A new campus for UNE

It’s not a matter of whether but when the when will be when

Barnaby Joyce (oh, come on, you remember Barnaby) was up in the Reps yesterday praising people working on plans for a university campus for Tamworth, (in his seat of New England), including Brigid Heywood, VC of the University of New England (its main campus, at Armidale is also in his seat).

According to Mr Joyce, the feds promise of UG places meets the state government’s requirement before it will kick in campus cash for Tamworth. “It’s not a matter of whether; it is going to be a matter of when—and we want the “when” to be as soon as possible. Mr Joyce said.

Did CMM miss an election announcement?

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

There’s a bunch that can be done to support students’ mental health. Nicole Crawford (National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education) and Sherridan Emery (U Tas) explain in Features this morning.

Dr Crawford is a panellist on student mental health at the Needed Now in Teaching and Learning conference, Thursday May 27, 11.30-12.30 AEST. Book a ZOOM spot, here.

PlusMerlin Crossley (UNSW) asks “where are the clones?” but concludes “there (don’t) have to be clones.”

And, Angel Calderon (RMIT)  examines the Nature Index and Scopus indexed publications and reports good results for Australian universities in 2020. And the worse to come may not be as bad expected all over.

Unis cop a government serve on research

If university leaders had forgotten how little the government thinks of their research they were reminded in the Reps yesterday

When: It came in a debate brought on by Ted O’Brien (Lib-Queensland) who moved the House recognise the “important work being carried out in Australian businesses to research and commercialise new ideas.”

What: He and other coalition members pointed to government funding for agencies and tax concessions for corporates developing products, including the to-come “patent box” announced in the Budget (lower tax rate on patented tech – think the Research and Development Tax Incentive, but even harder to follow).

Anne Aly (Labor-WA) led for the Opposition, pointing to coalition cuts over time to CSIRO and lack of support “for fundamental research.” Colleagues made similar points.

Worth worrying about: It was all regular rhetoric, until Dave Sharma (Lib-NSW) gave the university system a very specific serve.

“Australia has a lot of the ingredients, I think, to be a very competitive, knowledge-intensive economy … But up until this point—and it’s true—we haven’t been great succeeders at commercialising some of these ideas and turning what is an incredible raw product into a marketable product that can drive economic activity.  Have we seen new businesses, new companies, new enterprises come out of our universities in the last 12 years? I wouldn’t say that there’s been a quantum leap anywhere commensurate with the research activity inputs that have gone into producing our research.”

The problem, Mr Sharma suggested, is universities focus on the rankings and “neglecting a bit the production of ideas, which can not only improve society and better our economy but lead to commercial outcomes as well.”

Lest anybody miss the point, he mentioned the government’s research commercialisation taskforce adding, “it’s important we get it right for our economic future and the prosperity of our children and their children.”

Short of a flashing neon sign stating “no rainbow for blue sky research,” it would be hard for coalition thinking to be clearer.

Especially coming from Mr Sharma, who is no backwoodsperson representing a regional seat and suspicious of academics. He is the member for Wentworth, adjacent to UNSW’s main campus. Just back in February he was nice about VC Ian Jacobs in the House (CMM February 25).

It’s day two for Needed Now in Teaching and Learning (the conference)

First up at 11.30, Learning Rights: why equity is not an option, with, Verity Firth (UTS), Andrew Harvey (La Trobe U), Braden Hill (Edith Cowan U) and

And at 1pm, Job ready for what: the future for industry-integrated education, with Marnie Hughes-Warrington (Uni SA), Mark McKenzie (Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association), Pascale Quester (Swinburne U) and Franziska Trede (Australian Collaborative Education Network.

Tickets still available

Failing on Asian languages

The problem is bigger and begins earlier than unis cancelling courses

Last month La Trobe U announced it would teach-out Indonesian (CMM April 13) and the Asian Studies Association estimates only 12 unis still offer the language of our largest near-neighbour (CMM April 14).

In contrast, last December Monash U became the first foreign university to be a licensed HE provider in Indonesia, PG classes start at its campus there in October (CMM April 6).

But for Monash and any uni that follows, success will depend on Indonesians speaking English, because ever-fewer Australians will speak Bahasa Indonesia.

The problem starts before undergraduates having nowhere to learn the language. The number of secondary students studying Indonesian falls off “a metaphoric cliff” according to Hamish Curry, ED of the Asia Education Foundation at Uni Melbourne. It’s down by half over a decade, “with classes potentially in danger of disappearing completely in many schools,” he warns.

The problem, Mr Curry warns, is a broader failure of Asia-literacy, which “is about more than language, it is about developing our mindsets and skillsets across intercultural learning. It’s about ensuring we have a wealth of perspectives and greater sophistication in Asian studies.”

Which is something that clearly did not happen following the Asia-language focus of the early ‘90s.

Mr Curry warns against siloing Asian studies into school language curriculums, “we are again watering down the potential richness and diversity in how teachers and students can discover connections and insights.”

Protests picking-up over UTS cuts

FASS dean Alan Davison says the faculty must “adjust its academic staff profile,” decide what is “the right mix of roles and levels of professional support for the activities we undertake” and “develop actions that address principal areas of focus” (CMM April 30).

The savings target is $3.2m in salaries, this year, which the student Education Action Group calls an, “outrageous attempt to make students and staff pay for a crisis is the corporate university model.”

And the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union is considering motions this week condemning UTS management, “for seeking to make further job cuts, thus threatening the viability and quality of our existing educational programs and damaging the University’s reputation in the community.”

Research precariat pain 

A new OECD report comprehensively  presents the problemit’s not as strong on solutions

What people endure: “The continuous struggle to enter the academic research career, in an environment of heightened competition, leads to a regime of long hours, severe dependence on senior researchers, lack of visibility and recognition, stress caused by job insecurity and job dissatisfaction, constraints on academic freedom (which was the original rationale for the tenure system in the United States), and deterioration of physical and mental wellbeing.”

Know your enemy: “The development of a cadre of specialist support services and management structures will likely mean these groups have an increasing voice relative to the academic research core, with the potential result of decreasing the capacity of researchers, especially early career researchers, to bargain for better working conditions.”

Maybe change sides: “On the other hand, doctorate holders are occupying some of these professional positions, which are a source of alternative employment to research within the realm of academia.”

Or run a big risk: “Researchers are accessing an indefinite contract later in life. They often face multiple ‘super-human’ requirements, and vague evaluation criteria to access an indefinite contract. If they do not make it in academia, they may find it rather late to move to other careers.”

There is a solution: “Additional funds going into the research system should not be concentrated on doctoral education and short-term postdoctoral positions – as is currently the case in many countries – but instead be spread across all career stages.”

But don’t hold your breath: “The precarity of research careers is not a new problem and numerous policy initiatives have been developed by countries to address it. However, even if individual policies are sound, they are not always well integrated with other policy initiatives and implementation is often problematic.”



Uni Melbourne cancer researcher Andrew Wilks receives the 2021 Lackmann Award for translational research.