And the Oscar for education goes to …

If you have not heard that Catherine Martin studied at the Sydney College of the Arts, Cate Blanchet at NIDA and the University of Melbourne and Beverley Dunn at Macquarie, you will Oscar, you will. And the institutions will keep on reminding you all year.

Pay up please

As widely anticipated, the Swinburne University branch of the National Tertiary Education Union yesterday foreshadowed a possible challenge to the very close vote on the enterprise agreement proposed by management. As I reported yesterday the union no case went down by just 57 votes (1031 to 974). However, according to campus union leaders Ryan Hsu and Mark Schier “a number of concerns about the electoral roll for the ballot have been raised that the union will explore. It is important for us to ensure that any ballot process is robust and conducted appropriately.” Fair enough, but if the vote stands then they want the money the members are promised. “The University had promised to make payments to staff once the ballot was concluded in the positive. There are no technical reasons to delay the payments and salary increases outlined in the proposed agreement, only the willingness to make the payments will stand in the way. These should be paid to staff immediately and before all the technical issues are finalised.” But surely if the ballot is disallowed the case for the cash disappears. Ever focused on money for members is the NTEU.

Meanwhile at Monash, NTEU members will stop work this morning to protest the lack of progress in enterprise bargaining.

Straight face, the straightest

Macquarie University has a video of Vice Chancellor S Bruce Dowton welcoming new students and urging them to “have fun”. Which is not what Professor Dowton looked like he was having when he recorded the clip.

Arrival of the exes

Maybe members of the last Labor Government have not heard that there is nothing as ex as an ex, because many of its members are arriving at universities, presumably not to explain what got them exed in the first place. Julia Gillard started it with an appointment to the University of Adelaide.  Now Stephen Smith is joining the board of the US Studies Centre at the University of Western Australia while Nicola Roxon is becoming an adjunct professor at Victoria University’s Law and Justice Centre. And Bob Carr, never over-burdened by a sense of his own limitations, has appointments at both the universities of Sydney and New South Wales. There is also talk he may join UTS. As for the former member for Griffith, he is a senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. And then there is Kevin Rudd who is explaining everything to everybody at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Entirely understandable that he has looked to the largest league Mr Rudd always never seemed sure if we were smart enough for him.

And they’re off (again)

The dust had not settled from the long delayed announcement of Round 16 CRC funding when applications for the next bids opened yesterday. Applications for Round 17 close in July with the short list announced in September. Oh well, it gives research offices something to do when they are not completing ARC applications.

Marketplace of ideas

Universities are gluttons for punishment when it comes to research centres, set up to sell their expertise to the world – in January the annual University of Pennsylvania Global Go To Think Tank Index, rated Australian university based research centres well down the public policy food chain. And yet the University of Queensland’s Faculty of Business, Economics and Law is launching a new one, the Australian Institute for Business and Economics, which acting director John Mangan says will “harness and develop the faculty’s strengths in economics and business research and expertise by engaging locally and internationally.” I’m not entirely sure what that means but I have a fair idea about this bit; “a key role of the institute will be to forge links with government, industry and the broader community while seeking potential research partners and funding opportunities.” Research centre/business centre – seems the terms are interchangeable

The east is read (until the website’s taken down)

RMIT reports it is now on Weibo, where it will remain until somebody posts something that annoys Chinese censors.

Dewar digs in

When it comes to straight bats John Dewar plays the straightest. Yesterday the La Trobe VC faced up to some tough bowling from Fiona Parker on ABC radio in Bendigo. Ms Parker asked how many of the 350 jobs projected to go under his restructure would be lost on the Bendigo campus. And asked and asked and asked. To which Professor Dewar replied and replied and replied that he did not know, that the 350 was a global figure and that the number for campuses and operating units was not worked out. When she got bored with getting nowhere with that she started asking why had not talked about job losses in a Friday speech at the Bendigo Art Gallery – which Professor Dewar dealt with in the same way. It was an excellent effort by a man who obviously does not enjoy combative interviews. Professor Dewar has made things hard for himself by the time he has taken with the operational review – it would have been far easier, albeit unfair to the university community to just announce the restructure as a fait accompli. But over many months he has talked people through problems and processes and copped continual criticism. Yesterday summed up his style, yes he was an easy target but no one can say he is not prepared to make his case.

Barrel of laughs at Bundoora

Apparently the Melbourne International Comedy Festival will visit La Trobe next month. This is a good idea – following Friday’s announcement of hundreds of job cuts they could do with with a laugh.

Academic Oscars

Yes the Oscars are over but the long lead-up to the academic award season started yesterday with Thomson Reuters opening its 2014 Academic Reputation Survey, which it proudly announces, “informs” the Times Higher World University Rankings. The survey is based on the same sort of scientific method the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences uses – asking people what they think and recording the votes of those who respond. In this case Thomson Reuters asks a whole bunch of academics which institutions they rate and who they reckon is doing good work in six subject areas. Can it be gamed a la the campaigns to influence Oscar votes? I doubt it- 300,000 people are asked and they are all over the place. But do the survey results come from perception, presumptions and prejudice like the Oscars? That’s my guess.

Marketplace of ideas

There is no queue at the register selling retail education and training. According to a new report from the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency university commencements are steady on 4000 but completions are declining, to 2500 last year. “A prevailing belief that retail is a short-term career, is not a post-university career and is hard work for little reward,” might explain it.

Prescribe more rhino hide

 A month back La Trobe took a terrible hiding in the media over accepting funding for its proposed $15m Complementary Medicine Centre from Swisse “Australia’s leading wellness brand”. There was academic outrage all over at the idea of the industry funding research into the efficacy of its own products and noted medical campaigner Dr Ken Harvey, resigned as a La Trobe adjunct ASPRO, arguing such research should be publicly funded. At the time I thought La Trobe would sit tight, cop the criticism and collect the cash when the controversy calmed. Which looked like happening until ABC Radio’s PM covered the story last night. I am not sure where the new angle was but it was a balanced piece, quoting Swisse and Dr Harvey. It demonstrates the debate is not going away.