plus University of Queensland to remake performance metrics

Productivity Commission marks down education research

and ANU stays on top in QS Ranking

Astonishing news

You might want to brace yourselves for a surprise – a poll for medical lobby Research Australia found that 87 per cent of people surveyed think the Medical Research Future Fund is a thoroughly good thing.  “The community recognises medical research is paramount to improving health outcomes and want to see the best possible innovation in medical breakthroughs brought from the laboratory into hospitals and medical clinics,” says RA head Nadia Levin. Who would have thought!

Tuesday Aug 23

Johnson out of UWA

University of Western Australia VC Paul Johnson will leave at the end of the year. He wrote to staff yesterday saying he had declined the university Senate’s offer of a second five-year term to “ redirect my time and energy.”

“I particularly want to ensure that my children see more of me, and that I see more of them, as they move into and through their high school years.”

Professor Johnson will remain in Perth and is looking to “reactivate my academic interests with the intention of making a positive contribution to the analysis of economic and public policy in Australia.”

The VC promised full support to DVC Dawn Freshwater who is leading the university wide restructure now underway. This has been the main game all year and Professor Freshwater has very much been the face of change.

Secret stats

A learned reader asks where the 2015 student stats are. The Department of Education states that university enrolment numbers are out by June 30 the year after but not this time. The answer is said to be they were delayed by the election and are in the minister’s office. But why? Those who know are not telling.


UoQ ditches its own performance metrics

The University of Queensland is abandoning its unique QI staff performance measures of teaching and research. It is also giving up on a project to create a UoQ specific journal ranking. The decision to drop a research performance measure is attributed to it being “no longer optimally aligned with UQ’s strategic positioning, particularly given the Commonwealth government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda.” St Lucia staffers suggest this refers to work now underway at the Australian Research Council to create engagement and impact measures to use in conjunction with the 2018 Excellence for Research in Australia. The UoQ teaching score, which is based on student assessment, will be replaced by a broader range of metrics.

The journal ranking exercise was designed to replace the former Australian Research Council list previously used for research ranking however UoQ now says, “developing a single list to meet the needs of an entire institution working in diverse research fields is extremely challenging. For this reason, the university has decided not to implement a centralised journal list.  In its place guidelines on publishing principles are under development to support, where needed, academics in selecting appropriate publishing strategies to meet their and UQ‘s research and career objectives.”

However, in line with the ARC’s expansion of the suite of research measures, the university also says it is considering alternatives to the measures being dropped; “one of the key principles underpinning future measures will be to ensure that a broader range of performance excellence can be captured and recognised.

Outgoing Australian Research Council chair Aidan Byrne will join UoQ as provost at the end of the year.

Tech achievers

University of Queensland staff picked up three gongs in this year’s state Women In Technology Awards. Mathilde Desselle won the ICT Professional award, Nasim Amarillian is the life sciences/ICT rising star and Laura Fenlon secured the PhD career start honour.

Griffith U was named employer of choice with staffers Michelle Burford wining the Life Sciences/ICR research prize and Cara Beal taking the inaugural rural and remote work award.


Low marks for teacher education

The Productivity Commission piles the pressure onto teacher education faculties with its draft report on the national education evidence base. “There has been a 14 per cent increase in spending per student over the last ten years, yet student performance remains broadly unchanged and in some areas has actually decreased,” Productivity Commissioner Jonathan Coppel says.

What does work is teacher performance, after kids’ own abilities and their families it is teachers who can do the most good. “Looking within the classroom, particularly teaching practices, is thus paramount to improving education outcomes across all schools and all students,” he adds. The commission’s focus is on the case for using data on school education to improve student outcomes but teacher training is a theme. Thus the PC suggests applied research could shape “selection into and/or content of, teacher education courses.”

This is a significant report, which will heat the always simmering debate on the quality of teacher education courses and the students in them. CMM was surprised by the relative absence of submissions from teacher education to the inquiry – the resulting draft report make the point that policy is made by those who turn up.

It also means scathing criticism of the education research community is unanswered.

“Greater effort needs to go into producing high-quality and relevant research and in making the findings from that work available to decision makers. … the type of research that delivers high-quality evidence on what works best is rare. Furthermore the quality and relevance of the academic research that is produced has been criticised. Over 40 per cent of education research units evaluated in a recent assessment of the quality of Australian university research were rated as below world standards.”

Top of the AITSL class

Lisa Harvey is the next CEO of the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership. She will join AITSL in October from the New Zealand Department of Education where she was most recently deputy secretary for early learning.

QS ranking’s regular result

ANU is the top Australian university in the QS World University rankings, released this morning, despite dropping three places, to 22nd. It maintains its previous large lead over the University of Melbourne, which is stable at 42 and the University of Sydney at 46. The other Australian universities in the QS top 100 are UNSW at 49, the University of Queensland at 51 and Monash at 65. The University of Western Australia falls out of the 100 dropping from 98 to 102.

The University of Adelaide declines from 113 last year to 125 but is still well ahead of the only other institution in the second 100, UTS which rises from 218 to 193. Others in this group are Wollongong (218), Newcastle (245), Macquarie (247), RMIT (252), QUT (276) and Uni SA unchanged at 288. Curtin drops out of this group, falling from 284 to 306.

Notable movements among lower ranking universities, which are allocated to bands include Swinburne rising from 501-550 to 441-450, Murdoch improving from 551-600 to 501-550 and Flinders declining from the lower to the higher 500s. CQU enters the rankings in the 601-650 group.

Overall the US continues to dominate the ranking, accounting for over half the top 20 and holding the first three, MIT, Stanford and Harvard. Demonstrating the power of state support, Singapore’s two public universities are stable in the top 20, with the National University of Singapore remaining in 12th place and Nanyang Technological U staying in 13th.

The QS rankings are based on surveys of academics and employers, the per centage of international staff and students, plus staff to student ratio and citations per faculty.

Open access

The National Health and Medical Research Council corporate plan updated to end August reports work on a cloud-based resource, “to increase its role in the provision of health and medical research data and analytics by sharing its data through technology for use by the government, the broader health and medical research sector and the Australian public.” Better than published on a publisher’s proprietary database.


QUT exits minex

QUT is getting out of minex investments. “We recognise that the fossil fuel industry is a significant contributor to Queensland’s regional economy,” the university states. “However it’s responsibility to be environmentally and socially responsible as well as financially sustainable requires “an orderly and considered transition away from investment in fossil fuel companies.”

QUT joins ANU and La Trobe, which have already declared for fossil-fuel free portfolios. UTS is also working on a minex free investment fund for all universities to use CMM August 25). With Queensland now represented in the green only investment camp how long until universities in the two other energy dependent states, SA and WA follow?

Star system

While the Australian Research Council abandoned journal rankings four years back universities still assess research output according to where work is published. The Australian Political Studies Association created its own list years back and an update is now proposed. The new list ranks 606 journals, using the old ARC scale of A* down to C. Just 32 journals are A*, none of them Australian focused.

Overall 19 Australian journals are listed with four (of 90) rated A; Australian Journal of International Affairs (35), Australian Journal of Political Science (36), Australian Journal of Public Administration (37) and Australian Tax Forum (38).