Probably talk about where to have lunch-because there’s no enterprise bargaining to discuss

Mirzadeh’s the man

The new acting president of Iran’s Islamic Azad University, which has 400 campuses and 1.5m students, is Hamid Mirzadeh, who has a doctorate from the University of New South Wale’s School of Chemical Sciences and Engineering. Apparently he studied at Kensington from 1990-94, straight after serving as a deputy prime minister in the Mir Mousavi Government. Despite his many achievements, I’m guessing this is one alumnus UNSW is not mentioning in its marketing.

Lots of time for lunch

CMM’s dark arts correspondent reports that the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association has convened a coven to discuss enterprise bargaining today. I hope AHEIA has lined up somewhere good for lunch – because it is hard to see the topic taking much time, what with bargaining seemingly stalled at campuses across the country. Staff are also losing interest. I hear, for example, that some 650 University of Sydney staff participated in the August strike – that’s around a third of the National Tertiary Education Union’s membership there, less in fact as it includes Community and Public Sector Union members as well.  Overall the strikers accounted for less than 10 per cent of total staff. As to Charles Sturt, where voting closes today on a pay deal the NTEU opposes, head office will be hoping for a big turn-out of sympathetic fellow-travellers. Just 20 per cent of staff there are NTEU members. Certainly the CPSU accounts for some more but its local officials back the offer.

“We’ll be ruined said R2D2 before the year is out”

“Robotics can give Australian agriculture back its competitive edge, say researchers,” the University of Sydney tweeted yesterday. Yes but they can’t make a case for government subsidies like flesh and blood farmers.

The Kiwis are coming

The New Zealand Government wants a bigger share of the Southeast Asian education market. It estimates some 200,000 Southeast Asians study overseas each year, half of them with Australian universities. In comparison the NZG says 10,000 are in the shaky isles, adding, “we can do better than this.” They can you know. For a start they have the creativity to make a great case. The national education brand is a cracker. For a start “learn more, stress less in the greenest, safest, best value learning environment in the world” is a superior slogan to the one Austrade trotted out a couple of years back “Future Unlimited.”  Theirs is about what they can do for students, ours is a statement of the obvious.

 Take a bow

Good on the University of Western Australia for awarding Tim Minchin an honorary doctorate. Too often hon docs acknowledge service to the status quo and it makes a change to give one to the comedian who turned Roald Dahl’s much-loved Matilda into an immensely successful musical. And good on Edith Cowan for matching UWA by making graduate Lisa McCune a fellow of the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts. (WAPA will be a source of actors for ECU to honour for years to come). But why only a fellowship and not a hon doc for Ms McCune? Surely it’s not because she is a soap star.

The ocean’s there to share

“Southern ocean plankton surprise,” and there I was never knowing what whacky funsters they are. Thanks to the University of Tasmania for enlightening me. However the point is that there are great many more of the prank-playing plankton than anybody realised until research by the university and various Australian and French agencies. And while they were counting plankton a UNSW project was tracking the movement of microbes in the Antarctic. I wonder if the two teams swap stories.

 Now that’s a gift

As far as I know the $50m Tuckwell scholarship fund is the biggest of its kind in Australia but while there is no doubting the generosity of that gift and its capacity to change lives it barely compares to the donation announced last night by John McCall MacBain – C$120m for the Rhodes scholarship.  In current dollars this is said to be a quarter of the original Rhodes bequest. The Canadian Mr MacBain made his money from classified advertising publications, (car sales and the like). What are the odds this is the last of the great gifts by old media?

One ring to enthral them all 

Jay Clayton from Vanderbilt University in Nashville is offering a course on Lord of the Rings (book, game and film all) through Coursera. Designed at university lit-unit level it looks at “key topics” in media studies, romance literature and the history and theory of video games. “Anyone interested in today’s culture needs to be conversant with the ways this new medium is altering our understanding of stories,” Clayton writes. Wonder what’s next, conversational Klingon ? You may be right – but 40,000 people enrolled. That’s one hell of an audience exposed to the Vanderbilt brand.

What will the minister do: about TEQSA (number three in a series)

It seems nobody knows and that probably includes the minister. A ring around yesterday indicated that Minister Pyne is not sharing his opinions with anybody. But there is consensus about what ought to happen on this one. Rusted-on regulators aside the general view is that he should ask an adviser to read the Lee Dow-Braithwaite report, and then act on it. Yes a Labor minister commissioned it but Craig Emerson was no friend to the regulating state. Given the prime minister promised while in opposition to leave universities alone reducing TEQSA’s grasp would deliver on a promise.