No plan? Announce a “framework”     

When treasury approves ministers announce a plan. When ministers are waiting to see what they might be able to get away with there’s a strategy. And then there are the cases when they want to announce something, but there’s not much to announce. Like when the WA scientists of the year awards were announced the other night and state minister for innovation and ICT Dave Kelly released a science and innovation Framework.

This consists of eight priority areas (mining, energy, health, food, environment, space, technology and STEM) – there are examples for each area but not much that is new – as in money. Mr Kelly points to $40m in specific science and industry funding.

UNSW ACTs to expand in Canberra

UNSW is looking to expand in Canberra, with the university council approving “a strategic investment” on CBD fringe Constitution Avenue. The proposal is for a research and teaching campus offering UG and PG programmes. A development plan will now go to the ACT Government – which will likely welcome it. UNSW and the territory government have talked about creating a city-east campus for a couple of years, on land adjacent to the Canberra Institute of Technology.

 ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s government has talked of a facility for 10 000 students as part of the local government’s plan to expand the city as an education hub. However, the university is careful to specify that it’s plan for teaching, is to “attract new students to Canberra.”  Given the city is well served for total student places with 23 000 or so ANU and 13 000 at the University of Canberra this makes sense. UNSW has long had a college teaching within the Australian Defence Forces Academy there, but this would not necessarily help in an expanded competition for local market .  And a learned reader points to South Australia, where a state government encouraged new institutions to set up shop and ended up with more supply than demand.

Bin drafts of despair

Postgrads are more depressed and anxious than the general population, Edith Cowan U says. Having no money, no prospects and no idea how to finish a thesis will do that to a person, CMM replies.

So, ECU is rolling outwrite better, write smarter” a programme developed by the Cooperative Research Centre for Mental Health, which includes peer support and writing-time. ECU is trialling it now for roll-out in 2019. The University of Melbourne adopted it in April but so far that’s it. The CRCs Melanie Carew, says “a growing number of international universities have expressed interest in implementing it.”

Monash lectures live – and even in person

The Monash U student association wants to know if in-person lectures are being cancelled by the university “in favour of on-line only lecture content.”  They say 37 units are identified with arts, science, biomed and engineering students effected and MUSA is surveying students to see if there are more.

However, the university replies that lectures in 37 units were offered on-line in first semester, using a platform called LIVE, but “Monash continues to make in-class attendance available for our students and has not shifted any lectures entirely online.”

Apparently LIVE is a good thing indeed; “LIVE allows students to interact with their peers and academics via their own device during a lecture. This platform provides students more flexibility, allowing them to annotate on a video feed of the lecture (during the live session), re-watch elements immediately, and access content later … Our students have highlighted significant improvements to learning as a result of the platform.”

Given it so great there is unsurprisingly more to come: “we intend to continue making LIVE available for lectures that are appropriately aligned to this type of offering.”

UniNewcastle wants three women to champion STEMM

There are three women in STEMM (the last M is for medicine) chairs going at the University of Newcastle.

They are open to full professors already at the university who are, “recognised for their expertise and leadership and will champion the cause of gender equity for women in STEMM”.

The university committed to the positions in in its application for a Bronze institution award, (to be announced this year) as part of the Athena SWAN Science in Australia Gender Equity programme.

“These women will be role models. Their career achievements will inspire others to fulfil their career goals and to aim high,” outgoing vice chancellor, Caroline McMillen says.

The university has an exemption from the NSW anti-discrimination act.  In 2016, the University of Melbourne created three continuing positions in maths for women and last year allocated five lectureships in engineering to be filled by women ( CMM March 8).

UNSW announces 102nd place in the ARWU

UNSW nearly cracked the top 100 in Wednesday’s Academic Ranking of World Universities. While the ARWU reports universities outside the top 100 in bands, UNSW VC Ian Jacobs says the university was 102nd. This is relatively easily estimated given the ARWU in-puts are known (CMM, August 16 2017 commissioned the same analysis last year).

