Plus Curtin’s big MOOC and medicine wins

Saint moves up, again

When Robert Saint joined the University of Adelaide as PVC R the university called it “a coup”. Understandably so, Professor Saint is a very senior geneticist and moved from being dean of science at the University of Melbourne. But the coup was short-lived. Saint only arrived at Adelaide in July ’13 and is now leaving, for Flinders University where he moves up a rung to be DVC Research from mid June. Present DVC R, David Day will remain at Flinders, returning to research.


Green for go

After three months as UNSW VC, Ian Jacobs has has published a green paper on the university’s future, “based on ideas and challenges received from staff, students, alumni and external stakeholders through a variety of routes.” While Professor Jacobs makes it plain that no strategy is set in ten years time he wants UNSW to be in the “top tier” of the rankings of world universities (it isn’t already?). Not, you understand for the glory but because, “the leading universities of the world have a massive positive impact on their local community, their nation and for humanity globally.” And so the paper presents three operational areas, one of which combines what universities used to exclusively exist to accomplish, education and research. The other two, “social engagement” and “global impact” reflect the broader senses of service, which having money, and lots of it, make possible.

There are ample ideas in the paper for staff who think globally. For a start, the green paper suggests franchising the brand, “by establishing satellite ‘centres of excellence’ in major global cities where UNSW programs will be taught directly or through partners, and by developing stronger university ‘articulation’ agreements for undergraduate and postgraduate taught programs. Want to know where the cash for impacting and engaging will come from?

For those who are interested in acting locally the way teaching could change are especially interesting. The green paper is keen on flipping technology, using online to personalise the student experience. UNSW is already working on improving on-line education, offering a MOOC via Coursera, taught by UNSW staffers Simon McIntyre and Negin Mirriahi. UNSW staff who complete the course will receive a Coursera verification certification, which strikes CMM as a good idea indeed for all UNSW teaching staff. As the university just happens to mention, “the new VC has signalled the importance of teaching technology to the future of UNSW and this MOOC will help you engage fully in these exciting developments.”

Readers worth having

The Association of the MBA accredits universities around the world, making their business students worth cultivating as likely leaders. The Wall Street Journal certainly thinks so, with AMBA announcing all students in its accredited programmes will receive a free year subscription. CMM would not dream of suggesting the WSJ needs the circ .

Titanic cynicism

Bill Shorten ’s budget reply commitment to spend on STEM and boost R&D outlays to 3 per cent of GDP by 2030 went down well with science lobbies. “Even in times of economic difficulty, nations around the world are protecting their investment in science because they know that investing today will translate to becoming an economic powerhouse in decades to come,” Academy of Science policy secretary Les Field said. But Universities Australia had heard it all before and wanted to know where the money would come from. Demonstrating a cynicism sad in one so young UC chief Belinda Robinson said, “universities will be seeking water-tight assurances that this funding would not come at the expense of other higher education and research programs. We know from bitter experience that when it comes to higher education and research funding, deckchairs are more than shuffled, they are hurled overboard.”

Curtin raisers from medicine to mining

Curtin finally got its long promised and promoted medical school yesterday, with the prime minister announcing a 2017 start. The Australian Medical Association opposes the proposal, claiming there are not enough training positions for medical graduates in the west but WA Premier Colin Barnett less backed the plan than demanded the feds fund it. Whatever the workforce reality for the west, status-wise this is a wonderful win for Curtin, although there was no celebratory statement from the university yesterday. Well, it was Sunday.

The university is also hanging out with a superior tribe of global tech-heads, becoming a member of the Harvard, MIT led edX MOOC provider. In June Curtin will offer a course on mine management. The university will follow with MOOCs on digital marketing and transmedia story telling (sorry, not a clue on that one).

Curtin joins ANU, UoQ and Uni Adelaide as edX MOOC members.

ANU new 5

Bit late

Just as the feds confirmed funding for The Conversation will end as scheduled the University of New South Wales announced last week it had signed on as a supporter.

Plus for Parker

While he is adamant in opposing fee deregulation Stephen Parker is otherwise an innovator, long making the case that his University of Canberra must develop new partnerships and products across K to postdoc education to prosper. His latest venture is a partnership with private provider Navitas, which has paid $4.9m for a 51 per cent share of UoC’s pathway college. The college teaches diplomas in business, communication, design, IT and science to 1,300 university pathway students. There are another 900 English language students.

Big training wheels

Training governance experts are quietly endorsing Rod Camm’s concern that there are no teachers/lecturers on the government’s new business boss and bureaucrat controlled Australian Industry and Skills Committee. “Developing skills to meet the needs of the future labour market does not end with approving the qualification. Skills development actually comes through collaboration and partnership, between employers, their training provider and of course the student,:” the head of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training said last week, (CMM April 15).

Quite right one of the few people in the planet to understand past and present VET course development says. “The time has come for government/industry/education to work together to achieve reliable and robust outcomes – and the composition of the new body does not headline this,”

“If you are going to let the market have its head then you need to make sure standards and regulation are sufficient and robust enough for the design of the market and to safeguard individual and public interest/value.”

They already get it

Buried in the budget papers is a $5m comms campaign asking parents to pay attention to their children’s education, (which struck CMM as perhaps not the best use of scarce resources. (CMM May 14) But the Department of Education explains otherwise; “study after study shows a direct link between the level of engagement a parent has with their child’s education and the outcomes of the child in learning and achievement. It is also clear there is a need for parents to be better informed about the activities and involvement they can have in this process.” So that’s all right then. Or it would be if not for April data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics that found 96 per cent of parents of three to eight year olds either read to their children, or listen them to read. Parents who do not get they have a duty to help their kids learn have more problems than an advertising message can solve.

Discussing digital

The National Scholarly Communications has announced the programme for its September 7 forum at ANU. It will focus on open access to information and how traditional publishing practices are coping, or not, with it. Chief Scientist Ian Chubb is keynote speaker.

Banished to the bush

It wasn’t just Johnny Depp’s dogs that Barnaby Joyce has moved on. Joe Kelly reported in The Australian on Friday that the agriculture minister wants key agricultural research agencies out of Canberra to where there are actually farmers. In particular he wants the Grains Research and Development Corporation out of flash Barton. This seems as populist a ploy as the departure of Mr Depp’s dogs. As CMM pointed out (May 8) when it reported the then expected expulsion of the GRDC, the Productivity Commission questions the benefits of sending rural researchers to the country, where key staff may not want to go.