Deakin on the job for work-seeking grads

Universities are judged on the jobs their graduates get and as the demand driven system pumps out more people the employment return on study will matter ever-more. Universities who get this are already investing in services from job-placement to employment skills. And industry is watching who is doing what.

Like Deakin University, voted employment service of the year in the career service category at the Australian Association of Graduate Employers awards. Deakin’s TALENT platform connects graduates and students with employers. The university also has a gradate recruitment team. It’s part of a major investment in employment outcomes, as , PVC Graduate Employment Dineli Mather told CMM last year, “graduate employability is the defining challenge for universities in Australia and across the world,” (CMM March 3 2016).

Deakin won at AAGE ahead of RMIT, University of Queensland, University of South Australia and University of Technology, Sydney.

Last year the University of Queensland won, with finalists being RMIT, and the universities of Adelaide and Wollongong.

Young tall poppies

The ACT Tall Poppy scientists of the year are Julie Banfield (ANU astrophysicist) and Dave Pasalich (ANU child psychologist). Others awarded are Niruthikha Mahendranm (University of Canberra neurological physiotherapist) and Kai Xun Chan (ANU plant scientist) – he is also ACT scientist of the year.

ANU and Swinburne pal-up with IT industry provider

US IT services provider company DXC is partnering with Swinburne U and ANU. In Canberra the company will create research with the university and provide student internships, including a programme which integrates people with autism into the company.

According to Swinburne DVC R Alexsandar Subic the joint venture there will embed research and research based training in industry problem-solving.

This is another win for Professor Subic’s applied research and teaching strategy. In August Siemens committed to locate $135m in manufacturing software at Swinburne for students from apprentice to PhD to train with CMM August 15).


UNESCO appointment

The federal government has appointed Kylie Walker chair of the Australian commission for UNESCO. Ms Walker is CEO of the lobby Science and Technology Australia.

$5m for UniMelb archaeology chair

The University of Melbourne will establish a chair of scientific archaeology, with funding from Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s Mindaroo Foundation, university chancellor Allan Myers and Kimberley Foundation Australia.  Donors are contributing $3.5m with the university adding $1.5m.

The new chair will sit in the School of Earth Sciences and is expected to complement KFA funded humanities based research at the University of Western Australia.

Humanities staffing “cannot be sustained” says UniNewcastle

The University of Newcastle says “the current levels of staffing in the humanities disciplines simply cannot be sustained.”

The new BA structure is approved at the University of Newcastle. As the university told CMM last month, it is “a more contemporary approach to liberal arts … that is responsive to student demandgraduate employability, research priorities and social innovation. (CMM September 11).

But Newcastle watchers warn this means independent philosophy courses are gone and that there is less ancient history and classics, with two of four teaching positions going.

Some suggest the cuts are caused by the cost of the university’s ambitious development programme in the Newcastle CBD, others argue that philosophy had students and was not a drain on resources.

However, management responds that universities are “facing a global challenge in the identity of the humanities, a trend we are aiming to tackle head on in our present context.”

The university says; “through our focus on a common set of skills for students, we anticipate more future students encountering aspects of critical inquiry through our new BA core courses.” However, while the content interdisciplinary courses is not decided, “what is clear is that such teaching will not sustain the extant staff profile in philosophy.”

As for classics; “students will still be able to take ancient history courses as part of their BA degrees. The classical languages have been in decline, and Greek has not been taught since 2012, with numbers in Latin very low, but the school will continue to find ways for future students to include the study of these languages by seeking cross-institutional partnerships.”

The university adds 14 of now 15 majors in the BA will continue and “we plan to look at revitalising the majors in future years with no intention to downgrade the humanities.  … Our research shows that students are seeking degrees with applied aspects and with a focus on careers in social assistance, human services and social impact and innovation.”

However, management adds, “the current levels of staffing in the humanities disciplines simply cannot be sustained, and we’re looking at ways of becoming smarter about our delivery of courses to students needing flexibility in their programs of study.”

