Main Edition | 9 November 2012 | Issue no. 98
Coalition finance shadow Andrew Robb says he is appalled at the amount of time established researchers have to spend simply applying for grants and has undertaken that a future Coalition government will cut red tape around research funding. Robb also says there has been “considerable waste of grant resources” under Labor, with many projects supported by the Australian Research Council looking to be of limited value. One $210,000 project from last year’s grant round criticised by Robb was titled “Investigation of the early history of the moon”, a biochemistry project on planet formation.
Measuring the economic impact and other flow-on effects will be part of a future national research audit, says Australian Research Council CEO Aidan Byrne. A month before the release of the second research quality audit (Excellence in Research for Australia), Byrne says that while the initiative is rigorous in measuring academic excellence, “it’s not the only thing that we are able to measure, or indeed, ought to measure for universities”.
Universities keen to sign up to a massive open online course, or MOOC, may face serious copyright restrictions that the sector is only now starting to grapple with. Under copyright law, the millions of dollars worth of third-party content that universities have paid licences for may only be able to be supplied to formally enrolled students. That would likely exclude students signing up for a free course on a MOOC. According to Derek Whitehead, director of information resources at Swinburne University and chair of the copyright advisory committee at the Council of Australian University Librarians.
Staff at Deakin University are reporting that they have been left to struggle with computer problems and dealing with such technology as video-conferencing following a restructure of information technology services, as the university begins to launch itself into the digital learning “cloud”, making IT knowledge and skills even more critical.
The Australian Standards and Quality Agency (ASQA), the national VET regulator, says its “blitz” on mandatory safety training for construction workers signals the start of a new Tax Office-style approach of thematic audits.ASQA’s chief commissioner Chris Robinson says the “strategic review” of entry-level occupational health and safety training for people working on building sites – known as “white card” training – would be the first of three such blitzes this financial year. The others are aged and community care training, which has attracted scathing criticism over fast-tracked courses – leading the Productivity Commission to call for a national audit – and inappropriate marketing by registered colleges.
Students and staff want universities to follow Melbourne University’s lead and condemn proposed laws that strip their right to a place on Victorian university governing councils. University councils and TAFE boards must include elected student and staff representatives under present rules. But Higher Education Minister Peter Hall says they will need to have the “necessary skills and experience” before they could sit on their institutes’ governing bodies under the proposed rules.
8 November 2012 | Australian universities will receive almost $360 million in Australian Research Council funding for 1014 research programs. Funding of $3,2 million is being provided to establish a National Indigenous Research and Knowledges at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), in partnership with other Australian universities and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)….[Continue reading]…
5 November 2012 | The agreement announced in March to secure the future of the Australian Synchrotron through a $100 million, four-year funding arrangement has been formally signed off by the Australian and Victorian governments. Under the deal the Synchnotron will become a “national” facility under the aegis of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)….[Continue reading]…
5 November 2012 | Australia’s first university subject to be offered online for free as a massive open online course, or MOOC, the University of NSW Computing I course, has attracted 2300 enrolees. Nearly 70% are from Australia, with 7% from the US and 3% from each of the UK and India….[Continue reading]…
Final Report of the Queensland Skills An Training Taskforce
8 November 2012
The final report of the Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce, established in June to advise the government on reform of the VET sector, differs little from its interim report in September. It recommends a radical overhaul of industrial arrangements, and the closure of 38 of the state’s 82 TAFE campuses. The final report does, however, propose a timetable for transition to full contestability for public funding, beginning 1 July 2013 on a limited basis, with full implementation from 1 July 2014. The Taskforce recommends that the actual amount of contestable funding be subject to “finalising the cost of the TAFE owner’s base cost”, which the Taskforce describes as “the ‘non-market’ services of the public provider”, presumably something like the $190 million in comprehensive service funding the Victorian government has cut from its TAFE system.
In this quite lengthy video interview, The Australian’s Julie Hare and John Ross express a little cynicism about the nature of the Queensland Taskforce process (“of industry, by industry, for industry”), which, like the direction of “skills reform” throughout Australia, tends to overlook the broader social, community and education purposes of VET. Ross suggests that there’s a lot about skills reform that is not only counter intuitive but likely to be counterproductive and that much of it stands at odds with government policies in respect of creating an integrated tertiary sector and enhancing social inclusion .
27 February-1 March 2013
National Convention Centre Canberra
Conference program and more information at
Major barriers still stand in the way of Australian universities giving students credit for completing Massive Open Online Courses say local analysts, despite Coursera signing up Los Angeles-based Antioch University under a for-credit licensing deal. The comments come as Deakin University told The Australian it would launch its own MOOC as an extension to its online strategy, which could include non-Deakin material and an international partner. Deakin joins the University of Melbourne, University of Queensland, University of Western Australia, La Trobe and the University of NSW in embracing open online courses.
With a spotlight on on the impact of research, here’s some research that took nearly forty years to yield a result.
No longer will it be dismissed as “the dud hormone”. As of today a synthetic version of relaxin — a hormone first described in 1929 — is the key ingredient in a new class of medicine for acute heart failure that has been shown to improve symptoms and reduce deaths among sufferers.
Now retired, Professor Tregear, 71, began his relaxin research in Melbourne in 1975. And while he knew the hormone was important, it took decades to prove it.
“There was always people asking ‘why are we still working on relaxin, it doesn’t do anything’,” he said.
With patience and perseverance, Professor Tregear and his Howard Florey Institute colleagues set about establishing the chemistry and biology of relaxin, a member of the insulin family. They were the first to isolate the genes that code relaxin and the first to make it artificially, allowing scientists to explore it.
This Super Trade Mission will allow participants to gain a first hand understanding of key markets in the region, with the opportunity to showcase products and forge new connections with potential qualified customers, business partners and investors. One key focus of the mission will be on vocational education and training.
They know where you live, they know what you think: Obama’s winning edge as data replaces instinct
From the very beginning, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina promised a totally different, metric-driven kind of campaign in which politics was the goal but political instincts might not be the means. “We are going to measure every single thing in this campaign,” he said after taking the job. He hired an analytics department five times as large as that of the 2008 operation, with an official “chief scientist” for the Chicago headquarters named Rayid Ghani, who in a previous life crunched huge data sets to, among other things, maximize the efficiency of supermarket sales promotions.
Around the office, data-mining experiments were given mysterious code names such as Narwhal and Dreamcatcher. The team even worked at a remove from the rest of the campaign staff, setting up shop in a windowless room at the north end of the vast headquarters office. The “scientists” created regular briefings on their work for the President and top aides in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, but public details were in short supply as the campaign guarded what it believed to be its biggest institutional advantage over Mitt Romney’s campaign: its data.
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Sector news sources
Campus Review 15 October 2012.
TAFE Directors Australia Newsletter 15 October 2012.
Australian Financial Review supplement15 October 2012.
ATN In Profile October 2012.
Group of 8 Update October 2012.