Under-promising, over-delivering

On Wednesday the National Health and Medical Research Council said it would try to release Investigator Grant outcomes “in September.” Word is that bid leaders will hear today.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on why knowing stuff matters and why Google isn’t everything.

plus Ginny Barbour (Open Access Australasia) on the White House’s big move on research open access move. It’s a global game-changer, she explains.

and Frank Larkins (Uni Melbourne) on the WA public universities 2021 financials – they had a very good year.

with Mahsood Shah (Swinburne U) on the message in international student satisfaction survey scores. Institutions must do better.

Union says at Southern Cross U staff are very cross

There’s no faulting the frankness of the NTEU during enterprise bargaining, reporting a staff survey as “highlighting shocking levels of workplace stress and dysfunction”

The National Tertiary Education Union surveyed SCU staff and reports they have had it with management.

The focus on management failings is not unique in such a union survey – but there are two local specifics.

* the local “six by six” block teaching model, which rolled out in 2021 (CMM November 16 2021).  The union states this “drastic change” from semesters has expanded workloads beyond what can be completed in allotted hours. “A focus on on-line delivery and the new … teaching model has reduced staff capacity to provide a good student experience.”

* staff not reporting “psycho-social  hazards” for “fear of reprisals or job loss.”  Certainly some worry about speaking-up. Last year academics wanted to complain to chancellor, Nick Burton Taylor, but only if he did not reveal signatories (CMM April 6 2021).

To which SCU replies

“key indicators of staff turnover, unscheduled staff absence, use of the Employee Assistance Program and psychological injury claims are all consistent with prior years and at or below sector average.”

“SCU has been meeting with all unions representing staff since August 2021 and encourages all bargaining parties to bring their concerns to the table in a comprehensive and timely manner.”



WSU hosts Ukraine’s ambassador

Vasyl Myroshnychenko spoke to staff and students at the Parramatta campus yesterday. “Western Sydney University stands in concert with the international community in condemning the unprovoked attack against Ukraine by Russia and affirms that the people of Ukraine have the right to freedom, self-determination and access to education,” VC Barney Glover said. Too right.

The shape of post-school policy to come

Before the talking started at the Jobs and Skills summit started the prime minister announced state and Commonwealth funding for 60 000 new fee-free TAFE places (and 120 000 places which will shift from fee to free), agreed at National Cabinet on Wednesday.  

Higher education and private VET providers take note. When governments talk training they say “TAFE”.

Universities Australia gets it. “As we embark on day one of the Jobs and Skills Summit, we look forward to working with colleagues in the TAFE sector … to help set the workforce up for the future.”

It looks like the end of HE lobbies demanding more money and ignoring VET and now accepting one post-school sector. UA also wants universities to be covered by Jobs and Skills Australia, (CMM August 25).

As, the Australian Technology Network tweeted last night, “all additional places that make accessing education easier are important in skilling Australians.

Of course this is before we know what is in the budget.

Optional IP advice

The government has released an intellectual property guide for universities doing business with industry

“What,” you ask “the one the previous government proposed and which was widely,  condemned before the election?” (CMM March 7).

It looks like some of that is there, but not to worry, using the 11 templates covering a bunch of situations is voluntary, at least for now.

“Further guidance on any future obligations to use the Framework and its applicability for relevant funding programs will be provided in due course,” the user guide states.

Science & Technology Australia’s five fixes for science jobs and skills


they would put us on a path to being a global STEM superpower, without costing the world

Right now, the world is in a fierce science and technology race. In the US, the recent CHIPS and Science Act will supercharge outlays on science and semiconductor advanced manufacturing by a massive $52bn.

Australia should be every bit as bold in our ambitions, and we can do so with strategic and targeted modest investment.

So how can Australia seize the “future powered by science” Prime Minister Albanese outlined in his Science Vision Statement?
Science & Technology Australia has five policy fixes in science jobs and skills to ensure our country can keep up with our economic competitors.

