There was speculation after the announcement of Tony Abbott’s ministry early in the week as to who would be handling VET matters within the education portfolio. The VET side of the tertiary sector has actually landed in the lap of former and once more industry minister Ian McFarlane, along with science and research. It’s a curious decision to separate the tertiary sector in that way, although not without precedent: VET was located in the business portfolio in Victoria in 2006 but reunited with education by the incoming Baillieu government in 2010….[ READ MORE ]….
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Does it matter that, for the first time, more of less, in over 80 years that Australia doesn’t have a specifically designated “minister for science”? Probably not a lot: the highest profile science minister in that whole time was former quiz master Barry Jones who, despite his cleverness and celebrity, had next to no clout in the Labor government of the 1980s/90s. He is perhaps best remembered for the “cadastre” – a spaghetti and meatballs depiction of the ”knowledge nation” he devised for Labor leader Kim Beazley in 1999, when Jones himself was no longer in Parliament. Rod Lamberts and Will J Grant argue that science certainly needs a strong advocate in cabinet, someone to stand up and argue in for long term strategic investment in our scientific capacity. Perhaps industry minister Ian McFarlane will prove such an advocate, perhaps he won’t. But we have to be careful of jumping to the conclusion that, just because there isn’t a minister with the word science in their title, science won’t be taken seriously … or will be taken any less seriously than it already was….[ READ MORE]….
La Trobe vice-chancellor John Dewar has warned that the university is overdue for a “root-and-branch” crackdown on costs, having systematically avoided addressing funding issues for the past 10-15 years. La Trobe is behind its growth target by about 1200 full-time students, amounting to a revenue shortfall of up to $25m by 2015 and an overall deficit of $65 m. There are fears that measures to address the deficit could cost upwards of 300 jobs….[ READ MORE ]….
The number of Victorian students enrolling in bachelor degrees at TAFEs instead of universities has more than doubled, from a low base, in the past five years, going from 640 enrolments in 2008 to 1520 in 2012. When associate degrees are counted, the figure more than doubles again to about 3500. The increase is a mostly Victorian phenomenon, with 44 of the 53 bachelor qualifications being delivered at TAFEs around Australia, being delivered in Victoria….[ READ MORE ]….
The Victorian Auditor-General is set to investigate a $100,000 payment to Yarra Ranges Council over a potential conflict of interest. The government gave the money to the council so it could investigate and draw up a plan for the future use of the closed Swinburne University Lilydale campus…..[ READ MORE ]….
Students who take gap years are generally more successful in their university studies than mature aged students or students who enter university straight from high school, according to a University of Sydney study. The study tracked 904 Australian students, noting their high school achievements and whether or not they had deferred. The study found that gap years can help students gain skills, better grades and did not slow down their academic momentum……[ READ MORE ]….
Footscray would shed its battler image and transform into an edgy university town in a proposal from Victoria University (VU) and Maribyrnong City Council. VU and the council have signed a memorandum of understanding to build student accommodation and establish arts and sports precincts as part of a scheme to rejuvenate the suburb. The council has a “land bank” of nine car parks that could be redeveloped for the project…..[ READ MORE ]….
The University of Canberra (UC) is opening up 40 hectares of its main campus in the Canberra suburb of Belconnen for development in the hope of generating $100 million in capital investment each year for the next decade. UC vice-chancellor Stephen Parker said potential development could range from residential ”alumni” villages, to health research and development bodies wanting to be in close proximity to the new UC hospital, government agencies, commercial organisations, technology parks, arts and culture complexes, sporting facilities and business incubators…..[ READ MORE ]….
Former treasurer John Dawkins has queried conflict of interest claims after it emerged he would chair Vocation, a new education company reported to be worth $300 million, due to be listed on the stock exchange later this year. Dawkins, a treasurer and education minister in the Hawke and Keating governments, chairs the National Skills Standards Council (NSSC) and the Australian Qualifications Framework Council. Dawkins says he has raised his possible involvement in the venture with the members of the NSSC so the council is aware of these developments. Dawkins says he has raised his possible involvement in the venture with the members of the NSSC and will write to the new minister about the compatibility of such a role with his continued involvement with the NSSC…..[ READ MORE ]….
16 September 2013 | As widely expected, Christopher Pyne, the Liberals’ education spokesperson in opposition, is to be appointed education minister in the incoming Coalition government and presumably will take carriage for higher education as well as schools education. Sussan Ley is to be appointed the assistant minister for education and Scott Ryan is to be appointed parliamentary secretary to Pyne.
