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Melbourne Update August 2009

Monday 21 September 2009

Supporting the finest visual and performing arts education

A passion for teaching, performance and creative practice has been the hallmark of the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of the VCA and Music (VCAM) disciplines.

The various bodies that joined in 1972 to form the VCA have trained some noted Australian visual and performing artists. Twenty years ago the VCA became an affiliate of the University, with degrees awarded by the University. In 2007, its Council voted to become a University faculty which, this year, became an expanded faculty of arts and music, one of the largest in the nation.

The University’s firm commitment to support VCAM’s fine work reflects its long-standing contribution to Australia’s arts life through, for instance, its Melbourne Theatre Company, Ian Potter Museum of Art and Melbourne University Publishing.

The University provides substantive additional subsidies to ensure VCAM has the people and facilities to offer the quality of education necessary to support a vibrant body of arts professionals. Since 2007 when the VCA experienced a significant cut in its Commonwealth funding, the University’s other faculties have cross-subsidised the institution with $41 million of additional funding. Another $33.4 million has been committed for 2010 and 2011.

The University supports, as it has for many years, a practitioner-based education, thoroughly grounded in the six core VCAM disciplines of Music, Arts, Drama, Dance, Production and Film and TV.

But as in other fields, the University encourages careful regular consideration of curriculum, to ensure teaching at the Faculty reflects the best national and international practice – for the generation of artists, composers, scholars and performers being educated now, and for those hoping to join the Faculty in the future.

Some have assumed a University of Melbourne ‘Melbourne Model’ approach to curriculum at VCAM will diminish practical training, or require students to study irrelevant courses. This is not so.

The courses offered by VCAM already support deep engagement in a discipline, alongside shared courses so students can supplement their practice with access to disciplines that can enrich artistic expression. This blend of immersion and breadth will continue.

The University welcomes a widespread discussion about the best way to train future artists. All proposals about curriculum deserve close scrutiny and robust contestation. That is the essence of a university.

The standard first step involves preparation of an issues paper inviting feedback from staff, students, alumni, the arts industry, the wider arts community and the interested public. Options are then developed and tested through further consultation before any decisions are made.

In this way, VCAM hopes to pursue a dialogue about its mission of educational excellence in the months ahead.

This is a conversation, not a conclusion already reached. We hope many will choose to be part of the dialogue.

Glyn Davis

Australian India Institute funding

An Australia-India Institute based at the University of Melbourne has received $8 million in funding under the Commonwealth Government’s Diversity and Structural Adjustment Fund. The Institute has a key role to play in improving understanding and strengthening relationships between Australia and India.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the funding during the visit to Australia by India’s Minister for External Affairs, Mr S M Krishna.

The University of Melbourne and partners, the University of New South Wales and La Trobe University, will invest around $2 million in the Institute bringing the total cost of the project to more than $10 million over three years.

The funding follows the University of Melbourne’s strategic decision in October 2008 to establish a world-class Australia India Institute which Deputy Director Professor John Webb says will operate as a national epicentre of information on India.

The Institute will provide consultancies on issues of national priority, and host international conferences, community engagement and cultural dialogues to support Australia’s need to strengthen its engagement with India through research, professional links and cooperation.

The University of Melbourne has more than 100 staff with strong research or professional links to India, from medicine to music.

Gareth Evans joins University

Former Australian Foreign Minister and President and CEO of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, Gareth Evans, has joined the University of Melbourne. He has taken up a post as an Honorary Professorial Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences in the Faculty of Arts.

For most of the next year Professor Evans will be primarily occupied with his role as Co-Chair of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, working on the drafting of its major report, due by the end of 2009, and the worldwide advocacy of its recommendations.

Professor Evans said he is pleased to be ‘returning home’ to the institution that has been such a formative part of his personal and professional life. A Melbourne graduate in Arts and Law (Honours), he lectured in law at the University from 1971 to 1976.

“With its strong, long-standing and growing international reputation, the University of Melbourne is a wonderful base from which to work over the next year on the global nuclear commission.”

His research and writing interests embrace conflict prevention and resolution, genocide and mass atrocity crimes, weapons of mass destruction, global governance and Australian foreign policy.

New broadband institute

The University of Melbourne will be home to the Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society (IBES), the nation’s first cross-disciplinary research institute dedicated to maximizing community benefits of broadband technologies.

The Victorian Government is providing $2 million for the new Institute which will foster innovation across a wide range of disciplines including Medicine, Engineering, Education, Social Sciences, Economics, Business and the Environmental Sciences.

Professor Rod Tucker, Director of the IBES, says the Institute will serve as a national and international focus for research and innovation across the full spectrum of social, business and technological activities associated with and influenced by the new Australian National Broadband Network.

The IBES has attracted the support of leading global and local companies to join its research program.

They include Cisco, Microsoft, Alcatel-Lucent, Telstra, Ericsson, NEC Australia, Optus, Allied Telesis, Pacific Broadband Networks, and Haliplex.


Director, MSSI

Professor Craig J Pearson will become Director of the newly-established Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI) at the Melbourne School of Land and Environment (MSLE), in September 2009.

Professor Pearson has an outstanding international record of academic and research achievement in agricultural and environmental policy, and has extensive senior leadership experience, having worked in government, industry and universities.

He has served as Presidential Adviser on International Programs and Professor of Agricultural and Environmental Policy at the University of Guelph, Canada. His current research interests are in city sustainability, urban greenbelt analysis and land-use planning.

The MSSI brings together experts working in research, the public sector and industry to solve pressing issues of our time. It currently specialises in agricultural futures, risk and resilience, sustainable cities and water.

