Cash in space

Libs are star-struck in Adelaide

The South Australian Liberal Party government faces the electorate on March 19,as will their national colleagues some-time in the next couple of months. Which are undoubtedly incidental to the prime minister’s announcement of $32m for the Adelaide-based Australian Space Agency, for “transitioning space technology from the laboratory to space.”

Mr Morrison also instructs the agency, “to embark on a mission to put an Australian astronaut back into space,” which will “drive jobs and technology investment.”

Managing that might be tight before we vote.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Frank Larkins (Uni Melbourne) crunches the numbers on uni staff losses. They aren’t as big as reported – but casuals still bore the brunt.

with Angel Calderon (RMIT) on why ratifying the global convention on qualification recognition makes sense for Australia. (It could help here on recognition of prior learning and credit transfer between states and institutions.)

plus  Steven Warburton and Mitchell Parkes (UNE) argue it’s time for the sage to leave the stage, for the guide to sidle off the side and to welcome the agile, adaptive academic – the meddler in the middle! This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series Needed now in teaching and learning.

Still masked-up in the national capital

ANU continues to require indoor wear

As the ACT government relaxed requirements on in-door masks Friday ANU management advised the university community that masks remain required indoors on campus, “for the foreseeable future.”  “We planned our semester one on campus with certain conditions in place, including mask wearing, so it’s important that these remain in place for the time being,” the university does not entirely explain.

But it might have something to do with last week’s COVID cases in university halls of residence.

As to vaccination, it’s required in residences and other specified settings but in general, the university “strongly encourages staff and students to get vaccinated, including receiving a booster dose when eligible.”  ANU states it is consulting on mandatory vax, following a staff and student survey which found 80 per cent plus “would feel more comfortable” if others on campus were vaccinated.  However, “at this stage our health advice is not to introduce a broad vaccine mandate across our community,” VC Brian Schmidt told staff Friday.

So does Uni Canberra

Also Friday, management extended  in-door masks for a fortnight, which “reflects the current assessment of risk for our environment.” The university says triple vax is “strongly recommended.”

They were warned

The ACT division of the National Tertiary Education Union “welcomes these announcements.” Last month the union called on the universities to consult on risks in returning to campus. Omicron “has dramatically changed the public health situation,” officials Craig Applegate and Lachlan Clohesy said (CMM January 31).


Med researchers (really) make their case

The Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes is not in need of a modestectomy

AAMRI  has a new website which, “showcases the best stories from Australia’s medical research institutes.”

Seriously good marketing the new site is – tightly written with headlines that offer hope , – “hunt for facial deformity gene ends after 20-year search” – and pitch work at all institutions on what they can do people.

Plenty of research lobbies and institutions try this approach but few have the confidence and copyrighting to make explicit the sell – fund us and we will make lives better. AAMRI delivers. And in the fight for funding modesty is not a lot of use.

Carefully calibrated case on research independence

The Innovative Research Universities wants legislation “to protect against political interference” in funding decisions on individual basic research projects

The call comes in a nuanced submission to the Senate committee inquiry into a bill from NSW Green Mehreen Faruqi to protect ARC recommended grant funding from ministerial veto.

The IRU is also adamant in supporting basic research, presumably including from HASS disciplines, which three recent ministers have vetoed.

But it is careful to distinguish it from other grant programmes, “the generation of new knowledge is fundamentally different to other kinds of government grants programmes, where desired outcomes may be known in advance.”

Like applied research linked to economic outcomes, perhaps as set out in the new research accelerator programme. Thus the IRU, “supports the current government’s focus on industry innovation and commercialisation through new funding for fit-for-purpose programmes.”

The lobby also acknowledges that no government will give up power over public funding, “given that this is public money that is being invested, there must be appropriate democratic oversight, accountability and transparency … but this should be at the level of the programme or agency.”

All neatly done. Any lobby that does not speak out against the ARC vetoes will lose friends in the research community. Any lobby that does not state support for applied research funding will not impress STEM researchers who hope to gain from the research commercialisation strategy. Any lobby that does not acknowledge the authority of a minister will be noted by whoever the next one is.

Fields where the teaching-smarts are

Last week’s Australian Awards for University Teaching included 78 citations

The spread by criteria is;

* teaching and learning that “influence, motivate and inspire students to learn”: 34

* curricula/resources “that reflect a command of the field”: 24

* effective assessment: four

* innovation/leadership enhancing learning-teaching/student experience: 16

Disciplines with awards in double digits are;

* Health (by a country km) 21 * bized 12  * education, ten.

In contrast, engineering, IT, architecture and building combined managed but one. For whatever it is worth, the disciplines rated under average for UG satisfaction with teaching, by four per cent to seven per cent,  in the most recently released Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching.

The list of citations is here.

Scroll down for Mitch Parsell on the achievements of John Biggs, the 2021 life-time achievement winner in the Australian Awards for University Teaching


The World Council on Gifted and Talented Children announces delegates, “the organisation’s on-the-ground representatives, in Australia. * Lesley Henderson (Flinders U) * Michelle Ronksley-Pavia (Griffith U), * Genevieve Thraves (UN) – alternate and * Geraldine Townend (UNSW)

John Biggs: a career of teaching achievements

John Biggs was awarded the 2021 Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT) Career Achievement Award last week. This is why


Professor John Biggs has had a profound and lasting impact on learning and teaching in higher education. His work has helped define how we all engage in curriculum design and assessment, and how we support student learning in higher education both nationally and internationally. Teaching at university would be unrecognisable without his articulation of constructive alignment for adult learners and his development of the SOLO taxonomy. His seminal text, Teaching for Quality Learning at University, now in its fourth edition with Catherine Tang and with a fifth edition on the way, has been cited over 21000 times since it was first published in 1999.

Professor Biggs did his undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Tasmania in 1957, before undertaking research at the National Foundation for Educational Research (London) and gaining his PhD from Birkbeck College, University of London, in 1963. He held multiple academic positions across Australia, Canada and Hong Kong before officially retiring in 1995. After retirement, Professor Biggs continued to hold honorary professorial positions at the University of Hong Kong and the University of Tasmania, and consult widely across Australasia and internationally on the implementation of constructive alignment in higher education. Professor Biggs was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2017 in recognition of his “significant service to tertiary education, particularly in the fields of curriculum development and assessment.”

Professor Biggs has devoted his career to an evidence-informed approach to improving student learning. Constructive alignment is inherently student-centred, grounded in the understanding that students learn through their own activity. On this firm outcomes-based foundation, Professor Biggs articulated a clear approach for adult learners in higher education. His focus on intended learning outcomes is clearly evident in the threshold standards of Australia’s Higher Education Standards Framework. Because of Professor Bigg’s work, the idea that education should define what we want students to achieve, create opportunities and an environment for them to learn, and assess whether they have achieved those outcomes, no longer seems radical. In fact, this student-centred approach is, due to Biggs, business as usual for all Australian academics.

Professor Biggs has produced an enduring legacy and outstanding contribution to learning and teaching, for which an entire generation of tertiary educators in Australia and beyond are deeply indebted.

The 2021 AAUT awards are here.

Professor Mitch Parsell, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education, University of Tasmania [email protected] @mitchparsell