Keep to the code

“Be Programmed: Tech savvy? We’re the university for you,” the University of Tasmania spruiks via Twitter. So much for rule-breaking and critical thinking.

There’s more in the Mail

This morning David Myton looks at a new report that finds Chinese students who prefer a particular country’s culture are likely to name that country as their preferred overseas study destination.

Smooth sailing at James Cook U

As anticipated in CMM Friday, James Cook University management and the National Tertiary Education Union are jointly recommending a new enterprise agreement to staff. This follows bitter bargaining in which the university management pushed hard for simplified employment conditions which the union dug in against. This leave Murdoch University as the sole standard bearer for the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association Campaign to roll back the codification of union rights on staff discipline procedures and workplace change.

Bio brilliant and solar smart @ UNSW and QUT

A UNSW undergraduate team has won Harvard University’s Wyss Institute prize for biological engineering. Thilina De Silva (Chemical Engineering), Hugh Allison (Chemical Engineering), Jacob Silove (Physics/Law), Madeline Wainwright (Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences/Law), Lucien Alperstein (Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences) and Brian Ee (Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences/Music) “constructed nanoscale scaffolds made from DNA to try to artificially construct the HIV capsid, or protein shell surrounding the virus.” A UNSW team also won last year, with the Victor Chang Institute winning in 2014.

The Brisvegas Three announce the winners of their Global Business Challenge. Griffith U, QUT and the University of Queensland sponsored the contest for student teams to come up with “a sustainable solution” for “renewable energy”.

QUT MBA student Tim Larsen with University of Arizona colleagues Mary Dusek and Katherine Monberg won with a plan for a solar generator to run a house. A Griffith U team is second and students from Northeastern U in Boston Mass were third.

Griffith veteran goes in glory

Colin McAndrew has retired from Griffith University. The VP corporate services joined as PVC administration in 1992 after registrarial roles at Flinders, Monash, UniMelbourne and UNE. “Griffith has run very smoothly over the past decade or more that he has had charge of everything corporate,” a close GU observer tells CMM.

“Now with extra ambiguity!”

The UK Advertising Standards Authority is talking to universities which make ambiguous but impressive ranking claims, the BBC reports. Of course it could not happen here, unless that is, the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency decides that Domain Seven of the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) applies. Domain 7.1 states; “TEQSA’s main interest will be in the materials that the provider uses to represent itself and its offerings, whether to particular students or more generally, such as marketing materials, claims about career outcomes arising from courses of study and the like.”

More NHMRC money for UniNewcastle

The University of Newcastle has picked up $12m in new National Health and Medical Research Council funding for 17 research projects and three fellowships.  This is additional to the $6m the university secured from the NHMRC in the October national awards.

Marshall from CSIRO’s super science sell

Alan Finkel no longer stands-alone as Australia’s great science communicator with CSIRO chief Larry Marshall delivering a curiously under-reported speech at the National Press Club last week.

As with the Chief Scientist, the CSIRO supremo sold Australian science with admirable enthusiasm and an understanding that the future of funding depends on engaging with the community. Like Dr Finkel, Dr Marshall speaks fluent lab and can explain what it means to the rest of us, linking past and present examples of what Australian researchers have achieved and putting science and innovation in context from the Great Library of Alexandria to a shed in Geelong.

And there was section to sell to the nation-building lobby that is suspicious of science in the marketplace and plenty for those people who see research as wasted money unless it gets somebody a market float or a tax loss.

“In the past, we have unleashed our science on the world as an idea, undeveloped, like a raw material we have dug from the ground, and much like our mineral wealth, which we have dug up and shipped away, our ideas have realised their potential elsewhere, creating value, jobs and opportunities in other countries. This isn’t sustainable.”

If Finkel and Marshall can’t create a constituency for science as the engine of innovation we are in a bunch of bother.


At the University of New South Wales, Thursday week union members will vote on enterprise bargaining claims, followed immediately by Christmas drinks. The expiring agreement runs out in March.

Week of the Day

It’s antibiotic awareness week, during which Health Minister Greg Hunt adjures us all to ease up on their use. The feds are spending $27m to deal with antibiotic resistance including $5.9m from the Medical Research Future Fund.

Education academics slam Canberra’s approach to teacher ed

Two senior teacher education academics have slammed Canberra’s policy-setting Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group and the work of oversight agency, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership for, “an obsession with standardisation,” “silence” on the need for teachers to be research literate and for ignoring the profession’s concerns.

Martin Mills (University of Queensland) and Merrilyn Goos (now University of Limerick, ex UoQ) warn; “it appears that governments want teachers to be proficient in analysing data that relate to academic outcomes, and principally academic outcomes on standardised tests, both national and international. The perverse effects of such a focus, for example, the thinning down of, pedagogies the narrowing of curriculum options, high suspension rates etc., have been well documented.”

They argue the government’s approach is based on; “antiquated notions of teaching as an occupation where expertise depends on a set of skills and knowledge that is easily defined and measured rather than as an intellectual activity where complex decisions are made on the basis of subject knowledge, teaching practice, and educational theory in relation to the students in the teacher’s classroom,”

And Mills and Goos specifically question the emphasis on “classroom readiness.”

“We are not suggesting that teacher education does not need to reform or that the various programs throughout Australia currently prepare teachers to walk into any classroom, in any location, conditions or situation, in which they might find themselves when they first begin their careers. However, we would argue that a standardised notion of classroom readiness being articulated through the particular recommendations being taken up by government will also not adequately prepare pre-service teachers for the diversity of experiences they are likely to face in Australia.”

They also suggest the official position ignores the key requirement for teachers to be researchers; “we propose that supporting teacher adaptability, especially in relation to supporting the most highly marginalised students within a school, requires enabling teachers to become competent consumers of research, to use this research to apply it to their own contexts and to delve deeper into that context through sound research skills.”

And if universities accept people not suited to teaching, well whose fault is that?

“While entry requirements for initial teacher education are set by universities, these requirements are influenced not so much by trends in workforce supply and demand or by academic prerequisites considered necessary for successful university study, but by financial considerations in maximising enrolments. A measure forced on universities by reduced government funding.”

A deal at Western Sydney University

Unions and management at Western Sydney University have reached in-principle agreement on employment terms. The National Tertiary Education Union reported the deal between it and the CPSU and management yesterday.  And last night management confirmed the agreement, with a university spokesperson saying, “Western Sydney University is very pleased to have reached an in-principle agreement with both unions on an enterprise agreement that will provide a range of enhanced benefits for all staff including limited term and casual staff.”

The agreed pay rise amounts to 8 per cent over the life of the deal and 17 per cent super extends to fixed term staff from March 2019.

“The pay and superannuation rises are modest, but in the context of this round so far they are significantly ahead of the national average,” NTEU branch president David Burchell told members yesterday.

The union also had major wins on employment conditions, “other than a reduction in the period within which management can dismiss an academic staff member on probation, no significant member right or entitlement has been affected in any meaningful way,” Dr Burchell and his negotiating team colleagues said.

The union also says there are “significant new industrial protections” for professional staff. This is immensely important given the administration restructures now underway at WSU.