“For sale, hardly used Thingatron”

A $10 parcel of seeds bought off eBay may offer anti-cancer promise,” La Trobe U, via Twitter yesterday.  Has the government considered eBay for research infrastructure?

There’s more in the Mail

In Features today, David Myton examines a recent report that says many recent university graduates lack the “soft skills” necessary to do well at work

Change coming for Flinders U academics

With one big restructure bedded down at Flinders U the campus union warns more changes are imminent. VC Colin Stirling replies changes are indeed coming in academic positions, using the agreed formal restructure process and that the university wants to see value for its investment in research.

Back in 2016 Professor Stirling started a restructure, replacing four faculties and 14 schools with six colleges, addressing “excessive bureaucracy and hierarchy.”

And now campus National Tertiary Education Union head Andrew Miller warns a second stage of change is imminent, with teaching and research staff being assessed by management on research performance and teaching only positions to be created. Dr Miller suggests management will announce the new restructure after the (imminent) end of enterprise bargaining.

Last night Professor Stirling replied the union has previously agreed to the university implementing teaching specialist positions through a “formal restructure process,” and that “the university intends to implement teaching specialist positions and so is examining the best options to meet the union’s requirement for a restructure.”

As to assessing research performance, Professor Stirling says, “the university is currently providing clarity by formalising our research expectations. These expectations will differ by academic level and will also vary to reflect performance metrics applicable across different research disciplines.

“The university invests significant academic resources in research and it is appropriate that we should expect to see high quality outcomes as a result.”


UNSW is friends with the next PM

The Prime Minister delivered a well-received speech at UNSW on Tuesday and yesterday the university hosted Opposition Leader Bill Shorten who toured the solar research facility. Very wise. One of them will likely be prime minister this time next year.

Macquarie U ends email student news

Macquarie U has cancelled its student email newsletter MyMQ, with content now to appear on a Facebook page. Apparently, “students are social beings and aren’t really that interested in opening emails.”

But aren’t they over Facebook, seen, it is said, as their parents’ platform?

Probably not – Pew Centre Research reports 80 per cent of 18-24 year olds in the US use Facebook, way ahead of all other social media, except YouTube.

And a survey by University of the Sunshine Coast researchers Karen Sutherland, Cindy Davis, Uwe Terton and Irene Visser published in March found a majority of participating students, “still feel connected to their university community as a result of following university social media profiles. This finding supports the attempts being placed on social media as a tool to strengthen university communities and their social capital.”

Stage two in SA universities merger proposal

Discussions of a possible merger between the universities of Adelaide and South Australia move to a crucial second stage today, with the release of a public discussion paper outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal.

Sponsors of the project, UniSA chancellor Jim McDowell and his UniAdelaide colleague Kevin Scarce, are inviting submissions from all South Australians.

“It’s a good idea, we now have to see if it is the right idea,” UniSA VC David Lloyd says.

“On a high aspirational level the numbers work well but are there show-stoppers we have not seen?” VC Peter Rathjen from the University of Adelaide asks.

Both vice chancellors emphasise the basis for any merger lies in the energy unleashed by connecting teaching and research programmes. “There are lots of complementary programmes, it would massively improve student opportunities, says Rathjen. “The data shows research at the two unis is complementary,” Lloyd adds.

Overall, they both look to the biggest picture. “Universities are key agents of social and economic change, “Rathjen says. “The role of education in South Australia is not to be understated. A new institution would have to add more value than the two do now,” agrees Lloyd.

Both VCs say they were “pleasantly surprised” by the responses of their two communities when the idea was first floated. Rathjen says there is “strongly positive feedback” from the 1500 or so staff, students and alumni he has talked to. “Staff are openly optimistic, in a mood to consider it openly and transparently,” Lloyd adds.

And they are both adamant that the plan is about sharing, not cutting. “The only guaranteed redundancy if the proposal went ahead is one, or two, vice chancellors.” Lloyd says, pointing to the possibility a merged institution might want an entirely new leader.

Talks on North Terrace: what’s not to love?

Education observers in Adelaide suggest today’s discussion paper on the possibility of merging the universities of Adelaide and South Australia will point to four big plusses:

* economic benefits greater than the two institutions could separately produce

* more choice and expanded access for more students from broader backgrounds

* a bigger research base

* more opportunities for researchers and university teachers and expanded careers for graduates in new technology based industries generated by a world-scale institution.

However, observers also acknowledge real problems with the proposal, including;

*  massification and what it would mean for staff and student experiences

* contradictory needs of different student segments

* a merger that fails to efficiently address the administration of a very big institution

*  a return on investment that does not justify the opportunity cost.

Working with what they’ve got at Curtin U

Curtin U announces a ten-week programme of English language learning and study skills for international students. It is free for people who have a Curtin Perth-campus offer, subject to their reaching the required English language standard.  “We are breaking down language and cultural barriers in a bid to offer international students a true taste of what studying at Curtin University entails,” DVC I Seth Kunin explains. And he is adamant, “we will not compromise on our existing standards for English language skills.”

Good-o, with Perth attracting just 6 per cent of international students all the WA public universities really need to improve offers. And a value-add sends a better message than fee discounts (CMM July 20).

Gift for Griffith

The Queensland Conservatorium of Music at Griffith U has a $1m bequest to fund an annual piano scholarship. The money is from the estate of Peter and Emily Reinhardt.


Pookong Kee is the next BHP professor of Australian studies at Peking University. Professor Kee is now director of the University of Melbourne Asia Institute.

Stephen Winn will join Edith Cowan U in January as executive dean of education. He is moving from the University of Southern Queensland.

Dean Gould is returning to university comms, scheduled to start as marketing head at Southern Cross U. He was marcoms director 204-17 at Griffith U, before moving to the Gold Coast tourism agency.