In a message Nick Xenophon will hear David Lloyd calls the budget bad for the nation and warns  it will erode the ability of SA universities to support jobs and innovation

Birmingham announces new equity measure for competitive funding

plus Kerri-Lee Krause leaving VU for LaTrobe, replaced by another Western Sydney U veteran

at long last: NHMRC to announce new ways of deciding medical research grants

and: healthy HEPP – where the money went



This desirable residence

“Remote cave reveals earliest Australians lived on the coast around 50,000 years ago,” James Cook U researchers say. Presumably because their avo-on-toast tastes meant they could not afford beachside flats.

Healthy HEPPP

Education Minister Simon Birmingham will release today an external review of the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme, which informed the government’s changes.

The review certainly shows why HEPPP survived rumoured budget cuts. Between 2010 and 2015 there were 2679 HEPP projects across 37 universities, engaging 310 000 students. Over 40 per cent of programmes and funding was used to support low SES students starting, studying, and completing university, with 19 per cent of money going to work with students who are both Indigenous and from low SES backgrounds. Around 40 per cent worked with external partners, generally schools to encourage such students to consider and commence at university.

Welcoming the review’s release Minister Birmingham said the government, “is committed to ensuring all students who want to study and have the capacity to complete a higher education course could do so no matter where they’re from or their background.

“Our commitment to equity was a key part of the package of reforms I announced earlier this month where we built in the recommendations of this evaluation.”

(for nine new HEPP projects scroll down to the end of today’s issue)

Krause to La Trobe, Hawkins to VU

Kerri-Lee Krause is leaving Victoria U for La Trobe University. Professor Krause is now DVC  and provost at VU, where she is heavily involved in creating the first year college project. The announcement was greeted with surprise and no little alarm at VU given her role in the new teaching structure, which is not yet in place. She will become DVC A at LTU in July.

She is replaced, in the short term, by her former University of Western Sydney University (as was)  colleague Rhonda Hawkins. Ms Hawkins was a longtime administrator who became  DVC, corporate strategy and servicesMs Hawkins becomes interim DVC academic.

A VU spokeswoman describes her as, “ one of the nation’s leading experts on running universities and implementing change. “Her appointment will ensure this critically important work continues into the implementation phase.”


A bucket for Birmingham

The ever-affable, always-unflappable Simon Birmingham was among friends when he spoke at an Adelaide business lunch on Friday. Then again if the heads of the three SA public universities who were all there are the education and training minister’s friends you would not want to meet his critics on a dark night.

The measured University of South Australia VC David Lloyd suggested the minister’s announced efficiency dividend is in fact a blunt budget cut and, “apparently predicated on the fact that we are inefficient organisations. I have not been asked for any evidence of my operational efficiency or otherwise,” he said.

Professor Lloyd welcomed some elements of the budget, the extension of sub degree programmes into universities, protection for equity programmes and the government’s plan to “address inequity” in the allocation of Commonwealth supported postgraduate places. He even acknowledged the principle of contestable cash in the Commonwealth Grant Scheme, but he warned that the continuing funding cut will; “erode the ability” of SA universities, “to advance infrastructure programmes.”

“It will undoubtedly erode our ability to support jobs and innovation in this state – within and outside the universities themselves. This measure, this legislative sting in the tale, has nothing to do with reform, and everything to do with a budgetary clawback from a system which is already funded at significantly below the OECD average. It takes away – by definition. But more disappointing, it takes away from what otherwise could be seen as steps towards positive reform.

“It is retrograde in the extreme and it is not good for the future prosperity of this nation.”

Everybody clear on that?  A learned reader says Senator Birmingham took it all pretty well – but the message was undoubtedly less for him than a suggestion to South Australian senator Nick Xenophon and team as to the bits of the Birmingham package they should vote for and the bits they shouldn’t.

Salzman moves north

Paul Salzman is appointed professorial fellow at the University of Newcastle, moving from La Trobe U. Professor Salzman’s research interests include early modern literature, especially scholarly editing, women’s writing and cultural history.


NHMRC to reveal new grant scheme

The new National Health and Medical Research Council system for allocating grants will be released on Thursday. Health Minister Greg Hunt and NHMRC CEO Anne Kelso will speak at Parliament House, with the event live streamed.

