Ian Jacobs’ big picture blurred by arguments over four issues

plus, it’s March and Simon Birmingham wants advice on implementing new admissions standards by mid-year

Win for UniMelbourne: Sandra Milligan is analysing education

 QUT takes the (wedding) cake for party planning

and Heads Up: winners of the working week

Active wear, active wear – briefly optimistic in my active wear

According to Victoria U, exercise academic Clare Hanlon thinks just wearing active wear “helps people feel they can become healthier.” Entirely understandable just lacing up Asics makes CMM think he can run forever – although this passes after a couple of kms.

Big hint from Birmingham

Education Minister Simon Birmingham has announced membership of the working party charged with working out ways to make higher education providers accountable for their admissions and recruitment strategies. The group was established following the Higher Education Standards Panel’s December recommendations for root and branch change to undergraduate admission practises, all of which were accepted by the minister.

Members are Kerri-Lee Krause from Victoria U, chair, Marnie Hughes Warrington, ANU, Allan Evans, University of South Australia, Sue Willis, Monash U, Helen Zimmerman, Navitas, Sarah Lye, student rep, Australian Catholic U, Belinda Robinson, Universities Australia, Conor King, Innovative Research Universities, David Christie, NSW-ACT Universities Admission Centre, Anthony McClaran, TEQSA.

While the group has already met, supporters of its task suggest members may struggle to have recommendations to put in place for 2018, given preparation for next year’s recruitment marketing at universities is well advanced.  But then again Senator Birmingham saying yesterday “he looks forward to seeing the implementation plan mid-year” sounds to CMM like a politely put deadline, but definitely a deadline.

Weddings, planning, anything!

Thanks to a learned reader for the news that QUT is hawking its city campus for weddings. “Do you have fond memories as a student at our Gardens Point campus? Or maybe you’ve never set foot there? Either way, if you’re getting married, you have the chance to create some wonderful memories at our city campus,” it  spruiks.  CMM suspects there is a strategy, get wedding guests to fill out a survey, churn out an article for the Journal of Wedding Planner Studies (not it’s real name) and bingo – a high-impact research factor. Ah love, ain’t it lucrative!

Measured by Milligan

Sandra Milligan is the new head of the University of Melbourne’s Assessment Research Centre, in education. “What,” you ask, “the Sandra Milligan who introduced universities to the idea of explaining the benefits of studying with them to prospective students in a (sort-of) competitive market?” “The very same,” CMM replies. Dr Milligan was co-founder of the Good Universities Guide and the university of the year awards 25 years back. Her research focus is combining data analytics and measurement science in assessing learning and teaching.

Just keep filing

Curtin U journalism students will staff a WA election site for Fairfax’s WA Today, running until Monday. Unless the poll is closer than predicted they will learn an invaluable newsroom lesson, how to keep the copy coming when there isn’t much to report.

CAPE crusaders

The NZG is funding Centres of Asia Pacific Excellence at the University of Auckland and Victoria University of Wellington. Apparently, the CAPES will specialise in the language, culture, politics and economics of countries in the region. Somehow suspects there will be no courses on speaking Australian.

What will the doctor order

CMM’s dogged optimism correspondent reports that Andrew Vann is talking up the chances of funding for the proposed Murray Darling Medical School, first suggested by regional explorer Thomas Mitchell, who pronounced the country, “a suitable site for an academy of barber surgeons.”*  The feds have knocked back Charles Sturt and La Trobe universities’ idea more times than an Australian batsman on video review but the enthusiasm of CSU VC Vann is boundless. Yesterday he was saying visits from David Gillespie and Andrew Gee were encouraging.

Hard to see how they could be anything but. While Dr Gillespie is assistant health minister he is also a Nationals MP and as such aware of regional community needs and Mr Gee holds the seat of Calare for the Nats, which includes two CSU campuses.

We should know if MDMS is finally a goer when Dr Gillespie releases the new review of medical training places. But in the mean-time established medical schools are not taking any chances. Last month the University of Wollongong’s chancellor and vice chancellor travelled to country towns which the MDMS would serve, to thank community leaders for being nice to interning UoW med students, (February 20). And yesterday the University of New South Wales was talking up its first intake of medical students in Port Macquarie, which is a short drive from Dr Gillespie’s electorate.  *CMM made the Mitchell line up.

The Bourne curriculum

With news that the CIA can hack your telly how smart are the feds for planning to honour achieving universities as Academic Centres of Cyber Security Excellence (CMM February 22). And given it is the Company that is up to digital no-good it will not be long, as CMM predicts, until we see a chair of Jason Bourne studies.

At La Trobe perhaps? Yesterday the university announced its joint partnership of Cyber Games, a programme for senior school students who compete to beat digital no goodery, ranging from phising to “all out cyber warfare.” Winners will be eligible for La Trobe’s undergraduate degree in cybersecurity, which launches next year.

