Clay–Mahler lecture tour for 2009

The schedule for the Clay-Mahler lecture tour is now available.  This is a series of public lectures, colloquia, and specialist lectures at several across Australia by Mohammed Abouzaid, Danny Calegari, and myself, from Aug 3 – Oct 9.  They are being supported by the Clay Mathematical Institute, the Australian Mathematical Society, and the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute.

You can do maths!

The Australian Association of Maths Teachers has recently launched a campaign, entitled “You can do maths!“, to raise awareness among young people as to the importance of mathematics in a variety of careers.  Here are the two advertisements created so far by the project:

There is currently a competition for students to write an outline for a script for the third advertisement, which closes 14 August.

Claims VU’s maths cut doesn’t add up

In the article “Claims VU’s maths cut doesn’t add up” in yesterday’s Australian by Andrew Trounson, comes the disturbing news that the draft “change plan” at Victoria University (part of its larger plan of voluntary and targeted redundancies to address its budgetary shortfall) will cut mathematics staff in the School of Engineering and Science (which was a recent merger of the engineering, computer science, and mathematics schools) in half from ten to five, while only reducing mathematics teaching by ten percent (and for some majors, such as engineering, the mathematics requirements are in fact going up).  It appears that the administration is hoping to use casuals or faculty from other departments to take on much of the service mathematics teaching.  While it is somewhat positive to see that the nominal amount of mathematics teaching is not being severely cut, the effect of the proposed staff cuts on the quality of that teaching, and on the workloads of the staff, are likely to be negative.

The parallels with the situation at the University of Southern Queensland last year are rather striking in this regard.  It is worth noting that the USQ administration eventually had to advertise several mathematics and statistics positions to cover their teaching, due to the number of staff leaving either voluntarily or involuntarily during their restructuring process.  Hopefully the VU administrative process will not be as short-sighted.

As with USQ, the cuts seem to be disproportionately falling on mathematics;  back in October it announced a plan to eliminate 250 staff campus-wide, including about a quarter of the academic staff.  The cuts seem to be prompted in part by a drop in computer science enrollments (which are aggregated into the mathematics enrollment statistics); a change plan for that department is supposed to appear soon.  (Ironically, the computer science masters program, which has seen one of the larger drops in enrollment, has a negligible mathematics requirement.)

Victoria University is home, among other things, to the Research Group in Mathematical Inequalities and Applications (RGMIA), as one of its specialist Research Centres in the Faculty of Health, Engineering, and Science research, and which publishes the Journal of Inequalities in Pure and Applied Mathematics; in December 2007, it was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Peak Award for Excellence in Research and Research Training.  It is proposed that the RGMIA is to lose a professor and lecturer position, with three full time teaching staff being cut from the rest of the department.

If any readers have any further news to share on this story, or more links and information to supplement the ones in this post, it would be great if they could be posted as a comment here.

[Update, June 17: see also this analysis of the mathematics change plan by Alasdair McAndrew, one of the staff at the VU maths department.  And here is an opinion by a VU student in computer science and maths.]

2009 Australian Olympiad teams announced

The Australian mathematics and science Olympiad teams were announced at Parliament House a few weeks ago.  The maths team will train with the British team at Trinity College Cambridge in the week before IMO and compete for the Mathematics Ashes, which Australia won during the inaugural event in 2008.

(Thanks to Peter Taylor for the news).

The State of Mathematical Sciences in Australia

Hyam Rubinstein wrote an opinion piece recently on the Funneled Web on “The State of Mathematical Sciences in Australia“, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of Australian mathematics today.  Strengths include internationally recognised research excellence, and a strong tradition in mathematics competition; weaknesses include severe shortages of maths and stats-trained graduates in the workforce (both in teaching and in industry), and a lack of a visible “maths industry” lobby at the federal level.

New Professor of Pure Mathematics position at the University of Sydney

The University of Sydney is in the process of advertising for a new professor of pure mathematics (level E), as part of an expansion program in the mathematics department. (The successful candidate for the position will also have a major say in two further junior appointments.) An information booklet for the position can be found here. Inquiries for the position should be directed to Andrew Mathas or to the Head of the School of Mathematics and Statistics, Nalini Joshi.

[Thanks to Andrew Mathas for the file – T.]

Review into poor mathematics qualifications

In today’s Australian, Andrew Trounson reports that the G08 has launched a review into the declining state of maths at Australian schools and universities, headed by Gavin Brown, currently director of the forthcoming Royal Institution of Australia, and formerly the vice-chancellor at U. Sydney and head of the maths department at UNSW, among other positions.  The focus will be on the lack of qualified mathematics teachers at the high school level, leading to high school graduates with an insufficient mathematical background for many types of professions.

[Update, June 4: See also this commentary by the Funneled Web.]