What do you want from the university system?

Adam Creighton has an op-ed in the Australian this morning with a whole bunch of good and bad arguments.

Let’s start with the bad:

Australia’s universities soak up billions of dollars in public funds — $9.5 billion a year from the federal government alone — but the return to taxpayers is low. Australia, a G20 country, doesn’t have a single university in the top 30 worldwide according to The Times Higher Education Supplement 2016 rankings.

Neither do most of the the other G20 countries. In any event – is the objective of public spending on education to produce a top 30 university, or is it to actually provide students with an education? I suspect most people would think that it is the latter, and not the former. Any vice-chancellor or education minister who prioritises the former over the latter is promoting their own self-interest over the interests of students and should be removed from their position.

As for quality, the university’s Charles Perkins Centre has produced an academic paper, The Australian Paradox, written by the university’s top nutrition­ist, Jennie Brand-Miller, which finds a negative relationship between Australian obesity and sugar consumption. This has been robustly challenged and roundly criticised and is at odds with the vast bulk of scientific thinking. But the university and relevant journal refused to condemn it. The university, which claims it is devoted to “excellence”, says it will only withdraw research if it is formally found to exhibit “research misconduct or unlawfulness”. Being of low quality or even wrong doesn’t count.

That is an entirely appropriate decision on the part of the University of Sydney – I don’t know the research, but I’m quite sure that Adam wouldn’t want to see a situation where only officially mandated (or politically correct) research is ever published.

Universities have long lost their role as bastions of truth-seeking.

Ah, yes. The Truth.

Degrees are too often a mechanism for employers to sort applicants. This has become remarkably inefficient. The flood of additional students has put pressure on academics to lower teaching quality.

Another chestnut. I agree that (many) university degrees have more to do with signalling than human capital accumulation. But then we know signals are only effective when costly to reproduce or fake. In that situation what people think of as inefficiency is a  feature and not a bug.

Then there is the “standards have fallen” claim. To be fair – standards have been falling for thousands of years, even as human knowledge and human flourishing have, well, flourished. Almost everyone has the view that the education system experienced a golden era – coincidently when they were students – but now it has all gone to pot. I have very little sympathy with academic claims that teaching quality has declined. In a former life as an administrator I used to put the pressure back on those academics who made this claim by asking why they weren’t doing their jobs? After all maintaining teaching quality is what they are meant to do. Then I’d get some story about the students not being as good as they used to be. That is true – and I’ll address that issue shortly. The notion, however, that teaching quality must be poor because the students are poor has an inherent assumption that universities have no value-add. That may well be true ex post, but ex ante that argument is unacceptable.

Then there is the notion that standards have fallen because student quality has fallen. I always argue that standards have not fallen – they have been deliberately lowered.  You cannot have a situation where university education has transitioned from an elite model – where say the top 5% (if that) went to university – to a situation where 35% of the age cohort is expected to go to university and not have a situation where the average graduate is as good as the average graduate a generation ago. Here is the thing – the really good students are still very good.

Okay – so where does Adam get it correct?

Last year there were 66,500 university administrators out of a total of 120,700 total staff.

Too many administrators – too many deputy assistant pro-vice chancellor (acting) positions. Too many people with the title “professor” who don’t teach or research.

Much university research these days arises merely to meet internal targets and receive federal grants, not for its intrinsic value.

That has always been true – research, however, is a measure of activity not truth-seeking (see above) and in any event nobody can really know the intrinsic value of any research upfront.

History suggests the most consequential research occurs outside any formal research grant process. At the same time as productivity growth has slowed, the number of academic journals and journal articles has exploded — while the number reading them has collapsed.

Yep – I have often suggested the ARC etc. get closed down.

Australia’s academics contribute far less to public debate than in other countries.

With honourable exceptions, of course. But here the universities have established The Conversation to deal with this very criticism. I don’t want to be too churlish by pointing out that The Conversation is a competitor to many of the media type who often criticise it (not that it isn’t beyond criticism).

