The Week What Was (29 February)

In breaking news, Curtin U announces what was the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education is now the Australian Centre for Student Equity and Success.


Jason Clare has delivered for university managements, with State Ministers agreeing to a Student Ombudsman with power to investigate complaints and resolves disputes, including sexual, assault, harassment and violence. The announcement is pretty much as outlined last November when Mr Clare took control of the issue, which previous Universities Australia management handled badly on behalf of members. In September the report of a  Senate committee inquiring into “current and proposed sexual consent laws” referred (p 155) to UA work on a comms campaign, as a  “ramshackle process and inferior result (which) should be an embarrassment to the university sector; especially given the serious nature of the problem”

The question is whether the extensive authority of the Ombudsman proposed last year  (Future Campus November 22) will be as comprehensive in the legislation, to come.


Want to know what will replace Excellence in Research for Australia as we knew it?

Here’s a clue: The Australian Research Council has a tender out for, “delivering precise metadata and citation information across various research outputs, alongside specialised analytical services.”

to what purpose, pray?: “these offerings will assist in the evaluation and improvement of research quality within Australia’s higher education sector”

and function?: “the selected service providers will support a forthcoming government programme, details of which will be specified at a later date.

and when?:  be a while yet. Project starts July 1”

who could do it: Anybody with access to Clarivate or Web of Science data. Or Curtin U’s Open Knowledge Initiative. As reported in Future Campus, it has a new comprehensive research measurement model based on open source data. This might make for a hard-sell. Despite criticism of for-profit publishers’ business model, (socialise the writing and editing, privatise the profits) the journals that really rate for citations and reputation are theirs. It is hard to see the not-especially innovative ARC taking on the establishment. Then again COKI is an outstanding innovator and if interested will be on to this.


Our What a Surprise! Correspondent reports Emily Denniss (Deakin U) and colleagues studied nutrition information posted by Australian Instagram influencers to find “a large proportion” are less than great for quality and accuracy. Brand comms are worst.


Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic was trialling lines for the next election in his speech to industry lobby Quantum Australia. “In our quantum strategy is the seed of an idea that cynics roll their eyes at. That the future is happening here, not somewhere else. Quantum technologies are the future of made in Australia.”

Admirable optimism, at least until the demands for subsidies start but will the electorate sign on?  Voters certainly didn’t when Prime Minister Turnbull talked up tech, which voters thought sounded like talking down jobs – the innovation agenda disappeared after Mr Turnbull took a hammering in the 2016 election.

But when Mr Husic spruiks science he ties it to “secure, well-paid jobs in growing industries.”


Education Ministers have banned early offers of undergraduate places this year and next, ahead of a “national framework (to) “improve transparency in early offers and admissions” for 2027.

“Evidence suggests that early offers can undermine learning outcomes, contribute to students disengaging from school and unfairly impact students from disadvantaged backgrounds” is the reason.

Good-o although back in November Education Minister Jason Clare mentioned, “some universities tell me they are worried about other universities poaching their best and brightest.”


Uni Tasmania could be in trouble with its plan to fund its relocation to the CBD by selling the Sandy Bay campus. The Liberal Party is making it an issue in the present state election campaign. A party announcement Tuesday committed a majority Liberal Government to amending the university act so that the present campus cannot be sold without “explicit support” in both chambers of the state parliament. While the statement adds the party “respects the right of the university to establish new facilities in the Hobart CBD, and elsewhere if they wish,” this rather ignores how to fund the move, which is well underway, unopposed by the outgoing Liberal Government. The Libs must really need votes in Hobart, where the move has long been opposed by a vocal community lobby. 

But the chances of the Liberals having a majority in the lower house are not strong and both they and Labor have ruled out governing with the Greens. The university and its opponents will need to make-nice with independents. 


The budget submission from the lobby for Cooperative Research Centres calls for 3 per cent of GDP for research and development and a 20 per cent R&D “tax collaboration premium” which may be about businesses that claim the deduction working with public sector research agencies. No harm in asking. Cooperative Research Australia also calls for funding for “a guide to successful industry-research collaboration, translation and commercialisation” based on the experience of the programme. This is an excellent idea – government research commercialisation blueprints are often jargon- rich and practicality poor (have a look at the previous government’s University Research Commercialisation Plan ). In contrast, a study based on the lived experience of 400 plus CRCs and CRCPs, over the programme life could demonstrate how projects can and cannot be brought to market.


Uni Tasmania announces a Pathways to Politics program, the bi-partisan scheme to prepare women for running for office, created by the Trawalla Foundation.  Uni Melbourne hosted the first, starting in 2016, others include Uni Adelaide, Uni Canberra and QUT.


Universities Australia suggests the proposed national skills passport is a good idea, to “bridge the gap between education and industry, making the labour market more efficient and responsive to changing skill demands.” And its submission on creating one now underway points to strengths of the existing My equals platform, created by a partnership of universities and managed by Higher Education Services, a UA subsidiary. “My eQuals platform has had 100 per cent success in validating and securing its digital credentials for Higher Education providers and some VET providers in Australia and overseas (over 90 per cent of students across the tertiary education sector use My eQuals upon graduation nowadays)”

Perhaps UA felt the need to announce this achievement – what with My eQuals not getting a mention  in the Department of Education discussion paper on the skills passport (Future Campus January 30) – which seems strange, given it works.



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