Melbourne Update Vol. 4, No. 9
Friday 21 October 2005
Climate of uncertainty set to baffle staff and re-enrolling students
Like all Australian universities, the University of Melbourne has been left in a difficult position by legislation announced but not enacted in Canberra.
The Commonwealth Government has indicated it will introduce Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU), but the legislation proposed goes much further, abolishing the right of universities to charge any fees not related directly to education.
In 2005, the non-academic Amenities and Services (A&S) fee provides around $12.7 million to support numerous student services. The scores of hard-working people employed by organisations backed by A&S income are wondering about their fate.
Today (17 October) the University begins re-enrolling students for 2006.
With the VSU issue unresolved, the University faces three possible scenarios for the year ahead.
If the VSU legislation is not passed, the University will charge students an A&S fee in 2006.
If the legislation is passed in amended form, some limited A&S may apply.
And if the mooted VSU legislation is passed without amendment then the University cannot collect any A&S fee from students and A&S funded organisations will need to cut services and employment accordingly, now with minimum notice.
The University has been working closely with student and community organisations to plan for the consequences of VSU legislation, planning ways to preserve as many student services and facilities as possible.
At its 2006 budget planning meeting held in June, the University made available $6 million to support essential non-academic services. To fund this $6 million, the University will need to cut teaching, research and administrative budgets.
The University of Melbourne Student Union, the University of Melbourne Postgraduate Association, the University-controlled Melbourne University Student Union Limited, Melbourne University Sport, and University childcare services will be able to apply to the fund for financial support.
If this uncertain situation continues, all re-enrolling students will be given the option of “subscribing” to services offered by these organisations. Those opting to do so will not need to pay the subscription fee before January 2006.
If the VSU legislation is not to be introduced in 2006, these students will be advised and will be required to pay an A&S Fee of $392 – the same rate that applied in 2005.
The uncertainty has meant international students accepting offers earlier this year for study in the University in 2006 were required to pay an A&S fee in addition to their tuition fee. These students have been advised that if VSU is enacted, they will receive a full refund and given the option to subscribe to the various services – just like Australian students.
Such are the administrative challenges confronting Australia’s public universities as we approach the close of 2005. If students find the re-enrolment process baffling they won’t be the only ones. In these circumstances, reconsideration of this legislation by the Minister would be very welcome.
Glyn Davis ac
NHMRC grant success
University of Melbourne medical researchers have won $42.7 million of the $292 million of national competitive health and medical research funding to commence in 2006, recently announced by Health Minister Tony Abbott.
The University was one of 52 Australian universities, hospitals and medical research institutes which received National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Grants for 2006.
From a nationwide total of 605, Melbourne received 99 NHMRC grants – 71 Project Grants, 19 Research Fellowships, two Practitioner Fellowships, and seven Career Development Awards.
The new NHMRC funding round has confirmedVictoria’s position as a leader in health and medical research with the total funding for Victorian researchers at $121 million – more than 41 per cent of the funding pool – almost twice the funding going to New South Wales ($62 million) and almost three times that of Queensland ($43.9 million).
In the Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute’s first year of operation, researchers have attracted around $4 million of NHMRC funding.
New leadership team brings diversity
Mr Sidney Hordern Myer will become Chairman of the Board of Asialink in 2006, succeeding Mr Carillo Gantner who steps down at the end of 2005.
Mr Myer is a Director of the Myer Foundation and Chairman of the Foundation’s Beyond Australia Committee which supports Australian initiatives in Asia and the Pacific.
Asialink is a non-academic department of the University of Melbourne supported by the Myer Foundation and the University. It promotes public understanding of the countries of Asia through a range of programs.
Two new Joint Deputy Chairmen – Mr Peter Yates and Mr Philip Flood AO – have also been appointed. Mr Yates is Managing Director and Chief Executive Office of Allco Equity Partners (AEP), one of the largest listed private equity partners in Australia. Mr Flood, a former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Ambassador to Indonesia, is a member of the Australian Government’s advisory Foreign Affairs Council.
The new Asialink leadership team represents philanthropy, business and government and spans Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra.
PM’s Science Prize win
Distinguished University of Melbourne chemical engineer, Professor David Boger has been awarded the 2005 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, the nation’s pre-eminent award for excellence in science.
Prime Minister John Howard presented Professor Boger with the Prize – a gold medal and a tax-exempt grant of $300,000.
David Boger is a Laureate Professor in Chemical Engineering, former Director (and currently Chair of the Advisory Board) of the ARC Special Research Centre for Particulate Fluids Processing, and Research Program Leader in the Cooperative Research Centre for Bioproducts.
Over the past 40 years, he has explored the potential of non-Newtonian fluids – now widely known as “Boger fluids” – in many different fields: inks for inkjet printers in incredibly fine droplets; insecticides that spread evenly on leaves, new drug delivery systems; and clean-up operations in the Antarctic.
The Australian minerals industry is working with Professor Boger on an important new project to eliminate tailings dams, and instead, convert liquid waste into dry waste and useful products.
Several of his students now lead research teams pursuing applications of Boger fluids across the country and the world.
Joint badging of degrees
The University of Melbourne has approved the awarding of undergraduate and postgraduate coursework degrees jointly-badged by the University and other universities.
The first to be approved by the University is a joint civil engineering course between the University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Civil Engineering at the National University of Singapore. Students will be able to start their Civil Engineering stream in either Melbourne or Singapore, and finish in the other city. The first Singaporean students are expected at the University in Semester One 2007, with the first Melbourne students in Singapore by August 2007.
