Fur-ther education at UNSW

The university is in better financial shape than expected this year thanks to “extraordinary efforts” of staff, VC Ian Jacobs says, (CMM July 3). Presumably including the merchandising team which has branded pet wear on the way. The prospect of profits should do wonders for the credit-rating.

Professor Jacobs will brief staff this afternoon on work by the taskforce established in April, “as we face a significantly altered higher education landscape.”

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Joanna Tai (Deakin U) and colleagues on being better at  feedback. It’s Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s new selection in here series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

Merlin Crossley on risk-taking researchers, “gambling on a scientific hypothesis is nearly always a two-way bet and the odds are actually stacked in the scientist’s and society’s favour.

Angel  Calderon (RMIT) analyses Australian universities performance in the new Leiden ranking.

More industry-linked research funding

There are five new Industrial Transformation Training Centres are announced

Monash U: Cryo-electron microscopy of membrane proteins for drug discovery ($4.789m).  “Train industry-ready, world class graduates in cryo-electron microscopy of membrane proteins,” (for) industrial expansion in structure-enhanced drug design. Patrick Sexton and colleagues Industry partners include: Clarivate Analytics.

Uni Melbourne: Optimisation technologies for advance manufacturing ($4.86m). Kate Smith-Miles and colleagues. Industry partners include: Boeing, Woodside Energy.

UNSW: Global hydrogen economy ($4.9m). “Transform Australia into a hydrogen powerhouse by building enabling capacity in hydrogen innovation in a short timeframe.” Rose Amal and colleagues. Industry partners include: Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

QUT: Collaborative robotics in advanced manufacturing ($4.87m). Jonathan Roberts and colleagues. Industry partners include: Cook Medical Australia

Uni Queensland: Information resilience ($4.88m). “Building workforce capacity in Australian organisations to create, protect and sustain agile data pipelines.” Shazia Sadiq and colleagues. Industry partners include: Queensland health, police, transport and education.

Good news for the five, bad for the 26 failed bids.

The announcement follows the news of five Industrial Transformation Research Hubs (CMM July 3).

So, what’s the difference you ask, (oh, go on). The Australian Research Council advises Hubs work with industry, “on strategic outcomes that are not independently realisable.” Training Centres provide “innovative” HDR and post-doctoral training for, “end-user focused research industries.”

Southern Cross U to stay on-line into next year

Summer session classes, October through to February 2021, will be delivered digitally

“We are continuing to maintain our teaching and other operational activities with an abundance of caution until such time that the COVID situation shows signs of easing,” Vice Chancellor Adam Shoemaker says.

A return to on-site work planned for next month is now delayed until September, with campus access restricted.  In-person graduations are off indefinitely.


Queensland unis marked “satisfactory” for handling research fraud

Last year the Queensland corruption commission decided to investigate 21 allegations of research fraud, by examining policies and practises at Uni Queensland Uni, Southern Queensland and QUT

In May ’19 the Crime and Corruption Commission announced an audit of “prevention measure” and how universities responded to allegations of research fraud, (CMM May 10). No universities are identified in the report now released.

Overall the finds the three universities it investigated have “satisfactory” complaints management and prevention systems.

However, there are specific recommendations on improving policies and processes dealing with peer review, conflict of interest and compliance with the national voluntary best-practice code.

And the CCC reports it has raised an allegation of corrupt conduct against an un-named decision-maker at an unidentified university regarding an internal investigation.

“The decision-maker has proceeded to attempt to cover-up the incompetence in their investigation into a researcher by stating that the researcher’s misrepresentation was “not very serious”, when it was in fact serious. This is considered corrupt conduct because the decision-maker is allegedly covering their own incompetence by lying about the seriousness of the conduct they were tasked to investigate. This allegation has been referred to the University to deal with.”

Unions and uni unite on QUT savings plan

QUT will put savings measures to a staff vote, with the support of campus unions

Vice Chancellor Margaret Sheil told staff yesterday the proposals are part of plan to address a $100m shortfall this year.

Staff are asked to accept; * postponing the next Enterprise Agreement 2 per cent pay rise until December 2021 * no leave loading for 18 months * staff taking leave over Christmas this year and next

In return the university commits to: * a moratorium on forced redundancies before June 2021 * staff re-training * maintaining superannuation contributions

The proposal is largely in-line with the job protection framework negotiated by the National Tertiary Education Union and four vice chancellors. It includes QUT agreeing to an independent committee assessing its crisis savings. 

