Plus Monash medical research wins big

Spot the deliberate mistake

According to Business Spectator,Melbourne University is coming to walk all over Sydney University in the Australian Boat Race.” The cox will then turn the course into wine.

Monash medicos win big

While the medical research lobby waits for the Future Fund it still seems to expect, researchers received $540m on Friday from the National Health and Medical Research Council to be going on with. The top 25 winners picked up $486m with Monash having 107 projects funded from, worth $70m, from 518 applications. Of the top ten funded institutions seven are from the Group of Eight (ex ANU), followed by Walter and Eliza Hall, the University of Newcastle and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research. Among institutions with large numbers of applications the Menzies School of Health Research had the highest strike rate 35 per cent, a bare 1 per cent ahead of Macfarlane Burnett. The overall funding rate is just 15 per cent with funding for the institute sector marginally higher, at 19 per cent.



No cure for funding demands

It took the Medical Research Future Fund Action Group about an hour to issue a demand-o-gram on the basis of the grants. “NHMRC Project Grant applications undergo a rigorous peer review process to ensure that Australia’s most promising research is funded, but unfortunately, the limited funding available means that more than half the applications recommended for award do not receive support.” This is “disheartening” for young researchers and we need the MRFF to “insulate these bright, committed young Australians from fluctuations in the economy.” Spot the flaw in this funding bid– the MRFF would expand research capacity leading to more projects than could be funded, no matter how big the budget.

History boys and girls

The short lists for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards was released yesterday with with an interesting split between academics and independent scholars for the history prize. ANU’s Joan Beaumont is there, for her well-regarded history of Australia in WWI – home front as well as combat theatres. Clare Wright (Uni Melbourne PhD and ARC postdoc fellowship) is nominated for her The forgotten rebels of Eureka. But the other authors are outside the academy. Hal G P Colebatch is a journalist and writer – listed for Australia’s secret war: how unions sabotaged our troops in WWII. Mike Carlton (First Victory, on the WWI sinking of the German commerce raider Emden by HMAS Sydney) is a journalist. And Michael Pembroke (a biography of Governor Arthur Phillip) is a NSW judge.

U Tas delivers on dementia

The University of Tasmania’s MOOC on dementia was a hit last year with 24000 people from 96 countries participating. A new cycle has just started with 19 000 participants. This is a cracker of a concept – one which will do a great deal of good while putting the university’s name up in lights with people who would otherwise never have reason to know it.

Criticism close to home

While the review of teacher education is yet to report chair Greg Craven is getting all sorts of helpful advice. Last week curriculum reviewers Kevin Donnelly and Ken Wiltshire suggested that new teachers need to know how to organise curriculum activities in and out of the classroom and to explain children’s progress to parents. And yesterday Education Minister Christopher Pyne said a new ACER survey “found only about half of new primary school teachers think their initial teacher training was helpful in teaching students with a wide range of backgrounds and abilities. … In particular early career teachers were least positive about their teacher education courses in core areas such as understanding students and how they learn, and how to assess students and provide them with feedback through reports.”

Given Professor Craven’s Australian Catholic University has a big teacher education program it will be interesting to see how his report addresses such helpful advice.

Equal opportunity

CQU VC Scott Bowman is to join the prime minister’s Northern Australia Advisory Group. How could he not be on it – given JCU’s Sandra Harding is already a member.

Through gritted teeth

Mike Sexton from ABC Adelaide had a story yesterday about a public dental clinic in the city, which might have to close due to federal cuts. Given the University of Adelaide has the state’s only dental school and is planning a new facility no surprises where people quoted in the story work or why they are warning about funding cuts just now. But there is more in this story to sink teeth into. The reason why the university is building its own public patient clinic is the existing one, which provides treatment and teaches students, is way past its best-by date but the state government declined to fund a replacement in the sparkling new Royal Adelaide Hospital complex. And then the government decided to put the public dental service contract, held by Uni Adelaide, out to tender. The University of South Australia is said to be considering a bid, which would involve establishing its own dental school. Obviously Uni Adelaide wants the feds to keep funding public dentistry – but what it really needs is community support for its existing monopoly on dentistry education. To lose it would be a tooth-spitting smack in the chops.

Pyne: deregulation deal this year

Yesterday’s News Limited Sunday’s carried a Samantha Maiden story quoting ‘senior government sources’ as saying the proposal to tie HELP loan interest to the Commonwealth bond borrowing rate would be dropped to ease passage of the deregulation package through the Senate. A surprise this isn’t – having been signalled for months. As Minister Pyne said on Sky News yesterday, “the interest charged on the HECS debt is one of the aspects that the Senate might well want to look at and if they do, we will talk to them about how that might work.” The question is have Senate cross benchers already banked no change in interest rates and are now looking for more concessions. Even if they are it looks as if Mr Pyne thinks a deal can be done. “I believe that there will be a reform bill passed this year yes and my conversations with the cross bench tell me that the more information that they are finding out about the measures, the more conversations they are having with vice chancellors and people in the sector, the more they are realising that standing still is not an option. The status quo is not an option.”


VET’s share shrinks

Canberra funding was crucial to public VET last year, according to consolidated figures from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research. The Commonwealth kicked in an extra $374m, up 17 per cent on 2012 while state funding fell by 7.9 per cent or $344m. Overall expenditure was down 3 per cent, to $8bn. Payments to non-TAFE providers declined year on year, largely due to changes in subsidy rates in Victoria, but since 2009 they have increased 160 per cent, or $839m. In combination, the data demonstrates why TAFE feels like the poor relation in education.

Online expert imminently in-place

Denise Kirkpatrick is moving from the University of Adelaide to become DVC Academic at UWS in January, replacing Kerri-Lee Krause, who is off to be provost at Victoria U. Professor Kirkpatrick is a distance/digital learning specialist having worked at UNE, Charles Sturt and the Open University UK – which makes her an excellent fit for UWS, which launches online courses developed with the OU next year.