New University of Melbourne survey reveals what the higher education elite really thinks


Funding research with student fees “unsustainable and immoral” uni leaders say


How education makes states great: all will be revealed at UTas  

Sun shines on women in science

The Melbourne based Sun Foundation is funding the second Peer Prize for Women in Science, who “have a mission to accelerate open knowledge exchange and cross-disciplinary innovation.”

There are two $20 000 prizes one for work in life sciences and the other in earth, environmental space sciences.

“Typically, science prizes are selected by hidden panels of a few peers with only the winners being showcased. This means that time is wasted by researchers with unsuccessful applications, and only a fraction of the knowledge is show-cased. This creates barriers to collaboration and innovation. The Peer Prize is changing that,” the award announcement asserts.

The ballot is run on fundraising site Thinkable, and is open to registered researchers who can demonstrate they have peer-reviewed publications.

QUT is campaigning for Great Barrier Reef researcher Mardi McNeil.

Rathjen sets out the strategy

University of Tasmania VC Peter Rathjen has convinced the state’s leadership that education is an economic engine that can transform economies in trouble (CMM November 21 2016) and in August he’s hosting a conference on how it’s done. “We plan to showcase some of the world’s best practice examples presented by speakers from around the country and overseas,” he tells the select group of people invited. CMM expects a big contingent of South Australians, interested in the approach he will take to his new job as VC of the University of Adelaide.

Sex health expert appointed

Cindy Shannon, PVC Indigenous at the University of Queensland will chair the state government’s sexual health advisory committee.

What worries the higher education elite

University leaders cite  government policy failure as a past, present and prospective burden on Australia’s higher education system, according to a comprehensive new study from centres studying higher education at the University of Melbourne and the University of California, Australian universities at a crossroads, to be released this morning.

“The biggest shaping force in Australian higher education is the fact there is no policy,” says a former VC and present “senior government research administrator.”

The study is based on surveys and interviews with 117 unnamed university and research institute leaders and provides a guide to the thinking of university opinion makers, institutional shapers and research policy creators. (The project occurred before Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s new policy, announced last month.)

Authors Andre Brett (University of Wollongong), Gwilym Croucher, (University of Melbourne), William Lacy (UCal, Davis) and Romina Mueller (Leuphena University of Luneburg) also identify the peak issues system leaders say they face, internationalisation, student learning outcomes, needs of society and strategic planning. In the second tier are, industry partnerships, “general” partnerships, research infrastructure, staff mix, and federal government funding.

“Embedded in the federal funding issue is government support and the accumulated debt for HECCS,” the authors write. Respondents also warned the failure of the feds to fund indirect research costs has “compromiseduniversity research.

“In recent years, university research has been funded increasingly with domestic and international student fees. Some leaders stated they believed the current process of funding research was unsustainable and immoral.”

As “a senior political leader” put it; “the critical issue is that what we have to do is develop a system in which the qualifications that people learn are of value throughout the world, that they are tradeable value, that amongst your peers they are acknowledged to be a credential of great worth.”

Good start

An anonymous donor has gifted NZ$3.4m to Massey University to support postgraduate scholarships.  Good start for VC Jan Thomas, ex USQ, less than six months in the job.

Cover not so deep

Power-elite observers will have hours of fun linking anonymous quotes in the Universities Crossroads report to speakers. The report identifies sources of statements by the generic jobs of speakers but also lists everybody interviewed. So who is the Australian Technology Network VC who thinks some universities are “flabby in their overheads,” or the Group of Eight dean who thinks that universities will need a couple of flash lecture theatres “for a kind of perfomative academia,” but “the rest needs to be bulldozed …  we are wasting a lot of capital and that is a real problem” ? Check the list, shouldn’t be hard.

VU case not over

The union case against the creation of new academic  positions and the abolition of existing ones accompanying Victoria University’s First Year College is not over. The Fair Work Commission knocked the campus NTEU’s application to stop the FYC hiring process last month. However the union has appealed and the FWC has ordered a hearing for June 16-19.

Very public policy debate

The med ed establishment continues to make the case that Australia does not need a new medical school. (“What, like the Charles Sturt and La Trobe universities proposed Murray Darling Medical School?” you ask. “That’s the one,” CMM replies.)

Instead of a new school, they old elite argue, what is needed to meet the shortage of doctors in the bush is more specialist post-graduation training places in the regions. The case is made, yet again, in an editorial in the new issue of the Medical Journal of Australia by Andrew Wilson (University of Sydney) and Richard Murray, dean of medicine at James Cook University, hardly one of the elite metro faculties that Murray Darling supporters say are desperate to stop a new regional medicine school.

While everybody waits for the federal government’s review of training places, Minister for Rural Health David Gillespie has already announced increased regional training resources, including a department of rural health to train nursing, midwifery, dental or allied health students, but not doctors, at Charles Sturt U, (CMM April 18).

Despite suggestions that city medical schools are ganging up on battlers on the bush the MDMS is no-push-over, running a serious lobbying campaign.  This is a public policy debate occurring where it should – in public.

SA historian of year

Philip Payton from Flinders U is the History Council of South Australia’s historian of the year.