The national accord is already adopted by  staff at La Trobe U, Monash U and, UWA, with staff accepting local versions at Uni Tasmania and Western Sydney U.

The QUT proposal now goes to a staff vote to vary the enterprise agreement. With the support of the NTEU and the other campus union, Together, it is expected to be adopted. No university-unions joint proposal has been rejected in a staff vote during the COVID-19 crisis.

Professor Sheil is expected to announce structure and strategy changes this week.

Virtual open day of the day

People can’t go to Swinburne U for OD so the Swinburners are delivering it digitally

A “gamified” digital version of the Hawthorn campus launches August 12 .

It’s called Swintopia and “will showcase everything Swinburne has to offer” with “unlimited access to all of the information and experiences students need to help them make an informed decision about their future.”

Good-o, as long as young persons don’t find another  “Swintopia” on-line – it’s a SoundCloud jazz site, with a respectable performance of Shiny Stockings (Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Foster). A jazz-tune probably isn’t the image Swinburners want to project.


Nats Andrew Gee wants a regional discussion on uni changes

Lunch-time yesterday Education Minister Dan Tehan released a list of  $1bn worth of projects the coalition has provided regional HE since 2016

A reason to do it yesterday appeared later when Nine Newspapers reported junior Nationals minister (decentralisation and regional education) Andrew Gee is worried what some aspects of Mr Tehan’s new funding model for universities could mean for regional communities.

This follows a meeting of regional uni VCs and chancellors last week convened by Mr Gee, for “an open discussion on the Australian Government’s proposed changes to tertiary education sector.”

“It is crucial that we listen and understand the unique challenges faced by country universities, while also positioning them to take full advantage of future opportunities,” Mr Gee said then.

It’s what Nats do –Mr Gee was a strong voice for the Murray Darling Medical School proposal, sponsored by Charles Sturt U, which has two campuses in his seat, Calare, (CMM, May 31 2017, March 29 2018).

But it’s not like Mr Tehan needs to have the needs of regional campuses explained. Deakin U Warrnambool is in his electorate of Wannon – much of which makes Calare look cosmopolitan.

Claire Field on VET reform that works


If we are to achieve greater funding certainty for the tertiary sector leaders  need to understand the impact of reforms on all institutions

With reforms looming in VET and higher education, I have been reflecting on university and TAFE funding in this column in recent weeks.

There is, of course, another group, independent VET and higher education providers, which are also impacted by government funding changes.

Beyond negative media headlines, many CMM readers may not know much about these institutions. Some may consider their students do not deserve public funding.

The reality is that some students at independent providers do receive government funding and even at the last election Labor was not looking to remove it. The impact of reform on these providers and their students therefore also needs to be considered.

Tertiary education funding is said to “baffle Australian governments” and to be “to some extent politically driven”, i.e. the proverbial political football.

When considering the next wave of higher education and VET reforms we need to understand that changes made in one part of the system impact other providers and their students, for example, Victoria’s Free TAFE programme triggered a noticeable decline in enrolments at some universities, as well as significant damage to independent providers.

If we are to achieve greater funding certainty for the tertiary sector, then leaders across the sector need to understand the impact of reforms on all institutions. Otherwise policymakers are able to “play favourites” and introduce reforms which benefit some but bring negative consequences for other institutions and students.

When that happens, those who are impacted press the issue politically… and the footy restarts with the next change of government.

The more opportunities there are for discussion within the sector, the greater the likelihood of achieving reforms which balance student choice with the need for institutions to confidently plan for the future.

And for those who may be dubious about independent providers – check out Encompass Community Services.

Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector. She has no affiliation with Encompass Community Services

New CRCPs: yet more industry focused research funding

The ninth round of Cooperative Research Centre Projects was announced yesterday

CRCP’s are funded for three years to address a specific problem. Research institutions participating in new ones include;

* Satellite traffic management (UNSW) $ 13.5m (total public and participant funding)

* Autonomous navigation (ANU, RMIT) $8.6m

* Embedded rail tracks (Uni Wollongong, UTS) $4m

* Robotic weed control (UNE, QUT) $8.6m

* Influenza vaccine production (CSIRO) $10.8m

* Manufacturing cancer radio-immunotherapy (ANSTO, Macquarie U, UTS) $10.6m

* Affordable cell and gene therapy (UNSW) $9m

* Mitigating taint of bushfire smoke in wine (Australian Wine Research Institute, Uni Adelaide) $2.3m

* Value-adding solar panel waste (Uni Melbourne, RMIT) $8.5m