Advertising as safe as houses

An advert (Leo Burnet) for insurer SunCorp has won the Grand Prix for Innovation at the Cannes awards.   “One house to save many,” is about protecting Australian homes from flood, fire and storm, including research by CSIRO and James Cook U. A positive message for both, that no amount of corporate image blather could match.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) funding research and infrastructure, students should not be paying the bill.

plus AI in teaching in is imminent. Josiah Koh (Open Polytechnic NZ), Michael Cowling and Meena Jha (CQU), and Kwong Nui Sim (Auckland UT) explain what’s about to happen as learning packages create the base for educational AI.

And they expand on their ideas in an interview for Expert Opinion HERE.

with Understand reporting requirements for equity funding? Oh that it was so. There are new rules for evaluating the impact of initiatives. But fortunately, there are ways to find out what you need to know. Sonal Singh (UTS) and Nadine Zacharias (Swinburne U) explain in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in learning and teaching.


Experience Uni Wollongong wants

Cathy Duncan-Ross is announced as interim chief operating officer, moving from property company Lendlease

Vice Chancellor Patricia Davidson welcomes Ms Duncan-Ross, describing her as having, “extensive experience in several industries and organisations where she has held senior appointments leading business services and finance.”

Lendlease is planned to operate a 240 apartment “independent living retirement complex” at UoW’s proposed health and wellbeing precinct.

According to an updated development application, the precinct will also include, residential aged care with up to 144 beds, a 80-100 place childcare centre, a “wellness centre, café and community hub” plus “neighbourhood retail.”

Universities look like they “are morphing into property developers with a side-hustle in education,” Damien Cahill from the National Tertiary Education Union laments. (Read James Guthrie on Uni Wollongong’s annual report in CMM, HERE).


Charles Darwin U drones on

Charles Darwin U gets a drone manufacturing and testing facility

RMIT is in, with a research partnership and there is a $1M each from the feds and the NT government.

While there a bunch of tasks for the project there are eleven references to defence in the university’s announcement.

Charles Darwin U has long been keen on drones. Back in 2017 it offered a course for a commercial licence to fly one which took two weeks (CMM June 30). CMM is guessing the new ones have (sorry) evolved.

Research that translates into uni funding

The Victorian Government announces $100m for an innovation platform

The cash comes from Breakthrough Victoria, a $2bn over ten year resource to “create the jobs of tomorrow.”

The new University Innovation Platform, requiring matching funding from institutions, “will take the world-class ideas and research coming out of Victorian universities and help them grow into businesses that will support jobs across the state for generations to come.”

Priority areas are health sciences, advanced manufacturing, digital tech, and agri-food, meaning BV looks a bit like the previous commonwealth government’s research commercialisation priorities, writ not that much smaller.

Plus, BV will, “provide expert investment advice to university innovators,” which also seems similar to the Morrison Government’s  plan that included, “coaching support to researchers who might benefit from an improved understanding of the commercial environment,” (CMM February 3).

The new national government is yet to declare a position on its predecessor’s research translation strategy, although it was widely assumed before the election that federal Labor was not opposed to its  (still not legislated) intent.

And now the emphasis on funding projects focused on commercial outcomes appears to have bipartisan support, from the big states. In addition to the Labor Government of Victoria, the Liberal Government of NSW  brought down a budget this week, including $142m over four years for R&D collaboration with CSIRO, universities and the private sector. There was $342m (also four years) to commercialise products and services and support research institutions, start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs (CMM June 22).

Both states are also investing in applied medical research and manufacturing (CMM June 14 and 20).

Plus, yesterday Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic announced $4m for PhD scholarships in quantum computing research  “to support universities establish national research and education partnerships.”  Breakthroughs in quantum computing technology are estimated to deliver $4 billion in economic growth and 16,000 new jobs by 2040,” he said.

The state of research according to Nature

It’s ranking as usual in its new Nature Index of authors of research articles in 82 journals

Uni Queensland leads, from UNSW, Monash, Uni Melbourne, ANU, Unis Sydney, Adelaide and WA. Curtin U and Macquarie U make up the local top ten.

Overall Australia rates tenth, with the US first and China second. The PRC accounts for half the universities in the global top ten.

The ranking is based on content in 82 natural science journals, nominated by panels and “validated” by a survey.

Nature makes the usual disclaimers, including, “multiple factors must be considered when benchmarking research quality and institutional performance,” – which are not always mentioned by publicists for institutions that do well.

Andrew Norton on student income support during the pandemic


Contrary to early expectations, domestic student finances improved during Covid-19

As Covid-19 hit universities resented their lack of JobKeeper support. International students suffered without federal assistance until mid-2021. But domestic students had a very different Covid-19 experience, as I argue in a new paper. Covid initially caused losses, but these were offset by increased government payments and labour market income.

The first lockdown, from March to May 2020, hit employed students hard. For tertiary students aged 24 years or less employment fell by more than 100 000. Other students kept their jobs but lost hours.

JobKeeper rules were not perfect for this group. A minimum age of 18 years for full-time students excluded a small percentage of undergraduates. Casual staff needed employment of 12 months or more. Despite these restrictions, I estimate that just under 100,000 students aged 24 and under were eligible for JobKeeper. In its first version, JobKeeper paid $750 a week, far exceeding the August 2019 median student labour market income of $340 a week.