* we need a comprehensive national strategy to advance Australia’s science and technology ambitions
* we also need to train Australia’s first generation of bench-to-boardroom scientists – a constellation of scientist-entrepreneurs to be the country’s next commercialisation stars
* we desperately need to stop the “brain drain” – currently fuelled by chronic job insecurity in science careers – that drives many of our brilliant researchers overseas
To keep more of our top research talent we need the country’s research funding agencies to shift to longer-term grants and fellowships of five to 10 years. And we need the employers of scientists to match those longer-term grants with long-term employment certainty
We would love to see our last two in the October Budget.

* we want Labor’s election pledges to legislate new investments in research commercialisation confirmed in the Budget papers

* and we need to top-up investment for new discovery research – with a potential role here for the Government’s new National Reconstruction Fund.

To ensure we have the breakthroughs for an economy powered by science, even a modest boost to the Australian Research Council and National Health and Medical Research Council grant budgets would deliver dividends in discoveries.
These five policy fixes would put us on a path to being a global STEM superpower, without it costing us the world.

Misha Schubert is CEO of Science & Technology Australia


Top ten IT issues

The Council of Australasian University Directors of IT name members’ big issues

They are (i) secure campus (ii) student success tech (iii) digital transformation (iv) new models of teaching and learning (v) digital strategy (vi) digital integration (vii) data governance (viii) research support (ix) seamless user experience (x) insights driven

“As institutions establish the post pandemic landscape, ICT as an enabler will underpin and support the delivery of user centric learning experiences across a hybrid landscape,” CAUDIT observes.

The perennial placement problem for health students

More undergrads don’t solve shortages

 Vic Premier Daniel Andrews wants to pay HECS plus scholarships for 10 000 new nursing students (CMM August 29) – which is nice, but as learned readers remark, where are the extra placements to qualify going to come from?

It’s part of a wider problem. “Universities cannot produce more health graduates unless health services open up more clinical placements so people can complete their training,” Catriona Jackson from Universities Australia warns.

Nor is it a new one.  As Steven Schwartz’s review of nursing education warned, “finding placements for students has become an area of intense competition among higher education providers.”

Which has led to desperately innovative ideas. Australian Catholic U once contemplated sending students for placements in Vanuatu and Uganda (CMM April 28 2015).


Appointments achievements

Appointments achievements

 Of the day

Charles Lemckert becomes chair of Engineering and IT at Southern Cross U. He moves from Uni Canberra.

Susan James Relly is the next head of Uni Adelaide’s School of Education. She will move from Uni Oxford and start in January.

Justin Yerbury (Uni Wollongong) wins the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research. He works on Motor Neurone Disease.

of the week

Lucy Arthur joins ANU from UTS. She becomes Director of the Centre for Learning and Teaching.

Bill Ashraf is appointed Associate Dean for teaching and learning in Auckland University of Technology’s Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences. He is now an honorary professor at Macquarie U.

Andrew Foley joins the new Flinders U Academy as inaugural director and principal. He joins from La Trobe U’s pathway provider.

Kate Hoy and team move to the Bionics Institute from Monash U and the Epworth Centre. They will work on a new treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Sach Jayasinghe becomes CEO of the Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation. He is a former director of research infrastructure at QUT.

The 2022 Laureate Fellows were in CMM Tuesday, HERE.

Dane McCamey is appointed UNSW PVC Research for 12 months, from October. He is now a deputy dean in the university’s science faculty. The appointment follows former PVC R Sven Rogge becoming UNSW’s dean of science.

Kristy Muir is confirmed as CEO of the Paul Ramsay Foundation. This is the Ramsay Foundation that funds projects to “break cycles of disadvantage” (not the one keen on the teaching of western civ).

Jim Nyland is inaugural dean of students at Uni Southern Queensland. He moved from Australian Catholic U.

Colin Taylor joins Uni SA in the new position of Chief Advancement Officer. He moves from consultancy Global Philanthropic, prior to which he headed advancement at ANU.

Clare Wright (La Trobe U) is a member of the advisory group on a new Commonwealth cultural policy.