The restructure will be implemented in 2018-19 with funding beginning in 2020.

Last year the council floated three possible funding models, none of which universally appealed to the medical research community (CMM July 15 2016). The most vocal critics of the existing system complain of the low success rate for young researchers, especially women who lose lab time because of family commitments.

New indigenous leader at CDU

Adrian Miller will become PVC Indigenous Leadership at Charles Darwin University in July. He is now academic director of indigenous education and research at Griffith University.

Leiden left out

It took the University of Sydney 36 hours plus to get the word out on its Leiden research rankings performance (at least word that reached CMM) and UniSydney is number one in Australia and 29th in the world for all-publication research!  It is also in the top ANZ five for all the Leiden discipline specific areas.

In comparison, James Cook U understands nothing is news until the market knows about it. JCU took just hours to tell the world that it was 150th in the world for the per centage of its papers in the top 10 per cent of publications. But UniSydney was super speedy compared to other universities – by late Friday as many as none had announced their achievements to CMM. This does not compute. While the Leiden rankings are devilish complex they are as – more, some say – credible than the commercial products that university marketers proclaim to the heavens.

Ah, you say, this demonstrates universities are finally demonstrating disdain for reducing university achievements to simplistic rankings. To which CMM replies, pull the other one, CMM replies, for verily it hath bells upon it.

Keniger to Bond

Michael Keniger has joined Bond University’s architecture faculty. Professor Keniger was senior DVC at the University of Queensland from 2005 until 2011, when he resigned over the nepotism scandal involving then vice chancellor Paul Greenfield.

Future complicated

The University of New South Wales is proposing new interdisciplinary research institutes, provisionally called, Future Planet, Future Intelligence, Future Health and Future Society. They would have first instance funding of $200m in total for five years.

Alas, the plan is not as simple as it sounds. For a start the future “flagships” would work with the university’s “grand challenges” programme. They would also be an “umbrella” for five to ten “cross-cutting institutes”.  But “except for a small physical footprint, UNSW Futures would be virtual, and each director’s role facilitative, dovetailing with faculty efforts.”

The plan is now out for consultation, which will surely include people asking where management expects to find bureaucratic warriors heroic enough to take on jobs that will unsettle people comfortable in their silos.

In furious agreement

The National Tertiary Education Union is preparing to send out its second biennial survey on the state of the system. It will ask universities staff in general, not just NTEU members, how things are on their campus, in higher education overall, and about the role of unions in university workplaces. The NTEU says it wants build a longitudinal resource on what people in higher education think and it appears some university managements agree with the project. CMM hears that both the universities of South and Western Australia are happy to cooperate with the union.

That might be because the 2015 survey included findings managements agree with – like staff staying governments have a responsibility to invest in universities. That 75 per cent expressed a lack of confidence in their managements is probably taken as a given.


Next steps for HEPP

Ranking equity achievements

The government is  announcing the nine HEPPP projects now to be funded under the National Priorities Pool Investment Plan, including one that could drive the coming contestable funding pool.

HEPPP Evaluation Framework: development of an evidence base to establish the impact of HEPPP-funded equity interventions, commencing next year 2018

Equity Research and Innovation Panel: expert academics advising on research

Economies of scale study: study of the cost of support for disadvantaged students

Phase two of widening participation longitudinal study: designed to inform access and participation policy development and evaluation of equity programs

Individual measure of socio-economic disadvantage: to determine whether precise targeting of students to assist is feasible

Publication of National Priorities Pool research: presumably to make selling film rights easier

School teacher professional development: to help students develop academic skills for university entry

Seed Funding for Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience: to expand programme that started in 2016

Then there is one more that could be core to the government’s contestable funding on university performance announcement in the budget and sends clear signals of university priorities;

Australian Higher Education Equity Ranking: “This project would investigate the feasibility of developing a ranking of universities drawing on a suite of equity performance indicators. Like the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching measures of teaching quality, the publication of a ranking of equity performance would form an incentive to improve institutional focus and raise the profile of inclusive equity practice within universities.