90 shades of drivel at UWA

Union members at the University of Western Australia are alarmed by “vague statements and weasel words’ in management’s “Leadership Capability Expectations” document (CMM counts 90 plus examples of what isn’t leadership in it). “You would think UWA people would be used to such by now,” a learned reader remarks.

Clash of cultures at ANU

There was a Dorothy Dixer in the Reps yesterday about ANU union and student opposition to the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, which is negotiating with the university to establish courses on campus, (CMM Tuesday). Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg fielded it, with a full-throated “what did the Romans ever do for us” response on why western civ is a good thing and a proper subject of study.

In the absence of a Senate Question Time, Education Minister Simon Birmingham bought into the argument on Radio 2GB. “The whole foundation of universities, academic freedom and academic integrity, has come largely out of the principles and development of western civilisation,” he said.

And he urged ANU, “to stand strong in the face of this union action, that they really ought to follow through on their convictions, which was to engage with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. This is philanthropic money coming through to a university to extend the area of their study. They should grab it with both hands.”

This blue is very bad indeed for ANU VC Brian Schmidt. The many-million dollar Ramsay proposal is deeply unpopular with some on campus, but if the university ends negotiations he will cop a clobbering in politics and the press from commentators who think it should go ahead.

Want to know how deep blue it could get? Have a look at what happened when then UWA VC Paul Johnson wanted to accept funding for Bjorn Lomborg to set up a study centre there. In a big blow to his authority Professor Johnson ended up deferring to staff protests  (CMM April 23 2015,  and CMM May 11).

UniMelb leads for productive people (but Victoria U not so much)

Victorian universities are in good shape, managing debt, diversifying revenue and reducing dependence on federal funding. “The proportion of revenues from government grants in the Victorian university sector is lower than the five-year national average, the Victorian Auditor- General Office reports.

Excepting Victoria U and Federation U, which VAGO warns “may face financial sustainability issues in the longer term,” (CMM yesterday).

Part of their problems are employee costs, way above the national average of employee benefits expenditure to total revenues, (54 per cent).

And way higher than particularly productive University of Melbourne and Monash University.

The staff costs as a per centage of revenue for all Victorian Universities are:

UniMelb 48, Monash U 49, Swinburne U 55, Deakin U 55, La Trobe U 55, RMIT 56, Fed U 60, Victoria U 64.

In the statement of the bleeding obvious for the week VAGO suggests, Federation U and Vic U “need to improve the efficiency of their staffing structure.”

Business deans make a case against competition

The government wants to stop industry associations interfering in university course content and standard- setting in the guise of protecting professional standards) and it looked like it strong university support. “Limiting the role of professional accreditation to clearly defined and profession-specific matters is, appropriate, the Innovative Research Universities group said.

But a learned reader advises that the Australian Business Deans Council is not completely keen. Indeed – the deans do warn of a “potential to undermine the ability of professional bodies to raise standards.” They also worry that regulator TEQSA getting involved might “interfere” with accreditation by international bized associations, notably the US AASCB and European EQUIS.

And then there is the dean’s concern with: “the impact on business schools if the proposed private sector compliance with TEQSA standards leads to them establishing courses in competition to business schools.” Competition? Good lord!

MOU on aphorisms

The 1400 fellows in Australia of the (UK) Higher Education Academy need to update their CVs with HEA merging with other Brit bodies to become Advance HE. However the name change has not stopped AHE signing an MOU with regulator TEQSA, “in supporting quality enhancement of teaching and learning.” Odd they did not add motherhood. And truth. Plus beauty.

The week that was: big issues bound to be bigger

Demand driven funding may be gone but it isn’t forgotten – the week began with reports of the University of the Sunshine Coast telling its community it would have to cut students in some courses, just not the ones that the government has given them preferential funding to pay for. And then policy people at the National Tertiary Education Union outlined the three lose, lose, lose funding options universities have now DDF is gone.

It seems the result will be a return to the bad old days of unmet demand. It will also be hard for research funding. The Australian Bureau of Statistics announced that fewer grants mean universities are funding more research from general funds, which must mean Commonwealth Grant Scheme money for undergraduate places .

