Productivity Commission to report on demand driven funding

Monday will be big for higher education lobbies

University lobbies are nervously waiting on Monday’s Productivity Commission report on the demand driven system. While it is still secret some took it as a hint when the PC tweeted yesterday that the report “is a mixed report card.”

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning, Kim Fraser, (Swinburne U) on why university teachers need to be qualified to teach, this week’s essay in the CMM series on what higher education needs now.

Plus David Myton’s regular wrap on HE elsewhere.

Uni Wollongong’s civilised new website

Its crisp, clean and includes Ramsay western civ degree details

The University of Wollongong has a new website, big on branding and way different from the directories with which some universities still present themselves to the world.

It’s clean, crisp and certainly impresses UoW dean of law, humanities and the arts, Theo Farrell, who describes it as, “pretty darn snazzy”. Praise indeed.

And yes, the university’s 2020 degree funded by the Ramsay Western Civilisation Centre, is on the site.

But not for long if the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has anything to do with it. The union is taking legal action, claiming management approval of the Ramsay degree breaches university rules. The matter is listed for Supreme Court mention on July 1, when a trial date is expected to be set.

The union also continues its grass-root campaign running talks with different takes on western civ on the nights of Ramsay Centre lectures in Sydney, (next events for both are on Tuesday).

Writing the manual for medical data mining  

There’s research gold in the data hills

The Australian Research Data Commons suggests Australia spends $1bn a year on clinical trials and “hundreds of millions” more on clinical and health research. Bu too often data lies dormant once projects are complete.

The ARDC says this need not be. “With the accelerating advances in harmonised data and analytics, further investment in expanding the digital infrastructure can realise significant additional value from these datasets.”

This will take some organising and the ARDC is combining with CSIRO to present a seminar today fortnight in Sydney to consider, ethics, governance and other issues for a data sharing network.

The Commons make it clear It’s for the medical research community “ONLY.”  But not to worry, we lesser mortals can always do the University of Sydney and partners’ new MOOC (via Coursera) on clinical health data, which started yesterday.

In breaking news

“If you are ever on ANU’s campus, drop in to say hi to the academy – should be easier to find us with our shiny new sign,” the Academy of the Social Science in Australia, via Twitter, yesterday.

Home is where the Hub is: resources for regional students

It’s a government priority, which is good for Study Hubs

Regional Study Hubs met for their first “group networking” conference yesterday, in Geraldton WA – which may be why Education Minister Dan Tehan welcomed participants via video. Even so, his virtual-presence is instructive.

The hubs offer study spaces, video-conferencing, computing facilities and internet access, plus academic support for distance education students enrolled at partner universities.

There are 16 of them, in 23 locations right across the commonwealth, (ex ACT).  A full-scale Hub conference is scheduled  for November, at Jindabyne in the NSW Snowy Mountains

This is a higher education area Mr Tehan is keen on. The Hubs are important to the one HE area he nominated when reappointed to the education portfolio, with pre-schools, childcare and schools. “The work we have begun with higher education providers to lift Australia’s attainment rates outside of our capital cities will remain a paramount priority,” (CMM May 27).

There is more to come, with the complete report from Dennis Napthine’s regional education strategy group expected in a couple of weeks.

Election outcomes: they’re not written in the stars

Griffith’s Stantic is a data, not astrology, star

Griffith U is rightly proud of Bela Stantic, who did what the pollsters didn’t – analysed the data and correctly predicted the federal election result.

Professor Stantic is head of the School of Information and Communication Technology and a whiz at big data analysis – he predicted Trump’s win and Brexit, by “crunching millions of Tweets, that not only analysed the figures broadly but also the underlying targets and sentiment within each one.

So what possessed Griffith U to headline their Stantic profile, “Nostradamus of the 21st Century” ? Data analysis isn’t astrology.

Study options students want

Many aren’t getting courses delivered anywhere anytime and by their pick of platforms

A big majority of Australian students surveyed say it is either important or very important to be able to access course content, anywhere, anytime and by any IT means (for example) phone, tablet, pc, smart TV. But 40 per cent of them don’t know if their university uses AI, virtual reality and the internet of things.  Perhaps not surprising, given 58 per cent of them are on campus for all course content, delivered in lectures and tutes and just 26 per cent say technology innovation in their course is “innovative and progressive.” That’s not what they want, with nearly 60 per cent saying they would like to study either entirely on-line or via blended learning.

The results are in a survey for Technology One, “Australia’s largest enterprise software as a service” company.

“Students expect ubiquitous, any-time, anywhere access to university content the same way we now consume on-demand entertainment like Netflix or Spotify. It’s about instant access when and where it suits the individual, and in bites of ‘snackable study’ or bouts of ‘study streaming’,” Technology One’s Peter Nikoletatos says.

And won’t that go down well with academics who still think the in-person lecture without props is the alpha and omega of university education.

