The Week that Was

Swinburne U spruiked available experts on big yarns the other day with, “Melbourne’s overnight space junk” and “Do I have the right bike helmet?”  The latter did not address protection from the former.

Australian Catholic U is offering a Masters of Liberal Arts in Western Civilisation – supported by the Ramsay Centre for WC, which funds ACU’s UG degree in the same. Yes, the Ramsay Centre, which had trouble giving away $150m over eight years to fund UG programmes.  In the end ACU, Uni Queensland and Uni Wollongong managements accepted the cash over loud protests from staff who opposed the idea of such courses. But not as vocal as the expressed dislike from many at ANU and Uni Sydney – where managements found themselves in the extraordinary position of not accepting buckets of offered money.  Ramsay CWC is funding ten scholarships to cover the $48 000 cost of the 18 month masters at Australian Catholic U, which covers “literature, music, philosophy and works of art that have achieved the status of ‘classics’ within the western world.”

The Australian Research Council partners with the Research on Research Institute, which works on research systems and decision-making. Partners include Euro, US and UK funding agencies and the universities of Leiden and Sheffield, which established it in 2019. Value for money? Who knows, Future Campus asked what the ARC is kicking in and was told there is a “financial contribution and in-kind participation in projects and working groups,” but not the cost.

Research lobbies are responding slowly and separately to the Accord Interim Report which the Australian Institute of Physics calls, “a missed opportunity to recommend the real changes that are needed to secure Australia’s future.” AIP acknowledges the Accord mentions increasing investment in the Australian Research Council, increasing PhD stipend rate, and moving the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy  to “sustainable ongoing funding.” But overall, “the failure to recommend a visionary scale-up of Australia’s research sector, to drive stronger job creation, is a significant missed opportunity.”

So is the apparent inability of research lobbies to combine to campaign – if they don’t, it is hard to see how why what Professor O’Kane and Accord colleagues will find what they have so far missed.

It’s a point Science and Technology Australia gets – launching yesterday a new survey on  the state of science from manufacturer 3M (“science applied to life), based on 1000 respondent surveys in each of 17 countries. The Australian edition reports big majorities recognising the connection between innovation in science and their own lives.

Edith Cowan U VC Steve Chapman will leave in 12 months. He joined from Heriott-Watt U in Edinburgh in April ’15.

The science establishment is rallying around the flag. Last week Chief Scientist Cathy Foley published an explanation of scientific method, as a way of dealing with “unfounded questions about trust in a particular research outcome” (Future Campus, HERE ). She was followed by the Academy of Science which published an explainer, “how does science work” accompanied by a tweet stating it “stands behind” Uni Sydney virologist Edward Holmes, “and his rigorous approach to scientific inquiry.” There was no mention of why this was needed but the previous issue of the Weekend Australian published a long piece by Shari Markson on the origins of Covid-19 which mentioned Professor Holmes. Ms Markson has previously criticised him at length.

The panel advising ministers on the next school funding agreement has a discussion paper which includes a view on AI in teaching. “High-quality ‘edtech’, when used in the right environment, can improve outcomes for disadvantaged students through better supporting teachers, earlier diagnosis of learning needs, and greater access to personalised learning.”

A whole new dimension to “teacher’s aid.”

Uni Newcastle academic and professional staff have separately backed new enterprise agreements, both by 90 per cent margins of those voting. This ends negotiations that rate high on the Sydney scale (named for Uni Sydney which sets the standard for bitter bargaining that goes on for years). In the end Uni Newcastle management and the National Tertiary Education Union reached agreement after nearly two years of talking when the Fair Work Commission got involved in negotiations – which is also what happened in talks for the previous, 2018, deal.

Western Sydney U launched a Sydney suburban study hub on the weekend, in Fairfield  – which suits the Commonwealth’s plan for such in “outer urban areas” because “the cost of moving closer to a campus or a long and expensive commute is a major barrier to study.” Two cabinet ministers, both local members, were at the launch, Jason Clare and Chris Bowen. WSU in Fairfield is an hour by public transport from its Bankstown Campus and 30 minutes from the one at Liverpool.



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