Far from jacking up fees on students, the government should cease direct funding of universities and send, say, half the money directly to students. Then they could pick where and what they want to study. Further savings could be made in Canberra by tearing up the micromanagement of universities.

Why only 50% – give it all to the students (although in practice this is basically what happens already). Otherwise – yes.

 

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64 Responses to What do you want from the university system?

  1. stackja

    Before Gough made university study ‘free’?

  2. Sinclair Davidson

    Before Gough made university study ‘free’?

    Well – he didn’t actually make university study fee. It was zero-price for people who could get in and infinitely expensive for people who couldn’t.

  3. john malpas

    And make soldiers pay for their education?

  4. mareeS

    There are good university faculties in Australia, but really, do we need the likes of gender studies and sociopolitical basketweaving?

    Attach a $200,000 or larger course fee and they will disappear without trace, along with the staffers and vice-chancellors who have rigged this game.

  5. .

    Marxism infects everything. Why do I care what Marxists think of the common law? They’re collectively responsible for 100 million murders in the 20th century.

  6. Senile Old Guy

    The flood of additional students has put pressure on academics to lower teaching quality. Almost everyone has the view that the education system experienced a golden era – coincidently when they were students – but now it has all gone to pot. I have very little sympathy with academic claims that teaching quality has declined.

    The claim that the standard of teaching has fallen is nonsense. When I did my undergraduate degree, there were some excellent teachers and some that were truly awful. The awful ones were hired for their research qualifications only.

  7. mareeS

    Further to my comment above, our daughter is a manager of a top-flight food and beverage venue, and under her staff of 30+, there’s no less than 15 (mostly young women) at any time who are university graduates working on casual rates because they cannot get work in their degree categories of communications, law, education etc.

    None of those loans will ever be repaid to us, the taxpayers who funded them.

  8. Tim Neilson

    Almost everyone has the view that the education system experienced a golden era – coincidently when they were students –

    More likely when my Father was at primary school.

    When we moved out of the old family home I found one of his mathematics textbooks, with the old fashioned “if it takes 3 men 4 days to dig 5 holes how long does it take 6 men to dig 7 holes” kind of problem that was already vanishing by the time my education started.

    A few years later a friend was thinking of sitting the GMAT – for university graduates trying to get into an MBA course. He showed me a book which he had got to help him prepare for the test. It taught him – and note, this is ostensibly to sort out the brightest and best uni grads to become captains of industry and masters of the universe – to do problems like “if it takes 3 factories 4 years to make 500,000 products how long does it take 6 factories to make 700,000 products” .

    That was the first moment when I felt a chill of fear about the future of our society.

  9. Tim Neilson

    I agree that the change from about 5% uni takeup to 35% is a disaster. It’s primarily the fault of Dawkins, for relabelling Institutes of Technology as “universities” and destroying their real raison d’etre.

    The last Menzies Cabinet papers show that some of Menzies’ ministers were concerned about establishing the Institutes precisely because they were concerned about some numpty wrecking the system in that way, but Menzies said that his government had to solve the skills crisis that existed then and it was the responsibility of future governments to make sensible decisions. Even Sir Robert didn’t foresee the level of sheer idiocy to which Australian politics would descend after he was gone.

    The conventional “university” model, based on Oxbridge and the Ivy League, was only ever intended to apply to a small elite (which these days should of course be merit based rather than socially or financially based). It’s got to be questioned whether society is really getting an acceptable return on investment in “universities” at the 30%-35% level. Society’s investment in education needn’t be judged solely by reference to financial outcomes, but it shouldn’t be assumed that what’s a good investment in the top 5% is still good at the lower levels. If people at a level lower than society’s chosen cutoff point for “university” funding want the education they should be allowed to get it but they should have to pay for it.

  10. Philippa Martyr

    Top article, Sinclair – well done.

