Signifying nothing

Demand driven funding reviewer Andrew Norton broke cover yesterday retweeting a report that female medical student enrolments are down at the University of Queensland. It was Mr Norton’s first higher education related tweet for a couple of months. So what does it signify? Probably that he thinks it is an interesting story. But that wont stop people sending it down to the text lab for analysis in case there is a clue to in it to when the DDFR will be released. Come on Minister Pyne.

 The business of business is applied research

Which is what Calvin Coolidge would have said if he had met Tony Peacock from the Cooperative Research Centre Association, whose budget bid is in. Because the convincing Professor Peacock works hard to explain why university based research needs to work closer and harder with business, (see his piece in The Australian this morning). This should be music to the ears of ministers, especially as CRCs conduct the sorts of practical research politicians are pleased to point to. The question is whether the call for more cash will strike a bum note (sorry). Perhaps it will not – Professor Peacock says the program has already taken a big budget hit, dropping from over 70 centres in 2006 to 40 in 2012. And he is only asking for an extra $50m over the forward estimates. He also urges government to change the way university cooperation with CRCs is classified for research funding, arguing this would encourage collaboration at no cost to Canberra. “In an economy so reliant on university researchers, Australia cannot afford to turn those researchers away from solving industry issues, ” Professor Peacock argues.  Of course this is not a budget measure at all but perhaps the astute professor P thinks Treasury will look more kindly on any budget bid that includes spending neutral proposals.
As to numbers of CRCs – when will the winners of the 16th round be declared? It was supposed to before Christmas then it was going to be in January. There was talk bid teams were being advised yesterday but nothing was announced.

With no cast of thousands

The UTS branch of the NTEU has adapted its brochure making the case for a pay-rise (CMM Monday) into a low-budget (text and audio) online message. Bigger than Ben Hur it is not but maybe the comrades think they need to do something, anything, to keep support solid.

Inspired idea

The people at the Ehrenberg Bass Institute at the University of South Australia are rare among marketing academics in that they like talking to business about business instead of scholars about citations. Jasha Bowe and Justin Cohen’s new South Australia grand strategy for the Chinese tourism market is no exception. This report actually proposes actionable ideas – for example what to do with the few Chinese visitors who actually make it to Adelaide – give them what they came for. And that means taking them to wineries and feeding them fish (well abalone actually and lots of lobsters). In an inspired idea Bowe and Cohen propose the tourism industry enlist Chinese students to work with their cashed up compatriots. Food, wine and education – its a terrific trifecta.

Think locally compete globally

The University of South Australia will launch its new Institute for Choice on Monday at North Sydney, nicely convenient for staff who used to work just over the harbour at UTS. But as UniSA spends up on high profile researchers interstate the competition is hotting up at home. Up the road at the University of Adelaide VC Warren Bebbington is beefing up business with three high profile hires. Paul Coram moves from the University of Melbourne to head the accounting school. And in August Manuel Becerra will arrive from the universally rated IE Business School in Madrid to take over the management and marketing school. They will report to the new dean of business, Lawrence Abeln, who joins Adelaide from MIT.
This impressive appointment leads to two questions, Boston winter/Adelaide summer – why did Professor Abeln decide the former is worse than the latter, and second, what is he costing? My guess is a bomb – probably not as big a bomb as Uni SA VC David Lloyd spent on poaching the UTS crew but a bomb by any other name still makes a big bang – which is what I suspect Professor Bebbington wants. Abeln is an assiduous builder of bridges, skilled in establishing alliances with global corporations and I don’t imagine he will devote all his week to teaching undergraduates. Both Lloyd and Bebbington obviously accept that in a static (at best) market they must expand out of state to support their operations operations, let alone grow. This will be an interesting struggle played out across the continent and probably in Asia between two blokes who could lob a brick into each other’s office with a decent catapult. Watch out for new chairs in trebuchet design at either institution.

Health worries 

Last week La Trobe DVC Research Keith Nugent was very pleased to announce a $15m investment over five years by complementary medicine maker Swisse Wellness towards establishing a Complementary Medicine Evidence Centre. Now,perhaps not so much following the very public resignation of high profile medical drug policy specialist Dr Ken Harvey as a La Trobe adjunct aspro. Dr Harvey is not an admirer of Swisse Wellness but his resignation letter to VC John Dewar makes a broader point; “I certainly support more research into the efficacy of complementary medicines but, in my view, it is crucial that the design, assessment and funding of such research be at arm’s length from a particular company and overseen by an independent body such as the ARC &/or NHMRC“. I wonder who will respond for La Trobe, Nugent or the boss, but address this point somebody should.

‘Triffic targetting

Before those who are easily offended among the management team at Federation U reflexively issue a deplore-a-gram let me stress I think the new “Rise in your own way” student recruitment  campaign is on the money. Just like most of the efforts for open day and student services its predecessor, the University of Ballarat, created, this Fed U effort is for kids who want to know what to study and why study before they start wondering where to. By focusing on market needs rather than puffing their product whoever writes UB/FU’s agency briefs has nailed it – establishing the university’s credibility as a source. The “free goal planner” might sound lame, but my guess is it is designed to cover off the issues kids raise in focus groups and it reinforces the idea that Federation University is not just (heaven forfend) selling something. Offering courses via TAFEs across country Victoria is inspired.