Curtin U goes green

The huge campus development has an $120m loan from the Commonwealth’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation

The money, “will deliver improvements in energy efficiency and lower carbon emissions while providing world-class educational facilities.”

According to CEFC head Ian Learmonth, the debt funding will, “see the next generation of Curtin University students reap the benefits of clean energy.”

Insofar as there will be green-electricity in university accommodation.

CSU dentistry school head to leave

Boyen Huang tells the dental ed community he is standing down as head of the school of dentistry at Charles Sturt U

Professor Huang says he advised staff that he would leave at the end of the year two months ago. And now he announces his departure to the wider dental world. He will leave when his contract expires, because his partner will complete their PhD in veterinary microbiology this year and it is unlikely they will find employment as a vet science researcher or academic in Orange, where the dental school is based. “To make a family commitment for us as a dual career couple, it is my turn to support my partner’s career plan,” Professor Huang states.

“Although there are still five months ahead before I step down from the CSU Head of School position, I would like to say I really appreciate everyone’s support and assistance over the past five years.”



QUT puts robots to work

The Queensland government is funding QUT to create the Advanced Robotics Manufacturing Hub

The state is kicking-in $7m over four years with $4m from QUT and another $6m from industry partner Urban Art Project and unspecified associates.

Last year Sue Keay from the university’s Australian Centre for Robotic Vision warned that while Australia is strong in robotics R&D, commercialising technology isn’t.

Which may be why QUT VC Margaret Sheil is quoted in a state government statement yesterday that, “the Hub will allow Queensland industry and research institutions to build the advanced capability that will enable manufacturers to be more competitive, bring manufacturing jobs back to Australia and generate new jobs here.”

Uni Newcastle investment: more class for Callaghan  

The university announces a long-anticipated campus big build

The $200m project, “blurs typical boundaries between education and research,” in STEMM (as in STEM plus medicine). Work starts this year with opening in 2023.

This will be good news for those staff on the suburban Callaghan campus who have felt abandoned by the university’s big, and continuing developments in Newcastle city.

Under previous VC Caroline McMillen, the university built the flash $95m NeW teaching-building in the CBD. Work gathers pace at the nearby Honeysuckle site, to house an innovation precinct, plus staff and facilities for the creative industries faculty.

But Callaghan will look dowdy and dated no longer – there are said to be two more projects there to come.

“Longer term we have ambitions to accommodate leading STEM companies in or new campus precinct and to embed work-integrated learning into every undergraduate degree,” Vice Chancellor Alex Zelinsky says

Union calls for all-uni statement on intellectual freedom

This just in from the head-exploding desk – the NTEU likes an idea from Government MPs

Suggestions the federal government could fund a university system free-speech test case (CMM yesterday) are backed by the National Tertiary Education Union. Coalition MPs are concerned James Cook U might appeal scientist Peter Ridd’s win in his unfair dismissal case. The Federal Court found Dr Ridd’s criticism of the university and researchers there were covered by academic comment provisions of the enterprise agreement.

The union’s Gabe Gooding, says “the possibility of Federal Government intervention in support of the rights provided in the collective agreement,” is “particularly timely given that they are considering the report of the French Review, which proposed a legislated definition of academic freedom.”
She also renews (CMM June 24) union calls for peak body Universities Australia to work with the union to negotiate a statement of academic and intellectual freedom rights.

It isn’t, CMM suggests, going to happen. Universities do not like the government intervening in their affairs, let alone the union.

Nevertheless, this is a smart move by the union, a precedent-setting test case could provide a great defence against people critical of academic opinion. On Tuesday night new senator for Tasmania Claire Chandler argued, “universities are shutting down debate, for example by charging exorbitant security fees when certain speakers, generally with viewpoints that differ from predominantly left-wing academics wish to share their perspectives on campus.”

A free speech test could give the “predominantly left-wing academics” who concern Senator Chandler the right to protest against people they do not like speaking on campus.

Slow, or no, bargaining progress at U Notre Dame

Waiting for Godot at UNDA

While not widely known*, the enterprise bargaining system is inspired by the work of Samuel Becket, as demonstrated by talks and talks and talks at University of Notre Dame Australia.

The old agreement expired 18 months ago, with discussions for a new one now underway for two years without anything much happening.

The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union says management has provided 1.5 per cent administrative pay rises, half of what the union wants. And the NTEU adds, UNDA executives are not budging on super – the university pays 12 per cent, while continuing staff at public universities (which UNDA isn’t) score 17 per cent.

The union signals that it will start the process for protected industrial action to encourage movement from management.

The university responds, “as we are currently in negotiations with the NTEU we are not able to comment.”

Previous VC Celia Hammond is now a federal Liberal MP and replacement Frances Campbell – does not arrive to January. Maybe, a learned reader suggests, management is waiting for him.

* because CMM made it up

All quiet on Uni Queensland comment

There was a confrontation at Uni Queensland yesterday, between supporters and opponents of the Hong Kong protests

It got to a state where police were called onto campus but the university’s usually outgoing media team confined themselves to an anodyne announcement last night; “one of the roles of universities is to enable open, respectful and lawful free speech, including debate about ideas we may not all support or agree with. The university expects staff and students to express their views in a lawful and respectful manner, and in accordance with the policies and values of the university.”

As a ringing endorsement of free speech and promises to protect students speaking-out this is light-on

Appointments, achievements

Frank Caruso (University of Melbourne) is the Royal Society’s 2019 Leverhume Medalist for nanoscale materials engineering in medicine and biology. Yes, that Royal Society, the one dating from 1660.

Gary Smith is the next, and seventh, chancellor of Murdoch University. He is a former state chair of consultants KPMG. Mr Smith replaces David Flanagan who served two terms.

 The Innovative Research Universities appoints an inaugural VC’s fellow for medical research, Brendon Douglas. He is now director of research at Charles Darwin U and the Menzies School of Health Research. He will split time between these roles and the IRU, for which he will provide high level coordination and strategic advice, plus Medical Research Future Fund insights, and other support across shared IRU interests.

Elizabeth Halcomb (Uni Wollongong) is awarded the Bridges-Webb Medal for contributions to academic primary care.

Marc Oxenham from ANU has a four-year fellowship from the British Academy’s Global Professorship programme. He will be based at the University of Aberdeen and work on human stress and resilience in ancient Scotland and Northern Ireland.

ANU has created the Research School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Environmental Engineering and the first (albeit honorary) appointment is Junichiro Kawaguchi. Professor Kawaguchi is a space exploration scientist famous as project manager for the sample – return mission to the Itokawa asteroid.