Need to know

Universities Australia wants to know what educators tell international students before they get here

The peak body is surveying internationals on what their provider told them about what to expect when they got here. The feds are funding UA to identify present and potential best practise on pre-departure information.  The survey started Monday.

CRC guidelines not good enough

On Tuesday Karen Andrews announced CRC Round 21 Guidelines – today Kim Carr said they could change

It was the third cooperative research centre announcement Ms Andrews has made since the election was called – but all signed off before caretaker kicked in. “The CRC brief was approved before caretaker. The opening of a grant program is business as usual,” she told the complaining Kim Carr yesterday.

This was not enough for the Labor research spokesman. “In ordinary circumstances this would be a routine matter, but in the middle of a federal election campaign when the caretaker conventions apply, this is not appropriate,” he said.

But there is policy as well as politics in the timing. The government is not keen on public-good cooperative research centres, which will not likely get-up under the existing guidelines. But Senator Carr is, so yesterday he announced that if Labor is elected the guidelines will change “to include commitments to public-good research.”

Ranking research excellently: it depends on who, and how, you ask

Frank Larkins isn’t alone in wondering why STEM research performance improved so much more than HASS in the newest research ranking

To understand what happened in the Australian Research Council’s recent ERA ranking we need to see the methodology (CMM yesterday), says Professor Larkins, from the University of Melbourne’s L H Martin Institute.

Learned readers agree. Although some suggest the answer is already out there, that HASS research fields that rely on peer-review are disadvantaged straight-up, compared to the sciences.

As an LR points out, information and computing science is the two digit FOR which rates worse and it is the only STEM discipline that is peer-reviewed. Similarly, psychology and cognitive science does well among HASS subjectsit’s citation based.

Perhaps HASS should rely more on research citations, although this would not go down well with disciplines where non-traditional research outputs can make up 30 per cent of an Excellence in Research for Australia submission. And it would not deal with the ups and downs, especially the downs, that occur in disciplines where HASS researchers assess their peers.

Charles Sturt U new logo goes live

And it comes with its own explanation

Charles Sturt U’s new logo is out, appearing yesterday on the Bathurst campus gate. It’s three panels with solid black (or red) under white straight, curving and inverted lines in a shield.

Apparently, “the lines at the top of the logo represent the rivers and flowing landscapes of our regional locations. Reflected in the bottom of the logo are lines representing wheat – a nod to our agricultural history – and books in respect of our pursuit of knowledge.”

“This project is so much more than a new logo and look, it marks a reset point as Charles Sturt U celebrates 30 years as a university and delivers against a new university strategy, says Chief Marketing Officer Shawn Walker.  Which is good, most enduring brand imagery does not come with an explanatory text.

Who keeps the research-kit at WSU

Union and management at Western Sydney U are not agreeing to disagree over managing science infrastructure

The university wants professional staff to exclusively manage kit across all campuses, instead of the existing arrangement where there is a mix of professional and academic WSU-ers. “The focus of the central research facilities is to facilitate research and increase the capability of all our relevant researchers not for the centralised research facility managers to be the researchers themselves,” management tells staff.

While only seven continuing and ten fixed term positions are effected the proposal is alarming some users of equipment – with suggestions that a single management model across all facilities will not work well, and that hybrid models of academic and professional staff managing centres can be preferable

The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union is now said to be getting involved, with it, HR and staff set to meet.

The unis where 70 per cent of workers worry about their jobs

All but one Victorian universities rely on the precariat   

The Victorian Government has required universities to identify the employment status of staff in annual reports. An analysis of the reports by the National Tertiary Education Union shows over 70 per cent of all employees are fixed term or casuals at Monash U, Melbourne U and La Trobe U.

The figures for Deakin U, RMIT, Swinburne U and Victoria U are all above 60 per cent. Only Federation U employs a big majority, just under 70 per cent, of permanent staff. And there are significantly more women than men in the precariat at every university, excepting Swinburne U and RMIT.

“It’s about what is happening over a period of time –effecting the whole of the sector,” NTEU federal president Alison Barnes said yesterday.

Back in 2008 Rob Castle, then DVC A at the University of Wollongong told CMM (in another incarnation), “in many ways the lifestyle of the traditional teaching (and) research academic is totally dependent on the contribution of sessional staff, in the way that Victorian middle-class lifestyles were dependent on the domestic servant.” (CMM September 12 2014).  Of-course, there are not as many securely employed teaching-research staff now as there where back then.

Dolt of the day

In yesterday’s issue CMM got his Tims mixed up. The author of the new essay on the creation of HECS in the new ANUP collection of policy essays is Timothy Higgins.

Micro-trainers, major achievers

CMM’s who-knew correspondent reports there is a Certificate IV in embalming

The news is in a report from the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education and Training on small training providers, what they do and why we need them.

The 1130 small and stable (fewer than 100 students, consistent over three years), account for 24 per cent of providers but less than 1 per cent of students, but they meet a market need.

Patrick Korbel and Kristen Osborne find the only training suppliers which match stable small providers as a class for range of national training package qualifications and accredited courses are TAFE institutes and dual-sector universities.

“This suggests it may be difficult, or uneconomical, to replicate the same breadth of delivery by means of a single large provider … that stable small providers contribute to a diverse VET system by providing choice for students who may not otherwise be able to access their preferred training from a larger provider,” they write.

Wonder what the micro-credentials future for super-specialist skills-training might look like? Have a look at small training providers, like the one teaching a Cert Four in life coaching and the college that provides a diploma in professional pilates instruction.

“Stable small providers may be providing training in areas that are not commercially viable or practical for stable large providers. The operators of these stable small providers may be offering and leveraging their own industry experience and expertise in these ‘thin markets,’” Korbel and Osborne suggest.

Appointments, achievements

La Trobe U’s Jenny Graves is elected a foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences. Professor Graves won the 2017 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for her work on genomics in animal biology, ecology and conservation.

Carolyn Varley is leaving her corporate comms leadership position at the University of Queensland – she is moving to the Queensland Mental Health Commission. Kim Lyell will act at Uni Queensland – taking interim charge of what CMM rates as one of the country’s top five university media teams.