Always on message

Liberal whip Nola Marino got as far as saying, “Scott Morriso…” when Universities Australia a had an announcement out Friday afternoon. Not to congratulate but calling on him to restore higher education funding.  “We urge new prime minister Scott Morrison to overturn the economy-damaging cuts to universities and end the university funding freeze,” UA head Catriona Jackson said. Um, those will be decisions Treasurer Scott Morrison might have had a bit to do with.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning, David Myton’s regular wrap on what’s happening in the world of higher ed.

A for Andrews on science credibility

The other week Karen Andrews was only one of two coalition members of parliament to sign-on to Science and Technology Australia’s advisor programme that gives MP’s access to scientist to provide informal advice. If there is a better way establishing credibility with key constituents, CMM can’t think of it.

Tehan steps-up as Birmingham trades in education and Andrews arrives in cabinet

Dan Tehan is the new education minister with Simon Birmingham moving to trade in the new government line-up. Former assistant minister for vocational education Karen Andrews moves up to full minister, taking the industry, science and technology portfolio. Her previous responsibilities go to Michaela Cash who is moved to skills and voced. Greg Hunt, a strong supporter of medical research, stays in health.

Mr Tehan is known to be a firm friend to at least one university, he has been co-convenor of the parliamentary friends of Deakin U. Deakin’s Warrnambool campus is in his seat of Wannon and he was active in its defence when Deakin U was considering closing it if no other university wanted to take it over. In 2016, he secured a $14m support package from the government (CMM May 9).

The new ministry is a win for science, which now has a voice in cabinet but “innovation” is nowhere to be seen, a move which could reflect Pconcern that some voters see it as a synonym for “job-destroying technology.”  And while the voced community thought well of Ms Andrews policy people will be pleased that new minister Cash is in cabinet.

Reaction: Senior lobby groups were quick with farewells and welcomes last night.

Universities Australia pointed to Mr Tehan’s “strong interest in the nation-building and economy-powering work of universities – especially in our regions but also right throughout our economy.” CEO Catriona Jackson inevitably added UA urged him “to end the economy-damaging university funding freeze and its cap on places.”  The ever-polite UA also found something nice to say about Senator Birmingham, despite the cuts on his watch, thanking him for his “engagement with higher education policy detail and his strong support of international education in particular.
The Regional Universities Network was on-form, thanking Senator Birmingham and urging Mr Tehan to use his regional awareness to work on outstanding regional education issues.

Conor King from the Innovative Research Universities thanked Senator Birmingham “for his work during interesting times,” called Ms Andrews “a good choice” but signalled he did not see much hope for change on funding. “We will put the case to move on from the freeze to Dan Tehan.  He may see scope for action but most likely the positions remain set through to the election.”

But it was left to the Group of Eight’s Vicki Thomson to put everything in policy perspective; “we have – yet again –  new ministers in key portfolios which are  crucial to the ongoing success of the university sector –  education, trade, industry and immigration. Like many other sectors –  we are crying out for stability at the most senior levels of Government and let’s hope this is it.”

But she was pleased with Ms Andrews appointment. “It’s fantastic to see a woman and a former mechanical engineer at that at the helm of the Industry, Innovation and Science portfolio, which really  drives  our research and innovation agenda.  She has demonstrated a strong and genuine commitment to  advancing science and innovation – she knows  the value of research an innovation to a nation.”

Ms Thomson undoubtedly will make Senator Birmingham’s day by promising to stay in touch on education exports.

Academics speak up when RMIT kept quiet

The Government of Bangladesh is detaining without trial RMIT adjunct professor Shahidul Alam, who has commented in the media on protests in Dhaka. RMIT is not interested in sticking up for one of its own (CMM August 20) but the National Tertiary Education Union has sent Bangladesh’s minister for home affairs a petition signed by 460 academics, 160 of them from RMIT.

Enterprise deal about to be done at UNSW

UNSW management and the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union are close to agreeing on a new enterprise agreement. So close the union has scheduled a members meeting to vote on the terms, which are yet to be revealed. As of late Friday, the final text  was still being discussed by management and the union’s negotiators, who also need to run it past NTEU head office before telling members

If all occurs as expected it will be a deal done at speed. Last month the union had industrial action scheduled, which was cancelled the day before, when UNSW came up with strike-stopping proposals (CMM July 31). Observers suggest that the issues last to be resolved flow from the comprehensive university restructure now underway, notably change management, redundancies and the operational impact of the new academic calendar. If union members approve the proposal it will go to an all-staff ballot.

