Australians believe in uni opportunity  – this is why

Australian Catholic U will have 100 000 graduates when Ianee Plaza receives her bachelor of nursing today at a Melbourne graduation. Want to know why the community values access to higher education for all with the ability? Ms Plaza’s story as the child of a Filipino migrant family who struggled financially and who is now a graduate nurse, explains it.

Humanities researchers: ignored and unhappy 

Humanities scholars are the big losers in the research infrastructure plan (CMM yesterday) with Mandy Thomas (QUT) from the Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities complaining, HASS researchers “are effectively excluded from research infrastructure.” Professor Thomas says less than 1 per cent of the infrastructure budget for five years is relevant to their work, with $8.3m for a scoping study on technology, “to establish HASS and Indigenous research platforms.”

The Australian Academy of the Humanities is equally upset; “for a nation to be smart, we need to be smart about how we support our cultural institutions and our HASS researchers to be world leaders. Decisions like this hold back Australian research and impacts our international contribution and standing,” president Joy Damousi (UniMelb) says.

New Linkage Grants announced

Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham has announced the sixth set of Linkage Grants for the year. “We’re funding research that can get results for everyday Australians. It’s great to see such innovation and potential at the heart of these projects,” the senator says. Funding comes from the Australian Research Council and partner organisations. The ten projects are:

ANU: Miranda Forsyth, restorative justice in environmental regulation

UNSW: Martin Loosemore, youth employment in construction industry

Griffith U: Ross Homel, data driven collaborations between schools, families and community agencies

QUT: Mahen Mahendran, fire resistance in steel frame wall systems

UoQ: Hamish McGowan, environmental history of the Kimberley over 60 000 years

UoQ: Kerrie Wilson, interventions to reverse environmental degradation of and fires in tropical peatland

Flinders U: Timothy Windsor, social activities among older adults

Flinders U: John Spoehr economic activity for innovation and smart specialisation

Deakin U: Yong Xiang, audio watermarking to trace illegal copying and distribution of multimedia data

Curtin U: Hong Hao, bricks to resist static and earthquake loads

Merlin Crossley on UNSW’s QILT performance and what the uni’s doing about it

UNSW has one of the lowest overall student satisfaction scores in the new Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching, like last year. CMM asked UNSW DVC Academic Merlin Crossley what the university thinks about. Here’s what Professor Crossley said.

“We’ve looked carefully at the data for this year and last year. The QILT student surveys produce a very flat table and while many universities have shifted by one or two percent there are few patterns and most public universities are comparable lying between about 85% and 75% student satisfaction. That said we are disappointed that while UNSW continues to be ranked top in the employability of our graduates and to excel in research and social engagement, we remain with other Sydney universities near the bottom of the table in the QILT student experience survey. We are making a wholesale response, investing more than $100 million in enhancing our courses, are developing staff roles dedicated to education, have established the Scientia Education Academy of high performing teachers, and are reviewing our entire curriculum as we introduce the new UNSW3+ academic calendar next year. We are confident that once these changes are embedded and various other transformational works, like the unification of student services, and other things including large infrastructure projects, are completed we’ll move up to be amongst the leaders on this table”.

Not to be missed new research inquiry

Research infrastructure funding is set, there were no budget big-hits so now researchers guarding the lab can stand down and get back to science.  But if you think that you are not paying attention to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training which is starting an inquiry into “efficiency, effectiveness and coherency” of federal government funding for research.

This could be an opportunity for rants about irrelevant research with the committee interested in, “prioritising delivery of national priorities and public benefit”. It might be an opportunity to get the gate-keepers to open up a bit. The committee will look at, “the range of programs, guidelines and methods of assessment of grants.” And perhaps it will upset institutions who do well from existing arrangements; examining, dual funding through “competitive grants and performance-based block grants.”  But whatever the committee considers, every university, agency and lobby will have to make a submission, lest rival organisations’ unsound ideas go unchallenged.

Super win for fixed-term staff all over

Big winners in enterprise bargaining round seven are fixed term staff – everywhere. The National Tertiary Education Union made increasing management contributions to their superannuation to 17 per cent a key claim at all universities. And so far it is universally adopted. Andrew Dempster from Proofpoint Advisory dug through the records of the present bargaining round to find most universities will introduce the increase in one hit, by 2020 or ’21. UniSydney and La Trobe U are phasing-in the increase from 12 per cent in three steps. But Deakin, Swinburne and JCU have done it one hit, with fixed-term people picking the full super hike next year.

However the union has had less than no luck in securing the same super increase for casual staff, who now get 9.5 per cent, like the rest of us.  Roll on enterprise bargaining round eight.

QILT uncovers disciplines that deliver for students

The new QILT student survey results (CMM yesterday) reveal things don’t change in discipline teaching-cultures. Dentistry students are the least pleased with the overall undergraduate experience at all universities, with a national 71 rating, down four from last year (the all-disciplines satisfaction figure is 79).  Computing is also declining down three to 71.  Disciplines with the highest ratings for overall education experience are science and maths (81), ag and environment (80), health services (80), medicine (83), pharmacy (81), rehabilitation (87), humanities, culture and social sciences(82), social work (82), psychology (83) and communications (81).

Monash assures staff they will not be blamed for student complaints about teaching conditions

Monash arts students have campaigned for months about the size of classes, which are widely assumed to be linked to fewer casual staff teaching. A few weeks back students say dean Sharon Pickering suggested they use the student evaluation of teaching and units survey to express dissatisfaction.

Queue alarums, with the National Tertiary Education Union buckling on armour to defend arts staff. On Tuesday the union  said it had asked the dean to retract the statement because if students acted on it teaching staff would unfairly suffer. “The dean knows as well as we do that poor SETU results penalise the staff members involved in each unit, such as promotions and for sessions when seeking work in future semesters. To encourage students to use this process to express discontent is offensive to hard working colleagues in the faculty.”

But Monash U management says everybody should relax; “the NTEU can be assured that any issues raised by students regarding the physical spaces in which they learn, or the size of their classes will not in any way be considered as a reflection on the quality of teaching provided by individual teaching staff.  Any such issues raised will be considered in terms of the need for improvements or changes to class locations and sizes.”

Appointments and achievements

Blake Repine, an associate DVC at CQU is appointed to the Queensland Government’s central west hospital and health service board. Smart move. CQU has, and will need for years, state government support if it has any hope of getting its proposed medical school funded by the feds.

Anne Kelso has a second term as chair of the National Health and Medical Research Council. She has a further five years in the job, announced just three into her first term. Professor Kelso is widely considered to have done well overseeing and selling a new system for choosing research grants.

Leanne Holt is appointed PVC Indigenous at Macquarie University. She joined MU in 2016 as director of indigenous strategy.

Patrick Parkinson is leaving the University of Sydney for UoQ, where he will become head and academic dean of the school of law.