A squid called Merlin

Australian Museum researchers name a newly identified species of squid Iridoteuthis merlini.

It’s in honour of long-time friend of the museum UNSW deputy vice chancellor Merlin Crossley.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

James Guthrie (Macquarie U) on why the NSW Auditor-General  needs to examine the performance of the state’s public universities

plus  Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman (Uni Melbourne)  analyse all uni financials  (ex SA) to find 2020 could have been worse (2021 will be).

Angel Calderon (RMIT) on the strong Australian showing in the new Academic Ranking of World Universities. Want to know how it happened? Mr Calderon explains how the rankings work in CMM (August 12)  here.

with Margaret Lloyd (QUT) on the sameness of happy on-line classes and the individual misery of those that aren’t. Sally Kift’s new selection for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

and Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the triumph of open science – humanity will think its way through COVID-19

Time to “shift gear” on workloads at  RMIT

The university announces well-being leave and a “slow-down”

“While workload has certainly been a concern for the VCE since the pandemic began, relief provided to date has clearly not been tangible enough,” Interim VC Dionne Higgins told staff yesterday.

And so, management announces five days additional leave for continuing and fixed-term staff, available until December 17. Plus there will be a university-wide “slowdown” August 30-September 3.

“This well-being leave is a chance for our people, including this leadership group, to simply step away from work, take a well-deserved break and recharge,” Ms Higgins states.

But she adds the benefits of the break will only last, if “we return to a more manageable and sustainable workload.” University leaders are accordingly working with their teams to, “implement rigorous prioritisation of work through to the end of the year. It’s about proactively deciding what is essential and what can be stopped, paused or reassigned to 2022.”


Not much room of their own

ANU goes to Covid-9 Red (for extreme risk)

Students in university residences are told to stay where they are. So that an entire block isn’t impacted when (hopefully, if) a “close contact” is identified people who share kitchens and bathrooms are deemed in a bubble. They can have an “exercise buddy” but “largely stay in their room.” Late yesterday DVC Ian Anderson thanked student leaders and senior residents, “who volunteered to deliver food to make sure everyone in residence was fed.”

At Kensington there be dragons

At UNSW Ian Jacobs’ long goodbye is starting to drag on

The VC announced in December he was out at the end of the year so some people now blame  the executive Management Board for whatever they don’t like – with artwork making the point turning up around campus. Including this one.

Never ending stories

If the artist(s) are thinking about a multi-platform franchise there are UNSWers who can help.

There’s a new run of Simon McIntyreEmma RobertsonJeffrey KohOllie Brown and George Khut’s MOOC, “Transmedia storytelling: narrative worlds, emerging technologies, and global audiences” (via Coursera).

It’s designed for individuals with a tale to tell on many media platforms. Of whom there are a few. The March run of the MOOC started with 69 000 people enrolled (CMM March 24).This one has 75 000 starters, 75 000!

Claire Field: education worked for Afghan women


Australia must commit to advance education opportunities post pandemic

This week’s column had initially intended to cover a number of topical international education issues. Instead, a few brief reflections on the fundamental importance of international education.

As the Taliban re-took control of Afghanistan my thoughts turned to two young women who made an enormous impact on me – almost 20 years apart.

The first, who in the interests of her privacy I will not name, was a young woman rescued by the MV Tampa. She fled Afghanistan after the Taliban murdered a close family member, and we initially met when she was in immigration detention. Living under Taliban rule she had no formal education but had been secretly educated at home.

The other, Sveto Muhammad Ishoq, I met in 2018 in Beijing where she was a Schwarzman Scholar at Tsinghua University. She had completed her undergraduate degree at the American University in Kabul and has since gone on to set-up social enterprises empowering Afghan women.

The difference in the opportunities and life experiences of these fearless, awe-inspiring women exemplifies how profoundly women’s lives changed in Afghanistan in just 20 years, and how important education was in that change.

Monash University’s Gender, Peace and Security Centre has a petition calling on the government to provide expedited asylum for Afghans who are at grave risk, and to grant permanent residency to Afghan temporary migrants, refugees and asylum seekers already in Australia. It is the least we can do in the face of the horror unfolding in Afghanistan.

Given the profound importance of education – Australia should be focussed on re-emerging post-COVID with a strengthened commitment to advancing educational opportunities across the globe. These efforts should be government-led and should place international education at the heart of our geopolitical strategies, as with the Colombo Plan.

And in terms of the practicalities of re-opening borders and engaging globally, last week I spoke with Douglas Proctor, PVC (Global Engagement) at Swinburne University. His experience in safely welcoming international students to University College Dublin during COVID and his reflections on global engagement offer important lessons as Australia re-opens and re-engages.

Claire Field’s interview with Douglas Proctor and an earlier interview with Sveto Muhammad Ishoq are available free on the ‘What now? What next?’ podcast or listen online.

More questions in VET

If you understand training qualifications the feds want to hear about it

According to the Commonwealth there’s “an immediate priority” for “simplifying, streamlining and rationalising national VET qualifications across industry groupings and the Australian Qualifications Framework.” Just like there has been for 30 years.

But now there’s a survey on what needs be done – and halfway through there is actually a question about the “proposed qualification architecture” (which in the detail provided is more a back of the envelope sketch). The survey asks where “challenges” will come from, followed by questions about “occupational” and “training standards” and possible problems in implementing them.

And so it endlessly goes.

Appointments, achievements

Lachlan Clohesy is elected ACT secretary for the National Tertiary Education Union

Debbie Silvester-Dean (Curtin U) receives the Royal Society of Chemistry’s 2021 Emerging Investigator Lectureship.

James McLaren has a one-year appointment at Australian Catholic U as Interim DVC in the new portfolio of DVC Research and Enterprise. He moves from PVC R. But why just a year? “In the current environment, however, circumstances made it difficult for us to make a long-term appointment,” VC Zlatko Skrbis tells staff.  DVC R Wayne McKenna left last month.

 At UWA Colin MacLeod (Psychological Science) wins the Philippa Maddern Award, awarded by the academic staff association to “pay tribute to exceptional academics.”

 Lan Snell is the new head of Uni Southern Queensland’s business school. She moved from Macquarie U.

Michelle Trudgett becomes Western Sydney U’s inaugural DVC Indigenous Leadership. She steps up from Pro Vice-Chancellor Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education, Strategy and Consultation at WSU.

The WA Premier’s Science Awards are announced, including. Scientist of the year: Eric May (UWA). Early career scientists: Edward Litton (UWA, Fiona Stanley Hospital), Arman Siahvashi (UWA). Student Scientists: Liam Scarlett (Curtin U), Niamh Troy (Telethon Kids Institute, UWA). Aboriginal STEM student: Daniel Curran (Curtin U). Science Engagement Initiative: First LEGO League (Curtin U).