Fantastic policy beasts and what to do about them

In David Lloyd’s speech at the TEQSA conference this morning. “Expectum pachyderm,” the University of South Australia, in Harry Potter mode, will begin. Scroll down for some of the elephants that will appear.

Duldig departing Uni Melbourne

Paul Duldig is leaving the University of Melbourne, where he has charge of the vast university services portfolio (1600 people, nine operating areas). Mr Duldig joined the UniMelb in 2014 to take on the then new service function, after 12 years at the University of Adelaide.

Neil Robinson, deputy head of university services and registrar will act while the university, “reviews and considers the best approach for this role.” He will report to CFO Allan Tait.

According to new VC Duncan Maskell, “Paul has led with a clear set of values which have been instrumental in creating the collaborative and innovative culture of University Services in support of the university’s academic mission.”

Mr Dullig says he will “take a break and then explore my next opportunity.”

Tehan sets the interest test

Education Minister Dan Tehan has announced his much-anticipated national interest test for research funding.

Applications for all future Australian Research Council funding rounds will have to include a 150-word max, plain English statement on the project’s “economic, commercial, environmental, social or cultural benefits” for the Australian community. This will replace the existing ARC “benefit and impact” requirement.

The new statement will be considered in the assessment process with the ARC chief executive advising the minister on content.

“This national interest test will give the minister of the day the confidence to look the Australian voter in the eye and say, ‘your money is being spent wisely’,” Mr Tehan says.

Last night Universities Australia’s Catriona Jackson responded, “”UA will also look carefully at further detail of the minister’s proposed national interest test to assess implications for Australia’s global research work and research more generally.”

However, Labor research shadow Kim Carr warned the “Tehan test,” means “researchers are no longer subject only to the scrutiny and judgment of their peers but also to that of politicians.”

“The independence and integrity of the ARC’s existing assessment procedures are maintained if politicians are kept at arm’s length from the process,” the senator said.

Discovery grants announced

The Australian Research Council announced grants last night, including 653 Discovery Grants chosen from 2921 applications.

The Group of Eight universities picked up 68 per cent of grants, up 8 per cent on its share for the comparable 2017 round. UNSW led with 88 grants, followed by the University of Queensland (67), Monash (65), University of Sydney (62), University of Melbourne (57) ANU (56), University of Adelaide (29) and UWA (25).

Other universities which won 10 or more grants are Macquarie U (25),  Uni Newcastle (17), Deakin U (15), Flinders U (15), QUT (15), Curtin U (13), U Tas (13), Griffith U (12), UTS (12), Uni Wollongong (ten) and Western Sydney U (ten).

Universities with ten or plus grants and had a success rate at or above the 22.4 per cent national average are, Deakin U (31.3 per cent), Flinders U (28.8 per cent), Western Sydney U (28.6 per cent), ANU (28.1 per cent), UNSW (27.8 per cent), UoQ (26 per cent),  Uni Sydney (24.8 per cent), Uni Adelaide (24.2 per cent), Monash U (23.7 per cent) and U Tas (22.4 per cent).

Money where his mouth is

Charles Sturt U VC Andrew Vann is kicking $45 000 a year, through to 2021, of his own money,  into a university fund to support services, and “university priorities.” This is on-top of his regular payday donation.  As a way of demonstrating faith in what CSU does this is very hard to beat. Last year La Trobe U Chancellor Richard Larkins and VC John Dewar sent the same signal, launching their university’s first ever fundraising campaign with $100 000 donations.

Where the citation stars are

The number of researchers in Australia who make the annual Clarivate list of highly cited researchers nearly doubled between 2014 and this year, growing from 80 in 2014 to 170.

According to Clarivate (Thomson Reuters as was) Australia is now fifth in the world for highly-cited researchers in one or more science and social science disciplines.

Some 245 Australian based researchers make the lists for one or more fields, following the US (2639), the UK (546), China (482), and Germany (356).

Universities (and CSIRO) with five or more high-ci researchers are: Uni Melbourne – 33, UoQ – 28; Monash U – 21; UNSW – 20; Uni Sydney – 20; UWA – 12; Uni Adelaide – 12; CSIRO – 12; Uni Wollongong 12; ANU – eight, UTS – eight; JCU – seven; Macquarie U – seven; QUT – six; Curtin – six; U Tas – five and Deakin U – five.

R&D tax concession: It’s not over till it’s over

The story so far: Back in 2016 the League of Three Fs, Bill Ferris, Alan Finkel and John Fraser, reviewed the Research and Development tax concession and upset start-ups and their accountants by recommending reducing and more tightly-targeting it.

What happened next: Was nothing, followed by nothing as ministers came and went without annoying beneficiaries of the scheme.

Until the budget: Which announced cuts to the concession to save $2bn over the forward estimates.

Followed by a bill: With the understated and certainly not pitched to populists on the Senate crossbench title, Treasury Laws Amendment (making sure multinationals pay their fair share of tax in Australia and other measures), which covered the concession. This, in the ways of such things, was sent in October to a Senate’s economic legislation committee for scrutiny.

Where it was scrutinised: The committee took evidence and considered a stack of submissions from organisations which are undoubtedly committed to the national interest.

And is scrutinised still: The committee was supposed to report at the start of December, but now will not report until February.

Donations of the day

The Blackmore Foundation has gifted $10m to Southern Cross University to establish a centre for naturopathic medicine. The university says this is the largest gift in its history and the largest commitment made by the Foundation, dwarfing the $1.3m it gave the University of Sydney in 2015 for a chair in integrative medicine. The Blackmore company also has existing or recent connections with Griffith U and RMIT.

The University of Sydney had a good Tuesday, announcing $4.5m from the Li Ka Shing Foundation for clinical trials of immunotherapy for patients with pancreatic and related cancers.

Uni SA’s David Lloyd points out the elephants

UniSA’s David Lloyd will point out the policy elephants in the higher education room in a speech at the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency conference this morning including;

The merger that did not happen: “University mergers are very expensive and complicated undertakings and if you’re not going to get them absolutely right and fully geared for the benefit of all concerned, taking into account community, cultural and collateral matters, you shouldn’t attempt them.”

As for the speculation that it was all due to egos pursuing power, “don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers.”

Teaching-only universities and why we don’t need them: “A university for the future must continue to advance both teaching and research. … Right now, while information is everywhere – knowledge is not. The institution of the future has to work harder to transfer that knowledge not only through the education of our students, but to wider society through partnership, through informing policy, through public discourse and leading by example.”

Origins aren’t important: “If you’ve come from an institute of technology or college of advance education background, you’re institutionally at risk of being pigeon-holed as being somehow ‘lesser’ in the eyes of the establishment. ‘Good at teaching’ – as if that’s a bad thing.”

But, elephants aside, getting on with it is: “Must we wait for some future policy change or funding crisis or public opinion sea change before we set out to create the higher education system of the future? No. The foundations for this future are in all of our institutions already. The leaders here in this forum have to take on the responsibility to realise the full potential of our organisations, to eat the elephants one bite at a time, not in the future, but now –  and build this Australian higher education system for the future, today.

Appointments, achievements

Jennifer Martin is announced as the new DVC R at the University of Wollongong, starting in March. Professor Martin is now at Griffith U where she is director of the university’s Institute for Drug Discovery.

Aileen Morton-Robinson from QUT is president of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium. Peter Anderson, also QUT, is VP research.

Griffith U’s Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik and Donald Staines have professorial research fellowships to work on chronic fatigue syndrome. Their work will be supported by $2m from the Stafford Fox Medical Research Fellowship.