Pyne’s plan for teacher education

Are pretty much as expected, with Greg Craven leading Christopher Pyne’s review of teacher education. The minister gave the details of  his review to the Fairfax papers for this morning. Appointing the Australian Catholic University VC is a brilliant move, given the low academic entry scores ACU will accept for teaching degrees. Far better to have him in the tent. But now we know about this review I hope hacks at this morning’s Adelaide presser  (where Mr Pyne will tell everybody what he has already announced) will ask the minister when he will release the report he commissioned on demand driven funding for undergraduate degrees, including teacher education.

Really Mad Men

Here’s a hint for aspiring dear leaders, do not copy Pol Pot’s management style.  According to UTS, Stuart Clegg and colleagues have identified 20 principles of totalitarian organisations, which, “you might find present in everyday, normal organisations”. Perhaps not that normal. 

Where the money is

New National Health and Medical Research Council Grants were announced yesterday. Many, many, grants, 153 to be precise for largely small sums of money, which means the big winners stand out. Like the $10.6m Professor Richard Harvey from the Victor Chang Institute received to work on heart disease. And the $6.7m the University of South Australia’s Professor Angel Lopez picked up for research on leukaemia. And there I was wondering why NHMRC CEO Warwick Anderson was visiting UniSA yesterday. In fact it was a big day for the state of heat exhaustion as a whole, with the University of Adelaide receiving nearly $10m for a raft of projects – Health Minister Peter Dutton dropped in there, presumably with a sack of money. (Flinders added a much more modest couple of million or so to the state swag). Overall the biggest winner was the University of Queensland with a substantial $26m, most of which will go to Professor Ranjeny Thomas ($11.79m) on immunoregulation in treating disease and to Professor Richard Lewis ($9.2m) for work on treating pain. The University of New South Wales also did well, largely due to thumping awards to Professor John Kaldor ($10.3m), for work on sexually transmitted infections and Professor Richard Bryant on post trauma mental health ($10.6m). It is the big awards that bulk up institutional totals – the University of Melbourne received just under 20 grants, but 87 per cent of the $13.6m total was for Professor Anne Kelso’s research on influenza. The absence of a tent pole award really showed for the University of Sydney, which led the country in the number of its grants but most of which were for a few hundred thousand dollars. I wonder whether the time taken to win a smallish grant makes it worthwhile.

“Take-over? Heavens no”

Last year, when what was then Monash Gippsland joined up with the then University of Ballarat supporters of the arrangement described it as a “merger”. Well apparently the feds never got the memo. Opening the new science and engineering building on the university’s Mount Helen campus yesterday Parliamentary Secretary Scott Ryan referred to UB’s “acquisition” of Monash Gippsland. I’m sure management maintained straight faces.

Round capture

Gary Banks (ex Productivity Commission chair, now dean of the Australia and New Zealand School of Government) knows a bit about governing and why it is hard now for the Humphreys and Humphrettes.  He explained what is occurring in his Grattan Oration “Restoring trust in public policy: what role for the public service” for the Institute of Public Administration Australia. Among many reasons there is The Office (no not the one on the box) and the proliferation of party animals surrounding ministers in it. And another is, “the new media’s hunger for ‘content’ and its preference for simple stories. This has enabled “pressure groups to get even the most self-serving messages out to the public at large without much fear of critical scrutiny on the way through.” Gosh I cannot imagine anybody covering higher education that could apply to.

No news is normal

While the medicos were counting their money yesterday applicants for cooperative research centre funding were hearing that an announcement of who gets what in Round 16 is due on “Thursday”, but nobody is saying which one.

Here to help

Geelong copped another hiding yesterday, with the news that Alcoa will close its Port Henry smelter and rolling mill, sacking 800 staff. It follows Ford, Qantas and Target in shutting up in the regional Victorian city. Its scary stuff for the Geelong community and you would think they would be allowed to grieve for a bit. So what did the National Tertiary Education Union do? Within a couple of hours of the announcement it issued a media statement calling for the Victorian Government to increase TAFE funding. “The role TAFEs play in assisting displaced workers and their families adjust cannot be overstated. Yet the Victorian Government has ripped millions away from local TAFEs, abandoning support for people seeking to re-train in different industries.” Undoubtedly the union has the interests of the people of Geelong at heart – but cynics might suggest that this was about NTEU members not unemployed, or soon to be, industrial workers.
Deakin University Vice Chancellor Jane den Hollander quickly followed, respectfully acknowledging Geelong’s loss, urging the city to reinvent itself – and, what a surprise, assuring the community her university is ready to help. She detailed various university projects, in medicine, engineering careers for young people and carbon fibre technology that will set the city up for the future; “the best way for us to help those hurt by job loss today is to work together to provide the jobs and industries for our future.” All true, but I suspect it was not much comfort to men and women in their 60s who have worked at Alcoa for 20 years and no sod-all about carbon fibre.

Not clowning around

The United States faces a shortage of clowns, according to the New York Daily News (I blame President Obama’s healthcare policy), which made me worry that we might face the same. So I called the National Institute of Circus Arts to ask and if they ever call me back I will report what they said. Hopefully everything has settled down since last July when Swinburne University incorporated NICA, which its then board wanted to become independent. Perhaps Swinburne management hoped to learn some skills from staff. With a contested enterprise bargain ballot looming the university community could use a laugh.

Win some, lose one

On Monday night the University of South Australia launched its new Sydney based Institute for Choice, staffed by academics poached from UTS. But UniSA also had a loss, with notable accounting scholar Roger Burritt leaving for Macquarie University. According to Macquarie accounting head Philomena Leung, Mr Burritt will become a research professor of accounting and sustainability on a .5 fractional appointment. “Professor Burritt is known to many of us and has impressive CV that includes several ARC projects and a long list of publications in high ranking journals (he) will help us to further build our leadership in the areas of sustainability and reporting,” Professor Leung told colleagues. Warm words of welcome which are warranted, not least because Professor Burritt is moving across the country for a half-time job.