“Potential” for a med school at CQU says VC

Scott Bowman starts his exit as VC at CQU (below) in the same way he arrived – proposing new ideas. He will brief local media this morning on “potential” for a medical school on the university’s Rockhampton campus, (CCM heard this was coming, last Friday). That he will be joined by regional Queensland Health chief executive Steve Williamson surely makes the “potential” more probable than possible. It’s another challenge for federal minister for rural health Bridget McKenzie, who has to deal with Murray Darling med school proposal that will not die (CMM, Wednesday) and another idea La Trobe U at Bendigo (below).

Researchers to the rescue at UniCanberra

The University of Canberra will relocate its four independent research institutes into the faculties to address international and postgraduate student shortfalls that threaten its finances.

According to a planning paper Vice Chancellor Deep Saini has released to staff, while the research institutes have produced “impressive results” in the rankings;

“we have not enjoyed a translation of the benefits of improved reputation into a parallel increase and retention of international and postgraduate student load, despite increased support for student recruitment, marketing and administration. The reduction in student load against target has resulted in major revenue shortfall over the last strategic plan period, which has been imposing serious constraints for some years on the university’s ability to adequately fund its teaching, research, infrastructure and other critical needs. Left uncorrected, this situation has the potential to escalate into a financial crisis.”

The now independent research centres focus on: health research, governance and policy analysis, applied ecology and sport and exercise. The university’s leadership expects the move to; “ensure that our best researchers also participate equitably (not necessarily equally) in teaching, thus helping raise the teaching standards and reputation.”

“This should set in motion a ‘virtuous cycle’ where enhanced opportunities to learn from leading scholars would attract a greater number of higher-quality students, leading to much-needed increase in student-load and revenue, in turn enhancing our ability to better fund all our mission-critical activities (and) leverage the co-location of our best scholars to develop high-quality, market-oriented postgraduate courses to reverse the decline in enrolment in such programs.”

There is little outright opposition to this strategy at UniCanberra, although the idea that now research-only staff picking up some teaching will be enough to reach enrolment targets strikes some as optimistic.

Scientists paid more

Scientists who leave the lab for marketing and management make more money, according to the annual income report from Science and Technology Australia and Professionals Australia.  Scientists in business based jobs earn an average $160 460 TPV for sales and marketing and $162 452 for management. The third highest paying category, teaching/training pays $141 000.  Average TPV for all scientists is $129 000.

The three fastest growing salaries are paid in veterinary science (up 4.7 per cent), agricultural science (up 3.5 per cent) and manufacturing (up 3.1 per cent). Average TPV for all scientists is $129 000.

But it’s always better for blokes, with women earning 87 per cent of male salaries.

Overall the pay increases keep scientists ahead of CPI and certainly outstrip private sector wages growth.

ANU expands access to parental leave

ANU will introduce 26 weeks paid leave for partners of birth mothers, where both parents work at ANU. VC Brian Schmidt announced the policy yesterday. This is “consistent with community standards of shared parental responsibility,” the VC said.

The announcement builds on the staff benefits in the new enterprise agreement, negotiated last year, which increased paid parental leave from 20 to 26 weeks and partner leave to 15 working days. The agreement also “revised definitions to remove ambiguity and to cover a broad spectrum of parental arrangements.”

Last month ANU climate scientist Sophie Lewis went public after a year-long dispute over her right to parental leave from an Australian Research Council funded project, to care for her new baby.  According to Dr Lewis her application was denied because her wife was the birth mother. The decision was reversed within a week.

Yesterday National Tertiary Education Union president Jeannie Reaapplauded” the ANU initiative, “expanding partner leave does contribute to greater gender equity and enables women with partners to realistically negotiate their time on parental leave with maintaining their careers,” she said.

Ms Rea called a second ANU commitment, to gender parity in executive appointments, “appropriately ambitious and welcomed.”

Reasons for rejection

Any private provider thinking of dashing off to the Administrative Appeals tribunal because TEQSA knocked back an application to teach higher education might first consider why the agency is so picky. Reasons for rejection were spelt out at a Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency conference yesterday, including: applicants lack knowledge of higher education governance, insufficiently understand higher education quality assurance frameworks and don’t have academic leadership.

Scott Bowman says enough with being a VC it’s time “to experience life”

Last November CQU VC Scott Bowman accepted a contract extension that would have taken him through to 2022. But yesterday he announced he would leave the university at year end. “I think it might need a different set of skills to take the university forward, and this is a natural time to look for a person with those skills,” he said.

Professor Bowman announced he and his wife, also employed at CQU, would spend the next decade travelling, “experiencing what life has to offer and rediscovering our passion for cultures and countries, while our health permits.” CMM hears their RV of choice is already set to go.

Professor Bowman joined CQU from the Cairns campus of regional rival James Cook U in 2009 and spent the first few years of his term repairing and restructuring the university, which was in dire financial circumstances when he arrived. But since then he has expanded the universities presence, notably in what were James Cook U’s Townsville and Cairns heartlands and developed new research areas.

what next: Scott Bowman set a task for himself and his CQU colleagues when he arrived nearly a decade back – for the university to move from “strong to great.” And he delivered, “we are a great university now and Scott’s responsible,” says CQU’s chancellor John Abbott. But what got CQU from penury to pacesetter may not work in the future and Bowman says his successor might need a new approach.

Chancellor Abbott agrees, saying the new VC will have to, “do different things in different ways.”  He nominates marine research, which CQU is starting to explore, health and maybe medicine (“still in formulation”) and pathways to and from the Indonesian education system. And regional university participation rates are still “significantly lower” than the national level.  But overall the next vice chancellor will need to “hold true to our values of engagement and service out communities,” the chancellor says. Bowman may be going but he won’t be forgotten.

IWD honours

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian named Hala Zreiqat the state’s woman of the year yesterday. Professor Zreiqat is a biochemical engineer at the University of Sydney. Her ACT counterpart is ANU student Ashleigh Streeter-Jones, named for her work in international development.

No plan B if Murray Darling med school does not flow

There are suggestions La Trobe U has an alternative plan in place to the Murray Darling Medical School joint-proposal with Charles Sturt U. Word is that LT U would be happy with a pre-med programme, possibly offered in cooperation with an existing medical faculty and based at the Health Science school at La Trobe Bendigo. The city is already a Monash-led regional hub for graduate training in rural medicine.

But for the idea to assuage advocates of the MDMS the pre-med graduates would need an opportunity to go on to a medicine degree and a possibility of a pathway to the University of Melbourne is floated.

But not by UniMelb, which sunk the idea yesterday, telling CMM “it is not considering any proposal to provide a pathway to medical school for graduates of a particular university.” La Trobe U declined to comment.