    Of course we could also just privatise the whole shemozzle.

  11. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    Here is the thing – the really good students are still very good.

    Absolutely true. One of the traditional and vital functions of universities was to gather together very bright young people to talk to each other, learn from each other, and network together for their futures. This still applies. Probably now to only about twenty percent of students though, who tend to be clustered into high value disciplines with bright futures. Science, Commerce, IT and Engineering today. Law used to be that, and Media Coms to some extent, but both are now the new Arts degree.

    That said, a well-taught and non-PC humanities degree in history, philosophy, literature, mathematics and Latin is not to be sneezed at as a foundation for a good life, although where you’d find such an animal in Australia today is a puzzlement. Such an education is a privilege, and should not come free. Scholarships could assist the genuinely talented but impoverished to share in the cultural wealth.

    hahaha. I sound like someone harking back to the happy days of Cincinnatus.
    So many Marcus’s around these days, it’s hard to tell who is who.

  12. Jannie

    I think most students (and their benefactors) have some notion that a degree will lead to obtaining skills that will help them find employment. Parents and taxpayers who fund this investment are being cheated, students are being debased. Same old thing.

  13. Bruce of Newcastle

    Politicalization is the problem.
    I agree that university lecturers and tutors are teaching competently.
    Just teaching the wrong things.
    That is self evident when you have oodles of lefty indoctrinated drones graduating who only want government jobs and are useless at evaluating and understanding data.
    They’ve been excellently trained in progressivism.
    Just look at the journalists graduates from Oz journalism schools.
    The writers that get the most eyeballs these days aren’t journalists.
    They’re bloggers.
    Who learned their trade in the real world and by grit and determination.

    Since they only teach for the lefty half the population university funding should be halved.
    Until they repent.

  14. .

    Philosophy, latin, history and literature are more useful than a law degree?

    LOL. Tell us where you’d get a job outside of a university or as a high school teacher with those hobby degrees.

    Law might be a scam now with poor prospects but let’s not kid ourselves: no one cares if you can read Virgil untranslated.

  15. Rohan

    Politicalization is the problem.
    I agree that university lecturers and tutors are teaching competently.
    Just teaching the wrong things.

    I agree Bruce. A lefty mate of mine has a daughter doing an engineering degree at Monash (Clayton campus). Last year he was proud as punch after her first semester marks (distinction average) and posted them online. They were all bullshit subjects like Ethics for Engineers, Sustainability and the Environment for Engineers. Not one hard engineering, science or maths subject of any engineering discipline.

    The only thing that syllabus will qualify you for is social engineering.

  16. alexnoaholdmate

    It depends too on what you think a university is for.

    If the purpose is to allow students to enter into the workplace with a ‘useful’ degree, then fine – they don’t do that very well, but at least that’s a purpose.

    But if the point of a university is to educate in order to make better human beings, then, well… what’s wrong with that?

    Yes, there are a whole range of silly courses out there that don’t do either – I struggle to find it difficult to justify why the taxpayer should fund courses in Ancient Argentine Ceramics, or Traditional Gender Roles within the Haiku, and I won’t defend such wank for a second – but should other Humanities courses be removed also?

    Someone who studies History, Philosophy, and Literature – and I mean real studies here, not the wank I mentioned above – may not have a degree that will take them straight to the heights of the career world. But they’re likely to be better-rounded human beings, have a better insight into the way the world works, the ideas that make the world go round, and their own history.

    They will often end up eminently employable in most roles – again, assuming they’re actually learning History and not Queer Herstory.

    There was a time, in fact, when we wouldn’t have regarded someone without a thorough knowledge of Shakespeare, of European history, and of the general basics of Western Philosophy as educated at all. – regardless of whatever job they might have gone into after leaving uni.

    Sinc mocks the idea of universities as places where one seeks the ‘truth’ rather than facts.

