“Reflects Newcastle’s growing international reputation as a centre for educational excellence”

Economists disagreeing on tax – it’s safe as houses

 plus Unis Adelaide and Wollongong back their entrepreneurial achievements

 Gates Foundation goes open access

and About time too, Senate approves VET student loans ombudsman


Survival of the most popular

At the University of Queensland this evening humanities and social science academics will debate which one of the seven schools in their faculty would get the “the last spot in the nuclear bunker.” Assuming the engineers who built it would let any of them in.

 Warm welcome in Newcastle

The University of Newcastle seems set to cooperate with Japan’s Nihon U, which is methodically moving towards opening a campus in that city’s centre, just a block back from the beach. Nihon people have purchased property with a view to teaching 200 students and housing a hundred,  and been to talk to TEQSA as well as the NSW state government (CMM yesterday).

None of this seems to surprise UniNewcastle, which has big plans for its $95m CBD campus, now being built, just 15 minutes-walk from Nihon’s location. That UniNewcastle teaches Japanese language and culture will undoubtedly help relations with its new neighbour.

“The announcement by Nihon University that it will open a campus in the Newcastle CBD reflects Newcastle’s growing international reputation as a centre for educational excellence.  … (UoN) looks forward to engaging with partners to continue to deliver outstanding education, research and innovation outcomes for our region,” a spokesperson said yesterday. Note “partners”.

In breaking news

“Chicken feed brings Pakistan and Germany together at UNE.” Apparently researchers from both countries are in Armidale working on chook nutrition. There are subs with long careers who never get a chance to write a headline like that.

Pure chance

A generation back people bemoaned inadequate research funding and suggested that because too many proposals missed out that were just as good as those that succeeded money should be allocated by lottery. Funnily enough, it did not get up then but now it’s back. Last year US medical researchers Ferric Fang and Arturo Casadevall suggested that inadequate funding and selection bias make the case for peer reviewing research proposals, with those that qualify going into a lottery pool. And now Shahar Avin from the University of Cambridge, makes a similar case, arguing getting a grant is a lottery anyway. We should at least make it official, so the whole process can be cheaper, fairer and more efficient.”

The New Zealand Health Research Council  runs a lottery for a small seed-funding programme (nine grants in the last round) for “transformative research ideas at an early stage.”  Good-oh, but CMM just can’t see lotteries being included in the National Health and Medical Research Council’s proposal for a new grant allocation model, now with the minister.

ACPET expands expert oversight

As part of its push for “genuine reforms that add value” the Australian Council for Private Education and Training is expanding its board, with five new appointments; Andrew Shea, Builders Academy Australia, Kathryn Stenson, Group Training Northern Territory, Jo Mithen, Monash College Christopher Campbell, Group Managing Director, Academies Australasia, and Wilhelm Harnisch, former CEO of Master Builders Australia.

Accredited entrepreneurs

If yours is an “engaged and entrepreneurial university” there is now an accreditation council just for you. No, CMM hadn’t heard of the Accreditation Council for Entrepreneurial and Engaged Universities either, but people at the universities of Wollongong and Adelaide have – an accreditation pilot is running at both, plus at 12 other institutions, including Leheigh U, and the universities of Coventry and Warsaw. Apparently, association with the Netherlands-based Accreditation Council for Entrepreneurial and Engaged Universities, “drives recognition of your work, helps you to improve your performance and fosters cultural change.” Accreditation as both an engaged and entrepreneurial university will set a uni back €20 000. CMM wonders whether  being accredited as an entrepreneur  rather misses the point.

Yunis going to Griffith

Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunis is not just visiting UNSW (CMM March 23) on his Australian tour. Professor Yunis, the creator of microfinance to generate economic growth among the very poor of Bangladesh, will deliver Griffith University’s annual lecture on April 11. He will also sign an MOU with the university which plans to set-up a Yunis Social Business Centre.

Tell them again

You have until May to submit a response to the issues paper for Innovation and Science Australia’s 2030 Strategic Plan – but this should not be a problem.  ISA suggests big challenges include, “delivering high-quality and relevant education and skills development for Australians throughout their lives,” and “maximising the engagement of our world class research system with end user” So all universities and research groups need do is cut and paste from submissions to previous enquiries back to the ‘90s – the 1890s.


MOUs with TAFE take time

The feds have signed an MOU with China to “strengthen collaboration” on skills and VET. It’s standard stuff, to encourage this and cooperate on that but it does nothing to put Australian trainers on the ground in China, where the VET system needs help. To do that Canberra would need MOUs with the various TAFE systems, who are slow to do anything new.

Gates open access

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is establishing an open access research platform, powered by the same provider, F1000, as the new Wellcome Trust’s OA resource.  The WT model is open to authors who have ever had from funding it and publishes all sorts of research, including clinical trials, systematic reviews, software tools and method articles. Work that is passed by peer reviewers once on the site is then indexed in archives, such as PubMed.  F1000’s article processing charges range from $150 to $1000. The two biggest non-government medical/health research funders in the world are now open access and gold open access is less expensive than that often on-offer from for-profit publishers.

“Good my lord, everything is up-to-date in Kansas City”

“Oregon Shakespeare Festival Season Includes a Same-Sex ‘Oklahoma!’, the NYT reports. And there CMM was thinking it was by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

 Economists arguing? It’s as safe as houses

The Economics Society of Australia has asked its panel of experts whether the 50 per cent capital gains tax deduction for housing should be abolished only to find pro and antis evenly split with just 14 per cent don’t knows.

The learned John Quiggin from the University of Queensland argued yea, on the grounds government is having a bob each way; The subsidisation of owner occupied housing is one of the biggest distortions in Australian public policy, and leads to severe contradictions. Policymakers want both to increase the affordability of home ownership and to maintain high and rising house prices. Clearly, they can’t do both

The also learned Tony Makin from Griffith U did well for the nays;
“Singling out housing investment for discriminatory tax treatment is at odds with the neutrality principle – that all sectors in the economy be treated the same. Higher capital gains tax would create distortions and induce existing investors to hold property assets for longer, thereby reducing available supply.”

It was left to the very learned indeed Saul Eslake, from the University of Tasmania  to provide the classic economist response, answers to the questions which should have been asked. No, to taxing capital gains less favourably than other forms of income. Yes to treating interest and other deductions against capital gains less generously than under current tax law

Hooray for a new ombudsman

Legislation establishing the VET Student Loans Ombudsman has passed the Senate and not before time too! An independent arbiter would surely have noticed the outrageous rorting of the now unlamented VET FEE HELP scheme by some private training providers faster than Department of Education and Australian Skills Quality Authority appear to have done.