Watch out Malcolm

“More than two centuries after Australia’s infamous Rum Rebellion, a University of Queensland chemical engineering and business graduate has started a new revolution in rum distillation,” UoQ media Friday. Is UoQ contemplating a coup d’état? Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh (yes that’s his middle name) Turnbull beware.

UniMelb unionists claim a win

National Tertiary Education Union leaders at the University of Melbourne are claiming a win for Wednesday’s stop work, saying management improved its enterprise bargaining offer the next day. NTEU branch president Steve Adams and colleagues say the university agreed to 1725 working hours ceiling for academics and for their “workloads to be consistent with appropriate work-life balance, health and safety and the reasonable expectations of the position.”

The union says it still wants “similar enforceable workload regulation for professional staff.

Other outstanding issues include management’s proposal for separate academic and professional staff agreements which the union opposes and the NTEU’s claim that management wants nopositive commitment to intellectual freedom,” – which UniMelbourne says is not correct.

The human touch

QUT announces the first anniversary for its on-line, open-access Robot Academy. CMM asked what the top ten topics are and QUT kindly supplied a list; robotic motion, intro to robotics, robotic arms, 2D geometry, getting images into a computer, velocity kinematics in 2D, robotic vision, colour, 3D geometry and image processing. Thanks to the QUT person, CMM assumes it was a human emailing, who assisted.

McMaster makes it 26 for U21

McMaster University in Ontario is joining the Universitas 21 Group, becoming the 26th member. The move was announced Friday at the U21 conference in Melbourne. McMaster is the second Canadian member, joining the University of British Columbia.

McMaster is a public, research intensive institution, which placed 66th in last year’s Academic Ranking of World Universities. This puts it 7th in the U21 group, behind U Edinburgh, U British Columbia, Uni Maryland, UniMelb, Uni Queensland and U Zurich.


Unis line up with Labor

University lobbies have locked in with Labor, backing the Opposition’s $9bn across ten-years commitment to restore demand driven funding.

Peak body Universities Australia described the Opposition’s policy as; “a win for fairness, productivity, the national economy and student cohesion.”

“We applaud the clear recommitment by Labor to the demand-driven system – which is strongly supported by Australian universities as a key to opportunity and national prosperity,” UA president and Monash University VC Margaret Gardner said.

The Group of Eight was equally adamant in backing Labor, welcoming; “the federal opposition’s commitment to put post-secondary education front and centre of our nation’s future with a commitment to ensuring our universities remain accessible to all who have the ability and dedication.”

“The Demand Driven System (DDS) has to date been a success for Australia in opening up a university education to a large proportion of school leavers,” Executive Director Vicki Thomson said.

The Innovative Research University group agreed;

“The commitment from the Australian Labor Party to fund all Australians seeking undergraduate university education, with similar commitments to ensure access to vocational education, provides a clear basis for Australians to achieve this. It marks a clear contrast with the government’s position, driven by its previous fiscal challenge, that funding for higher education be constrained to 2017 levels. With the number of school leavers set to grow for the next decade that simply means more eligible Australians will miss out on the education they need,” Innovative Research Universities executive director Conor King, said Friday.

“The coming election will decide whether we return to open enrolment by demand or return to ministerial decisions university by university on numbers,” Mr King separately stated.

The unaligned Australian Catholic University also backed Labor’s announcement with VC Greg Craven saying, “the hundreds of thousands of graduates who have benefitted from the opportunities opened up by the demand-driven system are the legacy of the far-sighted decision of the previous Labor government. We are pleased that Labor leader Mr Shorten and (deputy) Ms Plibersek have recognised the immense social and economic value of this legacy and have chosen to embrace it as their own.”

HEA strikes the Gong twice

The UK Higher Education Academy has announced the short-list for its 2018 global teaching excellence award. The 17 finalists include, Charles Sturt U, UNSW and, for the second year running, the University of Wollongong.

Dolt of the day

Is CMM. Friday’s email edition reported David Schoeman, Tim Smith and Patrick Nunn are selected to work on the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change’s. Which is right, what was got wrong was stating they are at Southern Cross University when in fact they are at University of the Sunshine Coast. How did it happen, you ask? Perhaps stupidity, maybe carelessness, probably both, CMM replies.

The 2018 university teaching awards: tight for time and not enough cash

When the feds shut down the Office of Learning and Teaching a couple of budgets back, Universities Australia got the job of running the awards for university teaching. But things have not gone well.  Mike Teece from UA has written to academics in the Promoting Excellence Network advising the schedule for the 2018 awards is “seriously delayed.” “As you will recall, a serious mix-up within the bureaucracy has delayed provision of government funding allocated in last year’s budget,” he states.

