The Innovative Research Universities has answers to improve undergraduate completion


A space agency of our own: we could call it NASA


Medical research award winners: the best and brightest (mainly) blokes


The kids are alright: top ANZ unis under 50

Open Day of the Day

“Make liquid nitrogen icecream, handle live snakes, learn about hacking, ransomware and more at our Open Day,” Edith Cowan U promises, via Twitter, yesterday. So what more could there possibly be? Well, “renowned hypnotist and comedian, Matthew Hale is here to help you focus your mind (and make you laugh)” in his “how to have a great career by choice not chance.”  And the career mindreader is back (an ECG that records brain stimulation as you consider courses). There is no talk of anybody using brain waves to bend spoons

Faster and more frequent finishers

Fears of attrition are over-blown but there is more, much more, universities can do to measure and maximise student completion, peak body IRU argues

The Innovative Research Universities group acknowledges providers can do more to assist students in its response to the Higher Education Standards Panel’s (CMM June 14) discussion paper on improving undergraduate completion. “The reported ‘crisis of attrition’ is an exaggerated response, yet there is more the sector can and should do to support students to complete their studies,” the IRU asserts, in a discussion paper released yesterday.

However, the group resolutely rejects HESPs proposal for a demographically based ‘prediction calendar’ to provide prospective students with a guide to how long completing a course takes. “The provision of this kind of predictive score comes with a significant risk of perpetuating community stereotypes about success and will undo the work of the sector to raise aspirations for tertiary education.”

But IRU does endorse developing metrics that “provide more accurate information of performance in supporting student success.” And it calls for career-long professional development for academics to; “support the development of curricula that is authentic to the discipline whilst also supporting students to develop the academic skills, agency and employability capabilities that will improve completions and success.”

The group also advocates an all-resources website to help students “make informed decisions about their studies.”

Cold cash for Antarctic knowledge

UNSW Scientia Professor Matthew England has received the 2017 Tinker-Muse Prize

The $100 000 award from the Tinker Foundation goes to Professor England for his “profound insights into the influence of the Southern Ocean on the continent.” The US based Tinker Foundation funds the award in honour of its long-time president, Martha Muse who recognised the importance of Antarctica.

NASA would be a good name

The government wants to send Australian space industry to the stars

Before the budget Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Arthur Sinodinos said he was interested in the case for a space agency (CMM April 10). Now he has appointed former CSIRO chief Megan Clark to lead a panel to tell him all about it, with a review of space industry capabilities. The panel is charged with reporting on technologies and products that can build market share for niche products and “the most effective institutional arrangements to support the strategic direction of Australia’s space industry.”

The could call for a new body and call it the National Australian Space Agency.

Ms Clark is joined by Russell Boyce (chair of space engineering UNSW, Canberra), Michael Davis (chair, space industry association), David Williams (group executive, CSIRO astronomy and space science), Stuart Minchin (chief, environmental geoscience, Geoscience Australia), Steven Freeland (dean and professor space law, Western Sydney U), Anna Moore (director, ANU Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre), Jason Held (director, Saber Astronautics) and Flavia Tata Nardini, CEO Fleet Space Technologies.

It caps a big week for staff stuff. On Tuesday Senator Sinodinos signed an agreement giving Australia astronomers access to the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

And on Wednesday Australian Research Council CEO Sue Thomas launched the snappily titled $33m Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics in Three Dimension, at ANU.

Al honoured

The University of Melbourne awarded Al Gore an honorary doctorate last night

The former US vice president received a doctor of laws “in recognition of his efforts to recognise and tackle man-made global warming.

Made their day

The QS ranking of the top 150 universities under half a century old is out

UTS leads the Australian and New Zealand entries at eight, followed by the University of Wollongong (17), QUT and RMIT (equal 18th). Curtin U follows at 22, ahead of the University of South Australia at 26, Deakin U at 29, Griffith U at 32 and James Cook U at 43. As the Australian Technology Network noted, its members make up five of the first Australian six.

The second 50 (grouped by decades) includes Swinburne U (51-60), Bond U (51-60), Auckland University of Technology ( 61-70), Murdoch U (71-80), Uni Canberra (81-90), Western Sydney U (81-90), CQU (81-90).

The final 50 are presented as one group. They include Charles Darwin U, Edith Cowan U, Australian Catholic U and Southern Cross U.

The list extracts qualifying universities from the overall QS ranking, scoring them on a survey of academic and employer opinion, citation of research publications and rations of staff to student and international faculty and students.

Boys night out

The National Health and Medical Research Council has announced all the winners of its annual awards (below). Some 16 men are honoured compared to six women (ANU’s Carola Vinuesa was named twice).

Top ranked applicants

Rising Star Award: for the top-ranked application by an Indigenous researcher in the Early Career Fellowship scheme, James Ward, Finders U

Gustav Nossal Award: to the highest ranked applicant for a scholarship in medical/dental research, Joshua Osowicki, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Marshall and Warren Award: for the most highly innovative “and potentially transformative” Project Grant application, David Evans, University of Queensland

Project Grant Award: for the highest ranked applicant, Carola Vinuesa, ANU

Programme Grant: for the highest ranked applicant, Scott O’Neill, Monash U

Development Grant: for the highest ranked applicant, Chris Williams, Bionic Institute

Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowships

Biomedical: Carola Vinuesa, ANU

Clinical: Phyllis Butow, University of Sydney

Public health: Rebecca Guy, UNSW



Fellowship Awards

Practitioner Fellowship: David Paterson, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital

Research Fellowship: Alan Cowman, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Frank Fenner Early Career Fellowship: Larisa Labzin, University of Queensland

Career Development Fellowships

Biomedical CDF level one: Willem (Joost) Lesterhuis, University of Western Australia

Biomedical CDF level two: Stuart Brierley, Flinders U

Clinical CDF level one : Julian Elliott, Monash U

Clinical CDF level two: Kiarash Khosrotehrani, University of Queensland

Industry CDF level one: Dominic Hare, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Health

Industry CDF level two: Julie Brown, Neuroscience Research Australia

Population Health CDF level one: Michael Livingston, LaTrobe University

Population Health CDF level two: Andrew Steer, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

Biennial Awards

Ethics Award: Nikolajs Zeps, Epworth Hospital

Outstanding Contribution Award, Jane Hall, UTS

Science to art award: Joshua Shing Shun Li, University of Queensland

Heads UP

appointment news of the week

Subra Suresh will be the fourth president of Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, Professor Suresh is now president of Carnegie Mellon U, where he has served four years. He is a previous president of the US National Science Foundation, appointed by President Obama in 2010. He takes over at NTU in January.

ANU is recruiting a chief financial officer. The position is in the portfolio of the highly- regarded chief operating officer Chris Grange.

David Pitt is leaving Monash. VC Margaret Gardner announced yesterday the university’s CFO “has decided to depart in search of new challenges.” The VC is effusive about Mr Pitt’s achievements over 12 years, including the recent $218m green bond issue.  Mr Pitt stops work in December.