    1. The two are hardly opposites, and

    2. What the hell’s wrong with the truth anyway?

  17. H B Bear

    Top article, Sinclair – well done.
    Of course we could also just privatise the whole shemozzle.

    You mean like the VET sector? How did that work out again?

    University funding could be solved overnight if was linked to student loan repayments plus an uplift factor. Turn out 300 J School graduates who find jobs as baristas? Fine but good luck getting any funding in 5 or 10 years time off that cohort. Same with law, arts or any of the rest of them. Suddenly universities and students are both focussed on the underlying value of a degree.

  18. .

    But if the point of a university is to educate in order to make better human beings, then, well… what’s wrong with that?

    Sure. But then we should all do law and economics to understand how we’re getting screwed over by government.

  19. alexnoaholdmate

    Tell us where you’d get a job outside of a university or as a high school teacher with those hobby degrees.

    As a (former) manager, I’d be quite likely to regard someone who managed to get a degree in those subjects as likely to be well-rounded, able to express themselves well, able to empathise with others, and – since they’ve managed to at least complete the degree, I’m assuming – able to finish a job and manage their time well. It also suggests they must have a certain level of intelligence.

    If I was managing an architectural firm or a medical research facility, perhaps they wouldn’t be the right fit – but I wasn’t, and that’s not what we’re talking about.

    Again, caveats apply – a degree in History and Philosophy, yes. A degree in “Fixed Gender Roles in Provencal Troubadorism”, no.

  20. .

    I have nothing against what you are saying, and indeed, fine arts are depreciated far too much, arts bring us the best in life and indeed creativity in science and engineering bring innovation, but I can’t buy the gag that “law is the new arts degree” then going to say that obscure and boater & straw hat majors (in a BA) are just tops.

  21. hzhousewife

    A lefty mate of mine has a daughter doing an engineering degree at Monash (Clayton campus). Last year he was proud as punch after her first semester marks (distinction average) and posted them online. They were all bullshit subjects like Ethics for Engineers, Sustainability and the Environment for Engineers. Not one hard engineering, science or maths subject of any engineering discipline.

    She’s a shoe-in for a job in Victoriastan’s new transport system, designing a fast train to somewhere, or a bridge. can’t wait !

  22. alexnoaholdmate

    …but I can’t buy the gag that “law is the new arts degree” then going to say that obscure and boater & straw hat majors (in a BA) are just tops.

    Fair enough.

    That’s not an issue I was addressing in my posts anyway, or a point I myself was making.

  23. mark

    I have been reading the blog ‘Confessions of a College Professor’ for some time. The writer develops the points made in the Cat post at length. It is worth a look. http://professorconfess.blogspot.com.au/
    I am not in any way associated with the blog, but thought others might like to see where we are headed.

  24. alexnoaholdmate

    Not one hard engineering, science or maths subject of any engineering discipline.

    Now, this I don’t get.

    What’s the point of offering Engineering courses that don’t contain any damn engineering?

    As an adjunct to an Engineering degree – what used to be called a ‘minor’ – then perhaps.

  25. Qley

    I have been reading the blog ‘Confessions of a College Professor’ for some time

    thanks for this

  26. Diogenes

    The same article could be written about the purpose of schools. If you look at the so called ‘Gonski Act’ (aka Australian Education Act 2013 No. 67, 2013 ) it is
    (i) or Australia to be placed, by 2025, in the top 5 highest performing countries based on the performance of school students in reading, mathematics and science;
    (ii) for the Australian schooling system to be considered a high quality and highly equitable schooling system by international standards by 2025;
    (iii) lift the Year 12 (or equivalent) or Certificate II attainment rate to 90% by 2015;
    (iv) lift the Year 12 (or equivalent) or Certificate III attainment rate to 90% by 2020;

    There is a good argument to be had to completely reorganise the secondary & tertiary sectors ; unwind the TAFE selloff, unwind the Dawkins CAE->uni ; and reorganise the high schools in the German manner with 3 equally regarded ‘arms’ – a set of high schools for those wanting to go to uni, those who know they want to enter a trade, and a set for the rest who want to work in retail, offices etc. The trade high schools should be associated with TAFEs and the TAFES with the old CAEs becoming advanced “trade schools” for teachers, engineers, IT , medicos (+dare I say it journalism) etc. The unis can then focus on research and teaching the “pure” sciences & math and proper humanities such as Lizzie *& Alexnoholdamate suggest up thread.

