degree courses in universities and the continuing HEPPP equity access scheme it warns that allocating postgraduate places and performance funding are not clear enough to proceed.

“If retention was to be one of the metrics used to measure relative performance, we do not know the mechanism that could take account of the significant differences between students at regional and metropolitan universities, RUN warns.

The Innovative Research Universities will also tell senators that no case is made that performance metrics “will improve outcomes for all students

“The size of the performance fund is out of balance with the pressure already on universities to attract students and the suite of information now available to guide student choice. We support publishing performance data.  We don’t need a performance fund that punishes students because their university does not meet targets,” IRU chair and Flinders U VC Colin Stirling says in the lobby’s Senate submission.

As to the proposed funding cut, Professor Stirling warns “it is simply wrong” to say it is affordable.

“We do not make profits but create annual surpluses to invest in renewal of what we do and the resources that let us do it. Surpluses enable us to educate the graduates our economy requires into the future.

“Year by year the value of funding is intentionally eroded through under indexation. Universities do not need an additional ‘efficiency dividend’ when the index has imposed one annually since 1997.”

Big news day

“Found in a library book. Ancient Adelaide metro bus ticket.” Flinders University Library breaks the story via Twitter.

QS over time

Yesterday’s responses to the QS ratings included predictable warnings that (i) the results are variously not as good as they look, (ii) can’t last or (iii) should not be taken seriously. But comparing QS this year and in 2015 provides a consistent guide to what is happening according to the rating’s rules. And despite improvements at the top end not every Australian institution went up (but the Kiwis did well). Yesterday’s 2018 ranking is in bold, 2015 in (brackets).

Top 100

ANU: 20 (25), UniMelb: 41 (33), UNSW: 45 (48), UoQ: 47 (43), UniSydney 50 (57), Monash: 60 (70), UniAuckland: 82 (92), UWA: 93 (89), UniAdelaide: 109 (100)


UniOtago: 151 (159), UTS: 176 (264), UniCanterbury: 214 (242), Vic Uni of Wellington: 219 (275), UniNewcastle: 224 (257), UniWollongong: 232 (283), Macquarie U: 240 (254), QUT: 247 (285), RMIT: 247 (304), Curtin U: 262 (331), UniSA: 279 (333), UniWaikato: 292 (401-410), Deakin U: 293 (360),


UniTas: 313 (401-440), Massey U: 316 (346), Lincoln U: 319 (411-420), Griffith U: 325 (324), LaTrobe U: 360 (401-440), James Cook U: 367 (350), Swinburne U: 421-430 (551-600), Bond U: 431-440 (471-480), Auckland U of Tech: 441-450 (501-550)


Murdoch U: 501-550 (551-600), Flinders U: 551-600 (481-490), UniCanberra: 551-600 (651-700), Western Sydney U: 551-600 (651-700), CQU: 601-650 (-), Charles Darwin U: 651-700 (551-600),


Victoria U: 701-750 (701+), Edith Cowan U: 751-800 (701+), Uni Southern Queensland: 751-800 (701+), Australian Catholic U: 801-1000 (-), Charles Sturt U: 801-1000 (701+), Southern Cross U: 801-1000 (-), Uni New England: 801-1000 (701+), Uni Sunshine Coast: 801-1000 (-)

ASQA assessed

Assistant Minister for Voced Karen Andrews has announced a major review of the Australian Skills Quality Authority’s regulatory authority

Professor Valerie Braithwaite, from ANU, will determine whether ASQA has “has appropriate legislative capacity to efficiently and effectively regulate the sector.”

“The regulator must have powers to act swiftly to protect students, employers and the public against providers that don’t meet high quality standards. … (the review) will also evaluate if ASQA’s functions and powers are consistent with best regulatory practice and how well the system meets the needs of industry and students,” Minister Andrews says.

While the Australian National Audit Office found the Department of Education and Training most responsible for the VET FEE HELP catastrophe, ( CMM December 21 2016), as early as 2015 the Senate Education and Employment References committee stated, “ASQA’s role appears to be envisaged as being more about accreditation and entry standards then quality standard assurance. This suggests that there may be a case for reviewing the principles underpinning the foundations of regulation in the vocational education sector.”

