Not quite a record

Charles Sturt U staff have adopted the management-union proposed enterprise agreement, with 94.86 per cent of the 972 staff voting in favour. A big win but still behind the University of Southern Queensland where 97 per cent of staff voting backed the new agreement.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning, David Myton takes a look at the University of Wollongong’s blossoming business incubator and accelerator program.

Setting priorities: Minister Tehan speaks to the regions and Labor’s Pratt addresses the nation

Education Minister Dan Tehan pitches to the regions in a major statement for the higher education community.  Writing for  Universities Australia this morning, Minister Tehan announces the HE system has “a role to play” in addressing the 24 per cent gap between bachelor degree levels in urban and regional Australia.

“The Australian Government is committed to delivering an education system funded to ensure more regional students enjoy the benefits of higher education,” he writes.

The minister then details government commitments to higher education in the regions, concluding; “The Australian Government is making a lasting and real difference to the opportunities provided to regional, rural and remote students, enabling them to make their unique contribution to the future of our country.”

In contrast, Opposition assistant higher education shadow Louise Pratt,  took up the UA opportunity to reiterate Labor’s commitment to restoring the demand driven system, promising to fund it with $10bn over a decade. She also pointed to the $174 million for equity and pathway programmes and the proposed $300 million university future fund.

“As I get out across university campuses across the nation in the lead up to the next election I know what I am campaigning for. I will be arguing for the role of universities as our local, national and international leaders and innovators of both today and tomorrow and the strong independent institutional drivers of the national and public interest. I will be standing up for the sustainability of funding for our nation’s universities and I will be fighting to unlock opportunities for smart, hard-working would be students,” Senator Pratt writes.

While universities in general will welcome Labor repeating commitments the minister’s message will go down well at the Regional Universities Network conference which starts tomorrow at Southern Cross U’s Gold Coast campus. SCU VC Adam Shoemaker is expected to call for a federal regional education commissioner.

Endorsement of the day

Deakin U VC Jane den Hollander backed Victorian Labor’s election promise of a metro line to serve her Burwood campus and a fast rail link to Deakin at Geelong, “great for access & future sustainability,” (via Twitter yesterday). Monash and La Trobe universities have already expressed pleasure at the prospect of the state government’s proposed city-circling metro having stops at campuses of theirs (CMM August 29).

Medical research delivers dividends says med research sector

Medical research has a side-effect, buckets of money. A KPMG report for the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes finds that every dollar invested in medical research from 1990 to 2004 generated $3.90 for the economy. This is “an extraordinary return on investment … far higher than the level needed to secure government funding for just about any other investment in infrastructure, AAMRI chair Tony Cunningham says. Apparently, GDP last financial year was $2.6bn bigger due to that research.

“The analysis of existing returns from medical research considered investment from 1990 to 2004, to allow for the lag between historical research and current outcomes, and the findings from the case studies were extrapolated out to wider medical research,” KPMG states.

Higher education peak groups love the numbers.

The Group of Eight applauded the report and used the opportunity to point out the role of its members, “at the core of almost all Australia’s health and medical advances.”  The Eight added the findings demonstrated the potential of the Medical Research Future Fund and the need for continuing bi-partisan support for its $20bn capital target by 2020.

Science and Technology Australia president Emma Johnston, agreed that medical research is a thoroughly good thing, “the value of life-saving medicines, improved preventative treatments, and new vaccines for harmful diseases had made a profound impact on quality and length of our lives,” she said.  But Professor Johnston went further, predicting “results just as strong” if the government established an equivalent of the Medical Research Future Fund for other-sciences, to “facilitate translation research.”

Rolls off the tongue, not the production line

Karen Andrews announces $5m funding for engineering graduate students to work in “the automotive sector.” “Australia has a thriving automotive components sector and is competitive in global vehicle design. We need more of the highly skilled engineers involved in these areas … in order to compete internationally in the rapidly changing space of vehicle design,” the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology says. And won’t that cheer up all the skilled workers who lost jobs when the auto-builders closed, on the Coalition’s watch.

Nice work if you can get it but UNE can’t

The Fair Work Commission has made final its interim orders made in March, which stop the University of New England establishing a new workload model in its faculty of humanities, arts, social sciences and education CMM April 11)

Commissioner Johns now  states that workload policies were in place when management sought to introduce its new one and it did not matter (as management argued) if those existing were inconsistent with the university’s strategic plan.

This is a good result for the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, which fought the university over the workload model, intended to replace a staff-endorsed one. It also strengthens the union case in current enterprise bargaining negotiations over terms of academic employment.

It’s a bad, but not unexpected outcome for UNE management. While there is no word of any appeal it seems certain the university will keep pushing for a new workload model which, like the one knocked back makes it easier to place staff in specific teaching, or research, roles.

Marnie returns to history

ANU DVC A Marnie Hughes-Warrington will step down at year end. She will stay at the university as a professor of history, “the discipline I love.” First up is work on the three books she is contracted to write and a visiting professor fellowship at Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich.  Grady Venvile, PVC E steps up to act in the role.

Professor Hughes Warrington joins Margaret Harding (DVC R ) in leaving the ANU executive at year end. Professor Harding’s successor is already announced, Keith Nugent, now DVC R at La Trobe U.

Engaging in deep dives

Universities all-over announce they are engaged with their communities but what engaging actually involves depends on institutional skills and community circumstances. For a start, universities need programmes that connect their graduates to all-sorts of employers and researchers who industry can connect with. The Engagement Australia symposium (a CMM advertiser) next month will address overall issues and include “deep dives” into how the University of Southern Queensland and Griffith U developed engagement models and UTS implemented its strategy. Worth a  look.


Robyn Dowling will become head of school and dean of the University of Sydney’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning as of January 1. She steps up from associate dean, research. Professor Dowling will be the first woman to lead the school. She replaces John Redmond, dean since 2010.

The new team at the National Tertiary Education Union took over yesterday. Alison Barnes (Macquarie U) is now federal president, with Matt McGowan, general secretary and Gabe Gooding his deputy.

Michelle King joins consultants KPMG as director of the education practice. Ms King moves from Monash U where she leads alumni and external engagement.