  27. .

    There is a good argument to be had to completely reorganise the secondary & tertiary sectors ; unwind the TAFE selloff, unwind the Dawkins CAE->uni

    I don’t get why we should fight this battle from 30 years ago. It mightn’t have been a good idea at the time, but the sandstones have degraded themselves so much there is no real difference between them and a “Dawkins”. You have evidence of this in this very thread. Degrading of engineering degrees at Monash. What’s the point of propping up this nonsense?

    The TAFE selloff is in the right direction.

  28. stackja

    In the 1940s smart students got scholarships or part time work and went to Uni. Others went to apprenticeships. Then ALP ‘reformed’ education.

  29. incoherent rambler

    What do you want from the university system?

    1. Synaptic activity from graduates. Some capacity for problem solving. “Know how to learn.”

    2. And Uni staff ceasing to be a refuge for the unemployable.

  30. True Aussie

    That was the first moment when I felt a chill of fear about the future of our society

    When you import people from lower IQ countries it reduces the average national intelligence.

  31. Defender of the faith

    Sinclair: you seem open to accusation of hypocrisy in this. Why should we not expect performance measures on public education and research investment? No one should assume any investment is productive 100% of the time but to refuse tests of output is to invite indulgence and waste. Personally I’d like the funding split so that teaching is a stream with outputs including student achievement over time. Research should be contestable and focused on results. It is ridiculous for example that every university in Australia has substantial allocation of time and cost to research. We’d be much better off giving the bulk to those who deliver tangible outcomes from research and choke the spigot that flows to the research for its own sake swamp.

  32. Irreversible

    True Aussie: what the fuck is a lower IQ country?

  33. Fulcrum

    Would law biding people who contribute to society be too radical an idea?

  34. .

    Law abiding?

    It is illegal to grow your own tobacco here. It is illegal to start your own business fishing for feral fish without a licence. It is effectively illegal for a large firm to hire purely on merit.

    The law is an ass.

    I think you mean “not thugs or thieves”.

  35. Sinclair Davidson

    Sinclair: you seem open to accusation of hypocrisy in this.

    Yes. Yes. As always.

    Why should we not expect performance measures on public education and research investment?

    Can you point to where I have said you should not expect performance measures. As far as I can see graduates have lower rates of unemployment than non-graduates and higher salaries too. Research output for Australian academics is high – even Adam Creighton says so. He reckons most of it is not very good, I reckon he can’t know that.

    It is ridiculous for example that every university in Australia has substantial allocation of time and cost to research.

    To the contrary – if the institution does no research, it is not a university.

  36. Dr Fred Lenin

    I remember when hawke and keating pulled tge magic trick of turning tech schools into ” universities”. Footscray Tech became Victoria uni etc etc this fudged the unemployment figures for youth by sending them to “uni” as students instead of dole recipients . “Studing ” marxist branch stacking and socialist “work” , I still call them Footscray Geelong Caulfield ,Preston Techs . Even Sincs place of work .Melbourne Workmens College . ( behind the old magistrates court ) . It pisses the alumni off something terrible great fun ,using history to annoy “progressives” .

  37. .

