Serious reading

The University of Canberra has chosen its book of the year, awarded annually for seven years now,  to “generate conversation and engagement within the community.” This year all commencing staff and students will be a given a copy of Charlotte Wood’s, The Natural Way of Things, “a provocative exploration of contemporary misogyny.” Last year the university selected Philip Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” ( November 10 2017), filmed as Blade Runner.

Victoria U reaches for the sky

Victoria U is in a deep hole and the only way is up – so it’s moving its city operations into a tower block.

The university will consolidate pockets of property in Melbourne’s CBD into a vertical campus. Developer ISPT, backed by Australian superannuation funds and investors, including UniSuper and the University of Melbourne, will build and own a tower-block, that VU will lease for 30 years.

All 32 stories will be used for administration and teaching by, VU Polytechnic, and VU College, plus the university’s business school, college of law and the health and biomedicine college. This City West project will generate “a reborn urban experience in the western parts of the Melbourne CBD,” VU says.

The state government has approved the sale of sites the university is leaving, agreeing with the university’s proposal that revenues will go to new infrastructure. State law requires government approval for property sales by Victorian universities.

Looks like cost-effective expansion for the university, which lost $29m last year, on $443m in revenue.

This is the second time in a month when VU has benefited from a solid relationship with the state government, which has committed to building a new hospital at VU’s Footscray campus. VU says this will be “of major significance” for education and research in biomedicine, exercise and sport.

Building achievements

The Australian Institute of Architects has announced its 2018 awards. University winners in the education category are; RMIT’s New Academic Street (Lyons, NMBW Architecture Studio, Harrison and White, MvS Architects, Maddison Architects).  Monash U (Clayton) Learning and Teaching Building (John Wardle Architects). Macquarie U Incubator (Architectus).


Unis call on Senate to save them from new government charges

The always policy-focused Innovative Research Universities wants senators to vote against a government measure that will require unis to give the Commonwealth money.

The principle is in the Higher Education Support Charges Bill, which would levy higher education providers for students accessing the loans systems formally known as HECS. While the actual charge per student and overall fee will be set by regulation the IRU estimates it will cost universities $10m in total a year, although the bill’s explanatory memo states it, and a second $12 000 annual fee on institutions where students can borrow, will save the Commonwealth $14.1m over the forward estimates, to 2021-22.

The argument for the bill is that “agencies should set charges to recover some or all the costs of activities that they provide.”

To which the IRU responds that the bills will reduce university spending on students and are misconceived;

Charging providers for students’ use of HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP is to avoid recovering costs from those who actually use the schemes – the students. This shows the fundamental error underlying the charge as created in the bills. The government – rightly – will not charge students directly for access to HELP. Yet it will, instead, penalise students by further reducing the resources universities and other higher education providers have to deliver students a good education.”

Or, as a learned reader puts it, “put plain and simple it’s a tax on universities.”

As to how crossbench and Opposition senators will vote; the Senate scrutiny of bills committee has questions but they don’t focus on the IRU’s issues.

Deakin U’s got TALENT

Deakin University has won the Graduate Recruitment Industry award for the most popular careers service, the second year running. Deakin was selected on an employer vote, ahead of ANU, Griffith U, University of Queensland and UTS.

The award went to Deakin U for its TALENT programme, which started in 2016 to meet what VC Jane den Hollander said, was the need for universities to take “the employability of their graduates more seriously … for a wide range of reasons – including the increasing number of university graduates, with oversupply in some areas and diminishing employment opportunities in others,” (CMM March 3 2016).

The comprehensive TALENT programme exists to assist students build generic job-search skills, create their own brands and connect with employers. It also offers support for graduates. This is a great result for PVC Graduate Employment Dineli Mather and team. Universities across the country claim their degrees generate jobs – Deakin U does something to deliver.

Translating “plus ca change …” into Mandarin  

University of Sydney VC Michael Spence  backs the Labor Party proposal to expand teaching Asian languages in schools, calling it a “step in the right direction for Australia’s economic and cultural future.”