The future is dreams of donuts

A poster at the University of Sydney’s Open Day read “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” “The random slogan generator in overdrive,” a learned reader remarks.

Asked at Monash U’s Open Day; “are you an arts undergraduate student wondering what’s next? Do you like free donuts?” The arts faculty promotes PG work with a diet staple of impoverished grad students.

Lectures work, they just don’t need to be live

In-person lectures are not obsolete because students still like the format, but those who never show-up are still learning the content Laurie Chapin (Victoria U) reports in a new paper for the Australasian Journal of Ed Tech.

Dr Chapin surveyed psychology students to find no difference in final results for students with different use patterns for WBLT.


* 75 per cent of students used WBLT and 22 per cent “utilised” all the recorded lectures. “The students who lecturers do not see in their lecture halls are often utilising the recordings and report they are confident they are getting the same information,” she writes.

* there are no dominant reasons why students use/not use WLBT. With individuals working out a mix of lecture consumption that suits their circumstances and/or learning styles.

* “despite different combinations of lecture attendance, WBLT and associated study techniques used by students, the outcomes are comparable.”


“This has important implications for educators who have generally worried about the impact of lecture recordings on attendance and so have been less enthusiastic about embracing the potential of WBLT,” Dr Chapin writes.

“The technology is very flexible, and this was reflected in the different patterns of number of recordings accessed, frequency, and reasons why many students liked using WBLT or why others preferred not to access them. As new and improved education technologies are developed and adopted by more students, educators, and researchers must keep up with them in order to understand how to maximise student learning,”

The unis that rate in the Twitterverse

Twitter  announces its follower ranking for Australian university corporate accounts.  Rounded to the nearest thousand, as of this month they are:

Over 30 000 followers

UniMelb – 86 000, UoQ – 80 000, Monash U – 62 000, UniSydney – 62 000, Deakin U – 50 000, UniAdelaide – 48 000, RMIT – 47 000, UNSW – 43 000, UniSA – 37 000, Curtin U – 33 000, LaTrobe U – 31 000


Swinburne U -29 000, Griffith U –  29 000, Macquarie U – 28 000, Flinders U – 27 000, QUT – 21 000, Victoria U 17 000, ANU – 16 000, UWA – 15 000, Murdoch U – 14 000, James Cook U – 14 000, UniWollongong – 13 000, UniCanberra – 13 000, UTS – 12 000, Bond U – 12 000, Charles Sturt U – 12 000, UTas – 11 000

Fewer followers

Charles Darwin – 8 000, Western Sydney U – 8000, Edith Cowan U – 7000, Federation U – 7000, UNE – 6000, CQU – 5000. UniSouthernQueensland – 5000, UniSunshineCoast – 4000, UniNotreDame – 1000, Torrens U – 1000, ACU – 1000.

Like any ranking unhappy people will have reasons why this is unrepresentative and proves nothing. Bur what it does demonstrate is that similar universities have very different numbers of followers – UNSW has half those of UniMelbourne. Macquarie U has twice the followers of UTS.

In social media, you are what you tweet.

Grants of the day

The University of Sydney has $4m from the NSW government to trial cell and gene therapies in treating rare genetic conditions and cancer.  Ian Alexander from the Sydney Medical School and Westmead Childrens Hospital has $2m to work on kidney transplant failure. Greg Neely (Charles Perkins Centre) receives $800 000 for stem-cell based treatment of chronic pain. David Gottlieb (Sydney Medical School and Western Sydney Health) has an undisclosed sum for clinical trial of cellular immunotherapy after transplants and John Rasko from the university’s Central Clinical School has an unannounced amount for gene therapy to cure haemophilia.


The estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research has a new managing director. Simon Walker will take over in mid-October, moving from the WA Department of Training and Workforce Development. He replaces Craig Fowler who announced his departure in March.

Steven Roberts is confirmed as dean of ANU’s College of Business and Economics. Professor Roberts became interim dean last year.

Andrew O’Neil (Griffith U) is appointed chair of the research directors network at the Australian Business Deans Council.