A brief for the ARC

The Australian Research Council Linkage Grant applications for 2014 came out on Friday, a week late. It seems the delay was due to slowness in the machinery of state accompanying the change of government rather than another raid on the ARC, as some are said to have  suspected. But then again if the government had planned another smash and grab to follow the pre-election announcement of a $103m transfer from the ARC to health research it would have come as the same surprise. The science policy community is yet to learn what Education Minister Pyne has planned or who on his staff will work with them. But now that most of science is allocated to his portfolio the ARC will be looking for a sense of what he wants. About, for example, research impact – a subject the previous government made and changed its mind on.  There is a sense around the traps that universities do not have the appetite for another complex assessment exercise. However some suggest the technology intensive sector was looking forward to selling impact to industries minister Ian Macfarlane when he looked like having control of science.  Perhaps all will be clear, or at least clearer, after meetings this week.

Monopoly it isn’t

Maybe it’s just me, but this is not something I will want to play on the looming long weekend. From Sydney University @ Twitter: “board game created by Sydney Uni students helps fight rabies in SE Asia.”

Have a Captain Cook at this

There is peace in our time (at least for four years) at James Cook University, with management announcing an in-principle deal on Friday for a new enterprise agreement. Staff will only get 3 per cent per annum, well short of the 7 per cent they originally asked for and which was more than an ambit claim in FNQ – staff there have long had a sense that they copped a cost of living much higher than in the south. But they will get the per annum rise for four, not three years. Given the all but universal assumption that the Abbott Government will have a go at public funding for universities this is a good deal for cautious unionists. As to conditions, management gave ground on some productivity improvements months back and both sides are happy-ish with what is agreed. JCU saw some of the longest and bitterest bargaining, with both sides playing hardball. That there is peace indicates National Tertiary Education Union officials took notice of the vote at Charles Sturt University, where staff over-ruled the union and accepted management’s 3 per cent offer. Expect to see a great many more deals around 3 per cent in the next few weeks.

More circuit breaker than standoff

But who knows about the Australian National University – where job losses as part of a major cost saving exercise exacerbate anger over pay. There were duelling media releases last week as the two sides attacked each other’s ability to count the numbers in a Fair Work Australia ballot on industrial action. However ACT division secretary for the NTEU, Stephen Darwin met with Vice Chancellor Ian Young at 4pm on Friday, which was undoubtedly a fun way to end the week. While a deal was not done and industrial action is not ruled out it seems the two sides are inclined to keep talking.

Transparent to a T

CQU is about to become “one of Australia’s truly great universities,” at least according to CQU. To help this happen it is advertising for appropriate people to fill five seats on its governing council for a four year term.  Is this the first time a university has ever advertised positions that are ultimately a minister’s to make?

ARC endorsed

Liberal MP Denis Jensen has some more advice for the prime minister. A couple of weeks back Dr Jensen sailed into the government for splitting responsibility for science between the education and industry ministers, suggesting it was ”schizophrenic”. It looks he was heard given the Australian Research Council is now back with education.  Perhaps this encouraged him to have another go, with an oped in The Australian on Friday, urging a national research initiative in energy storage. But who should pick the projects, Jamie “relevant research” Briggs? No, the ARC! “The government should stay-away from cherry-picking the research proposals. Selection of the most worthy research proposals should be left to the Australian Research Council.” That’s generous of him considering he thinks the ARC is “problematic in the way it goes about awarding research grants.”

Back to class for Chris

After last week’s disastrous speculation on university student services and capped places Education Minister Chris Pyne played safe in the weekend papers, sticking to the old standby of school subjects and less hinting than all but announcing that the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority will have to pull its head in. However the minister did have something to say that will upset universities, at least those with large teacher education enrolments. Mr Pyne wants a more practical approach in teaching courses. Appointing a panel to look at it is a priority.

Smart ++ plus

What are they up to at CSU? Charles Sturt University has a targeted take on open access – using short free courses to introduce potential students what is on offer. There are a bunch that qualify students for CISCO certification in network computing which is just about the best advertising for anybody interested in fee-paying postgraduate study I can imagine. But I also hear CSU staff are have something much bigger in the on-line IT pipeline set to emerge before year’s end.

Plain english sailing

And while I’m on about applied education well done the University of Tasmania team for its a maritime English course, which picked up a prize on Friday at the English Australia conference in Perth. As in aviation, English is the lingua franca for merchant shipping and all over the world, skippers and pilots need to understand each other. It’s a classic case of finding of an export market that isn’t business

Advisers, examplars

Abstracts for papers at the Commonwealth (as in of Nations) Universities Centenary Conference.

Out going University of Western Sydney  Vice Chancellor Jan Reid: “The scholarship of engagement, combined with efforts to codify, evaluate, and recognise the achievements of staff and students is palpably gaining ground, legitimacy, and acknowledgement. These developments speak to the value and significance of universities in our times engaging purposefully with the communities on whose generosity and goodwill they depend and which, in turn, look to them for knowledge, understanding, collaboration, and action.”

Edith Cowan VC Kerry Cox: “Universities have an important role in the broader community in promoting and being exemplars of the importance of strong ethical values and behaviours … ECU values have been embedded across the university … teachers and researchers alike are contributing to the wellbeing of their communities through fair dealing.”

 Why brands are ignored

I am a big fan of Byron Sharp (author of the excellent) How Brands Grow and his colleagues at the Ehrenberg Bass Institute of Marketing Science at the University of South Australia. By identifying and working out how to apply universal laws of marketing they make marketing more about information consumers can use than bamboozling babble. Which is why I really, really want to read the new book on viral marketing from the Institute’s Karen Nelson-Field which argues marketing laws apply to social media – that people do not mind branding all over online videos if they engage with the content. This is a lesson universities still struggle with and the result is campaigns that waste marketing budgets by not actually accepting they are selling education and the outcomes it provides. Promote and be proud of your product, damn it! CAMPUS MORNING MAIL is.