In a world without Bunnings

Curtin U students have designed kit that could be used by people on Mars. Their concepts appear on a Discovery Channel series on the Mars Home Planet Project. And there was CMM thinking Mark Watney had it all covered.

Murdoch management proposes a new structure while some staff wonder why

The academic restructure proposal at Murdoch U (CMM yesterday) is creating questions. The core of the Toward 2027 proposal is two colleges with five faculties, and all disciplines allocated to one or another.

Health and human services, vet and agriculture science plus engineering are in one and creative industries, arts and education, the other.  The three research institutes will provide, “cross-disciplinary platforms.”

“The college structure also aims to create opportunities for academic staff to concentrate on their academic work rather than spend time in academic administration at the discipline level,” the proposal states.

The basic question being asked is why do it. The 2012 strategic plan adopted the existing nine school structure and observers say there is no particular push by staff for change.

Murdoch people are also nervous about a structure that places power with PVCs sitting way above academic operating units. They also wonder what this means for budget management and the location of line-administrators, who now work with the academics they support.

They will find out in a fortnight or so, when management responds to staff views.

Slow and steady

UWA joins Flinders, CurtinLa Trobe and Melbourne universities, which are all trialling autonomous buses. UWA will run a 14 seater for nine days, including Open Day. With a mandated speed of five KPH, trips might seem longer.  


Turnbull tells it like it is: the PM talks of university achievements and academic independence

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pitched it strong to academics in his audience for a speech at UNSW yesterday; “Australia’s ability to capitalise on the opportunities of this region depends on strong links to the region. The education sector has the capacity to influence this like few other industries. Look around yourselves. In this room, you see a small group, a sample if you like, of an enormous engagement and collaboration with our region, that has enabled us to grow and prosper and deliver benefits right across the region, for ourselves and our neighbours, underpinning the peace, the security and the prosperity that we all aspire to.”

With China’s ambassador Cheng Jingye and consul general in Sydney, Gu Xiaojie, in the audience the prime minister also talked of Australia-China ties in education and infrastructure, trade and tourism and UNSW research achievements in solar power, picked up by Chinese entrepreneurs.

It was a carefully constructed address which gave the Chinese officials who will forensically analyse it plenty to work with.

Especially the end, which appears intended for both the academics and Chinese officials who take a close interest in politics in Australia. “I have every confidence that you, our teachers and researchers, will step up your pursuit of excellence and in doing so reaffirm your independence and commitment to the values of academic freedom. Because that as vice-chancellor (Ian Jacobs) flagged at the outset, is really your greatest and most valuable currency.”

The lobbies loved it: “It is heartening to see the Prime Minister recognise the important and fundamental role our universities play in developing meaningful ties that benefit all of us both at home and abroad,” Universities Australia CEO Catriona Jackson said. “

“It was pleasing to hear the Prime Minister assert the importance of maintaining a strong working relationship with our regional neighbours, including China.   “China is obviously an important regional partner, with whom Australia is perfectly capable of working with in a constructive, collaborative way, despite our differences,” the Group of Eight’s Vicki Thomson said.

App of the Day: interactive Angkor

ANU archaeologist, Dougald O’Reilly has created an Angkor app, a guide to the temple site in Cambodia. The app offers an audio narrative plus maps and is at the Apple and Google stores. He also has an interactive Angkor iBook for iPad and iPhone.

ACU “meeting the challenge” with quiet cuts

The Australian Catholic University is quietly cutting costs, with a big programme that isn’t attracting much external attention. Back in April the university established a comprehensive savings process. It is said to be needed because of infrastructure costs to meet increased student numbers and the freeze on federally funded places at 2017 levels, announced in December’s mid-year economic forecasts. According to an internal ACU planning document, “growth already in progress will not be additionally funded. As a result, all areas of the university have to make significant changes to their operations to meet the demands of the new financially constrained environment.”

And management meant it. Vice Chancellor Greg Craven briefed staff in February-March, with a “meeting the challenge” process now rolling out across ACU.

According to Chief Operating Office Stephen Weller, “as a result of MYEFO, the university has taken steps to reduce expenditure, which unfortunately does include some staff cuts. Each affected organisational unit is undergoing a change management plan and staff are kept informed of the process and of the support that is available to them.”

Teaching and nursing are widely speculated to have taken staffing hits. In the business school three professorial positions were targeted, both to save money and to create career paths for middle-level staff, “who have high levels of corporate knowledge and understanding.”

But the cuts are not the same across all areas. While casuals are gone, or going, in at least one faculty, Dr Weller says ““ACU employs a number of casuals across the whole university and has no intention to discontinue their employment.”

