Defending civilisation one typo at a time

A learned reader was emailed an invitation to the “Lauch” of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. “A centre devoted the best and traditional of western civilisation ought not have typos in email headings,” the LR remarks.

Boys club at Macquarie U’s engineering school

Macquarie University STEM staff are invited to a seminar on women in science, with key-note speakers from across the university and beyond – but none from its school of engineering.

This strikes the LR as strange, given the university promotes itself as a champion of women in engineering, announcing the school “has an active women in engineering program to support female students and attract women to the engineering profession.”

But perhaps it’s due to their being very few women on the school’s academic staff; four (including one adjunct) to around 30 men, on CMM’s count.

There are seven women and one man on the professional staff, one man and three women in tech support and two women in specialist technology roles.

The school’s women in engineering group says it works to “proactively address potential causes of unconscious bias”.


John Curtin medallists

Curtin University has announced 2018 recipients of the John Curtin Medal, which honours individuals or organisations whose work demonstrates attributes associated with Australia’s WWII prime minister; vision, leadership and community service. Jim Morrison, a senior Noongar man “has worked selflessly at the frontline of Aboriginal rights for more than four decades. Angela Ryder, one of the Stolen Generation, “has established innovative and positive initiatives and programmes to build independence among in Aboriginal people and empower Aboriginal women.”

What innovative universities will discuss

Senior leaders from the Innovative Research Universities group meet in Cairns tomorrow to spend two days discussing, what else, but innovation. Colin Stirling (Flinders VC) will talk on “innovation in action,” consultant Stephen Scott Johnson will address “shaping an innovation culture” with state and federal officials outlining “partnering for innovation.” There’s more, but you get the idea. Labor assistant shadow minister for universities Terri Butler will explain Labor’s support for innovative universities, with no matching contribution from the government. With the Birmingham bill expected back in the Senate next week perhaps Cairns is a workday too far away for ministers and officials.

WSU new cyber security degree available (of course) online

The tipping point when online study outweighs campus courses is still a way off but ever-more universities are investing in digital delivery. Including Western Sydney U which in September started teaching a few degrees on-line (marketing, accounting, management, criminology and family services) and intends to add more (including, you would never guess, an MBA). One that rates for relevance is the new bachelor of cyber security and behaviour. Graduates “will learn how to manage and mitigate cyber-related security issues” as well as “a robust understanding of the human factors important to cyber security and internet safety.”

Big changes at UNE with admin restructures on agenda

With the University of New England adopting a new three faculty structure (CMM August 25) consultants Graeme Dennehy and Tim Winkler propose reorganising management support.

“There is evidence of a lack of role and responsibility clarity for both individuals and organisational units, which is causing confusion, duplication of resources, gaps in workforce capability and a lack of accountability for fundamental results.”

And lest anyone miss the point they add;

“There is also evidence of poor processes compounded by rigid silos born of a fragmented structure with many directorates and school areas each trying to achieve goals without a strong common strategic approach.”

Their report recommends a complete redesign of distributed support functions, including the creation of faculty general managers but largely leaves central services alone, except for marketing and international student support, which it recommends reviewing.

Staff have until October 18 to respond. Provost Joyce Kirk has also announced a review of academic governance by Hilary Winchester from the University of South Australia. They like a review at UNE.

Research Australia announces medical heroes

Lobby Research Australia has announced its annual health and medical research award winners including:

Discovery Award: Avnika Ruparilia (Monash U) for research into muscle disorders

Health Services Research Award: ANZ Hip Fracture Registry (Jacqueline Close and Ian Harris)

Data Innovation Award: Helmut Butzkueven (University of Melbourne) for the MsBase Foundation international register of multiple sclerosis patients

Peter Wills Medal: Kim Mulholland (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute) for an outstanding contribution in medical and health research

Research Excellence Award: Tim Hughes (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute) Leukemia research

Murdoch U makes nice with staff, on its own terms

Murdoch University continues its new make-nice campaign with Provost Andrew Taggart releasing a “plain English” guide to the proposed four-year enterprise agreement. It includes details of pay and conditions, with higher per centage increases going to the lowest paid staff, which the university says is the fair thing to do.

