Open Day of the day

The big news at University of the Sunshine Coast is re-useable jute bags  will be used at its campus open days. The bags will express the university’s opposition to plastic bags and drink bottles. That should attract a crowd.

Shorten to the point

“We will create an extra 200,000 university places over the next decade, so more kids from the regions, the suburbs and working class backgrounds can get the chance to go to universities without relying on rich parents,” Bill Shorten at the NSW Labor Conference yesterday. The  Opposition Leader did not talk much about education and training and what he promised is not the same as restoring the demand driven system. But his deputy Tanya Plibersek is always adamant it will happen

Flinders’ future in frigates

It looks like Flinders U was really hoping UK shipbuilder BAE would win the Future Frigate contract. DVC R Robert Saint, defence partnership director Tony Kyriacou and maritime engineering academic Karl Sammut were talking to BAE in the UK on Friday when its win was announced.  The university says it will access the company’s digital shipbuilding tools and will use them, “to train the people who will build the future frigates and integrate the ships’ complex operating systems.”

UniAdelaide innocent of mansplaining (just ask its robot)

The University of Adelaide’s global recognition is up and its reputation down due to a hoarding advert showing a bloke mansplaining to bored women. Social media circulated the image around the world on Saturday, but the advert is not the uni’s. “The photo of the hoarding has been deliberately angled and cropped to suggest that the image is directly related to the university, which it is not. Our logo is part of a separate image, which has been cropped out. It was not approved by us. The people depicted in that photo are not university people,” UniAdelaide says.

In contrast, the uni’s actual advert, for its Institute of Machine Learning, features a robot, which does not look at all bored.

The offending advert is for state government agency, Renewal South Australia which is probably renewing its advertising this morning.

What UA wants and what RUN will settle for

Universities Australia backs the House of Representatives Committee inquiry calling for more resources for regional universities. “Strong regional universities are the beating heart of many regional communities and economies,” UA CEO Catriona Jackson says, calling for an end the present funding freeze and restoring the “uncapped system of university places.” The Regional Universities Network also applauded the report (CMM Friday).

Ms Jackson adds that the $3.8bn in the now moribund Education Investment Fund (set to be transferred to the NDIS) could provide the capital for economy-expanding regional university investments the Reps committee called for.

Good-oh, but surely what UA wants would be for demand driven funding and the EIF to apply to all its members. The government will find it cheaper just to fund individual regional unis – it has committed more UG places for the University of the Sunshine Coast and Southern Cross University and is kicking capital in at USC. Even without demand driven funding for all, the Regional Universities Network may settle for what it can get, which would take the pressure of the government in key seats come the election.

The chemistry will be right

The Australian Academy of Science is preparing for a big 2019, it being the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements and its application. No, the AAS has not made this up, the year was declared by the UN General Assembly in December 2017. It is to mark the 150th anniversary of the periodic system, discovered in 1869, by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev.

No rush on selling education to India

The federal government has announced $5m for the Australia-India Institute to “drive closer collaboration” between education institutions. The University of Melbourne based institute runs intern and scholarship programmes, an annual leadership dialogue and is assisting with DFAT’s plan to expand Aus-India connections. Doubtless, worthy but with universities hugely exposed to any downturn in China demand, $5m could help with specific plans to expand demand from Indian students and to create a base for Australian VET in the huge potential training-market there. But then again, the feds probably have this covered – the Department of Education and Training’ Australia-India Education website updates activity, why, the most recent advice is just 11 months old.


Union still says no to Ramsay Civ Centre for Sydney

Assurances academic autonomy and integrity would be paramount in negotiations between the University of Sydney and the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation have not ended outrage on campus. Last week VC Michael Spence told the university branch of the National Tertiary Education Union he, “would never consider compromising on the principles of academic freedom and integrity that constitute the very foundation of this university,” CMM Friday).

But it wasn’t enough for the union, which also opposes the Ramsay Centre’s proposed courses, “as a triumphalist and selective vision of European and Anglo-American history and culture.”

The union wants the university to abandon discussions with Ramsay, plus a new policy on accepting funding, which has NTEU input and is approved by its campus members.

Expert adversaries in union poll

Melissa Slee (RMIT) is running against incumbent Colin Long for the Victorian state secretary position at the National Tertiary Education Union. It will be a ballot of the boffins, with the learned Dr Long running for a third term. Dr Slee is the long-term branch president of at RMIT. She wrote her PhD on enterprise bargaining in higher education.

One last chance to dispute the R&D tax concession cuts

The feds have announced a month-long consultation on the Research and Development Tax Incentive Amendments legislation.

Where this came from: No one will be able to complain they were not asked about the changes. Complain they do not like it for sure, but word of it has long reached tax accountants in Andromeda. Back in 2016 the Three Fs (Innovation Australia chair Bill Ferris, Chief Scientist Alan Finkel and Treasury Secretary

John Fraser) reviewed the existing system and recommended reducing and more tightly targeting the concession (CMM September 29 2016). This did not please start-ups and big research spenders alike who warned of dire R&D outcomes and ministers came and went without anything much happening until the budget, which announced $2bn in savings across the forward estimates.

What it’s about: Opponents of the plan have a chance to save something, probably not much from the draft bill.  The government plans to contain the $3bn pa cost of the existing incentive by increasing the threshold by a third, to $150m and cap the tax refund on R&D at $4m (at present companies with less than $20m turnover can get the difference between their tax liability and R&D tax offset as a refund). There are also changes to the offset rates for tax.

What happens next: Any chance of clawing concessions back seems minimal. Businesses that benefit under the existing arrangement have not made much of a lobbying impact since the Three Fs review and the feds have wisely chosen not to upset the highly organised and always outspoken medical research lobby. The new legislation exempts clinical trials from the $4m cap.

Appointments, achievements

Patricia Illing from Monash U and Laura McKay from the Peter Doherty Institute are two of the three winners of the first Michelson Prize for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research. Ansuman Satpathy from Stanford is the third.

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership has five new directors; Beth Blackwood, Renez Lammon, Peter Lind, Mark Mowbray and Donna Pendergast.

They join Chair John Hattie and deputy Chris Wardlaw and reappointed directors Jennifer Buckingham, Tony Cook, and Rob Nairn.

Outgoing directors are Tania Aspland, Stephen Elder, Trevor Fletcher, Geoffrey Newcombe and Melanie Saba.

Perth chemical engineer Jeannette Roberts joins the board of the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

RMIT’s new Melbourne city campus has won the Australian Institute of Architects’ top Victorian award for Lyons Architecture, NMBW Architecture Studio, Harrison and White, MvS Architects and Maddison Architects.

Travis Heeney starts work today as CEO of the Goulburn Ovens Institute of TAFE, (badged as GoTAFE).