Appointments, achievements

Bruce Northcote is the University of Adelaide’s new PVC Research Engagement. He adds the role to his other jobs, as director of the university’s Teletraffic Research Centre and CEO of mobile comms company TelAri Analytics. The PVC role is for the rest of the year.

Ashlea Wallington joins the University of Sydney Union’s student accelerator Incubate as director of entrepreneurship.

CQU has two new (UK) Higher Education Academy fellows.  Marlene Page is a new associate fellow and Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning, Julie Fleming is a senior fellow.


Underwood still at it

Back in 2014 the University of Tasmania and the state government created the Underwood Centre, to address under-achievement in the state’s schools. The centre is still going strong, and on Monday the government, university, teacher union, principal association and etc. all agreed with it “to work together to develop the next generation of teachers.”  “To really shift education outcomes takes whole-of-system collaboration” UTas VC Rufus Black tweeted.

Good-o, but CMM thought they were already onto this. In 2015 Underwood and the state government committed to in-classroom support for UTas teacher ed graduates (CMM April 15 2015)

Australian Research Council names engagement and impact panels

The Australian Research Council has announced memberships of the panels for the inaugural engagement and impact assessment, to accompany this year’s Excellence for Research in Australia. Chairs were announced in April (CMMApril 9).

These new lists are carefully constructed to include end-users of applied research in industry and the community, which is rather the point of the engagement and impact exercise.

Peak lobby Science and Technology Australia was certainly impressed, “congratulations to the ARC for their selection of diverse and representative panels for the first Engagement and Impact Assessment. Great spread of experts representing geological, gender, cultural and discipline diversity, it tweeted yesterday.  Quite right, “geological diversity” isn’t easily achieved.

Social sciences

Richard Dunsford (UNSW) chair. Members: Edward Aspinall, ANU. Michelle Baddeley, UniSA. Susan Danby, QUT. Vaille Dawson, UWA. Subhas DeGamia, Focal Point Advisory Partners. Gigi Foster, UNSW. Jennifer Gore, UniNewcastle. Louise Hanlon, consultant. Mark Hughes, SCU. James Migro, WA Police. Rachel Parker, QUT. Carolin Plewa, UniAdelaide. Tim Reddel, Commonwealth Department of Social Services. Kevin Stevenson, UniMelb. Mark Western, UoQ.

Creative arts and humanities

Gerard Goggon (UniSydney) chair. Members: Judith Bishop, Appen (machine learner and AI company). Michael Campbell, WestWords (western Sydney arts organisation).  Jillian Comber, Comber Consultants (heritage consultants). Penelope Edmonds, UTas. Paul Egglestone, UniNewcastle. Adrian Franklin, UniSA. Richard Gillespie, heritage and museum consultant. Nicole Gurran, UniSydey. Jeremy Moss, UNSW. Kirsten Orr, UniTas. Bethwyn Serow, Australian Major Performing Arts Group (AMPAG). Anita Stuhmcke, UTS. Amanda Third, WSU. Michael Wykes, University of Exeter.

Science and technology

John Grundy, (Monash U) chair. Members: Ric Clark, AgriFutures Australia. Alexander Gavrilov, Curtin U. Vanessa Guthrie, executive and director, minex industries.  Brett Harris, Curtin U. Erol Harvey, MiniFAB Pty Ltd (microfluidic design and manufacture). Sally McArthur, Swinburne U. Alison Rodger, Macquarie U. Karen Rouse, Water Research Australia. Claude Roux, UTS. Roland Slee, “enterprise sales leader”. Sandy Steacy, UniAdelaide. Mark Wallace, Monash U.

Heath and life sciences

Terry Nolan (UniMelb) chair. Members: Kate Auty, ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment. Richard Bell, Murdoch U. Megan Corlis, Helping Hand Aged Care. Elizabeth Eakin, UoQ. Mark Field, Coles Supermarkets Australia. Ms Estelle Fyffe, Annecto Inc (social services consultancy). Andrew Gilbert, Bioplatforms Australia Ltd (lifesciences investing). Caroline Homer, Burnet Institute (medical research).  Sandra Jones, ACU. Richard Lindley, UniSydney).  John Lynch, UniAdelaide.  Andrew Scholey, Swinburne U. Steven Smith, U Tas.  Nina Wedell, University of Exeter.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research

Maggie Walter (UTas) chair. Members: Roxanne Bainbridge, CQU, Larissa Behrendt, UTS. Ned David, Yumi Education Services (services for Torres Strait communities). Lauren Ganley, Desert Knowledge Australia, (Northern Territory Gov statutory authority). John Maynard, UniNewcastle. Anne Poelina, Madjulla Incorporated (community development organisation). Irene Watson, UniSA.