New Program Directors

Distinguished economist Saul Eslake and a leading policy strategist Jane-Frances Kelly have joined the University-affiliated Grattan Institute as Program Directors.

Welcoming the new Program Directors, Grattan Institute CEO Professor John Daley said the Institute is fortunate to have attracted one of Australia’s most respected and forthright commentators on public policy and economics issues in Australia, and one of Australia’s leading policy thinkers.

After 14 years as the Chief Economist at ANZ, Mr Eslake joins the Grattan Institute as Program Director for its Productivity Growth Program. He will lead the Institute’s investigation of the key drivers of national productivity growth.

Mr Eslake said the opportunity to tackle the long term issues behind national productivity performance and the implications for government policy is much needed. “Government policy on education, health, greenhouse emissions and demography all affect productivity growth: all require serious investigation and response,” he said.

Jane Frances Kelly will take up the position of Program Director for Cities, using her considerable experience for the complex task of bringing together a team across a number of disciplines required for public policy recommendations about the future of our cities

Ms Kelly has led work on strategy and prioritisation for the Commonwealth Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Departments of Premier and Cabinet in Queensland, Victoria and NSW, the UK Cabinet Office, and the Boston Consulting Group. She has been a senior strategic adviser for Noel Pearson at the Cape York Institute, and Christine Nixon at Victoria Police.

The Grattan Institute is a new think tank aiming to shape the direction of debate on many of the important challenges facing Australia. It was set up with substantial support from the University of Melbourne in conjunction with the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments, and BHP Billiton.

New Chinese language teacher training

A Chinese Teacher Training Centre, based at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education in the University of Melbourne, will develop Australian expertise in unique aspects of teaching Chinese and enhance the delivery of the teaching of Chinese in schools.

The centre is the outcome of a partnership between Hanban (the executive body of the Chinese Language Council International) and the Victorian Government. It is the first of three international centres planned by the Hanban – one is in the US and one in Europe.

Dr Jane Orton of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education will be Director of the Chinese Teacher Training Centre.

The Chinese Teacher Training Centre will be managed by a consortium comprising Melbourne Graduate School of Education, Asialink and Asia Education Foundation, Curriculum Corporation, the China Institute at the Australian National University and the Beijing Languages & Cultures University.

$4.7m gift to Veterinary Science

A gift of $4.7million - the residual estate of two farming brothers from Seymour – will be used to establish an endowment for a new Chair in Cattle and Sheep Production Medicine in the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Melbourne.

The brothers - EMC “Cappur” Webb and RC “Dick” Webb - established highly-successful grazing operations at Glendoxey and Habbies Howe building a flock of 11,000 fine Merino sheep and 1,000 head of Hereford cattle. Dick Webb later became President of the Graziers’ Association of Victoria.

This extraordinary philanthropic support, the largest single endowment to support a Chair in the University, will enable the Faculty to consolidate and enhance an already outstanding program in cattle and sheep production medicine. It will also provide additional opportunities for education of veterinarians for rural practice.

Star quality ‘report card’

The University of Melbourne has performed exceptionally in the latest Good Universities Guide, receiving the maximum five stars in the key areas of student demand, research grants, research intensivity, student-staff ratio, positive graduate outcomes, gender balance, and non-government earnings.

The annual guide compares the performance of Australia’s tertiary education providers, using data provided by universities to the Federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, and Graduate Careers Australia and Universities Australia.

As well as scoring well in a range of influential areas, Melbourne has consolidated its place as a destination of choice for the most high-achieving students, receiving strong ratings for competitive entry to its academic programs.

Melbourne also performed strongly in important areas of career development, receiving four stars for ‘graduate starting salary’ and for ‘getting a full-time job’ despite relatively large numbers of Melbourne students completing undergraduate degrees moving straight on to postgraduate programs and not into the workforce.

Victorian Fellowship winner

Dr Sally Gras from the University of Melbourne’s Metabolic Engineering and Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute, and Dr Joanne Devlin, from the Faculty of Veterinary Science have been awarded Victoria Fellowships to further their research into new vaccines to prevent and control herpes viruses in cheese and animals respectively.

Dr Gras will travel to Ireland, the United Kingdom and Europe with her $18,000 Fellowship and visit dairy-based industrial and research centres to learn about their product microstructure and functional food research.

Dr Devlin will use her Fellowship to work at the Institute for Animal Health in the United Kingdom to learn more about herpes viruses in a bid to develop new vaccines to protect and control them in mammals and birds.

Dr Devlin and Dr Gras were also awarded Australian French Association for Science and Technology (AFAS) and Forum for European-Australian Science and Technology Cooperation (FEAST) France Fellowships which supplement the Victoria Fellowships and enable the recipients to undertake a study mission to France or expand the French component of a Victoria Fellowship.

Research-based facility - Dookie

Members of the University of Melbourne’s senior executive recently visited the Goulburn Valley to discuss research developments for the University’s Dookie Campus with community leaders in Shepparton.

University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis, Professor Rick Roush, Dean of the Melbourne School of Land and Environment and Professor Iven Mareels, Dean of the Melbourne School of Engineering, welcomed the opportunity for a positive exchange of views with community leaders including Mayor of the City of Greater Shepparton, Mr Geoff Dobson.

Professor Roush believes the Dookie Campus holds great opportunities for a more research-based facility focussed on the key issues facing agriculture and regional Australia, including water conservation and energy use, building on the current $10.6 million Farms, Rivers and Markets (FRM) project.

The University has committed funding to develop a detailed business case, including seeking financial support from other sources, for ‘instrumenting’ the Dookie site to support the research needs of irrigated agriculture in the context of the $2.6 billion Foodbowl Modernisation Project which will radically refurbish the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District over the next decade.

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