But management says it’s not about cost-cutting and no number is set 

Bebbington chooses an early exit from Adelaide

plus Road Map to the future for research infrastructure 

and Few buyers for loan fee plan

What fun

The University of Sydney has an idea for people who “need a break or are looking for something mindful to do,”  transcribe the card catalogue of its detective fiction collection into online records. With 40 000 cards by the time you are finished you won’t care if it was Colonel Mustard in the library.

Bebbington to retire early

Warren Bebbington will not seek a second term as VC of the University of Adelaide. He will leave the university in April, eight months early. Last year Professor Bebbington wrote a Father’s Day piece for the Adelaide Advertiser about the challenges of being the parent of a child with special needs, a parent like him, (CMM September 7). CMM understands this is a “key factor” in his decision. DVC R Mike Brooks will act as VC from May.


Another Deakin departure

Yet another professor is leaving Deakin University law school. Louis de Koker follows (CMM September 19) Mirko Bagaric, who is going to Swinburne U and Christoph Antons who is moving to the University of Newcastle. Professor de Koker is moving to La Trobe (he’s not alone, (below) ). The departures follow Dean of Law Sandeep Gopalan’s plan for researchers to stick to specific research areas, to build mass, while being expected to teach out of them. With three major researchers departing Professor Gopalan’s goal is getting harder.

Few takers for loan fee

The Grattan Institute proposal to slug all students with a HELP loan fee had a few friends yesterday. Private higher education providers pointed out a 15 per cent fee paid by everybody was an improvement on the 25 per cent one their students pay.

But only a few, the general view was well expressed by the National Tertiary Education Union, “a loan fee would not add one additional cent to university funding to improve education or student support. The money goes straight into consolidated revenue. In other words, university students are being asked to pay more for effectively nothing.”

As for the equity issue, that VET and students at private providers pay a loan fee, well the answer is obvious to the NTEU – abolish them.

Overall the best way to slow the “escalating costs” that push up student debt is to limit what they can borrow and what universities charge, by making “providers more accountable through a better planned and managed tertiary education system.”

Greens Education spokeswomen Sarah Hanson-Young also thinks a universal loan fee is a crook idea. “At the heart of all this is a question of priorities. Investing in the future of the educated workforce is a far more appropriate way to spend public funds than subsidising the overseas owned Adani coal mine.” (Talk about productivity – two different denunciations in the one sentence).

Slugging students with more debt isn’t the answer. Increasing funding in education, so that every Australian can go to a high quality school and TAFE or university, is an investment in the future,” the senator said.

Opposition higher education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek agreed. “On the face of it, this has nothing to do with improving teaching or research – it’s just a way of finding savings at the expense of students.”

It will be interesting, Ms Plibersek added, to see “a detailed response” from the government. Too right, it would also be interesting to hear what Universities Australia thinks. While the Innovative Research Universities and the Group of Eight’s Vicki Thomson disliked the idea UA stayed quiet.


New leaders at La Trobe law

La Trobe U law is staffing up. In addition to Louis de Koker from Deakin U (above) Anne Wallace is moving from Edith Cowan to become associate head of school, Matthew Groves joins from Monash as chair of public law and Sara Smyth has left Bond U to lead a masters programme in cybersecurity law. LT U law school head Patrick Keyzer says there are more appointments to come.

“This seat of Mars … demi-paradise”

Mars (the mob with the bars and a mass of other fast moving consumer goods) is funding a marketing chair at the University of South Australia’s Ehrenberg Bass Marketing Institute. Magda Nenycz-Thiel is an E-B expert in buyer behaviour, on-line buying and managing the physical availability of brands. Professor Nenycz-Thiel will be more than the Mars professor in title. She will work with Mars staff and on Mars’ marketing, and “provide thought leadership to Mars, academic peer review to assure research quality, and will support the development of superior marketing capability among Mars’ Associates” (but perhaps not all 80 000 associates Mars employees).

Last month Mars’ recently ex chief marketing officer Bruce McColl joined UniSA as an industry professor, (CMM November 3).

The E-B approach, which holds that marketing is a science, with laws that apply to all brands in an industry, is well suited to a vast consumer company like Mars.

Paying for the plan

There is a 100-plus page plan for changes to professional service delivery at the University of New South Wales, with implementation due to start in February. According to the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union the university is looking for savings of around $50m secured from HR, finance and outsourcing of IT functions. Other areas to be targeted include student services and marketing. While there is no net job loss figure, one estimate of existing positions effected is 300 plus.

The business school, which called in the consultants over a year ago, (CMM September 28 2015) is expected to be a pilot for centralising student services.

However a university spokesperson says the union has, “selectively quoted from a document that outlines only one option modeled under our operational excellence review. In isolation, it presents a misleading picture.”

Back in February (CMM February 5) Vice Chancellor Ian Jacobs said the university would need $3bn by 2025 to fund his ten-year plan. He estimated 75 per cent of this would be new money and come from aligning “strategic and project funds,” with the balance coming from reprioritising existing resources.” However the university says this plan “is not a cost-cutting exercise.”

“Implementing a strategy on this scale and delivering the benefits will of course involve substantial change and we have always made that clear. Some positions will no longer be needed, some will evolve to meet new challenges and many roles and jobs will be created, providing new opportunities for our staff.”

No decisions on staffing have been made and it “is premature and misleading to speculate at this stage about specific numbers,” the spokesperson said.

Reading the road map

Following consultations on what should be in the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap the draft document is out so consultation can start on what is indeed in it.

The draft is the work of a less high than stratospheric power expert group chaired by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel and including former Australian Research Council head Aidan Byrne and National Health and Medical Research Council chair Anne Kelso. Their work and that of the officials who provided the detail and did the drafting is immensely impressive – there is a sense in this document that Australian science can do great things.

The draft proposes infrastructure to support nine priority areas; Digital data and e-research: based on an Australian Cloud. HASS data sets and platform: to encourage interoperability in the humanities and social sciences. Characterisation: microscopy and microanalysis in science, medicine, engineering and industrial innovation. Advanced fabrication and manufacturing: infrastructure with diverse applications including advanced sensing, communications, quantum computing, energy capture and storage, new medical treatments. Astronomy and Physics: participation in international consortia. Environmental Systems: observational research to support predictive modelling. Biosecurity: a national approach linking government, industry, researchers and community. Complex Biology: interdisciplinary research by grouping/networking life science facilities. Therapeutic Development: translation of therapies and medical devices through to clinical trials.

The Roadmap also calls for a review and refresh of the National High Performance Computing resource, including a review of governance. This sounds to CMM like a suggestion that the National Computational Infrastructure and the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre should talk.

The feds will accept comments on the draft until January 16.

Dolt of the day

Is CMM who  reported on Friday “270 00” people have already studied the University of Queensland MOOC on preparing for the IELT test. A zero was missing, the correct figure is 270 000.