Restructure and new structure at Griffith U

Last week management told staff the university faced a $700m shortfall through to 2025 and that as part of its savings strategy 299 positions will go (CMM November 3) in a restructure.

On Friday, the university invited expressions of interest for architects to design the proposed $100m plus professional education building at the Nathan campus. University planning goes on but not great timing, a learned reader observes.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Rola Ajjawi (Deakin U) on helping, not blaming, students for academic failure. This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift on what is needed now in teaching and learning

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on who’ll be on the post COVID-19 campus.

David Kellermann (UNSW) on creating a serious solution for on-line lecturing. Curated content from Microsoft.

Whatever is in the diary, we’ve got better ideas

What’s on at our ReMaking HE on-line conference today

At 11am you can join architect and urban designer Kristen Whittle and Stephen Weller (COO, Australian Catholic U) as they discuss the campus designed for, and by COVID-19.

They are followed at noon by Mara Bun (Australian Conservation Foundation), John Thwaites (Monash Sustainable Development Institute) and Peter Newman (Curtin U) talking about climate change, and what universities can do about it – on or off campus.

You can join register for $31.19 a session  here (and have a look at what’s on for the rest of the week).

Scroll down for Tim Winkler’s conference report on yesterday’s open access discussion.

CSIRO’s Cathy Foley is the new Chief Scientist

She takes over in the new year, replacing Alan Finkel  

Dr Foley is widely admired in the science policy community and this is a popular appointment. She is politically astute, endlessly energetic and considered a generous mentor to young researchers.

Dr Foley understands how to make her case in the rooms where it happens and how to present to the public why science matters.

As such, a learned reader suggests, she combines the big skills of her two predecessors, – Ian Chubb’s deep policy experience and Alan Finkel’s ability to challenge the orthodoxy and make things happen.

Dr Foley moves from chief scientist at CSIRO

New admin structure for Uni Wollongong

“One UoW” is “designed to reduce costs by eliminating duplication of resources, functions and processes.”  It is presented as part of management’s continuing COVID-19 savings strategy.

The plan is to centralise support services, including in IT, student operations, finance, ed tech, facilities and research.

While there is no word of job losses, the plan is to start placing staff in the new structure from January 18. The university’s COVID-19 savings agreement with campus unions prevents forced redundancies before April 30 next.

The admin restructure follows an academic consolidation with the humanities/law faculty broken up (CMM May 28).

Fine-tuning for job-ready fund

The uni-industry fund to generate graduate jobs could be more trouble for some than it’s worth

The National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund will allocate block grants to universities on the basis of work with industry to produce “job ready graduates”.

A discussion paper on how it could work has had mixed reviews, largely due to the complexity of funding models (CMM, November 4 and November 9). But while endorsing the flexibility of performance criteria. Science and Technology Australia, raises a fundamental question – whether the funding will be worth the effort for all.

“Considering the effort in time and resources required to collect data and report on it extensively, the costs of this administration and new reporting mechanisms could potentially cancel out the funding income meant to enable deeper industry connection,” STA suggests.

In a response to the discussion paper, STA also questions some of the proposed metrics; “it is unclear what measurement would be used to determine whether a graduate is deemed ‘job ready’ ”

STA also suggests the timing is not great to measure universities hiring staff from industry. “Given the large-scale job losses and hiring freezes in place, the new hiring capacity of universities is likely to be very limited in coming years.”

And it points to a problem with increasing HDR students in internships/placements in the first 18 months of study. “In rapidly advancing STEM disciplines, a few months away from core research programs might mean a candidate’s cutting-edge research has been superseded.”

Data win for humanities

The feds are funding a data network, “that will transform how Australian social and cultural data is accessed, curated and analysed” 

There is $8.9m for eResearch platforms to support HASS and Indigenous research.

This appears to be the outcome of a feasibility study announced August last year and is a win for the HASS and Indigenous research communities.  Both the humanities and social science learned academies have felt ignored in research infrastructure funding. “For a nation to be smart, we need to be smart about how we support our cultural institutions and our HASS researchers to be world leaders, Australian Academy of the Humanities president Joy Damousi said last year,  (CMM August 15  2019).


Open access the great right way

By Tim Winkler

ANU is taking a “calculated hit” by not chasing rankings success says VC Schmidt

Brian Schmidt has said that research rankings are so flawed that pursuing them is not in his university’s long-term interest.

“We are paying some short-term price in the rankings because I think the rankings are so foundationally flawed that I am betting they are going to have to fix them, and I don’t want to have screwed up my university chasing what is quite frankly this little mirage,” he said yesterday

Professor Schmidt was speaking on a panel on research at the CMM-Twig Marketing ReMaking HE on-line conference.

He was joined by Ashley Farley from the Gates Foundation who pointed to the increasing importance of open access to data and research publications, saying they were critical for researchers seeking access to Foundation grants.

“We are starting to use more ‘nudge language,’ showing we value those who have demonstrated openness of their research projects. Collaboration is very important, especially in the time of COVID; these big world problems are not going to be solved in a vacuum or by a single team.”

Associate Professor Lucy Montgomery from Curtin University’s Curtin Open Knowledge Project used the discussion to release a new dashboard comparing international open access performance, showing about 39 per cent of Australian research outputs are published open access – compared to 55 per cent in the UK and 72 per cent in Indonesia.

“Countries in Africa and Southeast Asia are doing a fantastic job in shifting cultures towards open access. OA is on the way to becoming a gold standard for high quality research.

“Science is much more powerful when it’s open and it’s shared.”

But Professor Schmidt warned current rankings actively discouraged open approaches and weren’t always in the interests of a university seeking to serve the nation.

“Every time I spend a dollar on First Nations’ research I go backwards (in the rankings). Every time I do put something out in a prestigious journal that is open access I go backwards.

“Sometimes you have just got to do what’s right, even if it hurts a bit.”

Union leaders call for solidarity forever

At Murdoch U  the NTEU is having an argument all its own

National Tertiary Education Union campus branch leadership wants committee members and delegates to stick to the official line once set. “We accept and respect a divergence of views but once decisions are made, we support one another in implementing those decisions by setting aside our differences and standing in solidarity with one another,” a proposed set of protocols put to members yesterday states in part.

This appears a local version of a bigger blue, that started in April when the union’s national leadership negotiated an accord with four vice chancellors. It was designed to reduce COVID-19 job losses by negotiating temporary freezes on wages and conditions in return for reducing retrenchments. While adopted in whole or part by a few universities it was and is, bitterly opposed by NTEU activists who called on the union to oppose management calls for savings.


The Tasmanian Government announces its STEM awards.  Michael Breadmore  (U Tas, chemistry) is researcher of the year. Hoang Phan (Menzies Institute for MR, research on health inequalities in treatment/outcome of strokes) is young researcher. David Bowman (U Tas, for advocacy during last summer’s fires) is STEM communicator and Tim Gale (U Tas) is innovator of the year, representing the team that designed the Oxygenie automated oxygen control system for infants.