Where all news is good news

Macquarie U has launched its own research-reporting site, The Lighthouse, where researchers can respond to “alternative facts.” How fortunate that there is never any bad news about MU that would need to be reported.

IP Australia identifies patents to punt on

You can bet the house on Australia being big in inventions for gambling. Aristocrat Technologies (“the world’s greatest gaming experience every day”) topped patent applications last year with 157, way ahead of CSIRO – 45 and the University of Queensland with 18. Bluescope Steel and Monash U both lodged 15, according to the annual report from IP Australia.

While overall patent apps grew 2 per cent, this was due to the 26 400 international filings under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. The number by Australians declined by 5 per cent between 2016 and 2017, to 2503.

A new analysis of data found 22 per cent of research organisations’ “patent families” are filed by “spin-out entities”. The leaders are University of Queensland, University of Sydney and CSIRO. Controlled entities generate the greatest proportion of IP activity at Griffith University, the Telethon Kids Institute and the Burnett Institute.

Still no prescription for regional med school

Nationals leader and deputy PM, Michael McCormack told the National Press Club yesterday there needs to be “a better way” to attract doctors to the bush, such as having students do all their study in country towns. This is an article of National Party faith, which supporters of the Murray Darling Medical School hope will be enacted in the Budget. But Mr McCormack did not mention the MDMS and while he acknowledged Andrew Gee’s (Nats-NSW) advocacy he said there were still “hurdles to pass” – by which he might have meant the assiduous and adamant opposition to the MDMS from medical schools with regional training programmes.  Alas, we did not find out – regional media journalists did not press him on the MDMS.

MOOC of the morning

Curtin U’s Centre for Aboriginal Studies is running a MOOC (via edX) on the Noongar people of WA’s language and culture. It starts in May.

Union rejects James Cook plan for job cuts

In news that surprised as many as no observers of James Cook U, the campus union has responded to management’s proposed job cuts (CMM, yesterday). The National Tertiary Education Union has lodged a dispute with the Fair Work Commission over, “the lack of detail in management’s proposal about workloads for remaining staff.”

“This proposal is totally unjustified, as work just does not magically disappear, union branch president Jonathan Strauss says.

Management says it must cut costs to address, “increased competition, reduced student numbersloss of external income sources including reduced Commonwealth funding, and a highly volatile and uncertain public policy environment.”

Inspired new admission policy coming at ANU

ANU will announce a changed undergraduate admission model next month, DVC Marnie Hughes Warrington told a Hong Kong conference yesterday. While she did not elaborate, Professor Hughes Warrington identifies inspiration for the changes in the new edition of her long-running blog on life and work at ANU.

The DVC points to examples and inspiration donors provide the university as motivations for the changes to come;

“It was a donor who told us that he believed in our courage to change the way that we think about admissions. It was a donor who told us that she believes in our role as the national university. It was a donor couple who told us that they could show us the first steps in providing more concrete support for refugee students.”

The changes are based on two years of work, a journey staged with the belief of donors along the way, “ she says. They will, “confirm both our commitment to excellence and our role as the national university.”

Why middle-year students fail and how to help them

An undergraduate degree is a marathon not a sprint, but interest in attrition focuses on the breathless first year.

Colin Jevons and Sophie Lindsay wanted to know why students who should have settled in falter in the middle stretch of a degree – so they looked to the record.

In new and already discussed research, the Monash U business academics analyse student replies to an un-identified institution’s exclusion committee. The top six reasons struggling students provided for their predicament are not especially surprising; an expressed “need” to work, depression/anxiety, financial strain, lack of support, relationship difficulties and/or a declared need to help with home finances.

Students also cited loss of motivation, which is curious in that they were arguing against exclusion brought on by their poor performance. This may well point to the complex emotional state struggling students are in, which do not respond to single-issue solutions. “Our data suggest that consideration be given to placing mental health services at the front line of support for students at risk of involuntary attrition,” Jevons and Lindsay suggest.

And this means universities need to up their investment in help for faltering students. “This interconnectedness of multiple factors adds a further layer of complexity for university managers trying to plan limited budgets to provide the most cost-efficient and effective support for students in difficulty.”

But finding ways to help may become an investment in institutional self-help, as well as student support with the feds considering attrition as a performance indicator for funding new undergraduate places at each university.  “The need to better understand student attrition is important given the financial, social and emotional costs and also recent Australian government scrutiny,” they write.

Different numbers, same point

The learned Peter Bentley, e-i-c of the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management reported Level A academic numbers grew 115 per cent since 2000 and professor positions were up 89 per cent, at the University of Sydney (CMM April 18). Turns out he transposed UniSyd and UNSW numbers. The actual increases at UniSydney were Level Four staff up 44 per cent and professors 97 per cent, so his point re professors stands.

Achievements and Appointments

Sophie Yates from the ANZ School of Government has won best paper by a new researcher from the International Research Society for Public Management.

QUT architecture lecturer Lindy Burton is the new academic representative on the Queensland government Board of Architects registration agency.

UTS PR professor Jim Macnamara is honoured by US industry journal PR News, inducted into its hall of fame for research on planning and evaluating campaigns.

Monash U VC Margaret Gardner has won the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s Asia-Pacific Leadership award. CASE also recognises outgoing UTS DVCInternational and Advancement Bill Purcell for distinguished service.