Innovative Research Unis argue the government’s income estimates miss many points


plus: UniMelbourne’s very serious open day


Big biz Brammer: Macquarie’s business dean makes his case


and: Defying gravity: the chance to get ideas into orbit  

In breaking news

ABC Radio Sydney’s 9 am bulletin reported yesterday that universities warn increased loan costs would put young people off university. In other HE news for the ABC to report, Cardinal Newman has given a speech on universities.

Dollars and sense

The Innovative Research Universities say the government has over-egged the political pudding in claiming the sector sits by rivers of gold

In a briefing paper now circulating the IRU’s Conor King argues the government is makingfalse assertions about the robustness of universities and over egged claims about the value of government funding over the past decade and its additional expenditure over the coming four years.”

Government funding only grew by 16 per cent while university expenditure was up 33 per cent between 2010 and 2015. Government has not supported the capital programmes universities need to be sustainable the IRU states.

The IRU also argues the Commonwealth’s claim that funding will continue to increase is based on growth in the amount the government loans students to pay course costs, which Canberra hopes to recoup. In contrast the IRU estimates Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding in 2021 will be the same as this year.

The group also rejects the government’s claim that funding per student has risen, arguing changes are due to adjustments to create current dollar values. The IRU additional asserts using total students and total expenditure ignores the principal point, that funding varies by the cost of discipline taught and that increases in student numbers is no benefit to universities which incur higher teaching costs per head.

There is more along the same lines in what is the standard deeply informed IRU presentation. This is very important to the IRU. Convincing sufficient senators that Minister Birmingham’s focus on headline figures obscures the real funding situation is universities best chance of securing cross bench support. But the government will respond that wherever the cash comes more dollars is all that matters. Like most Senate debates its going to come down to dollars and sense.

Dean to depart

Uni Adelaide’s Robert Hill is standing down

Robert Hill is retiring as executive dean of science at the University of Adelaide. Acting VC Mike Brooks announced the move yesterday, adding that after leave Hill will take on a research leadership role, as the head of the university’s Environment Institute.

Professor Hill is not mucking around,  departing as dean on September 1.

In 11 years as dean Professor Hill “generated outstanding research, delivered excellence in its extensive teaching and learning activities, and embarked on numerous successful endeavours,” acting Professor Brooks said last night.

The recruiting process will start “soon,” Professor Brooks says with incoming VC Peter Rathjen, “to oversee the final appointment.”

Michael Liebelt from the faculty of engineering will act at science in the interim.

Dead hand of incumbency

“The thing is, moving a university is a little bit like moving a cemetery. You can’t expect any help from the inhabitants,” Barbara Oakley, Oakland University via    EdSurge 

The right stuff

The government wants ideas that will race into space

Science (plus other stuff) minister Arthur Sinodinos wants people to talk to his experts who are identifying opportunities for the Australian space industry (apparently, it’s a $1bn biz). To launch the conversation he has released an issues paper with an introduction by the chair of his reference group, Megan Clark.

“Australia can build on its position in the sector. Australia’s technical expertise, geographical location and close alliances with space-faring countries provide a sound basis to develop our space industry capability. … It is widely recognised that Australia now needs to create an overall vision for the sector with government working in partnership with industry to support Australia’s space industry to capitalise on areas of comparative advantage.”

CMM is guessing she likes the idea.

But our own NASA does not seem to be the sure thing boosters assume. Thus, the issues paper asks advocates about “the need for this activity to align with a strategic direction, requiring any institutional arrangements to be able to support a government led strategic direction,” which translates as “oh yeah, to do what?”

Written submissions are due by August 22. As for roundtables and individual discussions, Dr Clark will let you know.

Open Day of the day

The University of Melbourne OD is light on for bells and lacking in whistles, which is the point

Open Day at UoM is poor in computer games but rich, really rich, in course information. The austere OD website sets up the experience – this is a serious place for smart people. That there are neither gadgetry nor gimmicks at this OD is a dividend on the university’s long-term investment in its brand. At UoM nobody needs earnest avowals of excellence or statements of what a good uni it is – tbe people who aspire to Melbourne already believe it. So the OD sell sticks to what people want to know about – course information, and lots of it – substantiated by your actual lecturer giving your actual lecture. Even the marketing is mild, the explanation of the many virtues of the Melbourne Model reads like TEQSA audited it for approved understatement. Although funnily enough, there is no word of what Simon Birmingham has planned for the MM.