Bendigo TAFE chief quits
Maria Simpson has resigned after nearly two years as the chief executive of Bendigo TAFE, saying she plans to retire and spend time with her family.
She says there are still significant challenges facing the institution.
Last year, nearly 100 jobs were lost from the TAFE, courses were cut and the Kyneton campus was closed.
Ms Simpson says the shift to a more commercial focus still has some way to go and will be tough for the Bendigo TAFE board and her successor to manage.
I think the whole process of change will be one that has to occur relatively rapidly and will also be very challenging, and I don’t think that that will come to an end quickly. The planning and the implementation of plans once decided will be the challenges that they face.
We had probably been slow to make the shift to the commercial orientation that was required and therefore we probably felt the change a lot harder than many because we had to run very hard to catch up.
It is always very difficult to make decisions about people’s lives.
Today’s eccentric can become tomorrow’s Nobel Prize winner
With the Coalition government intending to redirect funding from so-called “ridiculous research“, it’s worth re-visiting this item from 30 April 2013 on the practical value of impractical research – and the contribution to the wellbeing of communities of research in the humanities and social sciences.
In one of its regular policy notes, the Group of Eight acknowledges the value of applied research, “the more tactical, short term research intended to realise already identified market and other opportunities”. It’s sometimes argued that, with pressures on public budgets, if governments invest specifically in research designed to produce immediately useful outcomes, it would ensure a higher return on government investment.
We witness the life enhancing outcomes of practically oriented research all the time (see Life changing research (1): Epilepsy and (2): Alzheimer’s). But such research often has its origins in “curiosity – led research”, extending over many years and which began with no specific outcome in view.
Moreover, the prospectivity of a research project to produce relatively short term applications can actually serve as an argument against substantial public funding for such a project.
… by definition, research is the process of discovering something we do not already know. The more definite we can be about the research outcome when we start the research, the more trivial the research and the weaker the arguments for government support. …it is not the role of government to fund or perform research that business needs for itself and which does not involve a significant risk.
Research is taking place in all Australian universities that has the power to save lives, boost economic development, create wealth, re-invent manufacturing and much, much more. Presented here are fifty examples of research outcomes generated by Australian Technology Network (ATN) member universities. They demonstrate the diversity of enquiry and the potential impact this work can have on both Australian society and indeed the world.
The Ig Nobel Prizes honour achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honour the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology. This year’s recipients include researchers who won the psychology prize for confirming, by experiment, that people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive (in a published article Beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder). The biology prize went to a team, including Australians, for discovering that when dung beetles get lost, they can navigate their way home by looking at the Milky Way. The chemistry prize went to a Japanese team for discovering that the biochemical process by which onions make people cry is even more complicated than scientists previously realised. And this year’s peace prize was awarded to Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, for making it illegal to applaud in public, AND to the Belarus State Police, for arresting a one-armed man for applauding.
South Australia has an interesting, sometimes paradoxical relationship with change. One the one hand very conservative, at the same time South Australian attracts national interest for innovative, progressive initiatives. The Thinkers in Residence Program (recently defunded) hosted Martin Seligman and Carla Rinaldi to challenge the state to reimagine and recreate their education system.
South Australia is now attracting attention with a grassroots movement that seeks to innovate from the edges of the education system.
CoCreate Education was founded by a group of educators and entrepreneurs on the premise that education is ripe for disruptive innovation. They claim that technology, social and scientific advancement are opening up new avenues for education to be more effective and more accessible.
Life & stuff
Things that have more women in them than Tony Abbott’s cabinet
Women aren’t particularly well represented at the higher reaches of corporate governance in Australia, with just 16% of ASX listed companies being women. Even to meet that low threshold, the Coalition cabinet would need three women members but could only rustle up one. The Junkee website published a small list, to put this in perspective:
The Afghan government cabinet (3 women ) – Zoo Weekly‘s staff meeting (3) – The Augusta Golf Club (2) – The Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia’s National Board Meeting (2) – The Supreme Court of the United States (3) – The Saudi Arabia Olympics Team (2) – Muammar Gaddafi’s personal guard (lots) – The Mad Men writers’ room (7) – Facebook’s board 0f directors (2) – The Iranian government cabinet (2) – Tony Abbott’s immediate family (4).
The Abbott Family