Townsville talent ignored

James Cook University says Townsville has a “creative industries,” brain drain with $200m worth of local work lost to the city. People in advertising and marketing, performance, entertainment, and design of all kinds, as well as publishing and crafts are losing business as purchasers use out of town providers.  So, what’s the cost of locals leaving town to study at other universities?

Deserved medals

The Australian Academy of Science has opened nominations for its annual medals, awarded for “outstanding contributions to the advancement of science.” There are awards for early and mid-career scientists and lifetime achievement. Any scientist in Australia can nominate their pick of peak achievers, except for the Macfarlane Burnet (biological sciences) and Matthew Flinders medals (physical sciences), for which only Academy fellows may nominate.

Not the whole tweet

Rural Health Minister Bridget McKenzie was on to CMM yesterday saying she did not agree with all of AMA president Michael Gannon’s tweet about new medical schools not being needed to meet rural doctor shortages (yesterday’s issue), which she had retweeted in full. The bit of his original she did approve of was that it was good the two of them met up.

NTEU opposes government campus by campus

The ever-energetic National Tertiary Education Union has a guide for campus activists to lobby local MPs. And a succinct and sensible document it is too – explaining to members why they should keep it short, the sort of messages that will work and the outcomes they should aim for.

This is very bad news indeed for Coalition MPs or senators who intend to stick to the party line but it should cheer up the office of Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

The NTEU’s “$100 000 degrees” social-media campaign against Christopher Pyne’s plan to deregulate course costs was a brilliant bit of work, getting a message to the families of prospective students that the government would slug their kids with huge study bills. The whole story it wasn’t but if there was one individual action that knocked off the Pyne plan this was it.

But Senator Birmingham’s freeze on funds and cap on places is not as easily demonised in social media spots. The minister’s message that universities are awash with dosh has also had a media impact.  And so, it seems that NTEU strategists do not expect to win this one with a single campaign and are thinking globally but acting locally, campaigning campus by campus.

Bethune bats on

Graham Bethune upped stumps as University of Queensland marketing director a year back and within a month was back at the crease, acting in the same role at the University of Newcastle, where he remained until Tracy Chalk took over last month. But it seems Mr Bethune likes Newcastle, becoming principal advisor to Vice Chancellor Caroline McMillen. His innings there will last at least until November, when Professor McMillen is scheduled to leave.

Westpac’s pick

Group of Eight universities were well pleased yesterday, announcing students who have won Westpac Future Leaders scholarships.  They certainly are worth having, including $120 000 for postgrad study, plus “bespoke leadership development”. But while Go8 institutions won 16 out of 17 awarded this is not the example of superior students overwhelmingly coming from elite institutions it may appear. The programme is only open to the Group of Eight and University of Tasmania.

Leadership change

Matthew King is the new president of the ANU branch of the National Tertiary Education Union. Mr King is a technical officer at the university. He replaces Sarah Beavis who steps down.

The full brezhnhev: a future for govt-uni funding compacts

Supporters of the demand driven system harrumphed in response to the Commonwealth thawing its freeze on undergraduate growth places, in favour of a new facility at Southern Cross University (CMM yesterday). This followed news last week that the feds had also committed growth places for a new University of the Sunshine Coast campus.  It certainly looks like a return to past times when those who lobbied loudest did best but a learned reader suggest that the government will stop this by using the proposal to allocate new students by university performance. Education Minister Simon Birmingham says the government will develop metrics to reward universities that meet agreed goals. While nothing is on the table yet attrition rates, completion times, employment outcomes are measured mentioned.

But while this might reduce the queue outside the minister’s office it could still end-up with government going the full-brezhnev. For a start, a learned reader suggests, universities will lobby to have the needs of their communities taken into account when deciding performance measures. And rewarding universities with additional places according to regional/national need, all based on appropriate performance measures of course, will appeal to ministers and officials who think government has to protect taxpayer interests. “They could call the agreements compacts,” the learned reader suggests.

Ah, “compacts,” sound familiar? They will be if you remember when Kim Carr was industry minister and “Silent Chris Evans was at education. Back in 2010 they created compacts as a way, in part, of stopping universities using demand driven funding to do what they liked.

“The agreements will relate the unique mission of each university to the government’s goals for the sector, and for the first time draw together information about the public funding received by each institution. … Compacts will also be the mechanism by which new teaching and learning performance funding is delivered to universities across Australia. Performance funding will increase the focus on quality and accountability and give incentives for universities to improve outcomes for students. Senator Carr said universities are integral to achieving a better educated and fairer Australia, with the compacts being an important instrument for universities to take more responsibility for their missions and priorities, including research and research training. …”

Timberlake’s Law: what can go around can come around.

Digital panel shop

Swinburne U’s training division is not big on automotive courses, which is just as well given the university’s Industry 4.0 researchers are in a new partnership of a creative destruction kind. The university has joined the Innovative Manufacturing CRC and entrepreneur Tradiebot to develop Repair Bot, a vehicle repair system using 3D printing for plastic parts and automated installation.

Gums gone

The much-loved lemon scented gums on Macquarie University’s central courtyard did not quite make it to 40. The university announced they were for the chop last year, (CMM October 26) because of the threat of falling branches. Gone they now are, coming down over the summer.

Nice work and they’ve got it: journal publisher’s $1bn profit


The journal and research information division of RELX (Elsevier as was) reports 2017 revenues of £2.47bn (A$4.37bn), up 7 per cent on 2016. Adjusted operating profit was also up 7 per cent to £.913bn ($A1.616bn). Underlying growth was 3 per cent.  This is enough to give conniptions to open access advocates, who cannot see why the public pay for research while publishers privatise the profit of communicating science. But while RELX will never agree its publishing model is based on reports of research it did not pay for it appears the company is less interested in journals than in data.

Electronic revenues saw continued good growth, partially offset by further print declines. In primary research we continued to enhance customer value by providing broader content sets across our research offering, increasing the sophistication of our analytics, and evolving our technology platforms. Databases & tools continued to drive growth across market segments through the launch of enhanced functionality and content development.”