The Opposition says $3200 is a price worth paying to help disadvantaged students into study


As the Murray Darling fight flows so the sun shines on the coast: the great medical student placement debate expands


and Licence to print money: how China’s bonus system drives academic research

 Well they would, wouldn’t they!

Drowning researchers look for help,” James Cook U announced yesterday. It’s about research with UNSW on people who drown trying to help others, ( CMM June 23)

Plibersek says uni-prep programmes should stay

Labor opposes moving enabling programmes from load to fee for service

In a little noticed budget move the government took uni-prep enabling programmes off load and turned them into user-pays. As CMM reported on May 24, the government also intends to allocate places by competitive tender. The ten institutions that now offer the $3200 courses fear for disadvantaged regional students, who now account for many of the 10 000 students in the scheme, and they worry that a tender process will lead to cuts to quality.

Labor education shadow minister Tanya Plibersek agrees and was in Newcastle yesterday supporting the existing arrangement. Close to 20 per cent of current students at the city’s university entered via an enabling programme and ““the fact that Newcastle has more than 1,000 Indigenous students enrolled and trains more than half of the nation’s Indigenous doctors is no coincidence – this is directly attributable to decades of hard work and Newcastle University’s steadfast commitment to delivering equity in education through high quality enabling programs,” she says.

“If we want students to upgrade their skills and upgrade their education to make them more employable, then we shouldn’t put barriers like this in the way.”

Labor “will fight”, the change, Ms Plibersek adds.

She may not have to – if there was ever a low-cost concession Education Minister Simon Birmingham could offer a crossbench senator inclined to vote for the headline university savings this looks like it.

Applause for Uni Auckland

In so far as there can be good news about an STD the Kiwis are on the case

STD gonorrhea is becoming untreatable as antibiotic resistance increases, the World Health Organisation reports, warning Friday that new drugs are needed. Or perhaps just different ones. So a big clap for the University of Auckland where Dr Helen Petousis-Harris reports that a vaccine for a strain of meningitis might work on the STD.

Miracle of music

“Want to be the next Bach or Mozart? Enter your original composition in the 2017 Isabel Mention Composition Award,” Australian Catholic University, yesterday – the prize clearly confers miraculous powers.

Rocking with Rupert

The NTEU at the University of Melbourne urges staff to “stick together”

UniMelbourne management is proposing two new enterprise agreements – one for academics and the other for professional staff but the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union urges workers not to touch the plan with a barge pole (lest they soil same).

The union warns separate agreements at other universities have to led to worse conditions for professional staff and invites staff to sign a petition opposing them, using the celebrated Bryan Ferry song “Let’s Stick Together” to sell the idea. Um, that will be the song which features Jerri Hall in the video clip. Yes, that Jerri Hall, the one now married to Rupert Murdoch, a man not universally admired by NTEU members.

Top banana

“QUT researchers are saving the world, one modified banana at a time,” QUT media, via Twitter yesterday

This may take some time. (Actually, this is a great achievement, the university’s James Dale has worked to save and improve bananas, a diet staple in  Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania, for years-  he had a Gates Foundation Grand Challenge grant for his work at the start of the decade.)

 Pitt stops

David Pitt is leaving Monash

VC Margaret Gardner announced yesterday the university’s CFO “has decided to depart in search of new challenges.” The VC is effusive about Mr Pitt’s achievements over 12 years, including the recent $218m green bond issue.  Mr Pitt stops work in December.

The great med school debate extends to Queensland

New state, same argument as established med schools say the problem isn’t undergrad education but postgrad training


How helpful: The University of Queensland is using its new federally funded regional training hub there to make it easier for med students to study, and hopefully stay after graduation, in the Hervey Bay Region.  And  yesterday it released a study showing doctors who do specialist training in regional centres are more likely to continue in them. “Rural clinical schools helped build the rural medical workforce and expertise by recruiting experienced clinical academics, both GP and specialist, to teach and provide clinical services.” UoQ has four such schools, including Hervey Bay.

What a coincidence: Yesterday Monash University made a similar point about medical school places in announcing its two new regional training hubs, in Bendigo and Traralgon. According to the university’s head of rural health, Robyn Langham, “it’s already possible to do all your GP training outside a metro centre” and the new hubs will “play a key role in broadening postgraduate training opportunities.”

