plus education exports up 15 per cent to $21.8bn

where rhetoric meets reality: audit announced for innovation agenda

and achievers of the week

Rings a bell

The University of Sydney reports, “rock star carillonist Amy” will play a love-song selection on Valentines Day. It takes CMM back to an early morning back in the 1870s when he heard somebody play “Never on Sunday” on the UniSyd carillon. Perhaps not the right sort of love song for V Day.

Market focus

The University of Queensland has launched six new degrees, ranging from exercise science to the classic course for aspiring ministers and mandarins, politics, philosophy and economics (CMM August 22). First figures show they have found a market. PPE enrolled a starting class of 50 and demand for the clinical exercise physiology was twice the 45 places.

Auditing the innovation agenda

The National Innovation and Science Agenda was the go before the last election with the government promoting job-generating applied research. But now reality is replacing rhetoric and the Australian National Audit Office is asking questions. “Was sound and timely policy advice provided to government to help inform the development of the Agenda? Were appropriate planning and governance arrangements established to support the implementation of the Agenda?,” the ANAO asks in announcing a performance audit yesterday.

The office also wants to know whether NISA’s achievements are being adequately observed and properly reported, which is a bit rich, give the long lead-times research funding takes to flow into labs, let alone deliver results. But overall the ANAO’s findings will be interesting indeed. The NISA was announced to all but universal acclaim – understandably so, not even professionally sceptical scientists easily resist a prime minister explaining how important their work is. But enthusiasm for research does not a properly designed funding programme with clear objectives make. The ANAO is accepting submission until the end of March.

Education exports up 15 per cent

Yes minister

Simon Birmingham on yesterday’s THE international ranking; “Well done to all the ranked Australian universities – a testament to the sector’s strong reputation abroad,” via Twitter yesterday. To which Universities Australia replied. “Couldn’t agree more. Another strong showing in global rankings by Australia’s world-class university system.” CMM understands they are also both agree on the importance of motherhood.

More than money

The Group of Eight was also quick to point to the Times Higher’s report of Australia’s cosmopolitan campuses, especially that five of the global top 25 are from the Go8 and that the group accounts for two out of three international students here. But it is not just about business. “International education is much more than a $20 billion export earner for Australia. The real long-term value lies in the immediate and long-term contribution that our international students and graduates provide to Australia’s innovation, global standing and connectivity with the rest of the world,” Go8 chair and University of Queensland VC chair Peter Hoj says.

But it’s certainly a nice earner

Just to make everybody’s point there were big education export numbers in yesterday’s trade surplus. Education Minister Simon Birmingham says the industry earned $21.8bn last year, up 17 per cent on 2015 and there is growth to come as the government’s ten-year strategy rolls out. Last night the finance commentariat was banging on about coal but $20bn in selling education is a hell of a thing.

All calm at ANU

Seems Brian Schmidt has everything under control. The ANU vice chancellor was interviewed yesterday by student newspaper Woroni. Issues addressed included whether there is a place for pineapple on pizza.

More VET for the dollar

The Productivity Commission reports total government VET spending of $5.4bn was down 2.4 per cent in 2015 on the previous year but up 8 per cent on 2006. The states and territories contributed $3.3m with the feds the rest. Some 86 per cent of completers were satisfied with their course and while only 38 per cent of the 2010-14 cohort finished their course this was 4 per cent up on 2010. Public VET is also more productive, the recurrent cost of providing an hour of training declined from $18.89 in 2006 to $16.16 in 2015.

Plus ca change…

“in an ill-balanced dietary from which vitamins,’ essential chemical elements and roughage have been eliminated, we have the cause of very, much of the ill-health and many of the diseases from which people of this and most civilized countries suffer,” Health Minister, William Morris Hughes, addresses the first meeting of the National Health and Medical Research Council February 1 1937.

Another OA argument

Researchers at some 70 German universities and institutes have lost access to journals from for-profit publishing giant Elsevier. Negotiations are stuck on price and content availability after the Rectors Conference sought a nation-wide deal for its 600 members. Elsevier says talks are on hold until “early in the new year.”

“Out of the labs and into the streets”

Organisers of the the US March for Science say it is on in Washington on April 22. “The politicisation of science, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted,” their website states. Australian and New Zealand marches are being organised now.

But who’s marshalling the Washington event? The organisers aren’t saying; “given the political climate, several of the people who have been instrumental in planning the event are reluctant to announce their participation publicly.” Now who could that refer to?

Dolt of the day

Is CMM who deleted ner off the University of Adelaide’s Nick Falkner’s surname in yesterday’s edition. Thanks to a learned reader for the correction.



The week’s winners at work


Heather Booth is joining ANU as professor of demography. The longevity researcher leaves the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research at UNSW.

University of Sydney cancer research Roger Reddell is the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ Neil Hamilton Fairley medallist for 2017.

Kevin Knapp is the new convenor of ANU’s school (as in kids not the university’s research schools) music programme.

Cultural anthropologist Genevieve Bell, now with Intel’s corporate strategy group is joining ANU’s faculty of engineering and computer science.

Stem Cells Australia has a new head, with University of Melbourne, scientist Melissa Little appointed to lead the $21m Australian Research Council funded initiative. The university’s Christine Wells joins as deputy.

Andrew Griffith is the new dean of business, economics and law at the University of Queensland. He moves up from leading the university’s business school.

Murdoch University’s Sara de Freitas is a new principal fellow of the UK based Higher Education Academy. So is Janet GregoryDVC of Swinburne Sarawak.

Terry O’Brien from the University of Melbourne is a principal investigator on a new US project to prevent epilepsy among traumatic brain injury victims. The National Institutes of Health is providing $21m to five universities, including UniMelbourne.

Peter Binks is the new CEO of the Business Higher Education RoundtableDr Binks has a PhD in astrophysics and has spent his career at the research interface of industry and education.

Composer Liza Lim has joined the University of Sydney Conservatorium of Music, “to nurture women composers”.