Jointly-badged degrees give students exposure to a range of different skills and networks which will enable them to work and participate as citizens across cultures in the global graduate employment market.
All jointly-badged degree programs will be approved by the University’s Academic Board. The University has set down firm protocols for establishment of these programs. Quality assurance is a key element of the protocols.
Pathways for TAFE students to access the University’s agriculture and related degrees have been enhanced.
From 2007, four new two-year Associate Degrees – the first for the University of Melbourne – will be offered in Agriculture, Environmental Horticulture, Forestry Management and Wood Products Management.
Students will be able to articulate from the TAFE sector into the Associate Degree programs and then on to Bachelor degree programs in the Faculty of Land and Food Resources.
The Associate Degree in Agriculture will be offered at the University’s Dookie campus near Shepparton, the Associate Degree in Environmental Horticulture at Burnley, and Associate Degrees in Forestry Management and in Wood Products Management at Creswick.
Violinist takes top travelling prize
Cameron Hill, a fourth year Bachelor of Music student at the University of Melbourne, has won Australia’s leading travelling prize for violinists, the Dorcas McClean Travelling Scholarship, worth $30,000. He is the first Victorian to win the prize, offered nationally and awarded biennially by the University, in honour of one of Australia’s most gifted musicians, Dorcas McClean.
Beginning violin lessons with the Faculty of Music’s William Hennessy at the end of year 10, Cameron has been a regular performer with the Australian Youth Orchestra and recently performed with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. He will use the prize money to travel to music festivals and summer schools in Europe and the USA over the next year.
Teaching and learning performance ranked
The University has performed well in the Commonwealth Department of Education Science and Training’s (DEST) recent rankings for teaching and learning performance. Melbourne was the third-ranked institution and the top-ranked Group of Eight university.
DEST measures teaching performance against seven criteria – generic skills, good teaching and overall satisfaction based on student feedback from the Course Experience Questionnaire, the percentage of students in full-time employment or going on to further study, attrition rates, and pass rates.
DEST will use the data to allocate $250 million to universities over the next three years through the Teaching and Learning Performance Fund.
Bird flu vaccine trials
Trials of a bird flu vaccine expected to help meet the threat of an influenza pandemic have been launched by researchers at the University of Melbourne and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
The trials are a collaborative project sponsored by Australian pharmaceutical company CSL Limited.
Success in the trials would see the vaccine held in readiness to immunise the nation against any human-to-human threat of bird flu.
Chief investigator Professor Terry Nolan, Head of the University’s School of Population Health, says development of the vaccine is crucial in guarding against a possible flu pandemic.
The strain of virus being used in the vaccine is derived from a human patient who contracted the infection in Vietnam. It is the same viral sample that is being used in vaccine development worldwide.
Anyone wishing to take part in the trial should contact the study coordinators on 03 8344 9134.
Technique to detect tendon damage
A new technique to detect tendon damage in race horses is being trialled at the University of Melbourne. Tendon damage is a major cause of racetrack deaths and the early retirement of thoroughbreds.
Researchers from the Faculty of Veterinary Science’s Equine Centre are using a nuclear medicine technique to detect minute changes in tendons, ligaments and other soft tissues of horses before they become serious. In human, the technique is used to diagnose bowel inflammation and bone infection.
Professor of Equine Studies Andrew Clarke says about 30 per cent of thoroughbreds suffer some form of soft tissue damage during their life.
The research, funded by Racing Victoria, will play an important role in the prevention of racetrack horse deaths and injuries.
University honours academic leaders
The University has conferred honorary degrees on three respected Australian academics who have made outstanding contributions over many years.
One of Australia’s pre-eminent economists, Professor Robert Gregory has been awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Commerce.
For the past 20 years, Professor Gregory has been the most influential academic economist in public policy-making in Australia.
Professor Patrick Troy has been awarded an honorary doctorate in Architecture.
For more than 40 years Professor Troy has advanced innovative perspectives of environmental sustainability and social justice in Australian urban and regional planning, rewriting the role of government in urban and regional reform.
The honorary degree of Doctor of Music has been conferred on internationally-acclaimed pianist, teacher and music academic Associate Professor Ronald Farren-Price.
For half a century Ronald Farren-Price has promoted the art of piano through his performances, master classes, adjudication as an examiner and teaching at the University.
MELBOURNE THEATRE COMPANY
2006 Season launched
The Melbourne Theatre Company, a department of the University of Melbourne, has announced its program for 2006. The season will feature 10 productions, opening in December with Dumb Show by Joe Penhall, directed by Peter Evans.
Full details of the 2006 season and the subscription rates are available on the MTC website.
Crossing the disciplinary divide
The University of Melbourne has set up innovative cross-disciplinary ‘steering committees’ to bring together University staff with shared interests to support and encourage teaching and research that crosses faculty and discipline boundaries, addressing issues of public interest.
The first four steering committees – each receiving funding of $40,000 – and their conveners are:
Future Melbourne, Dr Paul Mees of the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning;
Conflict, Violence and Diasporic Populations, Professor Stephen Wheatcroft of the Department of History, Faculty of Arts;
Melbourne Asia Coordinating Committee, Associate Professor Howard Dick of the Department of Management, Faculty of Economics and Commerce; and
Talking across the Tensions, Professor Susan Sawyer of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences.
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