April 2016

Hello there,

I trust you all had a relaxing and restful Easter with your friends and family.

Election time

The Prime Minister's announcement that the budget is to be brought forward, and Parliament reconvened early, has raised speculation about an early double dissolution election.

While the Labor Party has released a clear set of policies for Higher Education, the government has not brought back any revised proposals since the Pyne reform package failed to make it through the Senate last year. This means that, technically, those proposals remain government policy.

While we can expect the Labor Party and the Greens to try and raise the profile of higher education as an election issue, the government will probably try to maintain as low a profile as possible. That being said, election campaigns can bring many surprises, and it's possible that the government has something up its sleeve. But if they don't, and if they are returned without the crossbench in the Senate to deal with, then they will claim a mandate to implement the Pyne package of reforms, and will probably have the ability to do so.

ARCSHS

Some of you may have noticed a concerted campaign of denigration being conducted against our colleagues in ARCSHS by various News Corp publications, led by The Australian. This focused on our involvement in the Safe Schools Coalition, and has included very personal attacks on our staff and some of the research projects conducted through ARCSHS. The University has stood by our colleagues and their research, and is working hard to set the public record straight about some of the inaccuracies perpetrated included in these articles.

China visit

Next week I will be visiting China with Kelly Smith, Pro Vice-Chancellor (International) and staff from La Trobe International and the Colleges.

Engagement with Asia is one of our Future Ready international engagement priorities, and China is the most important single country in that effort. We launched our China Strategy last year in recognition of China's dramatic economic transformation and the way it is driving fundamental change in global economic and social structures.

Our visit coincides with Australia Week in China from 11-15 April, and the La Trobe delegation will attend the International Education Stream in Shenyang as well as other streams related to our research strengths. We will travel in Western China to visit Chongqing University and Sichuan University, and visit East China Normal University in Shanghai, all of whom we have identified as key strategic partners in China. I will also be representing La Trobe at a graduation ceremony at Harbin Medical University, with whom we have a very strong and longstanding partnership.

Tour de Transplant

Congratulations to our incomparable Bendigo campus head, Rob Stephenson, who in early March rode 600 kilometres from Warrnambool to Melbourne to raise funds for transplant recipients.

This was not only an inspiring accomplishment by Rob, which I am sure will motivate others to get active and support worthy causes in the community, it was also great promotion for the University: you can read The Bendigo Advertiser's article about Rob's journey here.

Rankings lift continues

It's heartening to see a continued improvement in our international rankings, most recently the QS World University Subject Rankings in which the number of subjects in which we ranked amongst the world's best has gone up more than 20 per cent from last year.

I'm proud to say the University features in the top 100 global universities in Archaeology (ranked 6th nationally), History (7th nationally), Nursing (14th nationally), and Sociology ( 7th nationally).

A further eight La Trobe subjects make the world's top 200 list:  Linguistics, Philosophy, Agriculture and Forestry, Psychology, Accounting and Finance, Communication and Media Studies, Education and Politics, and International Studies.

The University had three more subjects in the top 300: English Language and Literature (an increase from 2015), Biological Sciences (also improved on 2015) and Economics and Econometrics.

Congratulations to all involved.

Art, Andy and Ai Weiwei

I recently had the pleasure of joining La Trobe staff and students for an exclusive viewing of the Andy Warhol /Ai Weiwei exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.

It was wonderful to see so many members of the extended La Trobe community enjoying the exhibition with their family and friends. Exclusive access outside of normal gallery hours meant that all who attended were able to experience an `up close` view of the artworks and video installations, affording more time to interact with the aspects of the work they found most interesting.

Along with many other La Trobe staff and students, I was also able to take part in the Thoughtography installation which was an enjoyable visual tour through a selection of the exhibition images, culminating in a visual depiction of how your mind responded to the different artworks. I managed to break the system when it took my Thoughtograph – not sure what to read into that!

Thoughtography is a brilliant example of what we can achieve when we work together with our colleagues and external partners. It was developed collaboratively by neuroscientists in the School of Psychology and Public Health, staff in the Department of Engineering, our Marketing Division and the University's creative agency partner. This joint effort enabled us to fulfil multiple objectives simultaneously: the installation has amplified La Trobe's status as the Official Learning Partner of the NGV; showcased the University's expertise and credentials to the NGV's vast audience; and provided a uniquely La Trobe experience that has demonstrated our 'Bold Thinking with a Difference' spirit.

Stephen Kent from the School of  Psychology and Public Health, Sheila Crewther from the Department of Psychology and Counselling and Paul Junor from the  Department of Engineering were involved in the development of Thoughtography, which has now mapped the brains of more than 1300 people! Our Student Ambassadors have also been instrumental in the program by guiding participants through the experience, placing our students at the centre of our engagement with public audiences during the exhibition.

The exhibition will run until 24 April, so it's still not too late to go and take a look. You can obtain more information here.

Have a great month!

John