The score is obviously important to Professor Jacobs, given UNSW, with the University of Adelaide, is the only member of the Group of Eight outside the ranking’s global top 100.

But ambivalently important, in a message to staff last night Professor Jacobs added; “we are all aware of the shortcomings of these sorts of rankings and there is of course so much more to our strategy than where we stand in global research-based rankings. … Nevertheless, the global rankings are an important indicator of our standing among the leading and most prestigious universities worldwide.”

A sufficiently important indicator for DVC R Nicholas Fisk to announce financial incentives for published papers in prestige journals – $10 000 for corresponding authors of papers in Science and Nature (CMM July 13).

ECU expands its land

Edith Cowan U is investing in real estate, buying a six-hectare site across the road from the Joondalup campus. It already owns a nine-hectare development site just to the north where it plans to build office space. The new land is said to be needed for research expansion and increased students, including accommodation for internationals. Given the state of the international education market in Perth ECU need not be in a hurry to get building.

Government to protect local VET students from college closures

From next year, the federal government will save VET and non-university higher education students from college closures. “This is about protecting students no matter where they study,” Assistant Minister for Voced and Skills Karen Andrews says.

The minister is set to announce the existing Tuition Protection Service for international students will be extended to cover all VET and non-uni higher education provider study loans.

“If a study provider closes, the government will give students the support they need to continue their studies. That could be with another provider in a similar course, or, if a similar course isn’t available, students may receive a re-credit for units of study commenced but not completed,” she says.

The scheme will also pay an incentive to providers who pick-up students from colleges that fail.

Ms Andrews says the programme will be funded by providers. TAFE colleges will pay an administrative levy while private providers will pay this, plus a risk levy and an additional surcharge.

Pending legislation, the levy will be calculated on advice from the Australian Government Actuary, which will include provider data. Indicative levies are expected for consultation before year end. When the scheme is in place levies will be based on providers’ previous year data.

The new scheme will be run by a statutory appointment, supported by an independent advisory board.

The government announced a protection scheme was coming a year back, and this is a big step on the long path to restoring community trust in private training providers in the aftermath of the VET FEE HELP catastrophe.

Appointments, achievements of the week

The WA Scientists of the Year awards are announced. Peter Newman from Curtin University is scientist of the year and UWA’s emeritus professor David Blair is inducted to the state’s Hall of Fame. Melissa O’Donnell (Telethon Kids Institute and University of Western Australia is early career scientist. Arman Siahvashi (UWA) and Ryan Urquhart (Curtin U) are the student scientists of the year.

Madhu Bhaskaran from RMIT has won the ASPIRE science prize. The APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education is for research and cooperation with colleagues from APEC countries.

Ricky Johnstone is new executive director for cancer research at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Professor Johnstone is an 18-year Peter Mac veteran.

The University of Newcastle reports, “Australia’s leading nanotechnologist” Ajayan Vinu is to receive the Chemical Research Society of India’s medal. Professor Vinu leads the university’s centre for nanomaterials.

The ANU’s Rose Ahlefeldt is the ACT scientist of the yearDr Ahlefeldt researches materials to achieve the data storage quantum computers will need.

Trevor McDougall from UNSW is a new fellow of the American Geophysical Union.

Macquarie U PVC (programmes and pathways) Sean Brawley is named a principal fellow of the teaching achievement organisation formerly known as the Higher Education Academy.

Cathy Foley is the new CSIRO chief scientist. She moves from science director and deputy director for manufacturing there.

Dianne Jolley will become the UTS dean of science in December. She leaves the University of Wollongong.

Jacqueline Tulk is the new campus director at La Trobe U’s (very flash) Sydney campusLTU Sydney is a Navitas-run pathway programme for the university. Ms Tulk joins from partner La Trobe Melbourne.

Theologian Zachariah Duke is moving from the Australian Institute of Theological Education to become assistant dean, academic at the Catholic Institute of Aotearoa New Zealand.