plus Clash of the titans: Carr and Pyne in great innovation debate

Regional Universities Network explains what we can do for the country

and For sale: desirable campus with own wind tunnel

Flinders speaks for everybody

Flinders University has lit up a Tonsley Park building in rainbow colours.VC Colin Stirling has tweeted it with the # love wins. Too right.

Wednesday June 15

Credit transfer building blocks

Sony’s education tech operation must have read Marnie Hughes Warrington’s blog about creating credit transfer blockchains (CMM March 18) and got real busy real fast. The company now says it has “developed technology that enables open and secure sharing of academic proficiency and progress records.” This is serious stuff, as Sony suggests, “with this infrastructure in place, each evaluating organisation sent an individual’s testing records could assess those results and calculate a score in a way that fits its own methods.”  This is as excellent as it is probably inevitable in a world of for-credit MOOCs and people assembling their own competencies from short courses.

But will the world want Sony? People at MIT have just published a guide to issuing, displaying and verifying digital credentials using Bitcoin blockchain and Mozilla Open Badges. As long as everybody settles on set of standards read by all others.

Disruptive design

“Just upset CRC communicators by asking them about a conference logo from logotournament. Like praising Uber‘s service at a taxi convention,” – Cooperative Research Association chief Tony Peacock, yesterday.

Clash of the titans

Chris “stiletto” Pyne and Kim “axeman” Carr will address innovation at the National Press Club on Monday. This will be a brawl, sorry debate to remember. Where Mr Pyne has a sabre called snide Senator Carr brings a broad sword to an argument. What will make it unlike Question Time is that they both actually know what they are talking about. But whose rules, Odgers’ Senate Practice, House of Reps’ Standing Orders? No, CMM guesses Marquis of Queensbury. But innovation is all very well, what CMM wants to know is when, or if, Senator Carr and Simon Birmingham will debate higher education funding.

Offers invited on desirable wind tunnel 

The long anticipated sale of the University of Adelaide’s Thebarton (campus is a touch too grand) facility is underway. The university is selling the 3.99ha site (but will lease some of the buildings back) to pay for its flash new $230m digs in the new Adelaide health precinct. Included in the Thebarton deal is “a heritage wind tunnel”, which alas, turns out to be an exercise in property copywriter enthusiasm. The wind tunnel isn’t antique but some of the buildings near it do look like a big blow could knock them over.

Change maker

ANU is refining its financial intel and is in the market for a “transformation manager” who will “provide best practice information and analysis to drive strategic decision making.” People who have followed the dispute over who got what money on which terms for the School of Culture, History and Language will recognise the need.

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UNE bound

Barnaby Joyce is very keen to get agricultural researchers out of Canberra. Last winter word was the Grains Research Development Corporation was leaving lakeside Barton and moving to Wagga. But it was not be to, instead umbrella agency, the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation is moving to Charles Sturt U’s Wagga campus, (CMM May 10). Now the Nationals leader has another agency in mind for a move. If the government is returned he is promising to move the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority from Canberra to Armidale, where it will cooperate with the University of New England to create a centre of agricultural excellence. What, like the eight rural industry CRCs the university is already involved in? But of course Mr Joyce will know this, what with Armidale being in his electorate.

Digging deeper

Curtin U has a new $1.4m endowment for a new chair geophysical exploration and data analysis. The money comes from Boart Longyear in Utah and the chair goes to Curtin professor Anton Kepic.

Fixing market failure

The Committee for the Economic Development of Australia is normally big on bold visions but not it seems, when it comes to education. In its new report on “how to repair Australia’s economic structures and drive a growth agenda,” the committee is ambivalent about whether what we need is more of a market in higher education.

“This has the potential benefit of increasing competition among providers and driving efficiencies in the education market, but experience shows thatin the absence of good information for education consumers and proper regulation of the system, outcomes can be poor,” CEDA suggests.

You don’t say. Which is why Chris Pyne was wise to create the excellent QILT website, which give prospective university students comparative information on campuses in their consideration set. It is also why heads should have rolled by now in agencies charged with regulating the training market.

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Already on to it

CEDA also worries about taking innovations from lab to market and suggests a broad range of government-based activities, including impact and engagement metrics for funding applications to the National Health and Medical Research Council so that time better devoted to researching and writing is not used up in the translation process. Good-oh but perhaps researchers with projects ready to go should just talk to the Medical Research Future Fund or the Biomedical Translation Fund, “designed to bridge the gap between research and commercialisation.”

DIGITAL MARKETING Strategies for Higher Education

VET expert required

CQU is recruiting a PVC to run operations in its VET division and grow the training business. It’s a new position, reporting to DVC Helen Huntly.

What you can do for the country

It looks like the Regional Universities Network conference next week will stick to the standard call used by generations of bush advocates; “ask not what the country can do for the nation but what the nation can do for the country.” RUN presents universities as economic supports for their regions, contributing “more than $2.1 billion in gross domestic product, $1.2 billion household income and more than 14,000 jobs to the Australian economy annually.” As to what’s in it for taxpaying city folk; “the quality of research conducted at RUN universities is also world class and improving,” RUN chair, and SQU VC, Jan Thomas, says. What’s more the nations is quids in when regions grow, “every additional 100,000 Australians who choose small cities over big ones (releases) an extra $50 billion into the national economy through avoided housing and congestion costs.”


Agility is all

All of a sudden there are competing technologies for blockchain credit transfer systems (above) but asking whether they can be ignored for a while is a kodak of a question. Because if these two don’t create a new academic qualification system something else will. And the same speedy changes apply across just about all mass customer based, high-transaction industries. Its why a thousand people, including some from Monash, Deakin, Uni of Melbourne, Uni of Adelaide, Charles Sturt U and Griffith U are all attending next week’s Agile conference in Melbourne to hear experts including MIT’s Kate Darling and IBM CIO Jeff Smith discuss disruption and the digital technology to embrace the challenges and overcome the crises of an endlessly agile world. The two day conference includes a session for school and university students on working with at the absolute edge tech companies.  Content Activated by Agile

Singapore quality over quantity

It just shows what a rich country run like a corporation can do. The Singapore Government  strategy to build its education and research system is delivering ranking results with the National University of Singapore Asia’s number one in the new QS Asia league table. And the state’s second school, the Nanyang Technological University is now number three, up ten spots in a couple of years. The University of Hong Kong is number two, with the HK University of Science and Technology fourth and China’s Tsinghua U fifth.

The orthodoxy now is that China’s investment in higher education will mean not just new names, but a new approach to learning. Simon Marginson says China will produce more research papers than the US in two years. “Whereas the western tradition encourages singularity and universality of thought, with the disciplines each pursuing their universal claims in separation from each other, Chinese thinking encourages creative fusion, often for practical ends. Could this become a signal feature of the evolving East Asian university?,” he asks. (CMM March 2 )

Good-oh, but this is yet to translate to ranking dominance. Just ten of the QS Asia top 50 are in China (ex Hong Kong).