Sunshine Coast cool

Students are leaving school in states of high-anxiety,” University of the Sunshine Coast research reports. Life in a stressed-out state, say NSW or Vic will do that. They would be so much happy chilling at Sippy Downs.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning, David Myton talks to Uni SA’s Libby Roughead about a program that has dramatically improved the lives of veterans.

Plus, a learned reader reviews the Uni Wollongong and Uni Queensland Ramsay Centre-funded western civilisation degrees.

And Susie Robinson analyses the outcomes in the ARC’s inaugural engagement and impact study.

The Budget: suddenly it’s the ‘70s

The government looks back in beige, a learned reader laments

The winners are pleased with small wins and the losers lament losses small enough to stay under the radar, for example to National Science and Innovation Agenda programmes.

But what takes us back a generation is the final rejection of Malcolm Turnbull’s innovation agenda.

This is a budget from the past, based on the assumption that our existing economy will generate jobs and fund our future. It is a budget that a prime minister called McMahon instead of Morrison could have overseen.

Certainly, the government is kicking-in cash, as always promised, to the Medical Research Future Fund – this is a matter of basic politics. No government that wants to stay in office dares defy the lab legions.

But the decision that defines the budget is taking the dormant Education Investment Fund and reallocating its $3.9 bn to a natural disaster recovery reserve (it was previously meant to go the NDIS).

This reinforces the MYEFO message of research block-grant cuts. The EIF’s end is designed for back-benchers to sell as common-sense, putting putative practicality over investing in ideas. The decision dates from the 2016 election, when a mass of voters was alarmed by Mr Turnbull’s talk of science transforming the economy, of setting Australia up to compete in the imminent world where AI produces prosperity. People who feared for their grand-children’s jobs were scarred by the then PM and the government does not want to frighten them again.

We are back to an era where the government looks at the economy and tells us, “she’ll be right.”

With the attitude to research in this budget, it won’t.  

Big news

“Researchers have developed Microbolometer Thermoelastic Evaluation technology to capture high-resolution close-up images of stress in aircraft structures to reduce maintenance costs,” Defence Science and Technology, via Twitter yesterday. Good to see DST reaching out to the general audience.

Spence stays at Uni Sydney

The veteran VC has another four years

Michael Spence will stay on at the University of Sydney to 2022 after accepting a further four-year term. Dr Spence joined the university in 2008 and over the last decade has led a comprehensive academic and administrative restructure.

In 2016, his contract was renewed for two years, to give him time to oversee the continuing tasks, set out in the 2016-20 strategic plan. Now he has time, presumably to enjoy the results of his changes – and a home to his taste. The university reports it will sell the house, “where the VC currently resides” and he will move into “self-funded accommodation.”

VET ideas lost in the budget space

The government released Steven Joyce’s review on budget day

This struck CMM as strange – whatever policy grinds reveal,  this is substantial thinking.

The former New Zealand minister for tertiary education and skills presents 71 recommendations set out in six broad points; strengthening quality assurance, faster qualification development, simpler matching of funding to skills, better careers information, clearer school pathways and improved access for disadvantaged people.

He also sets out steps the Commonwealth can take now and details a mass more that Canberra and the states will need to combine on.

What the feds can do now

* improve quality assurance and strengthen the Australian Skills Quality Authority

* pilot “business-led” qualification development

* establish a National Skills Commission, “to develop a new nationally-consistent funding model based on a shared understanding of skills needs.” There is $130m for this in the Budget

* simplified apprenticeship incentives to appeal to employers and prospective apprentices

* create a national careers institute, “a single, authoritative government source of careers information”

* skills development for “second chance” learners

The reviews aren’t in from the VET policy community, but it seems unlikely that much will be done on Mr Joyce’s recommendations this side of the election.  After that who knows – at worse for Mr Joyce’s work, if Labor wins the report will go in the consideration-mix for the party’s proposed comprehensive post-secondary review. Especially the skills commission, which seems on the same lines as the independent post-compulsory education authority talked up around the traps.

New Griffith VC asks staff for big-issue advice  

Just weeks in the job Carolyn Evans identifies her agenda

Professor Evans had a bit of luck, starting as VC at Griffith U a few weeks back, in the year when the present five-year plan ends. So, she started by circulating an ideas paper on what should be in the new plan, with a draft scheduled in May and a final document in October. She also asked staff what they thought, which is now being mulled over.

Issues on her agenda include.

Infrastructure: growing the university’s presence in Brisbane, particularly Southbank and Nathan

Brand: How and what the university presents to prospective students

Students: How many, where, in what disciplines, on-campus and on-line

Research: Bringing in more money and growing output

Who’s where in Victoria U’s rooms at the top

Victoria U has appointed new executives and given others flasher titles

Corinne Reid will join VU as DVC R in September – she is now at the University of Edinburgh. Vasso Apostolopoulos moves from Interim VP R to PVC Research Partnerships.

The university has abolished the VP designation for executive roles, meaning learning and teaching head Ian Solomonides becomes DVC L&T and Grant Dreher will now be DVC Voc Ed.  Marcia Devlin was DVC and Senior VP – she is now Senior DVC.

Small slip, quickly corrected

Perhaps it was a rounding error

The Academy of Science corrected its budget commentary yesterday to remove a reference to a CSIRO funding cut. Turns out the supposed $21m reduction was in total agency expenses over the forward estimates, not to government funding which is indexed and will increase. Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews was on to it quick-smart yesterday. All was politely resolved by lunch-time. Sort of mistake easily made, CMM certainly has been known to.


The University of Canberra’s council has reappointed Tom Calma as chancellor. His third appointment will run from next year to 2022.

Scott Smith moves from dean of engineering at Southern Cross U to professor of structural engineering at the University of Adelaide. Joining him there is Robert Falconer who returns to the university to become professor of bioprocess engineering. Both start in July.