The government’s still to be announced policy of making universities perform for new undergrad places was also on the radar, with Education Minister Simon Birmingham  justifying universities competing for places, “hardly novel, hardly draconian, hardly shocking,” he said.

There was also another  federal government VET system fail, not, admittedly, as big as VET FEE HELP. This one, for an apprentice management system, cost a mere $24m.

And then there were the first shots in a new culture war, with the ANU branch of the NTEU asking VC Brian Schmidt for assurances before partnering with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation ( CMM Wednesday). Recognising a free kick, when they see one, ministers Simon Birmingham and Josh Frydenberg weighed in on the issue (CMM this morning).

When it comes to good weeks Geordie Williamson had a beaut. The University of Sydney mathematician became a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, becoming its youngest living fellow. A couple of weeks back he was also named the youngest live fellow of the Royal Society, not the royal society for this or that, your actual, founded in 1660 century, Royal Society.

But VU management might be glad it’s Friday. On Tuesday, the university enjoyed a  good response to its plan for “culturally inclusive” education. However on Thursday the Victoria Auditor General’ Office warned it could face long-term financial stability issues and should assess the relevance and financial sustainability of their current course offerings.” And this is before the government’s perform-for-new-places kicks in.

Big issues all and bound to be bigger.

Appointments and achievements of the week

John Shine has commenced his term as president of the Australian Academy of Science. Professor Shine is chair of CSL and a researcher at the Garvan Institute.

 Two Murdoch U emeritus professors are honoured by the Australian Veterinary Association.  David Hampson wins the Gilruth Prize for distinguished service to science and research. John Edwards receives the Kesteven Award for vet disease research.  A third MU emeritus professor, Richard Read, received a meritorious service award.

The CRC Association has named its young career researcher of the year. Chuhao Liu is based at the Rail Manufacturing CRC at the University of Wollongong.

Rachael Falk is CEO of the new CRC for Cyber Security, based at ECU.

Clare Collins (University of Newcastle) has won the president’s award from the Dietitians Association.

Philip Goad will hold the Fraser-Whitlam chair in Australian studies at Harvard U for 2019-2020. Professor Goad is chair of architecture at the University of Melbourne.

Monash U’s Rebekah Brown joins the board of the Environmental Protection Authority VictoriaProfessor Brown is director of the university’s Sustainable Development Institute.

Emma Kowal (Deakin U) is appointed to the Genomics Health Futures Mission Steering Committee. The committee oversights the $500m project, which is funded by the Medical Research Future Fund.  Professor Kowal is a medical doctor and anthropologist.

QUT’s Patsy Yates has received the 2018 distinguished researcher award from the (US) Oncology Nursing Society.

The new Australian Academy of Science fellows are:

ACT: Anne Kelso, National Health and Medical Research Council CEO

New South Wales: Richard Bryant, UNSW (medical scientist), Noel Cressie, UniWollongong (statistician), Christopher Dickman, UniSyd (ecologist), Jennie Brand-Miller, UniSydney (human nutrition), Veena Sahajwalla, UNSW (materials scientist), Martina Stenzel, UNSW (polymer chemist), Dacheng Tao, UniSyd (computer scientist) , Geordie Williamson, UniSyd (mathematician)

Northern Territory: Alan Andersen, Charles Darwin University (ecologist)

Queensland: Bostjan Kobe, UoQ (structural biologist), Kerrie Mengersen, QUT (statistician)

South Australia: Greg Goodall, Centre for Cancer Biology (medical researcher), Colin Raston, Flinders University (chemist)

Victoria: David Bowtell, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (medical researcher), Peter Cawood, Monash University (geologist), Lloyd Hollenberg, University of Melbourne (quantum physicist), Joseph Trapani, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (medical researcher), Rachel Webster, University of Melbourne (astrophysicist)

Western Australia: David Blair, UWA (experimental physicist), Kliti Grice, Curtin U (organic geochemist)

Emma Kowal (Deakin U) is appointed to the Genomics Health Futures Mission Steering Committee. The committee oversights the $500m project, which is funded by the Medical Research Future Fund.  Professor Kowal is a medical doctor and anthropologist.

QUT’s Patsy Yates has received the 2018 distinguished researcher award from the (US) Oncology Nursing Society.