The Australian | 30 April 2013
In a speech at Monash University, opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne says a Coalition government will consider introducing a preliminary “expression of interest” stage in which weaker research grant applicants would be culled before being fully assessed. It also proposes to reduce churn by lengthening the period of more grants from three year to five years.
A survey last year by Queensland University of Technology of 285 applicants for National Health and Medical Council (NHMRC) research funding reveals applicants spent an average 34 working days writing an application, which it was suggested adds up to an estimated cost in salaries of $66 million and an astonishing 550 work “years” in research time.
On the basis of such concerns, Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt ramped up campaign for a review of the research granting system and its reliance on time-consuming peer review of projects, which he describes as questionable and cumbersome.
Pyne also proposes to encourage universities to “specialise”, with some universities encouraged to focus more on research and others to focus on teaching in a move that challenges views in the sector that research is critical to good teaching.
There is a view within the higher education sector that research is critical to the maintenance of the quality of learning and teaching by informing teaching; you can’t have one without the other. Nevertheless, I believe there would be real benefits if government policy encouraged some universities to maximise their opportunities for research and for others to focus more on teaching.
We must give universities more freedom to focus on what they are good at, and to provide their communities with the services they need. If that means that some universities want to focus significantly more on teaching, then they should confidently do so.
One size does not fit all