Prior to Covid student income support was in decline, with fewer people receiving Youth Allowance and  Austudy. This quickly – although temporarily, as 2022 recipient numbers show – reversed itself as Covid hit. Between March and August 2020 the number of students receiving Youth Allowance increased by 66 000, to a total nearly a quarter higher than a year earlier.

With a decline in student employment more people met the income support personal income test. However, for dependent Youth Allowance, for students aged 21 years or less, there is also a parental income test. It is likely that student parents moving onto income support qualified more students for Youth Allowance.

Alongside the push factors of lost jobs was the pull factor of student income support being much more financially attractive than previously. Between April and September 2020 the Coronavirus Supplement more than doubled student income support fortnightly payments. The Supplement continued at lower levels until March 2021. Including a March 2020 economic stimulus payment, someone on student income support for the full year received over $9,000 more than they would have anticipated before Covid.

The most widespread and lasting student benefits of Covid came through the labour market. For students, a border closed to temporary migrants reduced competition as fiscal and monetary stimulus increased demand for labour.

In July 2021 the proportion of full-time tertiary students aged 24 years or less with a job reached an all-time high of 72.5 per cent. In the early months of 2022 employment rates were still around 70 per cent, 10 percentage points higher than usual for that time of year.

With student working hours also up, median weekly labour market income in August 2021 for full-time students aged 24 years or less was $440, $100 more than before COVID.

As temporary migrants return and the economy struggles with inflation the good financial times for students probably won’t last. But, contrary to early expectations, domestic student finances were improved by COVID-19.

Andrew Norton’s paper Tertiary student finances under COVID-19 is published by the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods

Appointments, achievements

of the day

Anna Grocholsky joins the Heart Research Institute next month as inaugural director of commercialisation. She moves from a similar role at Macquarie U

 Kate Harrison Brennan becomes director of the (Uni of) Sydney Policy Lab (“unique collaborations with people from different backgrounds to generate new knowledge and solutions). She moves from the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

 of the week

 The Astronomical Society of Australia 2022 awards go to * Maria Djuric (Uni Sydney)  hons/masters research * Adelle Goodwin (Curtin U) outstanding PhD thesis, (at Monash U) * Peter McGregor (CSIRO) innovation in instrumentation *Adam Stevens, post doc (UWA) * Natasha Hurley-Walker (Curtin U), mid-career.

The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering has $41m from the feds for the “Elevate: Boosting women in STEM.” It announces an advisory group of “STEM champions,” including, * Marguerite Evans-Galea AM STEM Careers Strategy, (the Academy) * Shanan Gillies (Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources) * Marlene Kanga (the Academy) * Beata Khaidurova (patent attorneys FB Rice) * Scarlet Kong (DMTC, ormerly known as the Defence Materials Technology Centre) * Jan Mason (Chief Executive Women) * Morley Muse (Women in STEMM Australia) * Adi Paterson (the Academy) * Udani Reets (Women in Leadership Development) * Luke Sheehy (Australian Technology Network) * Lisa Harvey-Smith (Women in STEM Ambassador) * Frazer Thorpe (Cooperative Research Australia) * Sumeet Walia – (Science & Technology Australia) * Kylie Walker – (the Academy) * Julie Wheway (commercialisation advisor, gemaker) *Sally-Ann Williams (Cicada Innovations).

Melbourne lawyer Virginia Bourke becomes pro chancellor of Australian Catholic U next month, She replaces Julien O’Connell who steps down after seven years.

The PM announced public service leadership appointments yesterday, Michele Bruniges stays at Education while Industry, Science and Resources is tbc.

Curtin U announces new John Curtin Distinguished Professors, “the highest title the university can bestow on its academic staff,” * Christine Erbe (Science and Engineering) * Melinda Fitzgerald (Health Sciences), * Peter Gething (Health Sciences) * Abhijit Mukherjee (Science and Engineering) * Kim Scott (Humanities)

Greens senator for NSW Mehreen Faruqi keeps education in her portfolio responsibilities. Senator Faruqi is the party’s deputy leader.

Sam Van Holsbeeck (Uni Sunshine Coast) wins the Blue-Sky Young Researcher Innovation Award from the Australian Forest Products Association.

Cheryl Saunders (Uni Melbourne) receives the Taiwan based Tang Prize  for contributions to the rule of law.

Tin Fei Sim (Curtin U) becomes national president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

Nic Smith will be the next VC of Victoria University of Wellington. He will leave QUT, where he is provost in September.

Anne Summers is appointed a professor in the UTS business school.

Uni Sydney’s United States Studies Centre announces appointments to its board of directors, Michael Green (USSC MD) and Kirsten Andrews (the university’s Vice Principal, External Relations).

As of July, Robert Wellington will be director of ANU’s Centre for Art History and Art Theory. It’s an internal ANU appointment.

The WA Government’s Future Healthsearch and Innovation Fund announces fellowships for researchers who were near-misses for National Health and Medical Research Council funding. The NHMRC-equivalent $600 000 awards are to undertake the research winners pitched to the ARC.  The fellows are, Hannah Moore (Curtin U), Stephen Macdonald (UWA), Marc Sim (Edith Cowan U) and Anna Waterreus (UWA).

Susanne Williamson is confirmed as Monash U’s chief philanthropy officer. It’s an internal appointment.

The Asia-Pacific Artificial Intelligence Association announces its Women Committee, “to promote their greater roles in all areas.” Members include Branka Vucetic (Uni Sydney).