Coalition of the willing backs UniTas

The University of Tasmania has made outgoing VC Peter Rathjen a doctor of letters, an honour reserved, “for people who have given outstanding service to the state or the university.” Professor Rathjen has indeed done sterling service for the university, notably convincing decision makers and opinion shapers in the state that education is Tasmania’s best hope of ending Tasmania’s under-performing, under-employing economy. As Chancellor Michael Field puts it, Rathjen “built a coalition of the willing around the university.” And it was done without flattening Tasmanian cities, as that other coalition of the willing did in Iraq during the Second Gulf War.

Name changes, jobs stay at QUT

In breaking news QUT proposes changing the name of the Human Resources Department to People and Culture. The university also proposes a comprehensive restructure with all permanent staff continuing and fixed term positions remaining for their duration, although four vacant positions will go.

Alexa and Siri won’t tell you, but ANU knows empathy matters

The ANU admissions team is flat-out dealing with the Trump boom, as prospective students from overseas look for universities in countries where they will feel safe and welcome. ANU is responding to the workload in two ways, improving processing and next year piloting giving staff 100 work-hours a year to spend on whatever philanthropic pursuit in the university they choose.”

ANU DVC Marnie Hughes Warrington explains why in the new essay in her series on how her university works.

For a start, there is only so much of admissions to automate and what can be“might not make the work any more meaningful or motivating for the small group of people who have to be there to help applicants day in, day out. Moreover, I am not sure Siri or Alexa could do this job.”

Admissions, she says “is a giving profession,” vital for university and applicant both. “An admissions officer is often the first person that a future student speaks to. … That first conversation brings with it the opportunity to get right a relationship in which both students and staff feel connected to a university community for life.”

Which is the point of the planned pilot to give staff paid time each week to volunteer. People who have participated in culture training on giving, say they “see the important role they have to play for education, and the connection of their work with the efforts of alumni relations and philanthropy.”

“I think it could be time to stop talking about taking from transactional workers, and giving them as new sense of who they are, so that they can give in turn,” Hughes Warrington suggests.

Good move. It’s going to be a way of a while before Siri and Alexa understand respect and empathy for others.

Women in research fellowships at Newcastle

According to Deborah Hodgson women occupy just 27 per cent of senior academic positions and the University of Newcastle is doing something about it with its women in research fellowships. PVC R Hodgson says the programme will provide $30 000 to UoN women for 12-month research projects, plus mentoring and career coaching. The first fellows include:

In-Young Yeo who works on soil moisture, Hayley Scott, exercise and asthma, Jessica Allen, carbon in energy storage and Hannah Power, geomorphology of sandy beaches.

Big thinking about Blockchains

Monash researchers want to build a crypto-currency blockchain exchange while at the University of Sydney they are building a super-fast BC processing system but at RMIT they are thinking bigger about the blockchain. Jason Potts, Sinclair Davidson and Chris Berg from the Blockchain Innovation Hub suggest the system can replace the state – closing any case for socialism and ending the need for government to protect property rights.

Markets always need governance, and the limits of a market society were always the ability of the state to provide those services of record keeping, validation and verification of transactions in property rights. In return, the state levied taxation to fund these services. Blockchains are a new technology of fault tolerant governance that can furnish the governance to underpin a market economy and society,” they write.

Spanish ranking gone

Spanish research agency  Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas has cancelled its ranking web of repositories. The CSIC used web presence to list universities. It also published lists of scholars by research output, such as April’s H-index list which used Google scholar scores. Critics complain web-presence is no accurate guide to impact. Supporters suggest that it is better than surveys of status. But it seems the argument is over. As to why, the SCIC is not explaining.

Dolt of the day

Is CMM who in Friday’s issue had TAFE NSW in the education portfolio (where it used to be). It reports to Skills Minister John Barilaro