Soothsaying days of the day

“Your future is full of possibilities. Come to our Open Day to unlock yours,” Macquarie U urges (OD is on August 18). Of course, there will still be plenty of possibilities even if you don’t go. UNSW is equally prescient, promoting its OD (September 1) with “Your future awaits.”  Perhaps they both use Yoda Advertising Associates, (“always in motion is the future.”)

There’s more in the Mail

There’s more in the Mail … today in Features, David Myton checks out Australia’s latest innovation performance.

VC Schmidt caps ANU UG enrolments

ANU will cap enrolments with Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt saying the present 20 000 students is appropriate and the university will not grow domestic or international numbers. Professor Schmidt  spoke on ABC Radio yesterday.

While the university did not respond to a request for further information, this appears an astute move that suits his plan for the university and adapts to political circumstances.

Professor Schmidt wants a campus that is a community. His 2016 plan includes opportunities  for large numbers of students to live on site (CMM August 2 2016) and that forbids allowing supply to ramp-up to meet demand.

It is also a good move for the ANU brand. Unless Labor wins the next election and keeps its commitment to restore the demand driven system, rationed university places will return. This means more demand for top-rated institutions, effortlessly enhancing ANU’s reputation. But Professor Schmidt is already covered against any allegations of elitism, with the university’s new entry scheme (for 2020 starts) giving priority, after making academic and community service thresholds,  to Indigenous Australians, students from low SES schools, refugees and others who have suffered long-term hardship.

As for international enrolments the same number of students paying increased fees for in-demand places might be a not-entirely unanticipated outcome.

Finkel says Australian values should shape AI debate

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel has called for Australians to be “human custodians” of artificial intelligence by “being leaders in the field of ethics. “

While Australia will inevitably import AI technology Australians can create their own rules of use, Dr Finkel proposed at a Sydney conference convened by the Human Rights Commission yesterday.

“In my mind, that means showing the world how an open society, a liberal democracy, and a fair-minded people can build artificial intelligence into a better way of living,” he said.

Dr Finkel suggested Australia’s track-record of adopting another transformative technology, IVF, demonstrated how to do it.

“We had a spectrum of approaches that worked together and evolved in line with the state of the technology, and the levels of comfort in the community.  There were laws and regulations, there were industry codes and practices, and there were social norms.  We will need to develop a similar spectrum of responses to AI – so that we can strike the balance between opportunity and risk.”

And he called for a similar process, starting now, to establish the objective and rules that must govern the way the state uses AI, to serve rather than supervise.

“We must all be involved in this national discussion.  And every time we come to a decision about the technologies we allow into our lives we must ask ourselves: ‘what kind of society do we want to be?’  To start, let’s be a society that never forgets to ask that question.”

Peak engineering and technology body ATSE was quick to back Dr Finkel. “We need to adopt and adapt all of the world’s emerging technologies relevant to Australia’s needs. … AI will be part of the future of a prosperous Australia. But society will also require rules within which AI functions,” president Hugh Bradlow said yesterday

UniMelbourne within a light-year of an enterprise agreement

After long preparations and  negotiations union and management at the University of Melbourne are within a light-year of a new enterprise agreement, with early arguments (as in ones that started last year) over.

The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union appears ok with freedom of speech protections, an issue on which it ran hard early. Management now seems to have abandoned separate agreements for academic and professional staff which it was pushing for.  And it looks like 12 month-contract staff will qualify for the 17 per cent superannuation, permanent employees receive

But peace is not perfect. The union says it is asking for a 2.3 per cent pa pay rise across the agreement but management will not move from 1.7 per cent. The campus executive has convened a meeting to vote on a half-day strike next month and a ban on participating in the university’s open day.

UniCanberra staffing up

Back in February the University of Canberra announced it needed staff savings to free-up funds to invest in new academics (CMM February 21). And now the investing begins with UniCanberra, “looking for over 50 academics with unbridled potential to boldly take the lead in redefining our university of the future.” If that does not put people off there are positions across five faculties.The majority of jobs are for “assistant professors,” which look like level B in the common grading.


RMIT begins a credential blockchain

RMIT will issue students with “block-chain enabledcredentials for “industry-relevant” digital courses, including one on blockchain strategy. The university is partnering with Credly, “the end-to-end solution for creating, issuing and managing digital credentials” to provide them.

While UniMelbourne started trialling credentials on the blockchain a year back (CMM April 27 2017) RMIT is certainly a leader in researching practical applications and implications of the blockchain as a record system independent of the regulating state (CMM October 30 2017).  Jason Potts and colleagues at RMIT have a research programe at the Blockchain Innovation Hub. A new paper by Professor Potts and RMIT colleagues, Sinclair Davidson and Mikayla Novak, explores the cost of maintaining the trust between economic actors that keep countries function, estimating it accounted for 35 per cent of US employment in 2010. While they make no predictions the potential of blockchains to manage exchange of value and information cheaper and safer than traditional record system is apparent.

So far, so good for Macquarie U’s new curriculum structure

A week after its announcement the completely new curriculum structure proposed for Macquarie U is going down with staff ok-ish. Changes to date run to the cosmetic, for example, varying the names of core and optional subject groups from “red/purple zone” to “core/fexible zone.” And the most adamant opposition appears confined to people whose fave courses will not easily fit into the new models.

But overall, observers of the process say the generality of responses range from acceptance to enthusiasm as staff get their heads around the structure of the system and the shape of new degree programmes.

The challenge now is to get it into shape for the 2020 academic year and that means administrators working on translating around 25 000 students from the old degree architecture to the new – which only seems easy to people who will not have to do the work.

But once done that will be that? Not quite. There is still the matter of course content. Management says this is a matter for the people who run courses but that the new architecture, “provides an excellent opportunity for departments and faculties to review course and unit content.”

Dolt of the day

Is CMM. The new associate dean for research education in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sydney is Victoria Cogger, not Cooper (CMM Monday).


UniSA’s Anthony Elliott will lead the new EU-funded Jean Monet Centre of Excellence and JM Network, based at the university.  The two ventures will foster Euro-Australian research on Industry 4.0 (AI, internet of things and etc), creative industries and migration and culture.

Mulyadi Robin joins Alphacrucis College as programme director for the master of leadership programme. He moves from Monash U’s business school.

Carina Kemp is AARNET’s new director of e-research. Dr Kemp was previously CIO at GeoSciences Australia.