The w in wonkery

The feds are changing reporting requirements for the simplified suite of block grant funding schemes and overall are getting the nod from the research administration community. But there’s always a critic and wise officials pay attention when it is the Innovative Research Universities, a lobby which puts the w in wonkery.

The IRU accepts the changes are mainly in-line with the intent of the two new funding programmes but it has a few changes. Like actually reporting active higher degree enrolment length, rather than just the time from enrolling to completing/quitting. And like ensuring that measuring HDR student “industry engagement,” which the government is keen on, continues to cover all of industry and not just work with “commercial enterprises.” Constructive, if complex, criticism.

Ian Jacobs’ path to a new UNSW is in uncharted territory.

The vice chancellor of UNSW has a ten-year plan to empower research and enrich teaching but paying for it means change – and just now change is not appealing to some among the campus community.

New teaching year: For a while it looked like the University of New South Wales would slide smoothly towards a new teaching for year in 2019. Under UNSW3+ there would be the standard three terms plus “an optional five-week summer term.” It does not look like it now. The staff union is against it, “there has been no pedagogical argument provided as to how the changes will improve the quality of education delivery at UNSW. Instead there will be reduced timeframes for assignment turn around, reduced study breaks to prepare for exams, and a likely reduction in assessment, resulting in a less intellectually rigorous educational experience for students,” the campus National Tertiary Education Union argues.

So is the SRC. “Students hold strong concerns that trimesters will result in … overworked staff who have to place content within shorter teaching periods,” Education Officer Dylan Lloyd, says (CMM yesterday).

But the big problem for management is that the trimester is now combined with three other controversies.

Job cuts: “The timetable restructure goes hand in hand with potentially hundreds of staff redundancies, faculty restructures and course cuts,” Mr Lloyd says. And the redundancy plans are upsetting people, lots of people, not least because nobody seems to know how many and whose heads will roll. CMM hears that management has told 100 or so professional staff they are gone, but acknowledged they will let people who believe they are incorrectly classified as redundant make their case. “Some staff feel that some of the ‘new’ jobs are very little different from the jobs they currently hold, which suggests their status as a ‘genuine redundancy’ is debatable,” a UNSW observer says. As to how many, word is the university has budgeted $30m for redundancies, which locals say translates to 400 people but people worry that there is nothing definite from management. “There seems to be little acknowledgement that this is a pitiless process that could be avoided if they thought differently about how to tackle a restructure,” a staffer says.

Consultant costs: And then there is what it is all costing. The NTEU told staff the other day that the university faces a $25m consultants spend for the overall restructure over 13 months. In the absence of the university publishing an invoiced amount it is the figure people on campus will remember.

Teaching only positions: Management is also keen to move existing academics into teaching only positions, which it says should be a separate career-path. But the union says staff should sign nothing without much more detail and last week the Fair Work Commission decided that the university cannot advertise externally for teaching-only staff. Even worse for the university’s leadership FWC also determined that existing staff can only be moved to teaching only roles if they agree (CMM March 3).

All these problems are entirely manageable individually, but piled on top of each other they make it difficult for staff to see Professor Jacobs’ original plan.


winners at work this week

Jane Goodyer is the new dean of engineering at Massey University. At Massey for six years she is also advising the NZ Tertiary Education Commission on engineering education models, including degree apprenticeships.

Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston will become chancellor of the University of the Sunshine Coast next month. He replaces John Dobson who is stepping down after a decade in the chair.

Maori businessman Michael Ahie is installed as the new chancellor of Massey University. He replaces Chris Kelly, who stood down after two years. 

Lorrelle Burton is recognised by the Australian Psychological Society with its 2016 Distinguished Contribution to Psychological Education Award. The University of Southern Queensland professor is the author of a first-year psychology text set at 20 Australian universities, now in its 4th edition, with a 5th scheduled.

Michael Parker moves up to lead the University of Melbourne ’s Bio 21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute. He will also continue to run the St Vincent’s Institute structural biology unit.

Chris Stapelberg is the new joint chair in mental health at Bond University medical school and the Gold Coast University Hospital. He moves from Griffith University.

Deakin PVC Industry and Partnerships Guy Littlefair is moving to the Auckland University of Technology, where he will be PVC and dean of design and creative technologies.

Mark Burry is the foundation director of Swinburne University’s Smart Cities Research Institute. He joins from the University of Melbourne’s School of Design.

 OUA is staffing up in user services appointing serial online entrepreneur Andy Sheats as executive general manager for student experienceMr Sheats is best known for his work in property marketing, building behemoth realestate.com.au.

Swinburne scientist Sally Macarthur is taking up a joint appointment with the CSIRO. She will build a transdisciplinary team across both institutions working on 3D in vitro cell culture systems in health and medical research.

Bill Lovegrove is confirmed as president of the Nan Tien Institute, “Australia’s first government accredited tertiary institution grounded in Buddhist wisdom and values.” He is a former DVC at Griffith U and was VC of the University of Southern Queensland for eight years.