Space, the South Australian frontier

Simon Birmingham says the coming space agency is not about an Australian moonshot. This deplorable lack of initiative would not occur if Christopher Pyne was running things. The defence industry minister would announce construction of an Enterprise class starship – for completion by Christmas, in Adelaide.

With new space agency announced we (will) have lift-off (later)

In an announcement already supernova-signalled the feds will establish a national space agency. Back in April, Industry Minister Arthur Sinodinos said he was thinking about it and in July he asked former CSIRO chief Megan Clark and colleagues to consider the “the most effective institutional arrangements.” And lo, yesterday acting Industry Minister Michaelia Cash announced the government is committed to “establishing a national space agency.” Dr Clark’s review will now work on a charter for the agency, with a plan due in March.

Labor was faster off the launch pad yesterday, with Innovation spokesman Kim Carr announcing around 6am that Labor in government will establish a space agency.

The bipartisan support for space went down well, with universities across the country explaining how they are all set to send Australia rocketing up the Buzz Lightyear research rankings. ANU and UNSW Canberra were quick to announce they would cooperate on satellites and “space instruments”,  the University of South Australia will focus satellite research on the new agency’s work. UNSW also urged us to “get ready for an Australian astronaut”, although why the country should put a person into space instead of cubesats is not clear.

Speaking up about open-research

Tamara Heck wants to know how scientists are dealing with the way digital technology has expanded open access in research. Dr Heck (USQ) and Dr Anisa Rowhani-Farid (QUT) say understanding what researchers think of open access and how they respond to it can shape “common agendas” for national research institutions. They are looking for researchers to participate in one hour on-line or in-person interviews. (Contact:


Prescription for success

“Happy World Pharmacy Day to all our future pharmacists. What could you do with a degree in pharmacy?”, Monash U via Twitter, yesterday. Um, become a pharmacist? Certainly not, Monash used the day to promote postgraduate research in pharmacy.

Swinburne VC signals a peaceable approach to bargaining

Swinburne U had a terrible time negotiating its last enterprise agreements –it’s looking for a better experience now

Swinburne pathways and vocational education staff have voted to approve a new enterprise agreement. According to the university, 99 per cent of staff who voted backed the deal, which provides a 13 per cent wage hike as a “catch-up”, “recognising the lower increases received by PAVE teachers compared to academic and general staff colleagues since 2013.”

For 2018-20 staff will receive 2 per cent per annum increases, which is in-line with rises at other universities.

The university’s enterprise agreement for academic and professional staff is also up for renewal, although it ran for just 19 months. This is because management and union got bogged down in a blue that took years, which were meant to be covered by the deal, to sort out. But not, it seems this time.

VC Linda Kristjanson says negotiations for the new agreement will start “soon.” She makes it explicit that until a new deal is done Swinburne will not go the Murdoch way. And she does it on the day Swinburne staff will meet to be briefed by the union on what is going on at Murdoch U.

“While the enterprise agreement has passed its nominal expiry date, the terms and conditions within it continue to apply until a new replacement agreement comes into effect.”

Professor Kristjanson is surely responding to National Tertiary Education Union warnings that universities with expired agreements could follow Murdoch U, which had terms under its expired agreement cancelled by the Fair Work Commission. This means Murdoch can use safety net award conditions as the basis for bargaining.


A problem to work on

The “first ever” Bachelor of Arts conference wraps up at the University of Queensland today. Among discussions of curriculum and teaching delegates are addressing, “how do we develop our students’ employability while maintaining the values of a liberal education?” The assumption that the two are not in-synch might be part of the problem,

Unis moving advertising to the smallest screens but overall spends are modest

Australian universities spent $31m on advertisements in the first half of the year – a touch lower than the $1.7bn marketing budgets critics in the media claim.

New figures from advertising expenditure analysts Standard Media Index show total first-half advertising placements were up $4m on 2016, but down $3m on 2015. However SMI Managing Director Jane Schulze says universities spent up in the third quarter with outlays doubling in July and increasing by 44 per cent in August.

Overall spending in the VET sector plummeted over the last two years. This may reflect the cancellation of the rorted VET Fee Help scheme which saw private providers aggressively recruit students. Total VET media spends were $13m in the first half of the year, less than half the comparable 2015 figure.

Overall television advertising took the biggest hit. Universities’ spending halved this year on 2015 and dropped to a quarter for VET. Newspapers continued to command a dropping share of budgets while digital increased, up 18 per cent for universities.

All-of education spending was down 6.3 per cent, to $124.3m last year.

SMI Higher Education Product Category Ad Spend by Major Media: 1H Data
Category Media Type Jan – Jun 2015 Jan – Jun 2016 Jan – Jun 2017
Universities Digital 11,404,306 12,030,665 13,810,493
Outdoor 6,366,069 5,328,423 5,251,928
Television 7,255,903 2,258,458 3,529,619
Radio 2,389,801 2,074,558 3,366,891
Newspapers 3,928,250 2,770,557 2,838,668
Magazines 2,376,597 2,539,879 2,114,498
Cinema 575,507 450,411 507,650
Other 25,640 40,913 10,384
Universities Total 34,322,073 27,493,862 31,430,131
Vocational Training/Other Tertiary Digital 6,692,654 7,327,373 5,645,518
Television 8,795,877 2,490,021 2,136,893
Outdoor 2,021,833 2,280,514 1,858,294
Radio 4,201,478 2,328,603 1,809,822
Newspapers 2,454,618 1,640,047 1,035,104
Cinema 267,078 696,685 317,782
Magazines 224,619 135,693 241,733
Other 90,778 89,623 27,218
Vocational Training/Other Tertiary Total 24,748,936 16,988,558 13,072,364

source: Standard Media Index

UNSW’s Gonski and Jacobs back marriage equality

UNSW Chancellor David Gonski and VC Ian Jacobs have made a joint personal statement in support of marriage equality.

“Our view, expressed in our personal capacity – not as officers of the university – is that marriage equality is a fundamental issue of human rights, individual dignity and equality, which should not be denied on the basis of gender or sexuality.  We believe that all those who wish to marry should be able to do so and it is our hope that Australia’s civil laws will adjust to accommodate this, as has occurred in many other nations,” they told the university community last night.

They join university leaders across the country who have backed the marriage equality plebiscite in personal capacities, including  Andrew Vann from Charles Sturt U and Jane den Hollander from Deakin U. Martin Bean from RMIT issued a statement last month announcing, “RMIT supports marriage equality.”