“You don’t say” of the day

National Security College (ANU) head Rory Medcalf tells AAP that Australia’s allies will be concerned by FilingCabinetGate. No one likes to see an ally administered by dills.

UNE explains itself

The University of New England is renaming its Parramatta study centre, UNE-Sydney. It is now called the UNE FutureCampus Parramatta. UNE says the new name “better communicates who we are and what we offer to the wide university community in the wider Sydney region.” Much politer than saying the previous name did not explain who the facility is for.

Not so long march

Research led by Victoria U’s Maximilian de Courten finds 10 000 steps a day for 100 days, “can have a positive impact on mental well-being, weight loss, blood pressure and cardiovascular health.” The study is based on results from 2000 participants in “a corporate wellness challenge”.

Given CMM’s fitness tracker counts waving arms in the air as steps, he might be able to manage this.

UniSydney billboard breaches advertising standards

The University of Sydney has lost its appeal before the Advertising Standards Board over an advertisement depicting the hands of a person of colour clutching a wire fence with the copy line, ‘Unlearn criminal,” with ‘criminal’ struck-through. It was part of a student recruitment campaign presenting the university as teaching critical thinking to give students the skills to identify and rebut uninformed prejudice.

Late last year the ASB upheld a complaint that the advertisement breached the association of national advertiser’s code of ethics, concluding; “though the intent of the advertiser was in fact to challenge stereotypical assumptions regarding race, the particular emphasis of the word ‘criminal’ … in connection with the choice of image was unlikely to give that impression.” The board concluded the advertisement, “did depict material in a way which discriminates against a section of the community on account of ethnicity.’

The university appealed, arguing the purpose of the advertisement was clear and that it “advocates an approach to controversial subject matter that is non-discriminatory and open-minded.” It also presented the results of focus groups which understood the university’s intent. An independent reviewer also concluded the board should reconsider its finding.

However, in a split decision the board stuck to its original ruling that the advertisement was “discriminatory or vilifying” of brown skinned people.  The majority also argued, “the research did not take into account how the broader uninformed community may perceive the advertisement … as a billboard advertisement, the broad community would only have a fleeting view of the advertisement.”

Last night UniSydney stated, “we respectfully disagree with the decision, the interpretation of the advertisement as discriminatory is not at all aligned with the values of our staff, students or alumni, nor the intent of the campaign. Our market research showed that there was a strong understanding of the ‘unlearn’ concept and how it applies to the university’s new undergraduate curriculum, and 67 percent of our target audience groups reported feeling more positive about the university as a result of seeing the campaign.”

Turnitin it in to tune it off

Five Australian universities are working with Turnitin on software designed to identify authors of student papers. According to Turnitin, its Authorship Investigation programme will use machine learning algorithms and forensic linguistics to “detect major differences in students’ writing style between papers,” to address contract cheating. UNSW, Deakin, Griffith University, the University of Wollongong and UoQ are participating in the project.

Math and music man

More math than music man

Hooray for maths evangelist Chris Tisdell who has a new hit, “Numbers” (lyrics: Tisdell, music: Imagine Dragons). The UNSW Scientia Education Fellow has a maths learning YouTube  site with 57000 subscribers, and they are not there for his singing. Although how could one resist the lyrics? “Just a math nerd, with a quick fuse, Love to find a hypotenuse.” Quite.

Two humour scholars walk into a Cairns bar

They do it because the Australian Humour Studies Network conference is on at CQU’s campus there this weekend. And a very serious business it will be, including papers on irony in Iran, failed humour in Chinese sitcoms and stand-up comedy as a social corrective.

Getting the rankings right

Performance metrics expert Tracey McNichol has  set up shop, explaining to universities how they can best present their data for the various performance rankings. The former ANU staffer is skilled in interpreting the stats that league tables are based on and setting out strategies to improve performance in ways that lift rating results.


In the serious money: the top ten US higher education endowments

The University of Melbourne plans to have a $1bn endowment fund by 2021, which would have got it into the top 100 North American institutions last year. According to the National Association of College and University Business Officers, the $1bn plus North American university endowment funds in 2017 were: Harvard U, $36bn, (up 4.7 per cent on 2016), Yale U, $27.1bn (up 7 per cent), Uni of Texas system, $26.5bn (up 9.6 per cent), Stanford U, $24.7bn (up 10 per cent), PrincetonU, $23.8bn (7.5 per cent), MIT, $14.9bn (up 11.4 per cent), U Penn, $12.2bn (14 per cent), Texas A&M system, $11.5bn (9.6 per cent), Uni of Michigan, $10.9bn (12.2 per cent), Northwestern U, $10.4bn, (8.2 per cent). Vassar College in New York had $1.002bn.

Larkin back to NT

Steve Larkin will be the new head of Batchelor Institute. Professor Larkin is now PVC Indigenous Education and Research at the University of Newcastle and was the first PVC I in the country, appointed at Charles Darwin U in 2009. He starts at Batchelor in March.