You never know your luck

“Looks my next Discovery project, ‘Ministerial interventions in the Australian Research Council: censorship, secrecy, and the disregard of due process’, is completely doomed,” Daniel Bray, from La Trobe U, via Twitter, yesterday. As if a minister would dare now.

Attrition contained during demand driven system  

Despite the great undergraduate expansion of the demand driven system, the 2016 attrition rate for commencing university students was 14.39 per cent, below the 14.85 per cent rate in 2005. Demonstrating universities were adjusting to the new UG population, the 2016 figure was noticeably lower than the 15.07 per cent rate in 2014.  The statistics are in federal figures newly released.

“Since 2008, the uncapped system of university places opened the doors of opportunity to nearly a quarter of a million more Australians. Keeping attrition in check while expanding access to more people from disadvantaged backgrounds was a big achievement,Universities Australia CEO Catriona Jackson said last night.

The University of Melbourne had the lowest attrition rate in the country, 4 per cent, in 2016. Its annual attrition scores throughout the demand driven funding years were all lower than the 6.03 per cent it rated in 2005.

Other universities with attrition well below the 2016 universities average were; UNSW – 4.04 per cent, Bond U – 5.47 per cent, Monash U-5.53 per cent, UniSydney – 5.52 per cent, ANU –  7.21 per cent,  UWA – 8.37 per cent, University of Queensland – 9.01 per cent  and University of Notre Dame WA, – 9.98 per cent.

Universities that lost 20 per cent or more of their 2016 first years included; Charles Darwin U – 26.43 per cent, USQ – 25.67 per cent, Swinburne U of Technology – 23.66 per cent,  Southern Cross U – 23.37 per cent,  CQU – 23.15 per cent, Charles Sturt U – 23.14 per cent,  UNE – 22.8 per cent, Federation U – 22.47 per cent, U Tasmania – 22.06 per cent, Edith Cowan U – 21.3 per cent, and Victoria U – 21.1 per cent.

Carr calls on government to go public on any future research vetoes

Mortein’s Rule holds “when you are on a good thing stick to it.” Which is what Labor research shadow Kim Carr did yesterday as outrage rolled on over Simon Birmingham vetoing ARC approved research grants. Senator Carr broke the story with a question in Senate Estimates on Thursday night.

 Senator Carr has now written to Education Minister Dan Tehan asking if he will reinstate 2007 protocols that require ministers to publicly report if they reject Australian Research Council advice on grants, in time for the announcement of the next round of DiscoveryDiscovery Indigenous  and Discovery Early Career awards.

“I trust you will agree that arbitrary interventions of this kind contravene academic freedom, damaging the global standing of Australia’s researchers and the institutions in which they work,” the senator inquired.”

Senator Carr was too modest to point out that he was the minister who put protocols in place requiring ministers to explain any rejection of ARC recommendations.


Undergrad demand declines

The federal government cancelled the demand driven system exactly when there was no blow-out in undergraduate numbers.  New federal figures show total applications for a 2018 undergraduate place, via tertiary admissions centre and direct to universities, were down 3.3 per cent on 2017. The offer rate was steady at 84 per cent. Non Y12-leaver applications were down 5 per cent. Overall applications from people in the lowest SES quartile were down 4.4 per cent. Applications from Indigenous Australians dropped 5.2 per cent, the first fall since this data collection commenced, in 2010.

Teacher education took the biggest discipline hit, with applications down 8.8 per cent on 2017. Offers were 78 per cent, down from 85 per cent in 2015, and acceptances marginally down to 77 per cent.

The Group of Eight remained the most popular brand, receiving 22 per cent of all applications (including to universities that are not members of the four university-groups).  The Go8 recorded the lowest, 1.5 per cent, drop in applications, except for the Regional Universities Network, which was down 0.7 per cent, to an 8.8 per cent share.

Universities Australia CEO Catriona Jackson attributes the overall drop to an improving job market.

Development dosh for Deakin U

Deakin U will receive $3.8min in federal funding, 25 per cent of project cost, for its Future Economy Precinct, at the Waurn Ponds campus. The commitment is part of the government’s Geelong City Deal. The money will go towards extending access and utilities to accommodate resident manufacturers and researchers in targeted industries. Education Minister Dan Tehan, whose electorate’s boundary is 100kms or so to the west of Geelong, is enthusiastic about assisting regional universities.

Reducing the cost per announcement

The University of Melbourne announces this week it will launch Melbourne Connect, “a major new purpose-built innovation precinct.”

Um, isn’t that the project being built with Lendlease on the former Royal Womens Hospital site that the university announced last November (CMM November 21 2017)?.

That’s the one. With construction not complete to 2020 presumably there are two more annual announcements to come Understandably so, with a reported cost of $500m the partners will want to announce to get the cost per announcement to at least $125m.

How to make friends and influence people

For a small business-person wondering if anybody in a university can help with an R&D issue the big problem is how to find out who to ask. So, many don’t. The Group of Eight and Business Higher Education Roundtable get this. Yesterday they sat down with people from SMEs and government to talk about what can be done.

The agenda addressed comms and connections, initiatives and incentives and who should insure practical proposals don’t fall through the cracks, chasms more like, between ideas and application.

The meeting was also an opportunity for the Go8 to advance the emerging idea of a translational research fund, to transform basic discoveries into products and services. This is what the Medical Research Future Fund is designed to do for medical science but there is no equivalent resource for other fields. The Eight adds redirecting funds from the R&D tax concession is a way to pay for it.

Appointments, achievements

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation has announced $300 000 funding for Peter Harrison (Southern Cross U) and Matthew Dunbabin (QUT) to propagate coral by larval reseeding.

Robert Wood is to join UTS to lead the Future Academy in the university’s business school. Professor Wood joins from UNSW. The Future Academy’s, now being planned, will “focus on helping individuals reskill and upskill.”

Sports scientist Ben Jackson from UWA is the Western Australia Young Tall Poppy for 2018.