But the university’s fundamental precondition, in place all year, remains; the salary offer is contingent on its proposed workplace changes; “which support our long-term financial sustainability and provide us the flexibility to meet the challenges we face.”

The National Tertiary Education Union fought this long and hard because it ends terms set out in the last agreement. Now the Fair Work Commission has ruled the previous deal no longer applies, management is in a stronger position to negotiate the deal. That it has not gone as hard as it could have on conditions, suggests VC Eeva Leinonen does indeed want what she says, a deal to staff by year end. “The vast majority of staff at Murdoch would not find their lives very significantly affected if this deal came to pass,” a close observer of WA universities suggests.


University of Melbourne plan to transform teaching

The third transformation of Glyn Davis’ imperium at the University of Melbourne is taking shape, with the release of recommendations for a new approach to teaching. It follows the transformation of courses through the Melbourne model and the remake of administration via the Business Improvement Programme.

The Flexible Academic Programming project started in February 2016 (CMM February 24 2016) and now project coordinator PVC Gregor Kennedy reports 12 recommendations to the university community:

1 cut lectures to 45% of undergraduate contact time by 2020.

2. “review and renew” u/g subjects with 300 plus enrolments “to provide students with active, interactive and engaging learning environments”

3. for subjects with 500 or more students use video instead of lectures to cover “foundational concepts

4. more diverse approaches to assessment, starting in first year subjects.

5. in the starting two weeks of UG’s first year run an intensive programme “to support transition, cohort formation and connection”

6. more intensive subjects:” for UG and PG students

7. “wholly online subjects” in campus-based programmes

8. increase “number and range” of courses available over summer

9. a student preference-based class allocation process by 2020 “to improve the student experience and reduce student complaints through improved class management and allocation”

10. a single centralised system recording all teaching spaces across the university which are included in the university timetabling system

11. develop “flexible learning spaces” for 30-90 student groups

12. provide clearer, systematic and recognised opportunities” for teaching and academic specialists “to foster their contribution to quality improvements and leadership in teaching and learning.”

Individually most of the proposals are no big deal but overall the plan is cleverly-constructed to transform teaching. As a learned reader puts it, VC Glyn Davis “found the university analogue and will leave it digital.”

QS expands

Ranking agency QS has bought Hobsons Solutions “the leading provider of international enrolment management solutions.” This is natural extension of QS information products.

What’s NXT for uni funding

Policy experts fired up their prognosticators on Friday with news that Nick Xenophon, was returning to South Australian politics. The general conclusion was that this is enormously significant for the fate of Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s higher education bill, unless it isn’t.

If the government brings the bill to the Senate next week before the High Court judgement on his citizenship status the numbers, whatever they turn out to be, could be unchanged, with Senator Xenophon still there. But if the legislation is later, and Senator Xenophon is gone, either of his own volition or because the High Court has thrown him out for the high crime of having a dad who was born a British colonial subject in Cyprus, it will not change the Senate balance. While it is unlikely the SA parliament will have appointed the NxT senator, Labor and the government are honouring pairs.

But will the prospect of Senator Xenophon nicking off encourage his federal colleagues to take a different line?

This depends on knowing how many horses he was interested in trading with the government. And people who do aren’t Mr Ed-ing. Unless, of course, his colleagues will now make their own running –Simon Birmingham, an SA senator, might think so, given the serve he gave Sen Xenophon on Friday. The ever-astute minister was blistering in his response to the Xenophon announcement in a way not likely to keep Nick on-side.

There is a view that Member for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie meant what she said in her second reading speech and that while she might wear a lower student repayment threshold she is agin the university funding cut. SA senator Stirling Griff on the other hand is thought more sympathetic to the government on this issue. The balance of opinion is that the Senate without Xenophon will be an ever tougher sell for Senator Birmingham’s bill.