The committee was also “of the view that the powers and cultural mode of operation of ASQA must be called into question.”

Professor Braithwaite will report by the end of the year. In 2013, she collaborated with higher education elder statesman Kwong Lee Dow on a review of the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency which led to radical changes.

Training numbers decline, again

The inexorable exit of Australians from the training system rolls on.

New figures from the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research report bad news from the December 2016 quarter. Overall there were 265 000 apprentices and trainees in the system down 6.6 per cent, to 33 800, on October-December ‘15 and 2.9 per cent on the full year.

However, there is good news now, with the NCVER pointing to an uptick in March – just not a very big one. The agency estimates commencements in March were up 1300.

And no, it is not all due to the popularity of higher education, the end of now long absent apprentice subsidies or the VET FEE HELP disgrace. As doyen of voced researchers Tom Karmel puts it, “employers are becoming increasingly less enamoured with the apprenticeship and traineeship model, independent of government policy changes,” (CMM May 23)



Wins of the week at work

The inaugural Excellence in Graduate Research Education awards are announced.

Graduate supervision: Jillian Dorrian (Uni of South Australia)

Graduate research leadership: Margaret Kiley (ANU)

Promoting industry engagement in graduate research: Tash Ayers and Stephanie Delaporte (Edith Cowan U).

The accolades originate with the Australian Council of Graduate Research (the new name for the formerly famous DDOGS – deans and directors of graduate studies.)  They honour achievers in higher degree research supervision. No, they do not get a statuette, called the D-Dog (but they should).


The University of Queensland staff awards are also out. Individuals honoured are: Adam Nielsen from IT Services, for innovation, Esther Fink from the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and IT, for service, Vicki McNabb from Occupational Health and Safety, for wellness and safety, Philip Bodman from the Faculty for Business, Economics and Law, for leadership.


Peter Chenoweth from James Cook University is awarded the Australian Veterinary Association’s Gilruth Prize for his outstanding contribution to veterinary sciences.


The ARC announced Laureate Fellows on Monday. The Georgina Sweet Laureate Fellowship for a woman in science and technology disciplines went to ANU’s Ann McGrathMichelle Coote, also from ANU received the Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellowship for HASS.

All the Laureate fellows are: ANU: Ann McGrath, analysing epic Australian indigenous narratives. Gottfried Otting, functions of proteins.  Michelle Coote, catalysts to accelerate and control the chemical reactions used in the synthesis of pharmaceuticals and materials. UNSW: Fedor Sukochev, problem solving in non-commutative calculus. Jill Bennett: using visualisation technology to understand “stigmatised and devalued populations.” University of Newcastle: George Willis, a “mathematical tool for analysing the symmetry of infinite networks.” University of Sydney: Dacheng Tao, mathematic foundations for deep-learning based compute vision. Edward Holmes, virus ecology and evolution. Paul Griffiths, “a philosophy of medicine for the 21st century.” QUT: Christopher Barner-Kowollik, using light as a construction tool in advanced manufacturing. University of Queensland: Xiu Song Zhao, electrochemical energy storage. Zhiguo Yuan, conversion of liquid chemicals from biogas.  University of Adelaide, Mathia Varghese, “novel techniques to investigate geometric analysis on infinite dimensional bundles.” Shizhang Qiao, solar-driven sustainable production of fuels and chemicals. Deakin University: Svetha Venkatesh, pattern recognition to “navigate complexity” in experimental processes. University of Melbourne: Geoffrey McFadden, genetic tools for biomedicine and biotechnology. University of Western Australia, Colin MacLeod, cognitive basis of productive/unproductive worry.


University of Queensland maritime law expert Sarah Derrington will serve a third term on the board of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Professor Derrington is academic dean of law at UoQ.


Cindy ShannonPVC Indigenous at the University of Queensland will chair the state government’s sexual health advisory committee.


Philip Payton from Flinders U is the History Council of South Australia’s historian of the year.


Deakin University has appointed Sandeep Gopalan, PVC Academic InnovationProfessor Gopalan recently stood down as dean of the university’s law school.