Winners are ranking grinners

A grand old name helps in QS

“Rankings don’t measure everything we value, but pleased to see strong showing by Australian universities among the world’s top 50,” Uni Sydney DVC R Duncan Ivison, via Twtter yesterday. Professor Ivison was referring to the new QS World University ranking in which Uni Sydney ranks 42nd in the world, just behind Uni Melbourne and a bit down from ANU at 24th.

It would be dire if these three did not do well on QS – it bases half of ratings on academic and employer survey opinions.  ANU and unis Melbourne and Sydney have to be among the six best-known universities in the country.

The endless Hunt for research announcements

For comms productivity, it is hard to beat Heath Minister Greg Hunt who is ever-active with research funding announcements

Yesterday Mr Hunt announced funding from the Medical Research Future Fund for stage one of the Frontier programme, which gives researchers up to $1m, “to develop detailed research plans” for projects with “transformative“ potential.

Yesterday’s was for Arthur Lowery at Monash U, who is working on a brain-machine interface, “to restore vision,” plus other neural functions. If it makes the cut Professor Lowery could score $50m from Frontiers stage two to implement the plan.

Frontiers I was announced in December and news of individual awards started in April.

National Taiwan U’s research ranking (yes Uni Melb is Aus number one)

Different source same-ish outcomes

The National Taiwan University ranks universities on a range of research publication and citation factors. “Indicators are designed to compare both the quality and the quantity of scientific papers in each university,” states NTU.

ANZ institutions in the world-wide first 500: Uni Melbourne is number one in Australia and 25th in the world, followed by Uni Sydney (29) Uni Queensland (40), Monash U (53), UNSW (58)

There’s a wait to the rest of the Group of Eight, UWA (116), Uni Adelaide (132), ANU (154) which is followed on the local list by Uni Auckland (199).

But then ANZ unis bunch-up; Curtin U (277), Uni Otago (298), QUT (=309), Griffith U (313), Uni Wollongong (338), Deakin U (344), UTS (=350), Walter and Eliza Hall (=350), Macquarie U (355) Uni Newcastle (356).

The other unis in the 500 are; James Cook U (=407), UTas (413), La Trobe U (462) Flinders U (=466), Western Sydney U (=466), RMIT (473), Swinburne U (488), UniSA (493).

Western Sydney U’s A-ok debt rating

Ratings Agency Moodys scores Western Sydney U at Aa2, “subject to low credit risk”

This pleases indeed WSU management. Vice Chancellor Barney Glover says, “the credit rating achieved significantly underpins our plans for the future, so we can continue to be flexible and responsive when it comes to serving the growing Western Sydney region.”

The university now has $162m in borrowings, with total facilities of $298m, “for the construction of new facilities, other infrastructure and working capital purposes.”

But WSU also has assets that it plans to make money –  200 hectares of “non-core land” which the university will develop and reinvest.

The whole archival experience

There’s not much fun at the National Archives but digital delights at ANU and the National Library

Former Finance Department secretary David Tune is reviewing the Archives and is accepting submissions to month end.

Things are bad: The issues are already obvious to NA management, as the website makes clear, “budget and staffing reductions are affecting our capacity to perform our fundamental role of securing, preserving, maintaining and making accessible the authentic and essential records of the decisions and actions of government, while providing high standards of service delivery that all Australians should expect from their National Archives.”

Unless they are worse: The NA Advisory Council agrees, with chair Denver Beanland warning users, “the serious deterioration” in the archives’ funding position means it faces, the prospect of being unable to meet its legislated requirements.”

“Savings measures such as successive efficiency dividends … have substantially diminished capacity perform its functions.”
Dr Beanland warns parts of the collection are “at risk” including AV records on magnetic tape, “which require immediate digitisation to avoid loss through obsolescence.”

“The perilous budget position” has also led to “inadequate digital capability and cyber vulnerabilities.”.

Dr Beanland states the advisory council will make a submission to the Tune review. Looks like it already has

But there’s good news at the NLA: Things aren’t awful at all at the National Library of Australia, which announces a major project to digitise a vast archive of public and private papers now held on microfilm. Some 7.5 records relating to ANZ and the Pacific dated 1560-1984 will be converted, “delivering them on-line free of charge to all.”

And they are positively perky at ANU, which reports all of the university’s 13 000 plus PhD and other higher research degree theses are now available to all on-line.

New provost for the University of Sydney

Barbara Messerle starts in September.

She moves from Macquarie U, where she is dean of science and engineering. Professor Messerle was previously head of the chemistry school at UNSW.

She replaces Stephen Garton, who moves to a “time-limited” role as senior DVC, making him formal deputy to Vice Chancellor Michael Spence. In this role he, “will be responsible for actively supporting external engagement and leading the university’s transformation agenda.”   The role includes co-executive sponsorship of the Sydney Operating Model programme control board.  At least Professor Garton knows what he is in-store for there, already sitting on the board which oversees the university’s administration transformation

ANU’s data disaster

At least it will make a great case-study

ANU is still cleaning-up after the hack by villains un-named, of 19 years of staff, student and supplier records (CMM yesterday). But at least, a learned reader remarks, the data disaster will make an excellent case study for the university’s  Cyber Institute.

According to the university, the Institute’s hub, “will cover a range of bespoke and highly specialised technologies, operated by a diverse and ever-changing mix of staff, students, and visitors on a distributed network within an academic institution which is a foreign target of interest.”

It appears they got that last bit right.

Appointments and achievements

The Lowitja Institute names Indigenous maternal health researcher,  Catherine Chamberlain (La Trobe U) its Research Leadership Award winner.

John Church (UNSW) is a co-winner of the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge award for climate change science. He receives Euro 400 000 in recognition of his research on sea level response to climate change. BBVA is a Spanish bank.

The short-list for the WA Premier’s Science awards is out, including;

Scientist of the year: Phil Bland (planetary science) Curtin U. Wendy Erber (pathology), UWA. Ryan Lister (genome sciences), UWA. Robert Newton (exercise medicine), Edith Cowan U.

Early career scientist: Philipp Bayer (plant evolution) UWA. Belinda Brown (cognitive health), Murdoch U. Adam Cross (rehabilitating mine landscapes), Curtin U. Haibo Jiang (imaging technologies), UWA.

Uni Melb moves to keep control of its own free speech policy

And no, it’s not a quick response to the French review

The University of Melbourne Council has endorsed a freedom of speech policy, which makes explicit “the commitment to lawful freedom of speech in its activities and operations.” It is said to supplement the existing academic freedom policy.

The announcement follows a campaign run by The Australian newspaper, for universities to adopt the “model code” proposed in the French Review (CMM April 8). In Saturday’s Australian, Education Minister Dan Tehan, called for universities to defend free speech and freedom of academic inquiry.

However, Uni Melb VC Duncan Maskell said yesterday the new policy, “follows extensive consultation within the university community both before and after the French Review was undertaken.”

The policy blazes a trail for other universities which may think they need to do something, and fast, to placate the minister, without looking like they are adopting Mr French’s code or an equivalent, basically because they were told do.

Of course, universities could tough it out – which may be why Mr Tehan has asked for advice on free speech amendments to the Higher Education Support Act and HE Standards, (detailed in CMM yesterday).