But this appears to be only part of the problem; Mr Teece explains how UA has worked with “experienced people” in the Department of Education and Training and across the sector to develop “indicative costings” for the 2018 awards but due to the “limited funding provided” there will have to be fewer award categories and no prize money.

“Even with these savings, UA cannot deliver a high-quality awards programme in 2018 that will adequately recognise excellent teaching and maintain the reputation of the awards.”

UA has asked the government for “a modest amount of extra funding,” which also involves of further delay.

Staff cuts coming at UNSW

Student services staff at UNSW are bracing for a new structure announcement, expected tomorrow. The move is part of management’s 2025 plan, designed to “change and future-proof” service delivery. There are suggestions that up to 50 existing jobs are set to go. The university did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

A ranking to rely on: Universitas 21 picks the worldbeaters

Universitas 21 has  released its annual ranking of national higher education systems which puts the US in top spot, with European countries and the UK in the next six spots. Canada is eighth, Singapore is ninth and Australia tenth.

The ranking is based on an evaluation of national systems on 24 attributes by Ross Williams and Anne Leahy from UniMelbourne’s Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. While the ranking results are somewhat similar to those used by the commercial providers, Williams and Leahy build theirs on detailed analyses of variables, which they explain in detail.

Overall rankings are:

Resources (20 per cent of weighting): “A necessary condition for a well-performing higher education system is that it is adequately resourced, whether by government or the private sector.” The world’s first five are, Switzerland, Sweden, Singapore, Denmark and Canada. The US is sixth and Australia is 14th, behind Hong Kong and ahead of Belgium.

Environment (20 per cent). “For a quality higher education system, institutions need considerable financial autonomy, but there also needs to be appropriate diversity, competition between institutions and external monitoring of performance. The US leads from Australia in second place and New Zealand in third, followed by Singapore and Finland.

Connectivity (20 per cent): “The worth of a national higher education system is enhanced if it is well connected with the rest of the nation’s society and is linked internationally in education and research.” The top five are European countries and the UK, with New Zealand sixth. The US is 11th and Australia 14th.

Output: (40 per cent): This covers, research output and its impact, “student throughput,” the graduates and researchers in the country, quality of best universities, and graduate employability. The first five are the US, UK, Australia, Switzerland and Denmark.

Overall this year’s order is largely unchanged from 2017, as the authors explain, “systems evolve slowly over time.”  However, what is lost on some swings may not always be made up on the roundabouts. The authors report Australia’s 14th place for resources is due in part to rating 41st in the world for government expenditure, “although the official data do not reflect the full cost of the student loan scheme.”  But total public and private expenditure rates Australia 8th for spending as a share of GDP, up from 17th the previous year, as enrolments expanded. Guess which stat will get quoted in the next funding debate.

Ratings agency QS has also released its national system rankings, which comes up with a broadly similar result albeit on a less complex inputs. The US is the worldwide number one, followed by the UK, Australia, Germany, Canada, France and the Netherlands.  China, South Korea and Japan are in eighth, ninth and tenth places.

 Perth-time and the living aint easy

“Living is not as easy in Perth as it could be,” UWA reports liveability in research. Just what recruiters for the state’s not especially strong international education industry do not want to hear.

ACPET abandoned

Last week was a shocker for private VET trainers and those to come will be no better. Training in general did not fare well in the budget, which alarmed Australian Council for Private and Education Training head Rod Camm saying the government was sticking with a policy that had not enrolled a single student since the last budget. And he warned against Labor’s commitment to TAFE, including 100 000 fee-free places in public colleges, pointing to the debacle in South Australia, where state system courses registrations were cancelled by the national regulator. “In South Australia, we saw what can happen when governments start quarantining programs and funding to prop-up TAFEs,” he said.

Fair points but not ones anybody in government or opposition will acknowledge while private trainers continue to be collectively, and unfairly, blamed for the VET FEE HELP catastrophe.

Appointments, achievements

Petroleum engineer Stefan Igauer joins Edith Cowan U as a professorial research fellow. He is the 17th of a planned 20 appointments to increase the university’s research performance, announced in 2015,  CMM, August 12 2015.

CSIRO astronomer Ron Ekers and David Penny, a bioscientist at Massey U are elected foreign associates of the US National Academy of Sciences.

Prolific political commentator Peter van Onselen is joining Griffith University’s business school as a part-time academic in politics and policy. He continues as a professor of politics at UWA.