Higher education spending is investment not expense lobbies say


Byrne to lead bargaining for UoQ: saying no won’t be hard


UWA is recruiting researchers but the pitch looks familiar

and Heads Up: achievers of the week


HELP with the figures

As Treasurer Scott Morrison distinguishes between good and bad debt Conor King from the Innovative Research Universities asks via Twitter, Will HELP be a good or bad investment.

Prospero Pyne works his magic

Last month Defence Industry Minister Chris Pyne announced a federally funded shipbuilding technical college, to train people to build the navy’s new patrol boats and Future Frigates, CMM March 24. Within days the public universities and TAFE in Mr Pyne’s home state of South Australia said they were interested in managing the college (CMM March 27). All of this put the Australian Maritime College’s bow well out of joint, with the UniTasmania expert centre asking what was going on and suggesting that it actually knew a bit about shipbuilding (CMM March 29). But there is little electoral magic that Chris ‘Prospero’ Pyne can’t conjure and he is now scheduling a Launceston visit, presumably to calm the troubled political waters. The new shipbuilding college, “will deliver skills in partnership with many existing universities and training providers across Australia, such as the Australian Maritime College in Launceston,” he said yesterday.

Bright and shining scientist

“If you rest, you rust” said Chief Scientist Alan Finkel in German on Tuesday as he charmed a Berlin audience. That will account for endlessly energetic Dr’s stainless steel sheen.


Bargaining begins at UoQ

Enterprise bargaining is underway at the University of Queensland, with Vice Chancellor Peter Hoj setting out the university’s position last night. Provost Aidan Byrne will lead management’s team, which includes PVC Alan Rix and HR director Jane Banney.

Given the university’s strong position Professor Hoj wisely does not warn of burdens to be born in hard times, as universities in WA have done – the devils in the detail of the university’s statement of objectives are hard to spot. However, in common with managements in the west, he does signal the university wants a simplified agreement, without the complex codification of employment conditions that the campus unions rely on.

“Our agreement should describe benefits in a way that is easily understood by all staff who look to the agreement for clear information and guidance as opposed to being more confused after reading it. We are also seeking to remove detailed prescription and repetition from the agreement and provisions which slow down our academic and operational progress. Our approach will be sensible and reasonable,” Professor Hoj advises.

As for money, the VC, says the university salary offer will be, “fair, sustainable and aligned with community standards,” which is a polite way of telling staff not to be spending up in expectation of the 15 per cent over the life of the deal the National Tertiary Education Union demands.

This is Professor Byrne’s first big challenge since joining the university from the Australian Research Council late last year, but one a UoQ observer said he was up to. As a nuclear physicist, meltdowns are familiar to him and while the NTEU is tough, at the ARC Professor Byrne was used to not giving money to people who thought they had made a great case for cash.

 Deakin leads online

At 16th in the world Deakin U leads the ANZAC contingent in the new QS ranking of online MBAs. It is followed by the University of Otago at 24th and LaTrobe U at 31st.  UNSW’s AGSM online MBA, which rates fourth on the Financial Times list does not appear (CMM March 7). No, CMM does not know which ranking is the better guide to picking a course.


Up in budget lights

How kind of Treasurer Scott Morrison to build the higher education sector a neon sign which flashes “good spending delivers dividends not debt,” which advocates just had to switch on, in his Business Economists speech yesterday. The National Tertiary Education Union was quick to throw the rhetorical switch.

“Investments in universities are investments in Australia’s future productivity and economic growth,” Universities Australia deputy CEO Catriona Jackson quickly commented.

“While the Treasurer may have physical infrastructure top of mind, national infrastructure in skills and innovation is just as crucial for growth in this economic era as investments in roads, rail and ports were over the last century,” she said.

The NTEU also upped the illuminance. “Generations of research shows that investing in human capital through education not only improves the knowledge, skills and productivity of Australia’s workforce, but is also one of the major drivers of future economic growth, contributing to better health outcomes and greater social wellbeing, president Jeannie Rea remarked.

“The budget will not only be a test of this government’s financial capabilities but it will also reveal a lot about how it conceptualises the benefits of spending money on building physical infrastructure as opposed to investing in its people.”