An agenda? Certainly not!: Of course UoQ’s views have nothing to do with the push for a medical school down the road at the Sunshine Coast’s new hospital, now stalled by an argument over who will fund how many student placesGriffith University is set to run the med school, if it ever happens, with the local University of the Sunshine Coast already teaching health disciplines at the hospital.

But while UoQ is not involved in that argument it would wisely be worried that places for a new Sunshine Coast med school could come by reducing federal quotas at existing ones, which in this region means it and other Griffith locations.

As to Griffith U it is politely saying not much; “Griffith University continues to fully engage with the federal and Queensland governments over the student places required to establish a four year medical program at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital. The (hospital) provides a great opportunity for our medical students with direct access to vital clinical training,” Vice Chancellor Ian O’Connor advised in a statement last night.

But this is part of a bigger blue: The distribution of medical school places is at the heart of the headline fight over the proposed Murray Darling Medical School. Supporters say the way to fix a shortage of doctors in regions is to train more there, which the MDMS is designed to do. Opponents, in particular the existing med schools, say they have plenty of undergraduate places in the country, a point UoQ is making about Hervey Bay. What is lacking is postgraduate training places. In Victoria, Monash U is partnering with Deakin U and University of Melbourne medical schools to establish training hubs, with the two Monash centres in the new scheme at Traralgon and Bendigo, the latter where the MDMS wants to set up one of its campuses.

Who gets what is supposed to be settled by the outcome of a federal inquiry underway into the distribution of medical school student places. Whatever the outcome, as the MDMS flows so does the sun shines on the coast of Queensland.

MOOC of the morning

No risk at UniAdelaide

Noel Lindsay and University of Adelaide colleagues are rolling out a second MOOC on risk management, via edX. This one, Risk Management for Projects is “easily applied to any project, organisation or business environment.”

When deadline is literal

Applications for the next round of Cooperative Research Centre funding close today, with a dozen or so expected – if they file in time

Pulling together a CRC bid is not easy, often involving down to the wire decisions. But however demanding the detail, CRC Association chief Tony Peacock urges bidders not to assume that actually filing to the feds is the easy part.

“The online entry system takes time and you can not assume you can simply cut and paste your documentation into the system in a few minutes. Allow yourself time. AusIndustry tell me that 50 per cent of CRC-P bids are lodged in the last hour. I know of bids that have missed the deadline due to computer troubles. Don’t be that bid.”

Dr Peacock is a polite person and does not mention just how confounding computers can be. CMM isn’t and remembers last October when a picky programme at the Department of Industry Innovation and Science rejected short-listed bids on deadline day for, among other things, having blank cells instead of the prescribed zero.  It also ran prodigious slow, before shutting down at 5pm before bids were completely in the system. All was well in the end but it was a tough start.

Different faces, same strategies

Two tales of one city

QUT has updated its student recruitment campaign, now featuring graduate Sam Senior whose double degree in business and software engineering led to a job in San Francisco, where Mr Senior appears to be having a good time. Across the river at the University of Queensland they are keen on Greg Flynn’s story. The university alumnus owns an Appleby franchise, in San Francisco. They may have left their hearts on the Brisbane River but they both look pretty happy on Frisco bay.

Publish or impoverish

In China academics can earn $US 165 000 for a research article in really rated journals

Researchers Wei Quan, (Wuhan University) Bikun Chen, (Nanjing University of Science and Technology), and Fei Shu, (McGill University) report on incentive schemes for Chinese researchers in a new paper exploring policies at 168 universities. They conclude that; “the cash reward policy has been successful, as China’s international scientific publication has experienced a period of exponential increase in the past 20 years.” With the bounty for a paper in Nature 20 times the average professor’s pay it is not hard to see why researchers are keen to try.

However, they point out incentives also drive fraud, citation and publication gaming and an obsessive focus on publishing one big idea.  Neither does the policy encourage collegiality, with the first author being the only one rewarded at 118 of the 162 universities where the policy applies.

It also encourages desperation rather than research application; “publications bring scholars not only cash rewards but also the possibility of future funding and promotion, which reveals the golden rule of academia in China: Publish or Impoverish.”

CMM suspects none of the authors will qualify for payment for this paper.