Sending a signal

Really outside broadcast

ABC chief Michelle Guthrie will speak today week at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, on “how the public broadcaster is using innovation to remain unique and distinct.” Why Wagga when ABC has such flash city studios? CMM suspects it could be because Ms Guthrie wants people, including her staff, to recognise there are ABC audiences outside the inner-cities.

The dean is all ears

Macquarie U business dean Stephen Brammer is consulting academics into exhaustion

Back in June Professor Brammer signalled that he wanted to combine the Faculty of Business and Economics, the Macquarie Graduate School of Management and the Macquarie Applied Finance Centre into “an unified entity” CMM June 27) and that he would consult with staff on the plan. He is as good as his word, yesterday emailing staff who are yet to participate in the process that “I’m extremely keen that all our voices are heard.” And he has gone out of his way to tell people that this is a real consultation, telling staff on Monday; “it is true to say the vice chancellor has set some parameters but I am struck by the remarkable freedom we have been given to address who we are, what we believe in academically, where we are headed and how we might get there.  So please, don’t be shy, don’t think it’s all a fait accompli: engage and give your input.”

Professor Brammer also says he recognises where workloads are too high, bureaucracy too demanding and devolution too infrequent. And he adds that he has “significant” extra recurrent budget for 2018 and 2019 to “recruit additional staff to enable us to fill gaps, and over time, expand into new areas.”

Observers of the Macquarie biz ed behemoth are impressed, saying Professor Brammer is ticking plenty of boxes with staff and that opinion leaders will be on board for his new plan if he comes through with the cash for new hires.

The way the land lies at ANU

Marnie Hughes Warrington suggests good design is what works for all

ANU is rebuilding and DVC A Marnie Hughes Warrington is recording the intellectual pathways of the process. In this morning’s addition to her  essays on the project she applies equity to utility, arguing there is no convenience in corner cutting if it isn’t available to everybody. In project management, it’s called “design paths” which can work for everybody, except people who can’t climb the stairs or get over the kerb on the quick and easy route.

So ANU is building what everybody can use; “the aspiration is simple: to make it possible for all people to travel paths, enter buildings and move around classrooms with ease. That means removing stairs, moving earth, designing accessible entryways and providing at least one large classroom—over 300 seats—with a flat floor. It’s not user experience by majority, it is fair design for everyone.”

It is making a big construction job bigger “that’s inconvenient for quite a few people in the short term, but beneficial for everyone in future. That’s worth the trouble,” she argues.

It occurs to CMM that this case extends from building facilities to designing processes. Cutting corners and excluding some people is always unfair and always ends in trouble.

Heads Up

Winners of the working week


Judy Raper is the 2017 Chemeca medallist, awarded to the ANZ chemical engineer of the year. The University of Wollongong DVC R is just the second woman to have received the award in its 25-year history.

Greg Simmons has moved Monash U to TEQSA where he will be associate director, risk analysis. He was a statistical consultant and epidemiologist at Monash.

At Macquarie University Kevin Jameson is confirmed as DVC Academic, after acting in the role for this year following the departure of John Simon.

 QUT honours its own

The university announces its alumni of the year

Outstanding alumnus and law alumnus: Darryl McDonough

Young alumnus: optometrist Kate Gifford

Innovation and Entrepreneurship award: Facebook’s engineering director, Joel Pobar

Young innovation and entrepreneurship award: avionics and computing analyst Michael Brett

Special excellence award: media creative Wayne Denning

Business alumni: Christine Corbett from Australia Post

Creative industries alumni: journalist Peter Greste

Education alumni: state minister for innovation and science Leeanne Enoch

Health alumni: clinical manager, DonateLife Queensland, Tina Coco

Science and engineering alumni: entrepreneur Michael Dempsey