Deputy provost Susan Elliott moves to Monash and graduate school of education dean Field Rickards announces he is standing down

plus Swinburne Online’s new recruitment campaign

and what to ask the VC at Christmas drinks

Not great timing

Just as Australia’s relatively poor score in  the OECD‘s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) data on maths, literacy and science outcomes for 15 year olds was announced yesterday the feds were assuring us that the coalition government is “encouraging girls and women to study and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths. Perhaps Canberra and the states could encourage harder.

Treasure map 

The draft research infrastructure roadmap (CMM December 6) drawn for the feds by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel and friends has generated not much comment. This could mean everybody agrees, the people who miss out (HASS gets a consolation prize) have given up or nobody has realised there is treasure to find. CMM suspects it’s a mix of the first and the third so good for Universities Australia for pointing it out.

“In uncharted terrain, it’s easy to get lost or to take wrong turns without a detailed map of the landscape and a clear sense of your destination. This map sets out our destination and the paths we’ll need to take to get there to develop the research capacity so fundamental to our future economic prosperity,” UA CEO Belinda Robinson says.

The draft is up for comment until mid January, which is not long, what with summer holidays. Anybody whose Christmas wish for a flash new thingatron is not covered by the nine priority areas should get cracking.


Swinburne Online does it

Swinburne Online has a new campaign, “Let’s do This,” targeting people whose work and family commitments could be discouraging them from study. There is a 30-second TVC with 15-second versions for psychology, education, business and design courses. TV will run in eastern seaboard markets with exposure on YouTube and other social media. There is separate radio creative. The 30 second spot is here.

Another move to Monash

Another day, another major appointment at Monash University. Following yesterday’s news that Marc Parlange is the new provost, the university has appointed Susan Elliott DVC E. Professor Elliott is moving from the University of Melbourne where she is deputy provost and DVC International. According to VC Margaret Gardner, “Monash is very fortunate to appoint such an experienced and respected leader who is well-positioned to shape the university’s future pathway in education and our inclusion agenda.” Farewelling Professor Elliott, UniMelb VC Glyn Davis pointed to her “exceptional record of international collaboration and engagement.” Professor Elliott will start at Monash at the end of March.

 Field Rickards steps down

After 13 years as education dean Field Rickards will stand down from the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education when his term expires next August. According to VC Glyn Davis, Professor Rickardsguided the transformation of the university’s faculty of education into the graduate school.” He also introduced the university’s master of teaching. Overall his work secured recognition for the school as one of the world’s top five, Professor Davis says.

Professor Rickards‘ “expertise, along with his extensive professional networks, will not be lost to the university,” Professor Davis adds. “Field will remain in a role that will enable him to continue to contribute to advocacy of clinical teaching and improvement to Australian education standards.” Professor Rickards declined yesterday to say what he will do next but he expects it be clear in the next couple of months.

Melbourne adjusts

With two big gaps in the management line at the University of Melbourne, VC Glyn Davis has announced international searches to replace DVC I and deputy provost Sue Elliott and education dean Field Rickards (both above). In the meantime, Provost Margaret Sheil will meet with members of the academic and international portfolios “to refine the responsibilities of the deputy provost role for consideration by university executive.” Professor Sheil will also meet with members of the education school to “discuss interim leadership arrangements.”

Cash concentrates ministers’ minds

Andrew Norton urges everybody not to see any connection between his paper on a universal fee attached to student loans (CMM December 5) and his membership of an expert policy team advising Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham. Mr Norton says his thinking on loans long predates this appointment and that he made completing Monday’s paper a condition of joining the advisory group. “The panel is providing private advice to the minister and the department. It is (a) different situation from a review with a final report I need to agree with my panel colleagues and which the government will publicly accept or reject. So while the timing is not ideal, the loan fee report does not pre-empt other people’s decisions.” Good-o, but regardless of who recommends it, a plan to save lots of the elusive spondulicks will undoubtedly interest ministers.


Conversation starters

Macquarie U linguist Ingrid Piller has three hints for people who find Christmas party small talk hard going. “Find common-ground topics, use open questions-sparingly, be inclusive,” Professor Piller suggests.

Good thinking, so here are CMM’s three sure-fire conversation starters good at all sorts of universities.

“They tried to fob me off with an early voluntary retirement offer, what about you?” is great to establish things in common. “So vice chancellor, what are you going to do with your bonus?” is good to get the boss talking. And “so have all our faculties lifted undergraduate entry requirements to ‘must be able to stand upright”? gets everybody involved.

By the numbers

There was the usual outrage about the decline of maths in Australian schools in yesterday’s PISA results on 15 year olds, which opiniators deplore but leave doing anything about to professionals like Geoff Prince at the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute. Professor Prince has warned of problems with a maths-deficient workforce  for years, problems that are now coming closer. Much closer. As he points out, PISA looks at 15 year olds – young people who will be graduates in a decade.“These students are being lost from the mathematical pipeline with few likely to pursue mathematics at a level that equips them for further study and participation in growth employment areas demanding STEM,” he says.

So what is to be done? Professor Prince has long argued for more specialist maths and science teachers – a carrot of sorts, if they both know maths and know how to teach. And as for a stick there is also Chief Scientist Alan Finkel‘s repeated call (CMM November 24) to make maths a prerequisite for relevant university study, especially in engineering.

Not his turkey

CMM yesterday described “as a Christmas turkey” covered by the “lame headline law” the head on a media statement from the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney about research by Tim Stephens. Professor Stephens tells CMM that the release was “not seen or approved by me prior to its issue.”