Taking the long way around

The University of Adelaide reports Fulbright Scholarships for early career medical researchers Sean Martin (to New England Research Institutes in Boston) and Giri Krishnan (to Stanford U). According to the university, they will both “head west” to the US next year.

Government has put “a cap on opportunity” UA chair Margaret Gardner

Universities Australia chair Margaret Gardner has set the tone for the peak body’s annual conference, with a full-throated call for “policymakers” to restore the demand driven system by ending the government’s funding freeze.

“The argument we make is that this funding freeze has effectively hit pause on the demand driven system – and we call for its restoration,” she told CMM last night.

At the National Press Club today Professor Gardner will call the freeze a “cap on opportunity,” which is “our greatest insurance policy against despair and disaffection.”

She will point to Brexit and the election of President Trump as examples of the “disaffection and division” increased inequality can cause.

Professor Gardner will warn the freeze imposed in December, and its permanent after-effect mean, “there will be people who wished for and would benefit from a university education who will miss out.”

She points to the “bold advance” that was uncapping university places, adding that it was followed by large per centage growth in enrolments of students with a disability and from low SES, rural and regional and Indigenous backgrounds.

“This expansion of opportunity is why we cannot accept the freeze on university funding,” she will say.

“Universal access is the foundation of hope and opportunity for anyone who does not start out in life with every advantage, or who comes to our shores, with hope of a better life.”

UTas academics not sold on research plan

The University of Tasmania is keen to increase research, with a proposal for staff to publish more articles in top quartile journals. According to the campus union the proposal went to last week’s Academic Senate meeting without staff consultation. CMM hears that the timing strikes the comrades as curious, what with enterprise bargaining negotiations close but not completed and just before new VC Rufus Black arrives. Word is that Academic Senate was not sure either and did not adopt the proposal.

Birmingham moves to protect unis from intrusive industry accreditors

The government will legislate professional accreditation to prevent industry bodies judging the performance of universities in areas assessed by industry watchdog TEQSA. Education Minister Simon Birmingham is expected to tell the Universities Australia conference the government will adopt recommendations on reform from the Higher Education Standards Panel designed to “alleviate some of the burden” on universities.

The panel proposes legislation to limit accreditation processes to “profession specific issues” and to exclude industry bodies from looking at university operations such as, academic governance, facilities management, general student support and assessment integrity, which are assessed by the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency. TEQSA will also advise accreditation bodies on performance and quality-assurance. 

HESP’s proposals follow an independent review by consultants PhillipsKPA last year, which found universities must deal with up to 100 bodies that accredit courses and warned; “there is a perception in some professions that accreditation is about controlling numbers who enter the profession rather than societal or economic need.” (CMM November 8 2017).

Friends of graduates

On Monday, the Regional Universities Network had made the only submission to the Senate inquiry into the government’s bill to toughen up student loan repayments. But with two hours to go before deadline yesterday another 17 appeared on the Senate committee’s site.  Organisations addressing this significant (certainly for low-income graduates) bill include the Innovative Research Universities, the Council of Australian Postgraduate Organisations, the NTEU and eight universities. Graduates, you know who your friends are.


Janine O’Flynn joins the Australian and New Zealand School of Government as professor of public management. The public sector management researcher is now at the University of Melbourne.

Lorelle Frazer moves from Griffith U to become head of the business school at University of the Sunshine Coast. Ken Greenwood also joins USC, to lead social sciences. He moves from James Cook U.

UNSW dean of law George Williams will join the board of the university’s press. Literary agent Fiona Inglis is also appointed to the board.

Nick Bisley from the La Trobe U Asia Institute moves up to lead the university’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Admission rules: fairer but still hard to follow

Universities are doing their best to use the new and mandatory undergraduate admissions terminology with prospective students (CMM February 8).  But it seems some of it is getting lost in the translation from academic to English. Where once students who needed a higher score to get into a course could “upgrade” their chance by extra study now have to take an admissions pathway. “I can’t wait to explain to my first low ATAR 60 that if they don’t gain entry into their preferred degree through their admissions pathway then they should consider an admissions pathway,” a learned reader remarks. And there are new issues in presenting entry scores. Such as the case of a course with a lowish threshold which happened to attract high performing students last year. Where an ATAR in the middle 70s is required if last year’s lowest ATAR entrant had a significantly higher score that is what must be quoted. At the other end, the ATARs of people who got into a course under what used to be called special admissions schemes are listed as the minimum, “creating wildly inaccurate entry information.”

UA makes an offer to good to refuse

Partnerships with universities provide Australian businesses with $10.6bn in revenue, according to research for Universities Australia. And today UA president Margaret Gardner will invite businesses to join the 16 000 companies who already invest in collaborative research, earning estimated multiples of 4.5 times on investments. “If you have a complex business challenge you haven’t been able to crack, come talk to an Australian university about how we can work together to solve it,” she will suggest.

MOOC of the morning for starting uni teachers

As classes commence Swinburne U is launching a MOOC (via Canvas)  for first-time university teachers. The self-paced, eleven module programme is the work of Swinburne’s Kym Fraser and teaching and learning colleagues from “across Australia”. Development was funded by the feds and the Council of Australasian University Leaders in Learning and Teaching.

The course will be especially useful for starting teachers at universities which leave them to learn as they go along. Aspro Fraser says she saw the need it in 2015 when she discovered nine universities provided no more than a day-long induction to teaching.