Stephen King on deregulation and university governance

Watch that to the 38 minute mark.

I have long argued that the corporate governance of Australian universities leaves a lot to be desired. The government has announced a deregulation that will give many universities a licence to print money – I’m not convinced all of the G8 will do as well as they imagine but the point remains that there are going to be massive transfers from students and the government towards universities. At the moment there is no mechanism to ensure that the money will be reinvested in education as opposed to invested in all sorts of pet projects – offshore campuses, ‘capital’ works, even more people with titles like ‘assistant deputy associate pro-vice chancellor’, and so on.

I think the deregulation is a very good idea. But there is going to be a lot of pain for the government if they don’t do something about the governance of Australian universities at the same time. It is important to emphasise that this is a governance problem and not a quality problem per se (although I can imagine quality problems arising out of this too). So giving more powers to tick-a-box regulators like AUQA is a waste of time – they did have their funding cut, but should have been abolished.

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15 Responses to Stephen King on deregulation and university governance

  1. Paridell

    … should have been abolished.

  2. Sinclair Davidson

    Indeed. Thanks.

  3. Poor Old Rafe

    I wonder if someone like Andrew Norton can advise on the way to improve the governance of the universities, given the tendency for Governments to produce more or less the opposite of the intended results when they meddle with complex systems and organizations. Maybe someone thought that it was a good idea to centralize the universities under the Feds (Whitlam) and then dilute and bureaucratize the system (Dawkins). Maybe some people still think that.

  4. 2dogs

    Don’t keep us in the dark, Sinc.

    How would you prefer university boards to be appointed?

    Elected by alumni, perhaps?

  5. Andrew

    Come on, you KNOW we need more Deputy VC – Indigenous Affairs and Curriculum Integration. Plus a Deputy VC for Wymin. Plus one for LGBTIPAQ.

  6. offshore campuses,

    There’s gold in them thar campuses, especially in places like the Congo, Guatemala, and the Upper Amazon. Just think of the overseas students who will flock in.

    ‘capital’ works,

    You can rent them out to people afterwards, you see, to hold long and lavish conferences with hot and cold running everything.

    even more people with titles like ‘assistant deputy associate pro-vice chancellor’, and so on.

    Oh, but you can NEVER have too many of those.

  7. Dave Wane

    As someone with no “recognized” University education;that is no degree, but who has nevertheless spent time at one university, firstly as an Indonesian Language, Culture and Business student, and then as an occasional speaker at that same university, talking about my experiences in business within Indonesia, I can say that this particular university is massively overstaffed (mainly by administration staff) and therefore probably unviable going forward. Any move to bring competition of any kind into the university system and its bureaucracy is surely a step in the right direction. But if all taxpayer-funded universities are singing from the same old socialist “song-book” REAL competition will never take place and the winners will again be the university employees . The losers will be the students and of course the ever-suffering taxpayer.

  8. H B Bear

    Unless universities are able to show that there is a clear and demonstrable link between their output (employed graduates and their starting salaries) and their inputs (staff, curriculum and infrastructure) there won’t be a transfer of anything anywhere.

    The US is currently well advanced in its inflating its next debt bubble – student loans. Graduates are increasingly finding that there aren’t sufficient entry level and gateway jobs and are being employed in non-tertiary educated areas at lower salaries. Student loans are impacting their ability to purchase houses and other consumption. Many are financially worse off than non-graduates.

    If the Liberals are able to start to choke off degrees in “XYZ Studies” in the Dawkins universities it will be a start.

  9. .

    Dawkins Universities only?

    The sandstones produce some real shit as well.

  10. H B Bear

    The sandstones produce some real shit as well.

    Yep! No argument there.

  11. Sean

    I’m not sure if I’d call what is going on in the US higher education system deregulation but it is changing the universities adversely for students and faculty members. The universities have become huge organizations working hard to bring students in but not quite as hard to get them to finish in a timely fashion. It often takes 6 years for students to get a four year degree leaving students with greater debt and wasted time. Many schools pay a lot of money for high profile marquee professors but then staff the classroom with adjunct professors trying to break into the system. 30 years ago more than 2/3 of the faculty was tenured or tenure track, now it’s 1/3. Imagine sitting in a classroom with 20 students, each paying $30K a year to be taught by an adjunct being paid $3k per course per semester. If those students take 4 classes each, they get $12k of instruction for a combined cost of $600k. Meanwhile, the administration is bigger than ever and university presidents are pulling 7 figure salaries. The American university system is system is now much more about beaurocracy and administration than it is about education. I hope you can avoid that trap down under.

  12. kae

    UQ to Sell Ipswich Campus

    A memorandum of understanding has been signed with USQ for them to take over the Ipswich Campus.

    Sad thing is that UQ seems to think that marketing to private schools will bring in more students than trying to market to public high schools and offering courses at the remote campuses that locals, particularly Ipswich and surrounds locals, will be interested in. Apparently they all moved back to the St Lucia campus.

  13. Streetcred

    UQ would be better advised to correct their ethics … before seeking to take over the world.

  14. kae


    Tip of the iceberg.

  15. James Hargrave

    Ethics and universities – please. Most of them think Ethics is a county outside London. And as to being able to manage. Parkville (a no-smoking campus until someone burns it to the ground) spent millions on Booz the management consultants, despite being infested with locust-like plagues of managers (don’t count them, weight them). It would have received better suggestions had it spent the money on booze and plied it staff and students with it.

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