In case you were wondering

“Science is about questioning the world around us,” Industry portfolio minister Michaelia Cash launches Science Week.

There’s more in the Mail

There’s more in the Mail … In Features this morning, David Myton’s regular wrap on what’s happening in the world of higher ed.

As applied as research gets

The Australian Research Council has allocated $8.2m for research on remediation of PFAS contamination in soil, groundwater and “marine environments.” PFAS chemicals were used in firefighting foam, they do not degrade into the environment and are widely reported to cause cancers and immune dysfunction. PFAS contamination is identified at sites around the country, perhaps best known, around the RAAF base at Katherine in the NT.

The first $4m goes to; Deakin University (one project), UoQ (four projects), UniNewcastle (two projects), UNSW (two projects). A second round of grants will be allocated “in the coming months.”

Unis Aus reports: education on starvation incomes

Some 14 per cent of Australians studying at university regularly go hungry and a third of those who are self-supporting miss class because they need to work, according to new research for Universities Australia.  On average, full-time students live in poverty, reporting incomes of $18 000 a year.

This is a significant cause of under-performance and attrition, with 40 per cent of students reporting that employment demands “adversely effects” their study performance and 10 per cent deferring studies because they cannot afford to continue.”

The survey of 18 500 domestic and international students at 38 universities was undertaken for Universities Australia by the University of Melbourne’s Centre for the Study of Higher Education.

The survey found Indigenous students do it especially tough, with 27 per cent reporting not being always able to afford food and other necessities. Some 36 per cent reported not accessing medical/dental care because of cost, compared to 30 per cent of Internationals, 32 per cent of domestic regional students and 26 per cent of all domestic students.

The report finds domestic student average income is stuck at 2012 levels.

This time for sure

The student loan bill is set for the Senate today ($104 000 cap on study debt, ex medicine, dentistry and vet science), and repayments starting at $45 000 income). The government had the numbers to pass the bill last session but ran out of time with lots of other legislation, including the foreign interference bill which Greens and crossbench senators condemned at length, very lengthy length.

A deal at UniMelb: management and union reach new enterprise agreement

Union and management at the University of Melbourne have reached an agreement on working conditions for a new enterprise agreement, including a compromise pay rise.

The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union is calling it a win and has called off industrial action scheduled for tomorrow and lifted the ban on Open Day, on Sunday.

Branch president Steve Adams says the union has rebuffed a management push for separate agreements for academic and professional staff and stopped “the removal of academic freedom from the agreement,” (management has long argued the university explicitly protects free speech).

Mr Adams is also claiming wins on objectives the union pursued across the country, notably improved job security for casual and fixed-term staff and improved redundancy provisions. Management’s agreement to extend 17 per cent superannuation to all fixed-contract staff is in-line with bargaining results at other universities.

This is a well-timed win for both sides. Duncan Maskell takes over as VC in October and he may not want to have to settle a stoush he did not start. The union’s deputy vice-president academic Christian Haesemeyer is running for state vice president (academic) on Colin Long’s ticket in the NTEU election, now on. A successful bargaining campaign at UniMelbourne sends a strong signal to voters.

But one thing that interests electors was not announced by the union, Friday – pay rises. CMM hears the deal is 2.09 per cent per annum. In July the NTEU was asking for 2.3 per cent annualised over the agreement and the university was offering 1.7 per cent.

McMillen returning to Adelaide as SA chief scientist

Caroline McMillen is the next South Australia chief scientist, starting in October. SA industry minister David Pisoni announced the appointment at the state science awards, Friday night.

Professor McMillen will move straight into her new role when she steps down as vice chancellor of the University of Newcastle. Prior to her Newcastle appointment she was first a professor of physiology at the University of Adelaide and then DVC R at the University of South Australia.

Changes in the QUT top team

Margaret Sheil has made “organisational realignments” in QUT’s senior management. The VC says the retirement of registrar Shard Lorenzo and the scheduled Christmas departure of chief information officer Judy Stokker led to a review of senior staff responsibilities. Professor Sheil told staff Friday there will be no redundancies and while, “a small number of our senior staff may have new supervisors, the realignment of portfolios will not adversely impact staff.”

Key changes include:

* establishment of a new role, VP business development, also with responsibility for, alumni, development, corporate engagement

* The library, HiQ student services, assurance and risk management move to VP Administration Adam Williams’ portfolio

* IT, Learning Environments and Technology and service and project management office will move to VP Graham Fryer’s resources portfolio

*  DVC Learning and Teaching Suzi Derbyshire will report to Provost Carol Dickenson

* reporting lines of the executive directors of the institutes for future environments and health and biomedical innovation move from the provost to DVC R Arun Sharma

Apps of the day

Chris Thompson (associate dean – E @ Monash U) has a new appChemicalDetectives. It’s for chem undergrads who want to improve problem solving. Find it at the iTunes App store, for free.

The University of Sydney has launched the Westmead Applied Research Centre, to address chronic illness in Sydney’s west. A core part of its programme is text messaging diabetics about their blood pressure and using apps to “support medication use.”

Shopping ideas

Building the new ANU is expanding Marnie Hughes Warrington’s already expansive intellectual interests – into retail. As DVC over-sighting the build she is  chronicling its construction, from architecture to engineering – and now into the ideas and practise of retail fit-out. It may not check-out as scholarship, but it is, she explains knowledge, just knowledge practised outside the academy.

“When you work in a large enterprise—universities are big operations—it can be hard to get your head around what it is like to run or to work in an SME. It can be tempting to preach on the basis of familiarity with start-ups in some economic segments, or to theorise the leadership capability needed to make a business work, let alone thrive. These dispositions seem a long way away from the realities of paying rent, keeping up with the competition and regulatory requirements, and experiencing any kind of upskilling or reskilling. We have a tendency to think we know everything, and you know what? We don’t,” she writes.  No one is ever going to fault Professor Hughes Warrington for an absence of curiosity.

Appointments, achievements

The ANU’s Rose Ahlefeldt is the ACT scientist of the year. Dr Ahlefeldt researches materials to achieve the data storage quantum computers will need.

Trevor McDougall from UNSW is a new fellow of the American Geophysical Union.

Macquarie U PVC (programmes and pathways) Sean Brawley is named a principal fellow of the teaching achievement organisation formerly known as the Higher Education Academy.

SA Science Award winners, announced Friday night are; Scientist of the year; Richard Hillis, UniAdelaide. Tertiary educator of the year; Justin Chalker, Flinders USchool teacher of the year; Sue O’Malley, Trinity College Senior. Science Comms; Liz Reed, UniAdelaide. Tall Poppy; Benjamin Sparkes, UniAdelaide. STEM professional; Zbigniew Michalewicz, UniAdelaide. Unsung hero: Jan Bell, UniAdelaide.  PhD research: Katharina Richter, UniAdelaide. Research collaboration: Aboriginal Heritage Project, SA Museum, UniAdelaide.