Plus NSW Premier’s science prize winners

and historians want a ranking for the record

Cited successes

ANU and Thomson Reuters IP will host the inaugural Australian Women in Science citation awards Wednesday week. Winners are selected on the basis of citations indexed in TR’s Web of Science. Details here.


TEQSA keeps QT

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency asked the universities and other higher education providers it regulates what they want reported – and the answer was, not much that identifies anybody. “Common areas of feedback,” TEQSA states, included: “the importance of publishing de-identified information (both in the reporting of non-compliance and in example case studies).”

The always temperate TEQSA has accordingly promised not to embarrass anybody;

TEQSA recognises the potential reputational risks with publishing information on the findings from risk assessments and feedback that information on sector risk should be high level and focus on system-wide risk as viewed through the TEQSA Risk Assessment Framework; … Noting strong feedback, TEQSA will not release information on individual provider risk ratings.”

Quite right too – imagine if students, and taxpayers, knew how individual providers are going in meeting national standards.

Second opinions

UTS health economist Michael Woods will be the independent reviewer for the independent review of accreditation systems within the national registration and accreditation scheme for health professionals. Everybody clear on that? His terms of reference focus on the cost and efficiency of processes, “the extent to which accreditation arrangements support educational innovation” and other agency’s educational accreditation processes, notably TEQSA. Um, but isn’t this what the original review was about? Perhaps, Professor Woods’ appointment follows health ministers asking questions at COAG which were evidently not adequately addressed in the 2014 NRAS review. While all stakeholders can contribute to the Woods Review there is just a hint that not everybody will do so with enthusiasm. The COAG health council  acknowledges “a wide range of stakeholders have already provided feedback.” “The current review will consider, utilise and build on this expert body of knowledge.” So that’s all right then.


NSW premier’s science picks

The NSW premier’s awards for science and engineering were announced on Friday night. Richard Shine from the University of Sydney is scientist of the year for a “novel way” to control cane toads by using pheromones in the eggs of the execrable amphibians to trap tadpoles of the species.

Category winners are: maths, earth sciences, chemistry and physics, Joss Bland-Hawthorn (University of Sydney), biological sciences, Mike Archer (UNSW), medical biological sciences, David James (University of Sydney) engineering and ICT, Toby Walsh (University of NSW), energy innovation, Kevin Galvin (University of Newcastle), early career researchers, Elizabeth New (University of Sydney), Muireann Irish (UNSW), leadership in innovation Helen Christensen (Black Dog Institute), public sector science and engineering innovation Lukas van Zwieten (NSW Department of Primary Industries), innovation in science and maths education Nikki Zimmerman (Kambala School).

The prime minister’s sciences prizes are announced on Wednesday.

Economist applauds UoQ

Just three Australian business schools make The Economist’s global top 100 MBA list for 2016. The University of Queensland is 10th in the world, the number one programme outside North America and Europe for the fifth straight year. The Melbourne Business School is 34th, the Macquarie Graduate School of Management is 46th – and that’s it. The first seven are all in the US; Chicago, Northwestern, UVa, Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, UCal-Berkeley followed by Spain’s Navarra and the HEC management school in Paris.

Clayton to Canberra

Historian Rae Frances is moving from Monash, where she is dean of arts to ANU to become dean of the college of arts and sciences. Professor Frances is a former head of history at UNSW, where she was also campus president of the National Tertiary Education Union. She moves to ANU next June. Professor Frances replaces interim dean, Paul Pickering who stepped up in June 2015, when Toni Makkai resigned.


Certified for school use

Education Minister Simon Birmingham is continuing his predecessor’s focus on teacher training but where Christopher Pyne led on classroom beginners Senator Birmingham is interested in what principals can do to improve their schools. The government put a certification programme for principals on the agenda mid year and in the last month the minister has mentioned it in speeches, on Thursday telling the Australian Principals Federation; “a national certification process can provide a clear pathway for aspiring leaders to follow as they seek to demonstrate that they are ready to meet the principal challenge.”

There are already ten university programmes for people who want to be principals, including the partnership between Charles Sturt University and the Principals Institute of Australiaestablished 12 months back.

Historical record

The Australian Research Council stopped rating journals for Excellence in Research for Australia back in 2011 and in 2018 ERA itself will be less important, with no block funding attached to its results.

But everybody loves a ranking and in the absence of the ARC discipline societies have their own. The Australian Business Deans Council has just updated its where-to-publish list, using the old ARC ranking method. Of 2785 journal just 90 are Australian and of them only one is A*, (CMM September 8). The Australian Political Studies Association is now considering an update of its journal ranking (CMM September 6).

And now a learned reader reports the Australian Historical Association, while acknowledging rankings are controversial, is doing the same. Albeit without much enthusiasm – the AHA acknowledges the usual arguments against rankings, journal content is not consistent, and “quality may take many forms.” But it seems association management decided it has no choice.

Journal rankings have become, for better or worse, an important part of the assessment of scholarly achievement in Australian universities. … We are conscious above all that historians in Australian universities are currently disadvantaged in promotion, grant and job applications by the lack of rankings that take account of the discipline’s professional standards and expectations for publications in history.”

Member responses to a draft ranking are due at the end of the month.


The Australian Council for Private Education and Training continues its campaign against the government’s VET student funding legislation. ACPET is upset with the way government’s will now decide what courses qualify for student loans and the way private providers will pay for administration of the loan scheme. The council has convened an online town hall meeting for members tomorrow. It is unlikely to have any impact on government but at least it will give them a chance to vent for having to carry the can for a crisis the vast majority of them were not part of.


Labor there first

Kim Carr’s office takes issue with the Greens claiming credit for the government deciding to appoint a VET ombudsman (CMM Friday), pointing out that Labor proposed this back in December, when Senator Carr was education spokesman, and that Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the government was “willing to work through these issues.” Fair enough – but the government and Greens talking shows Senator Birmingham has options for higher education legislation to come.