There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning a learned reader reviews the University of Wollongong’s Ramsay Western Civ Centre degree and considers a proposal for a University of Queensland course.

Plus, Susie Robinson’s analysis of the research engagement and impact results.

No budget biggie: universities and research all but ignored

 Higher education is close to invisible in the budget

There are small sums around the traps, including:

$93.7m for scholars for 4700 Australian and international students to study at regional unis

$15.8m to expand the VET unique student identifier to higher education

$71.6m to remit HECS for new teachers who work in remote schools for four years

There are also eight specific commitments to individual universities, worth $200m over four-seven years, notably, $60m for James Cook U for a tropical enterprise centre.

There is some money for training, with $523m over five years, including;

$132m for a National Skills Commission, apparently an idea in the just released Joyce report on VET

$200m for apprentice incentives in “areas of identified skills needs”

And as usual in research, medicos are the big winners, with specific research grants and an anticipated $5bn to help the Medical Research Future Fund  towards its capital target, plus smallish initiatives, including $46m over seven years for medical research infrastructure.

The Academy of Science points to some plusses; $25 million coastal and climate research, including $5 million for a dark matter research facility, and $19.5 million for a Space Infrastructure Fund.

Overall however, there is not much to say. ““With a $7.1 billion surplus announced for next financial year, now is the time to make long-term investments for Australia — by skilling our future workforce and fostering research breakthroughs to drive economic growth. In tonight’s Budget, the government has missed a prime opportunity to reverse its previous $2.1 billion freeze on student places and $328 million cuts to university research,” Universities Australia CEO Catriona Jackson said last night.

Conor King from the Innovative Research Universities described it as, “the quietest budget for some years.” Just about the  most positive thing he could find was that, at first look, there were no new cuts.

Academy of Science president John Shine was pleased with the wins but added, “it is counterintuitive to seek to produce a surplus by cutting the knowledge economy.”

However the Regional Universities Network was happy, with funding focused in its members catchments. “We recognise the government’s commitment to encourage more student places, including international students to study at regional university campuses, “ RUN chair and Federation U VC Helen Bartlett says.

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations puts it bluntly; “this budget has nothing for anyone over the age of 14 and not in vocational education. Not one request made by postgraduate students to this government has been adopted.”

Macquarie U invites science staff to consider their future, somewhere else

Macquarie U invites science staff to consider their future, somewhere else

Business academics aged 50-65 at Macquarie U have had a chance consider voluntary early retirement  CMM March 11). The opportunity will open for science faculty staff at the end of month, but only some. The university is quite specific on who it wants gone, including – people without external research grants or who have not beenrecognised for teaching excellence” in the last three years or whom the university has not assessed as “research productive.”

The emphasis on current research funding strikes some as tough. “With an average of 80% of staff unsuccessful each year with their ARC applications, targeting staff using such criteria will only lead to additional workplace stress,” a learned reader remarks.

Global achievers: the nations that really rate in higher education

Completely over-rankings? Focus people! Universitas 21 has just published one that puts performance in perspective

The eighth annual Universitas 21 ranking of national higher education systems puts the US in the global top spot followed by Switzerland, the UK, Sweden and Denmark, unchanged from last year. In the rest of the world top-ten Canada moves up two places to sixth, as does Singapore to seventh and Australia to eighth. Finland and Netherlands make up the ten leading nations, both improving 3 places.

A team led by the University of Melbourne’s Ross Williams and Anne Leahy produces the report for the 27-member U21 alliance, Australian members are the universities of Queensland, Melbourne and UNSW.

This is super-serious stuff, based on a mass of hard data moderated by policy expertise – the next time somebody tells you Serbia outrates Australia on output check Williams and Leahy.*

Their rankings are based on an anthology of attributes, presented both as raw scores and adjusted for GDP, and are grouped in four categories:

Resources:  Australia rates 12th,  “pulled down by the low ranking (37th) for government expenditure on higher education, although “the official data do not reflect the full cost of the student loans scheme.”  (But guess which bit of this will not get quoted)

Policy environment: second in world for facilitating the “efficient use” of resources

Connectivity: Australia rates 13th for the tertiary sector’s connections with society and international education and research links. “Australia ranks fifth on the share of international students, but first on master’s degree enrolments. Links with the private sector are at average levels: 27th for joint publications with industry and 21st for knowledge transfer.”

Output: fourth globally for research volume and impact, plus study participation rate for the first five post-compulsory education years, per centage of tertiary qualified working-age people and researchers per million inhabitants.

* Ahem, adjusted for GDP in fact we do, the Serbs rate one in the world on outputs and Australia s eight.

UWA … it’s a gas, gas, gas

First the university got a virtual LNG plant now researchers and industry can test ideas in a dedicated real one

In 2017 industry giant Siemens gave UWA software for a virtual LNG plan. Now big gas is working with the university on an actual plant, which will produce 10 tonnes of LNG a day, for use in education and to “test and refine new technologies at an industrial scale.”

Good idea, just way too hard 

A survey comparing the postgrad experience here and overseas isn’t going to happen

Back in 2017 the government commissioned a bunch of work in response to the Australian Council of Learned Academy’s research training report (CMM April 14 2016).  Some is done, some is happening and some won’t. One that isn’t is the idea of the postgraduate course experience questionnaire comparing experience here with PGs overseas, notably the UK. The Department of Education and Training reports it had a look, got some advice and decided, given; “limited resources available, and the complexity of designing a sector-wide survey with sufficient diagnostic capability,” the survey “is not a priority at the present time.”

Reality checker for equity group enrolments

A new interactive tool reveals how unis are doing on increasing access for equity groups

Comparing universities on enrolments of students from equity groups is easy with a new tool from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education at Curtin U.

The interactive data-site can compare commencing and continuing enrolments of students in the six equity groups at any two universities for each year from 2011 to 2017. Next time a university announces its commitment to improving equity group outcomes the data is there to be checked.

Appointments, achievements

Peter Klinken has a new three-year term as WA Chief Scientist. He commenced in 2014 and will continue to 2022.

Mia Lindgren will become Swinburne U’s dean of arts, social sciences and humanities, in August. She will move from Monash U, where she is head of media, film and journalism.  Professor Lindgren replaces inaugural dean, Robbie Robertson who is retiring.

ANU announces “internationally renowned comedian,” Hannah Gadsby (BA ’03) is alumna of the year.

The Australian Accounting Hall of Fame has inducted Wai Fong Chua (Uni Sydney) and Roger Simnett (UNSW).

Australian Catholic University announces its new Institute for Philosophy, to be based in Melbourne. Stephen Finlay will move from the University of Southern California to lead it. Professor Finlay’s researches meta-ethics and moral psychology.

Griffith U has appointed Reserve Bank analyst Ellana Brand to a new research fellowship on financial advice. The post is funded by AMP.