Unless Simon says in Spanish

Stay sharp university lobbyists – the government’s higher education package is still expected to be in parliament this session, which has seven weeks to run before Christmas. Unless, that is, everything goes on hold when Simon Birmingham discovers he is a citizen of Ecuador.

RMIT VC backs marriage equality

Bean speaks out on “a basic right”

Vice Chancellor Martin Bean has written to the RMIT community yesterday stating; “RMIT University proudly supports marriage equality and believes it’s a basic right that people, regardless of who they choose to love, should be recognised equally by law.”

This puts Mr Bean out in front of many his colleagues.

The generality of university managements have not adopted a position on the marriage equality plebiscite – confining themselves to urging students to vote and reminding them that counselling is available for any upset by the debate. QUT is so keen to stay neutral that it disavowed a university-wide message from an official app advocating a yes vote.

Room at the top

There’s a talent shortage at STA

Peak body Science and Technology Australia is inviting members of its constituent organisations to nominate for the board, which seems light on for some significant skills and regional representation.

STA will particularly welcome people, “with experience or qualifications in law/governance, entrepreneurship, public relations, or HR.”  It will really help if they are also from South Australia, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia.”

The vacancies are in the positions for medical science, agriculture, aquatic science and “a general representative.”

Going nowhere at RMIT

Union and management don’t like each other’s enterprise bargaining proposals

Enterprise bargaining at RMIT started in June and has gone as far as nowhere. “While discussions with management have been amicable there has been very little actual progress,” says the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union.

The comrades complain the university particularly does not want to talk about writing rostered days off and flexible work arrangements for professional staff into the new agreement. The union argues they must both be codified, because leaving flex-time up to negotiations between individual staffers and superiors leaves management with “too much discretion to knock back staff requests.”

But if management does not want to talk about formalising flex work the union says it is “very leery” of the university’s proposals for flexibilities in working conditions, “which tend to further corrode the already wobbly 36-hour week staff are paid for … What starts out as an individual flexibility over time becomes an expectation for everyone.”

The union also wants continuing contracts for casual academics who are course coordinators. However, there is no mention of improved superannuation for casual staff, which looks like a lost cause, not making the cut in any agreement negotiated so far.

Union members will meet on Thursday to discuss progress, or its absence.

Silent engagement, no obvious impact at ARC

Preparations continue for applied research component of next year’s Excellence for Research in Australia, just very quietly

Bill Shorten’s advocacy of pure research (CMM Friday and yesterday) must have cheered up, just not by much research experts working on the Australia Research Council’s impact and engagement pilot for the applied component of next year’s ERA exercise. Not that anybody at the ARC is talking – apparently, the pilot is complete, with the outcomes being reviewed. Once that is done a report will appear, in the ARC advises, “the coming months.”

Sky high generosity

Virgin and booking agency Campus Travel are combining to assist women in STEM. Academics and PhD candidates can submit a 500-word proposal about research that requires travel. The winner will receive $5000 worth of flights and $1000 for accommodation. That’s winner, singular. It’s a start, but would the partners miss the price of say ten grants?

Open Day of the Decade

Southern Cross is back in the OD game

Southern Cross University has held weekend open days on both Lismore and Gold Coast campuses for the first time in a decade! (Coffs Harbour is on Sunday)

Apparently, for ten years the university was happy “attracting students by word of mouth.” Although it seems some of the mouths must have belonged to SCU staff –the university did hold on-campus course information events in Decembers. But no OD until now. It’s a bold institution that sees no need to demonstrate its attractions when all the competition does.

Cash injection

Monash U med research partners with venture capitalists

Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute has joined the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund, which has $530m under management and invests in early stage development and ready for market medical technologies. MRCF includes major medical research institutes and their associated hospitals. The Monash BDI has 700 scientists in 120 teams, variously working on, cancers, cardiovascular disease, human development and stem cells, infection and immunity, metabolic disease and obesity, and neuroscience.

VET needs new skill sets

The vocational education system does not do much to assist aspiring entrepreneurs, but it will have to learn how

People who want to build their own business need more than the skills that are their tools of trade, they need to know how to identify what the market wants and work out ways to deliver. Which should make entrepreneurship a natural subject for VET.

But it isn’t, as Don Scott-Kemmis demonstrates in a new report for the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education and Training. Mr Scott-Kemmis finds Australia “has no coherent national policy on entrepreneurship or education for entrepreneurship (“although there has been support for start-ups and commercialisation”). He cites a case study of Canberra, where there is a culture of entrepreneur start-ups, discovering business founders with VET qualifications said they had not helped.

The first thing VET needs to do if it is to deliver what ever-more students will want and need is to work out what teaching entrepreneurship involves.

“As entrepreneurship careers become an increasingly viable option, the development of entrepreneurship skills is also becoming an important objective for education and training organisations, although identification of the appropriate skills for development and how they are best developed remain unclear,” Scott-Kemmis writes.

And the first students for the skills will need to be the voced workforce. “An important conclusion of several major studies is that a lack of relevant experience and training among VET teachers is an impediment to the development and quality of entrepreneurship programs.”

Asian students will travel – while the good-times roll

The fundamentals for international higher education look good, but there are a bunch of buts

Trump and Brexit aside, demographics and growing Asian incomes suggest universities that recruit international students have a strong baseaccording to internationalisation expert, Australian expat Alan Ruby from the University of Pennsylvania.

By 2020 there will be 609m 15-19 year olds in the world, 55 per cent of them in Asia, particularly China, India and Indonesia, up 5m on 2010. So, higher education demand will grow, even if the present participation rate for post school study holds at the present 35 per cent.

This growth will likely lead to increased demand for international education from the wealthiest 2 per cent of households in the Asia growth markets as their incomes rise, by an estimated 80 per cent by 2030. “There is a reasonable basis for continued growth in demand for international education from households willing and able to spend for the service,” Mr Ruby writes.

But he warns that this does not, “automatically translate into a steady stream of applicants to higher education.”

“To attract international students, institutions will still need to look at the perceived value of what they offer, which includes the wider social and cultural environment.” Thus, he points to European perceptions of Brexit and the response of India to crimes against its students overseas.

“The political economy of nations and the decisions of sovereign governments about visa processing, access to employment opportunities, and citizenship could lead to shifts in ‘market share’ as demand grows and individuals opt for personal security and easier access to employment,” he argues.

And it all depends on the good-ish times rolling on. “This assumes that the world avoids a large-scale war that stops the free flow of people or another financial crisis which reduces the value of families’ assets.”

Calm seas at Flinders

Dispute over teaching specialist positions resolved

The Flinders branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has long questioned the university’s teaching-only programme for staff while the academic restructure of the university is underway. But the union says last night  it reached an agreement with management in the Fair Work Commission. The union has agreed to accept that teaching-only positions comply with the existing enterprise agreement while management will only advertise teaching-specialist positions externally if they cannot be filled internally.