Low cost campaigning

The Nats are making-nice with regional unis

Labor launched its federal election campaign for Cairns the other week, promising $50m for a new CQU campus there (CMM November 11).

And yesterday the coalition responded albeit not at scale, with a tweet from Regions Minister Bridget McKenzie, appearing in a pic with local member, wily Warren Entsch.

Senator McKenzie talked-up the return of international students and how Cairns is “a standout regional higher education centre.”

Way-south former Nats leader, MP Michael McCormack was making-nice with Charles Sturt U yesterday, tweeting about a chat with its COO Rick Willmott, “who spoke of several innovative ideas the university is pursuing.”

Other regional unis should not feel left-out – there is plenty of time until the election.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Universities that chase rankings replace their missions with KPIs. Garry Carnegie and Lee Parker (both RMIT)  make the case why rankings are not relevant to the purpose of universities.

plus Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman (Melbourne Centre for the Study of HE) on the states where HE was hit hardest in the pandemic year.

and Theo Farrell and Alyce Mason (Uni Wollongong) on the digital transformation of teaching and learning, why it will stay and how, if universities get it right it, “digitalisation can improve equal access to higher education.”

with Chris Ronan (Country Universities Centre) who explains how regional students can study successfully by combining on-line courses and a local learning community.  This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series Needed now in teaching and learning.

Uni brands tell it like it is

In Features this morning Tim Winkler makes the case for uni brands and why they must be way more than marketing

“A brand is far more than a visual identity and slogan – they should just be a postscript on the real thing. A brand is the sum of the spirit of an institution; the commitment; the impact on lives; the selfless contribution to knowledge and the determination to reward ignorance with insight, rather than shame. The brand needs to be felt in welcome-lectures, in administrators accepting fees, in researchers explaining their work to visitors,” he writes.

It’s an issue for his (with a little help from CMM) conference next week, on key issues in HE marketing, recruitment and identity.

Sign-up here.

The workers weren’t united and yes, they were defeated

An analysis of last year’s peak union job protection strategy is scathing

Last year the federal leadership of the National Tertiary Education Union responded to the COVID-19 crisis with a proposal for union-overseen, member approved, temporary cuts to wages and conditions in return for reducing redundancies.

The National Job Protection Framework was adopted by half a dozen or so universities but rejected by the managements of many more, and loudly condemned by NTEU activists who rejected the idea of cooperating on cuts with universities.

In what may be the first academic analysis of the campaign, Alexis Vassiley (Edith Cowan U) and Francis Russell (Curtin U) suggest the plan was misconceived, offering concessions from a position of weakness.

“The union had, perhaps unwittingly, helped to frame cuts to pay and conditions as a neutral and unavoidable technocratic response to the pandemic, insofar as the union helped to popularise the notion that pay cuts save jobs,” they suggest.

They add, there is “no evidence” that universities with local job protection agreements had fewer job losses than does that didn’t. And they suggest reducing labour costs, “at best, could only postpone the problem of insufficient government funding.”

Instead, they propose, the union’s leadership could have confronted managements, campaigned against the government, recruited on campuses and prepared for industrial action, “the only real leverage workers have.”

“Despite concession bargaining appearing superficially necessary in times of crisis, its experience in Australian higher education, and the premises underpinning it, demonstrate that a reset in industrial strategy is more likely to benefit higher education workers,” they conclude.

Uni Wollongong funds Fulbrights

The university will support two Fulbright Scholarships per annum for five years

Two US researchers a year will spend up to four months at UoW, “conducting their research in areas of importance to the university.”

There is no word on cost.

Trailblazing towards research translation

The Commonwealth points to its preferred pathway

There is $242m for “trailblazer universities” to establish four research and industry hubs, “to lead breakthroughs” in “critical national manufacturing priorities.”

The announcement is silent on which hubs will work on what priorities, which include, defence, space, resources technology, food and beverage, clean energy and medical products. Maybe universities that pitch can make up their own minds. (A hub on food and beverages in space would be worth watching).

Successful bidders will receive $50m over four years, “to build commercialisation capacity” plus $8m for CSIRO support, “through their proven Test Labs.”

Bids will be assessed on,

* industry links, including co-funding commitments

* “innovative” IP arrangements

* promotion pathways for entrepreneur academics

* governance chaired by “an industry leader”

Plus, one hub will have to involve a regional uni.

The announcement is a scene-setter for the recommendations of the Research Commercialisation Taskforce.

Big bucks for bio-breakthroughs

Victoria’s state government backs a biotech incubator in collaboration with CSL, Uni Melbourne and the medical research institute formerly known as Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

They are partnering with Breakthrough Victoria (“backed by the Victorian Government”) which has $2bn to invest over ten years “in industries that will create the jobs of tomorrow.” Although how much this commercialiser will get is not stated, with the incubator “valued” at $95m.

It will be based at the Parkville Biomedical Precinct (so convenient to Uni Melbourne) and host “up to” 40 biotech start-ups at a time.

Appointments, achievements

Peter Ashman (Uni Adelaide) is the new chair of the ANZ Federation of Chemical Engineers.

ANU announces the Chancellor and VC awards. * Peter Baume award: John Braithwaite * Distinguished contribution: Ken Baldwin, Amanda Barnard * Outstanding service: Tracy Smart, Patricia Teh * Service: Belinda Farrelly, Nicki Middleton and COVID Ops team * Early career academics: Xiaolin Wang, Kinley Wangdi * Research: Tegan Cruwys, Katie Steele, Céline d’Orgeville * Impact, engagement: Blair Williams, Matthew Gray and Nicholas Biddle and the COVID-19 Impact Monitoring team * Education: Alexander Maier * Health and safety: Jeremy Lepisto and the Art-Design Tech Services Team * Equity, diversity: Amy King

Curtin U announces its research and engagement awards. * Research leadership: Debbie Silvester-Dean * Early career researchers: Kefyalew Alene, Crystal Abidin, Joanna Moullin * Early career researcher-creative practice: Michael Gray *STEM early career research: Kefyalew Alene * Research team: Binar-1 Space Programme * Research news story: Phil Bland and the SSTC Binar-1 Team * Scholarship:  to PhD candidate Callan Wood * Business, society, communities: Rachel Ong ViforJ * Creative practises: Susan Bradley Smith * STEM: Debbie Silvester-Dean

Chennupati Jagadish (ANU) is the in-coming president of the Australian Academy of Science.

Science and Technology Australia has new leadership at today’s AGM. Mark Hutchinson (Uni Adelaide) – president.  Anita Goh (Uni Melbourne) – VP. Mark Stickells (Pawsey Supercomputing Centre) – treasurer. Chris Matthews (UTS) – executive member.

Chris Turney will join UTS in January as PVC R. He is now at UNSW.