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Curtin University
Note to staff

March 6, 2008


Higher Education Policy update

Excellence in Research for Australia

The excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative, which will replace the Research Quality Framework (RQF) was announced by Senator Kim Carr on 26 February. The ERA is to be developed by the Australian Research Council (ARC) in conjunction with the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, and development will be overseen by the new ARC Advisory Council. An Issues Paper is expected to be released in early March.

Research quality will be assessed using a combination of metrics (where applicable) and expert review by committees. Internationally recognised experts will evaluate activity within eight discipline clusters; which include the ARC clusters and several clusters covering health and medical research will be informed by experts from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Cluster reports will detail, by institution and by discipline, those areas that are internationally competitive, together with emerging areas where there is opportunity for development and investment.

Initially the focus will be on disciplines where metrics are most widely accepted (e.g. the physical and biological sciences). In parallel, consultation will occur with other disciplines to determine appropriate metrics.

While Senator Carr has announced that ERA will assist in the introduction of funding compacts with universities, there are no details as yet as to how this will occur.

National Innovation Review

In January Minister Kim Carr announced a review of the National Innovation System. The panel members have since been selected and the terms of reference announced. Under the ToR the panel will identify gaps and weaknesses in the innovation system and develop proposals to address them. While the review includes a review of the CRC (Cooperative Research Centres) Programme there are no separate terms of reference. The panel has released a Call for Submissions paper with submissions to be lodged in April. A ‘Green Paper’ is to be provided by 31 July 2008 and released for public comment. A ‘White Paper’ response by government will be developed later in 2008.

In parallel, special workshops and roundtables on key issues will be organised to solicit the contribution of experts in specific areas, and the panel will promote public forums.

Appointment of Executive Director to the Resources and Chemistry Centre

I am pleased to advise we have recently appointed highly respected minerals resource expert Mark Woffenden as the Executive Director of the Resources and Chemistry Centre. Mr Woffenden is currently the Director and CEO of highly renowned research organisation the Parker CRC for Integrated Hydrometallurgy Solutions (formerly the A J Parker Centre) that undertakes research for companies from the alumina, gold and base metals sector.

His 30 years’ experience in the industry also incorporates key positions at KPMG Consulting and the Rio Tinto Group including Hamersley Iron Pty Limited and Comalco Aluminium (Bell Bay) Limited.

Mr Woffenden’s extensive experience makes him ideally suited to provide strategic leadership of the University’s Resources and Chemistry Centre, and his knowledge of both the operational and research needs of the industry will be vital in bringing together strong partnerships between key government agencies, and university and industry bodies.

Mr Woffenden is a Member of the Premier’s Science and Innovation Council of Western Australia, Deputy Chair of the Cooperative Research Centre Association Committee and a Member of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.

He will commence at Curtin in mid 2008 and we welcome him to the team.

Vice-Chancellor University-wide Address to Staff

On Wednesday 9 April, I will be presenting a University-wide address, to be held from 1.00-2.00pm in the Elizabeth Jolley Lecture Theatre. I will take this opportunity to talk about a range of University initiatives and provide updates on University projects such as our preparation for the upcoming AUQA audit in October. I encourage as many staff as possible to attend. The address will be web cast for those staff unable to be there.

Centre of Excellence in Radio Astronomy

The Premier recently announced a new multi-million dollar Centre of Excellence for Radio Astronomy and Engineering and I am pleased to advise that Curtin is the lead institution for the Centre. This announcement is part of a significant effort by the State to help Australia secure the world’s largest radio astronomy project – the $2billion Square Kilometre Array (SKA). The new Centre, a joint initiative between Curtin and UWA, will help establish WA as a major science and engineering hub for the development and deployment of the SKA.

Curtin’s leadership in radio astronomy has been further enhanced by the appointment of Professors Steven Tingay and Peter Hall, announced towards the end of last year, which has increased our strong research and teaching capability in radio astronomy.

Curtin is committed to boosting Australia’s chances of winning the SKA project and this new Centre for Excellence will move Australia into the best possible position to win the SKA site bid which is expected in 2011. In a related announcement the Premier advised of a $20million commitment to establish an International Radio Astronomy Research Centre in Western Australia, incorporating universities, government and industry.

AUQA Audit progress

The University is making good progress in its preparation for the AUQA audit in line with our AUQA Project Plan. The first draft of the Portfolio has been prepared and is being reviewed before circulation to appropriate stakeholders for their feedback.

The Curtin Standards document is nearing completion and has been presented to Academic Board.

A trial audit will be conducted on 15-17 April, with the Miri trial audit from 12-13 May. The AUQA audit will be conducted on 12-16 October.

Faculty resources are being reviewed to ensure that all AUQA requirements are addressed and met. This is focussed on:

  • Website update
  • Policy update
  • General preparation, e.g collecting evidence, benchmarking etc.

Capital Development update

New lecture theatres

I am pleased to advise that the two new 200 seat lecture theatres are now ready for use at the start of Semester. Adjacent to the Elizabeth Jolley lecture theatre, I encourage staff to have a look at the facilities when they are next near that part of campus.

Recreation and Events Centre

Many of you will be aware of the building work which commenced towards the end of 2007 for a new multi-purpose Recreation and Events Centre. This development is part of a $25 million investment by the University to improve our recreation facilities for students and staff. The Centre will include an expanded gym, together with a women’s only gym, and an international size basketball courts which can be used for a range of sports including indoor soccer and netball. It will also provide us with additional space which can be used for general activities such as graduations and examinations. It is anticipated that the Centre will be completed by late January 2009.

We will continue to keep staff informed of the capital development happening on the campus.

ATN Staff reward project

As part of the Australian Technology Network (ATN), Curtin has just commenced a three-year project to look at staff reward and career paths. The project aims to help ensure that Curtin is an employer of choice for staff.

It is a priority for the University to employ and retain the best possible staff, and the project is focused on ensuring that staff have career pathways available, and that we effectively recognise achievement through competitive rewards and conditions.

The project team consists of the HR Directors from the five ATN member Universities who are working in conjunction with MERCER, a Human Resources consulting firm who has experience working in the higher education sector.

As part of the project we will be drawing on staff input received in our 2008 Curtin staff survey (formerly known as the Quality of Working Life Survey), and asking a cross-section of staff to contribute ideas and suggestions through focus groups. Further information will also be provided about the survey.

Further details of the project are available at, or from Bill Ryan, Director Staff Services.

We will provide updates as the project progresses.



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