Uni blues

From UNSW learned readers report the university account tweeted late Tuesday, “staff and their families are encouraged to make use of the Employee Assistance Programme which offers a confidential counselling, coaching and wellbeing service.” No, CMM does not think this had anything to do with that afternoon’s announcement of Attila Brungs’ appointment as next VC

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

James Guthrie (Macquarie U) on the case of the disappearing casuals. Professor Guthrie explains how changes in reporting practise makes it hard to find how many staff in Victoria’s universities lost jobs last year. That’s staff as in people, not “full-time equivalents.”

Plus, Lyndon Megaritty makes the case for keeping the live, in-person lecture. “Learning is better and more effective when everybody is ‘present’ in the room, feels part of the one group, and the teacher can respond to the moods, preferences and questions from the class.”

And Rhiannon Lee White (Western Sydney U) reports on the opportunities COVID-19 created. “the way we teach on campus and the way we teach on-line are not the same. Instead, we need flexibility; flexibility to create the best learning experiences, whatever they may be, however long they go for, and via whatever mode or platform works best for each activity.” It’s a new addition to Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed Now in Teaching and Learning.

New CRC: so good they announced it twice

Victory has multiple parents

The new CRCs announced yesterday were as expected; Heavy Industry Low-carbon Transition (to be based at Uni Adelaide), the Marine Bio-products CRC (“collaboratively conceived and driven by Flinders U”) and the Digital Finance CRC.

The first two issued standard statements. “more than 26,000 jobs will result from capitalising on the scaling up of a sustainable and export-oriented ‘blue’ economy,” Flinders U VC Colin Stirling said.

“The transition of heavy industry to net-zero carbon emissions is such an essential and important next step in Australia’s path toward a sustainable future” HILT bid leader, Uni Adelaide’s Gus Nathan stated.

Bid members were suitably supportive

And there was so much enthusiasm about the Digital Finance CRC that there were two entirely separate announcements.

Andreas Furche, “CEO Designate of the DFCRC” announced, it now had the, “mandate and financial certainty it needs to undertake effective long-term research and form deep partnerships with industry to help Australia become a global leader in establishing a fully digitised economy.”

And Macquarie U separately announced “it was the core research partner” in the CRC and that its Michael Aitken, “who led the successful CRC bid” “will lead a research programme focused on guiding the world through the next transformation of its global markets.”

CMM is sure everybody will get along splendidly.

Longer than Fortnite

The feds announce $8m in first funding for its Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund

La Trobe U gets most money, (if its award being the only one with an amount mentioned is an indication) – $2.35m “to raise awareness” of “cyber security skills and training opportunities” among 80 000 high school students. That sort of money should buy a bunch of TikTok memes, which could come in handy convincing people that there’s more on-line than Fortnite.  

And if any are interested the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network leads a project to develop a “practical” cyber security traineeship for 200 participants.

Red flag for unis management of China influence

Alan Tudge was out early commenting on the Human Rights Watch report on harassment of Chinese students at Australian universities (CMM yesterday)

“Any interference by foreign entities at unis cannot be tolerated. We have already taken several actions to combat foreign interference, working closely with the unis,” the education minister said, (via Twitter)..

He might take some more when the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security completes its report on security risks to universities and research.

HRWs report builds on evidence presented to the committee and some of the recommendations may well influence what the committee concludes needs to be done (CMM March 12 2021).

This is not great for university management: And some lobbies know it. Universities Australia did not argue with the HRW report and called on an HE-government agency united front to protect staff and students from “coercion.”

However, while stating “harassment or censorship is unacceptable” the Group of Eight stated the “issues raised” by HRW “are not characteristic of the typical student experience at Australian universities.”

The Go8 adds it “takes the safety and security of students and staff extremely seriously” but points out, “nor is it solely the responsibility of universities to address these issues – it is a national concern. In this context, the primary responsibility for monitoring the actions of foreign governments on Australian soil lies with the Australian Government and its agencies, not universities.”

While entirely accurate, yesterday was perhaps not the time to state it, or the Go8 the organisation to do it. It may well remind conservative critics of Go8 member the University of Queensland’s treatment of student Drew Pavlou, an outspoken opponent of the university’s links with the Chinese Government.

Uni Queensland always stated the misconduct charges it brought against Mr Pavlou had nothing to do with his campus protests against the China connection – but this may not have been how all the audience of the 60 Minutes episode on the subject saw it (CMM July 20 2020).

Public perceptions are set:  There is certainly a sense in the community that universities have taken China’s shilling. Elena Collinson and Paul Burke (UTS) report a survey that found 48 per cent of the sample agreed “Australian university ties with China compromise Australian freedom of speech” and 81 per cent thought universities “are too financially reliant” on students from China (CMM June 17 2021).

The HRW report, plus commentary and perhaps policy following on it will only entrench such opinions.

The Australian Technology Network gets this. Yesterday it acknowledged, “Human Right Watch’s recommendations demonstrate a deep understanding of the complexity of these issues,” and it “supports the intent of the recommendations to safeguard academic freedom and foster campus environments.”

Which could be an endorsement of the inevitable, depending on what Mr Tudge and colleagues decide to do about whatever the Parly Joint Committee recommends.

Power in the MBAverse

Macquarie U is accredited by the Association of MBAs, one of the big-three bized accreditors

Macquarie U is also accredited by the US based Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business for its business courses, but not for accounting (a much rarer accreditation. And it is not among the 11 Australian universities accredited by the European Foundation for Management Development’s EQUIS programme.


Open access page turners

Cambridge University Press announces an initiative to publish monographs OA, sort of

Titles in the project will be print and on-line published for a commercial price – until they reach a “set revenue threshold” from when they will go OA on-line and in an “affordable paperback edition”. “This is our way of asking our customers, mostly institutional libraries, to become actively involved in the funding to flip them to Open Access,” CUP states.

As a way of opening access to monographs it can’t hurt and it also brings OA to HASS disciplines, where researchers prefer to publish research in books not articles – (the examples CUP cites are all HASS).

As Geoffrey Crossick put it in a report for England’s Higher Education Funding Council in 2015, “I have been struck by the strength of feeling about monographs within much of the arts, humanities and social sciences … It is very apparent that this wide community is not opposed to the principle of open access for monographs, but is concerned that moves towards open access should be sensitive to the need to protect what is important about the monograph as it exists today and as it has developed over a century or more of research activity and writing,” (CMM January 23 2015).

Up in CRC lights

Chief Scientist Cathy Foley responded to the new CRCs announcements yesterday (above)

She called the programme “an important component of Australia’s science and research ecosystem, supporting the pull-through of research outcomes to develop products, processes and systems to market,” (via Twitter).  A positive opinion from a member of the government’s expert panel on research translation, which will be welcome by CRCers worried where they will fit, or not, in whatever the new funding model is.

Maybe the CRC for Flashing Neon Signs should get cracking outside Dr Foley’s office

Appointments, achievement

Geoff Masters (Australian Council for Educational Research) receives the Lifetime Contribution Award in the 2021 International e-Assessment awards from the UK based 3-Assessment Association.

At Murdoch U, Andrew Webster becomes executive dean of the College of Arts, Business, Law and Social Science. Jon Hill will be ED at Science, Health, Engineering and Education. They will “lead the Colleges over the coming 12 months.”