If the budget wasn’t interesting for higher education before it is now.

e Quals opportunity

The new My e Quals ANZAC digital student record system was celebrated at this week’s  Groningen Declaration meeting in Melbourne (CMM Wednesday and Thursday). And rightly so, a secure digital qualification archive which graduates are free to use whenever they like is a big deal indeed, an excellent example of what the Groningen signatories seek. As ANUs Marnie Hughes Warrington, a member of its managing team points out, that the My eQuals platform will be shared by 45 ANZAC universities demonstrates how the benefits of great change can unite universities, generally not celebrated for their cooperative natures. It certainly sets out the shape of great things to come, like the UniMelbourne pilot of a credential blockchain announced at the Groningen meet.

But as Professor Hughes Warrington suggests, the digital dividend of My eQuals and all it portends could go far beyond utility to empower the highest of higher education cultures;

“it might also allow us to deliver a new sense of ancient tradition in graduation ceremonies. If you do not need to hand out paper, what can you hand out? If you could verify who has turned up by means other than a pen and a clipboard, would you do it? And could we foresee a world in which a testamur goes live at the point at which a chancellor confers, and each student has their record linked to a pronunciation of their name which is their own, rather than an institutional rendering of it? In short, could we combine history with personalisation?” CMM suggests Groningen says yes.

Deakin departure

There is another exit from the Deakin University Law School, with Gabrielle Wolf moving to join former DU colleague and co-author of research articles, Mirko Bagaric at Swinburne U. Last time CMM checked Deakin management said there were 12, now 13 departures, since dean Sandeep Gopalan took over in 2015 but observers say Dr Wolf’s departure makes 18 resignations and redundancies (CMM March 21). Like, Ben Hayward, who left last month Dr Wolf’s departure is one many will regret. She is an energetic researcher of the kind that builds a school’s research reputation, writing on sentencing and the law of medical regulation – as well as her original discipline theatre history.

Spot the difference

UWA is hiring researchers (makes a change from retrenching staff) with a new campaign to attract academics. According to UWA, it is “one of the world’s most prestigious research universities,” which depends on how ‘most’ is defined – it was 96th on last year’s Academic Ranking of World Universities and 148th on the CWTS Leiden list. But while the corporate glossy sells on research it also goes hard on the pleasures of Perth life. Pretty much as Edith Cowan U did last year in its pitch to researchers to move to Perth. In fact, details of UWA’s greater research profile aside, the two brand statements are very similar. It’s another example of the great marketing dilemma of Australian universities, when institutions are selling the same things they end up looking well, the same.

Dolt of the Day

Is CMM. Half way through yesterday’s piece on the University of Melbourne blockchain credentials pilot Gregor Kennedy from the university’s Centre for the Study of Higher Education became Gregor Ramsay. How, you ask, did that happen?  Stupidity CMM replies.


achievers at work this week


Richard Larkins (former Monash U VC) was installed yesterday as chancellor of LaTrobe U at a ceremony at LTU’s Bendigo campus.

 Joyce Ramos from the University of Queensland has won the PhD thesis of the year award from Exercise and Sports Science Australia. Dr Ramos found exercise has “a significant impact” for people who are obese and have a separate significant risk factor.

Phil Gurney is the incoming head of the Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation. QCIF is a not-for-profit provider owned by UoQ, QUT, Griffith U, James Cook U, CQU and USQ (USC is an associate member). Dr Gurney joins from Brown Coal Innovation Australia. He replaces Rob Cook, who announced his departure last year.

The University of Sydney has won the Jessup Cup for law mooting – setting a world record with five wins over 20 years. Some 550 teams from 87 countries competed this year with the UniSyd team defeating Norman Manley Law School from Jamaica in the final. The Sydney squad was Alyssa GlassWill KhunJoel PhillipsEric Shi and Harry StrattonMs Glass was named best oralist in the final.

Microbiologist Sue Thomas is the new chair of the Australian Research CouncilProfessor Thomas will join the Council in July. She will move from the University of New England, where she was appointed provost and DVC in April 2015.

Dawn Freshwater was installed as the University of Western Australia’s 18th vice chancellor (the second woman among them) last night.

Sometime ABC TV head and Australian Film Commission CEO, Kim Dalton joins the University of the Sunshine Coast as adjunct professor of (surprisingly) film and television.