Smaller slice? Find a new pie!

The Innovative Research Universities lobby reports applied research and experimental development accounted for less than 40 per cent of Australian Government Higher Education Research and Development expenditure in the early ‘90s. It was 58 per cent by the mid-teens and in 2020 it was 63 per cent.

Wonder why the IRU wants access to National Reconstruction Fund earnings (scroll down)


There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Full-time IT CEO and part-time academic Michael Baron likes teaching but he laments universities don’t make more senior professionals welcome, HERE.

plus Kurt Cheng on UTS’ student partnership agreement. New in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series Needed now in learning and teaching

with Jack Breen (UNSW) who warns there are too many social-media platforms, sub-platforms and content formats in HE for anybody to keep up with – but all is not lost.


Aus unis R&D achievement: not as good as it looks

It’s the results of long-past commitments

Aus universities lead the world when the major rankings are referenced by GDP, according to a new analysis of UNSW’s Aggregate Ranking of Top Universities by Nicholas Fisk and Thomas Chown (both UNSW).

“Whichever way you look at it, Australia’s research-intensive universities are up there among the world’s best. This paints Australia’s universities as delivering incredible value for money,” they write in CMM this morning.

Except that the achievement might be based on R&D funding a decade back – since then Aus is one of five OECD countries where spending as a per centage of GDP has declined.

“It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Australia has been asleep at the wheel in terms of nurturing its research ecosystems. COVID has highlighted our vulnerabilities not only in university business models but in R&D dependent sovereign capability. National reconstruction is fine, but it is international catch up in R&D investment that’s now needed, Fisk and Chown they say.

Back to bargaining at Griffith U

In December GU professional staff voted for a management offer on wages and conditions but academics didn’t

The National Tertiary Education Union opposed the prop on a range of issues, including the offered pay rise, workloads and changes to free speech protections set out in the 2017 agreement, (CMM December 9 and 14).

After the holidays Vice Chancellor Carolyn Evans and NTEU State Secretary Michael McNally  started talks – to what appears positive effect.

The union says management has upped the overall pay rise by 2.5 per cent, to 14.5 per cent (which will apply to all staff), in return for a new agreement running for six more months. There is also progress on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment targets and on academic freedom.

NTEU branch president at Griffith U, Kim Walder tells members there are hope for an agreement “in the coming weeks”.

Colin Simpson’s ed-tech must reads of the week

I know there is a wider technology enhanced learning universe beyond AI/ChatGPT but at the moment it is hard to find anything else

Lurkers versus posters: Perceptions of learning in informal social media-based communities from British Journal of Educational Technology.

There is a concept in Internet research referred to as participation inequality or the 90/9/1 rule. This essentially states that 90 per cent of people involved in an on-line community don’t participate much, preferring to “lurk”. 9 per cent contribute from time to time and 1 per cent do the majority of the talking. This paper from Zhu and Dawson explores the differences in informal learning outcomes between members of these groups in popular education communities on Reddit. While “lurkers” and posters report that they learn from the community at roughly equal levels, the authors note that posters apply and analyse what they have learned more frequently.

Introducing: ChatGPT Edu-Mega-Prompts from The Learning Science Newsletter.

As the discussion about the practical use of generative AI tools moves forward, the importance of designing good prompts to get the most from the technology becomes increasingly apparent. This in-depth post from Philippa Hardman describes her process for designing a rich prompt to generate a learning activity centred around the educational strategy of “Undoing. She explains seven key elements of her prompts and offers practical suggestions. – How it works from

I haven’t used this service and in no way endorse it – I simply present it as an interesting example of the ways that ed tech companies are starting to monetise this space. I guess it is Prompts As A Service. From what I can make out, it is essential a set of prompt templates tied to specific learning and teaching needs. It ranges from generating a title for your new course to generating a presentation task to assess learning.

The AI (ChatGPT) future: What do we do now? And Workshopping AI and Writing with Anna Mills and Maha Bali webinar recordings now available

Sometimes when there is a world of content out there about a new topic, the easiest thing to do is to listen to some experts – as much as anyone can be an expert currently – talk through the issues. The first of these is one that I organised last week and the second features our panellist Anna Mills and the great Maha Bali.

Colin Simpson has worked in education technology, teaching, learning design and academic development in the tertiary sector since 2003 at CIT, ANU, Swinburne University and Monash University. He is also one of the leaders of the ASCILITE TELedvisors Network. For more from Colin, follow him on Twitter @gamerlearner (or @[email protected] on Mastodon)

Uni lobby finds a way to source new funds for research

The Innovative Research Universities lobby wants unis to have access to the National Reconstruction Fund

The $15bn NRF will “provide finance for projects that diversify and transform Australia’s industry and economy” in key industries – but it will not hand out grants. This might look final for university researchers – but not to the IRU which recommends the new resources fund support research, through a “mechanism to invest some of its ‘positive portfolio rate of return’ … to help drive future innovation.”

And IRU takes an expansive view on where funding should go warning, “there is a risk that the research and innovation system becomes unbalance, with not enough investment in the basic or discovery research that will drive the next generation of applied R&D and innovation.”

It suggests the NRF fund discovery research in key national priority areas, “without diverting funding for ‘blue sky’ research.”

And it wants such NRF finance to span STEM and HASS disciplines, “future innovation success will depend on integrating different kinds of knowledge, skills, processes and technologies.”

Plus IRU calls for a parallel programme for collaboration between researchers and the public/community sectors, “for public good innovation.”


Charles Darwin U in no mood to give in

Management lost a big bargaining win when the Fair Work Commission ruled against it

In November CDU won a staff vote for an enterprise agreement offer that the National Tertiary Education Union bitterly opposed. Management offered a payrise below the union demand and did not address workplace conditions the comrades considered crucial (CMM November 21).

But the Fair Work Commission ruled the vote invalid because it turned out casual staff who should not have been were on the electoral roll (CMM January 27).

And so the National Tertiary Education Union tells VC Scott Bowman that it is keen to start negotiating a new agreement, “that addresses the key workplace issues identified by NTEU members.”

To which Professor Bowman responds,

“we know that 63 per cent of staff voted in favour of the agreement we put forward in November, and we have already passed on the 4 per cent pay rise and sign-on payment” Varying the offer based on a ruling that disadvantages casuals does not seem fair.

We are in the process of studying the ruling in detail and getting external advice.”

Dolt of the day

Is CMM. Yesterday Kurt Cheng (UTS) stated the university was the first in NSW to successfully negotiate a student as partners agreement with its student leaders. Theo Farell (DVC A, Uni Wollongong) responds that his uni signed such an agreement in December ’21.

Appointments, achievements

Nicole Bell (Uni Melbourne) becomes president of the Australian Institute of Physics.

CQU announces Narelle Pearse is its inaugural COO, it’s an internal appointment. And Stephen Dobson becomes dean, School of Education and the Arts. He moves from Victoria U of Wellington.

Kristie Flannery (Australian Catholic U) wins the Forum on Early-Modern Empires and Global Interactions’ 2022 best article prize. It’s for, “Can the Devil Cross the Deep Blue Sea? Imagining the Spanish Pacific and Vast Early America from Below,” in the William and Mary Quarterly.

 Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand announces 2023 fellows, * Brett Bryan (Deakin U) * Simon Dunstall (CSIRO) * Fiona Johnson (UNSW) * David Marlow (Defence Science and Technology Group) * Lucy Marshall (Macquarie U)

Joe Siracusa is inaugural Dean of Global Futures in Curtin U’s humanities faculty.