There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning, Tania Aspland (deans of education)  responds to the Grattan Institute’s call for elite teachers and higher ATARs for degree entry (CMM Monday).

And Angela Carbone (Swinburne U) on closing the graduate skill gap

Unis Aus propose a price for cooperating with government

Universities Australia responds yesterday to Dan Tehan’s proposal, “if you deliver we will deliver” with an implied offer of its own

On Tuesday Education Minister Tehan urged universities to work with the government (CMM yesterday) and yesterday Universities Australia carefully replied. In the text of a speech for an AFR conference, Universities Australia’s Catriona Jackson said, “if we are to rise to the minister’s challenge of yesterday, and play our proper part in growth and productivity, the funding models must accommodate that.”

Ms Jackson stuck to UA’s post-election line, that growth next decade in the school leaver population will mean more demand for undergraduate places. “There will be 55,000 more 18-year-olds than there are today. On current policy settings, we will not have places to offer these budding students. Even with the performance-based funding we will still be going backwards,” she said.

However, Ms Jackson also signalled universities will work with the training system in providing post-school pathways, “we need two strong systems – universities and vocational education – working side by side.” And with two major government reviews looking at post-school qualifications and which categories of institutions can provide, she also accepted sector-boundaries will be fluid, “in the future an overwhelming majority of Australians will need some form of post-school education – university, VET or a bit of both, to enter and remain in the workforce.”

In the past, some university advocates argued higher education should pay no price to help the entirely separate training system – times have changed.

Talk isn’t cheap

Education Minister Tehan’s announcement that the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching will ask students about their experience of free speech on campus leads a learned reader to wonder whether it will become a new performance metric.

Group of Eight sticks to the research script

While spooks and free speech dominate discussion Vicki Thomson stays on message

“We, as a community take the value of research for granted and because we do, governments have felt safe that they also can, without suffering electoral ramifications,” the Group of Eight CEO told the Australian Financial Review’s conference yesterday.

While her members will benefit from any increase in research funding Ms Thomson has expanded the case for it over the years from theirs to the nation’s interest, making the case that without more research funding Australia will not, cannot, play in the global game.

“Will Australia’s stream of quality research grow, or falter? If it grows – then as a nation Australia will continue to be invited to play in the big tent. Australia will continue to be seen as worthy of contributing, being listened to, and knowing what is happening in the labs of other vital nations,” she said yesterday.

“Or, will be reduced to a bit economic player, slipping down the slippery slope of that ever more competitive global economy. The choice is ours.”

Our great and powerful research friend

The Australian universities where academics co-publish articles with colleagues in China

Peter Bentley from the Innovative Research Universities group wondered which universities had close research connections with Chinese institutions, so he searched Web of Science data for co-publications, publishing his findings on Twitter.

On numbers of articles the Group of Eight leads. Between 2005 and this year Uni Sydney is first with over 4000 plus articles, followed by UNSW on 4000, Uni Queensland just under 4000, and then Monash U, Uni Melbourne, Uni Adelaide, UWA, Uni Wollongong, UTS, CSIRO, Curtin and ANU all over 2000.

For the per centage of a university’s total research articles accounted for by co-pubs with authors in China, Uni Wollongong (26 per cent) and UTS lead (well over 20 per cent). They are followed by (in descending order) RMIT, Curtin U, CSIRO, Swinburne U, Uni Adelaide, QUT, Western Sydney U, UWA, Griffith U, UNSW, Uni Newcastle, Uni Sydney, Uni Queensland, Deakin U, ANU, Uni SA and Monash U all over 10 per cent.

China research partners are a big deal for Australian universities. Dr Bentley reports China and Australia are each other’s second biggest collaborator on research publications. However, 13 per cent of Australia’s publications are co-authored with China, compared to 3 per cent of China’s with Australia. “International collaboration is Australia’s strength, we do it a lot, not China.”


Big picture, the biggest, research

There is new funding for applied research and money for a less blue-sky than dark-matter programme

The government has announced $7.6m for two centres researching data science in mining. The grants will fund research data analytics on the use of natural resources at the University of Sydney and training for scientists in data analytics and sensor use at the University of Adelaide.

There is also $4.9m for Swinburne U led research on “thin nano-structured films and thick coatings” which apparently are just what manufacturing needs.

Education Minister Dan Tehan also separately announced $35m for the University of Melbourne led ARC Centre of Excellence for Dark Matter Particle Physics, to use a lab in an old, underground and accordingly deeply dark goldmine in Stawell, Vic. This is on top of $5m for the project from the Commonwealth and Victorian governments announced in April.

There were mutterings yesterday about Stawell being in the minister’s electorate – which were dumb. It is now, due to a re-distribution, but it wasn’t when the project got a start, with federal funding in 2015 (CMM April 9). This is pure research, “we can’t see dark matter but we know it exists and unlocking its secrets has the potential to transform our understanding of the universe,” Mr Tehan says. The purest.


Sarah Collins (UWA) wins “Australia’s most prestigious award for the study of music,” the McCredie Musicological Award. Dr Collins is based at the UWA Conservatorium of Music.

The 2020 Forest Fellowships are announced They are for early career researchers at any WA University. Jessica Buck is the first Indigenous Australian fellow, she will research treating brain tumours in children at UWA and the Telethon Kids Cancer Centre. David Gozzard will work on data transmission in space exploration at UWA.  Peter Kraus is funded for work at Curtin U, for work including emerging power technologies to combat climate change.

Nathan Towney joins the University of Newcastle as PVC Indigenous. Mr Towney joins from being principal of Newcastle High School.

Myles Young wins BUPA’s 2019 emerging health researcher award. Dr Young has a post doc at the University of Newcastle, where he works on weight-loss and physical activity programmes for men’s health.