But there’s another stat in the survey that should alarm them more. When asked, “would you attend multiple universities at one time if subjects from different universities could be credited toward a single degree,” 49 per cent said yes.

Better outcomes from different histories

“The new field of computing might learn from the ethics of the old field of history, and the other way around,” suggests Marnie Hughes Warrington

The past can be a whole bunch of foreign countries, demonstrated by the popularity of counterfactual novels, Nazis beat Britain in 1940, the Confederacy win the Civil War. (There is a novel where Boers with a time machine equip the Army of Northern Virginia with automatic weapons).

But what interests ANU professor Hughes Warrington is the way creating alternative-past paths can create real opportunities for the unjustly disadvantaged.

“Computer scientists are increasingly interested in this kind of thinking for the design of recommendation systems. They want to know whether single or multiple ‘what ifs’ can be inserted in decision chains to produce fairer online outcomes for individuals and groups who have traditionally been disadvantaged by the digital world,” she writes.

This new essay is thinking-aloud for her major project on the interface between history and IT and the potentials and applications of AI.

Big week for appointments and achievements


University of Newcastle announces Michael Dowzer became acting university secretary yesterday. He replaces deputy chancellor Dianne Allen who was previously acting in place of David Cantrick-Brooks, who is in dispute with management and on leave.

Ronika Power wins the 2019 Crawford Medal from the Australian Academy of the Humanities. Associate Professor Power is a bioarchaeologist at Macquarie U.

Matt Salier joins RMIT Activator,  the university’s “home of entrepreneurship.” He moves from Flinders U’s New Ventures Institute.

This week

Melanie Bagg is incoming CEO of the National Youth Science Forum. She moves next month from the Australian Academy of Science where she is comms director. Dr Bagg is replaced at AAS by Paul Richards, who steps up from digital strategist there.

At the University of Melbourne,  Deborah Cheetham is awarded the Sir Bernard Heinz award for her contribution to music.  Ms Cheetham is an opera singer and a composer, she is a Yorta Yorta woman.

Former South Australian premier Jay Weatherill joins the University of South Australia as an industry professor to teach its MBA. So does Christopher Pyne who will teach in the same programme,  perhaps including inelasticity of demand for citrus products (at 1.05)

The Australian Market and Social Research Organisation has established an inquiry into opinion poll performance in the federal election. There is an advisory board, including Ian McAllister (ANU) and a panel which will do the inquiring, Murray Goot (Macquarie U) Jill Sheppard (ANU), Patrick Sturgiss (London School of Economics) are members. There are also members from the US, where they know a bit about polls getting it wrong, including Patrick Moynihan, from the utterly admirable Pew Research Centre.

Sabina Shugg is appointed director of Curtin U’s WA School of Mines. Ms Shugg moves from director of the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mining Innovation Hub. She takes over following a review of the school and the university retaining mining education expert David Brereton, (ex Uni Queensland) to develop a new curriculum, (CMM April 18).

UNSW dean of built environment Helen Lochead receives the presidential medal from the American Institute of Architects. Professor Lochead is the new national president of the Australian Institute of Architects.

Jennifer Stow (Uni Queensland) is elected associate member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation. Associate membership is the category for researchers ex-Europe. UQ says she is the seventh Australia to ever join.

Former South Australia Chief Scientist Leanna Reed joins the board of Uni Seed. Dr Reed is chair and CEO of the Cooperative Research Centre for Cell Therapy Manufacturing.  Uni Seed is a JV of the universities of Sydney, Melbourne, Queensland, plus UNSW and CSIRO.

Jacqui True (Monash U) receives the Feminist Theory & Gender Studies section of the International Studies Association’s 2020 eminent scholar award.

Peter Harrison (Uni Queensland) is elected a member of the International Academy of the History of Science. Professor Harrison is director of the university’s Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities.

The Independent Higher Education Association of Australia has new board leaders and members, (it’s the lobby formally known as the Council of Private Higher Education). Alan Finch (Bond U) is the new chair. Gabriela Rodriguez, (Academies Australasia Group) is deputy. Jo Anthonysz, (Navitas) James Adonopolous (Kaplan Business School) also join the board.

Uni Queensland’s Institute for Social Science Research reports two new professorial hires; Lisa McDaid joins from social and public health science at the University of Glasgow and Rhema Vaithianathan, who works on big data and machine learning “for social good,” moves from Auckland University of Technology.

Sarah Maddison (Uni Melbourne) reports she is becoming deputy dean of its arts faculty.

Bob Carr has a three-year appointment at UTS as a professor of industry, “focusing on business and climate change.” The former NSW premier and Australian foreign minister was previously director of the university’s Australia-China Relations Institute.

The American Society of Criminology awards its Jerry Lee lifetime achievement award in experimental criminology to Uni Queensland’s Lorraine Mazerolle.