The Opposition says it will increase Asian language teachers, improve curricula, plus other initiatives – all for $32m.
“In recent years, the proportion of school students choosing to study Asian languages in Year 12 has stagnated, and in some cases gone backwards. We must do better.”

Just as Australia had to do better in the ‘90s, when the same issue was on the agenda. In 1994, COAG agreed that teaching Japanese, Mandarin, Indonesian and Korean would be school priorities. In 1999 the Commonwealth agreed to three years of funding to move things a long – at $30m per annum.

Uni Queensland and QUT win big in state research awards

The Queensland Government has announced 30 industry research fellowships.

The University of Queensland takes 16 of the awards and QUT 11. The University of the Sunshine Coast (two) and CQU (one) account for the rest.

Award winners are:

Adnan Trakic (UoQ): microwave inspection, civil and marine industry ($300 00)

Anne Sawyer (UoQ) vaccines for fungal pathogens in crops ($180 00)

Asha Mathew (QUT) biofabrication for tissue implants ($180 00)

Carlos Horacio Luna-Flores (QUT) commercial antioxidant production in new yeast strains ($180 00)

Christopher Leonardi (UoQ) coal seam gas ($300 00)

Darryn Rackermann (QUT) bio-refining ($300 00)

Elizabeth Martin (QUT) innovation in maternity services ($180 00)

Erin Price (USC) diagnostics for lung diseases (300 00)

Fangfang Tang (UoQ) compact head-MRI scanners ($180 00)

Feifei Bai (UoQ) equipment monitoring in distribution networks ($180 00)

Hangil Park (UoQ) (sensors in fine coal recovery) ($180 00)

Helen Nahrung (USC) forest biosecurity ($180 00)

Jaime Manning (CQU) autonomous detection of sheep disease and predation ($180 00)

Jaimi Greenslade (UoQ) Emergency Department chest pain protocols ($300 00)

Jonathan Ellis (QUT) preventing adverse drug reactions ($300 00)

Laura Croft (QUT) new cancer therapeutic ($300 00)

Maggy Sikulu-Lord (UoQ) malaria diagnostics ($300 00)

Majid Ejtemae (UoQ) tailings de-watering in coal industry $300 00)

Mark Allenby (QUT) bio-fabrication in vascular surgery ($180 00)

Miaoqiang Lyu (UoQ) thin-film batteries for personalised electronics ($180 00)

Muxina Konarova (UoQ) solid-waste refinery ($300 00)

Neha Gandhi (QUT) molecular design of chemotherapeutics ($300 00)

Pradeep Shukla (UoQ) decontaminating surface and ground water ($300 00)

Sean Powell (QUT) bio-fabrication for burn treatment ($180 00)

Tim Huelsen (UoQ) creating feed from agri-industrial wastewater ($180 00)

Tuan Nguyen (UoQ) bauxite residue management ($180 00)

Upendra Shekhawat (QUT) disease-resistant Cavendish bananas ($180 00)

Xiaodan Huang (UoQ) rechargeable multivalent metal ion batteries ($300 00)

Yifan Wang (UoQ) autonomous satellite terminal for ubiquitous broadband ($300 00)

Zhanying Zhang (QUT) converting bio-solids into hydrochar bio-fertiliser ($300 00)

Peter Coaldrake leads the day’s appointments and achievements

Peter Coaldrake will chair Jobs Queensland, the state government adviser “to prepare Queensland for the jobs of the future.” Professor Coaldrake retired as vice chancellor of QUT at the end of last year. He is also conducting an inquiry on service delivery data management for the state. In October the Commonwealth appointed him to review higher education provider standards.

Dominique Parrish has started at Macquarie U as PVC Learning and Teaching. She joins from the University of Wollongong where she was associate dean in the science, medicine, health faculty.

Julia Richardson moves up to head the school of management at Curtin University. She is now deputy head of school.

University of Queensland virologist Kirsty Short is a  L’Oréal UNESCO Women in Science Australian Fellow for 2018