    Dr Fred Lenin
    #2368371, posted on May 1, 2017 at 2:56 pm
    I remember when hawke and keating pulled tge magic trick of turning tech schools into ” universities”. Footscray Tech became Victoria uni etc etc this fudged the unemployment figures for youth by sending them to “uni” as students instead of dole recipients . “Studing ” marxist branch stacking and socialist “work” , I still call them Footscray Geelong Caulfield ,Preston Techs . Even Sincs place of work .Melbourne Workmens College . ( behind the old magistrates court ) . It pisses the alumni off something terrible great fun ,using history to annoy “progressives” .

    Fred

    I’d rather have an econ or law degree from QUT, UNSW, UOW or UTS than Sydney these days (less so on the law degree). You’re dribbling shit. You have no idea how badly infected the sandstones are with Marxist garbage. The Sydney Uni economics faculty looks like something out of a Swedish social democrat’s wet dream.

  38. Rev. Archibald

    The whole “clever country” idea is to blame.
    The concept that we wouldn’t need anyone to do those dirty, menial, boring tasks anymore, everyone would be a designer, a creator, an architect, a composer, a lawmaker.
    Which of course was not true.
    Society is a pyramid, and most people are located at the bottom, happily doing simple things.
    Only a moron would think that anyone can be anything they want.
    And now we import the bottom of other people’s pyramids, having corrupted and ruined our own.
    Sheer stupidity.

  39. Tim Neilson

    To the contrary – if the institution does no research, it is not a university.
    True, Sinc, but most of them shouldn’t be “universities”. That’s part of the Dawkins train wreck.

  40. .

    Tim Neilson
    #2368397, posted on May 1, 2017 at 3:22 pm
    To the contrary – if the institution does no research, it is not a university.
    True, Sinc, but most of them shouldn’t be “universities”. That’s part of the Dawkins train wreck.

    I LOL’d hard.

    The sandstones can and often have lower per capita research output. How did DEST use to measure research, and reward it? By previous DEST grant size.

  41. Tim Neilson


    The sandstones can and often have lower per capita research output. How did DEST use to measure research, and reward it? By previous DEST grant size.

    Are you sure you’re not contradicting yourself here? You criticise the sandstones’ research output on a quantitative basis, then criticise DEST for measuring research output on a quantitative basis.
    If you’d rather abolish research funding for sandstones than for Dawkins universities you’re at liberty to argue for that, but that’s not inconsistent with the problems in higher education being caused at least in part by too many institutions masquerading as “universities”, and Dawkins is responsible for that situation.

  42. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    Someone who studies History, Philosophy, and Literature – and I mean real studies here, not the wank I mentioned above – may not have a degree that will take them straight to the heights of the career world. But they’re likely to be better-rounded human beings, have a better insight into the way the world works, the ideas that make the world go round, and their own history.
    They will often end up eminently employable in most roles – again, assuming they’re actually learning History and not Queer Herstory.

    Yes. I was alluding to that, the making of people with an appreciation of Western Civilisation, who can write and think and create, not to ‘boater and straw hat’ privilege. That’s a put down from some sort of antique class hatred Dot, and unworthy of you. I don’t doubt that a degree in law can also do this; but in a more narrow manner, and there are too many doing these degrees with hope of some legal work, of any sort, which turns us all into a lawfare society. Increasingly, law also has the same PC staff who infect Arts.

    One of the best educations may be to give someone $1000 and an Amazon book account and tell them to start reading. That’s real self-directed education where people can follow their interests and dreams. 🙂

    An ideal present perhaps?

  43. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    . You have no idea how badly infected the sandstones are with Marxist garbage.

    Sadly, Dot, it is contagious and cascades down the system. The TAFE sector is still rife with the PC of fifteen years ago, largely at the level of still calling short people height-challenged, while the sandstones have since produced new and even more devious kinds of Marxist linguistic infiltration for their new memes, around gender for example, which will also filter down, via the Dawkins unis, who emulate the sandstones, and then to the TAFEs. At each level, any vague hint of intellectual content is slowly extinguished in the filter and the bare bones of Marxist stupidity are laid out for ridicule in the lands of plumbing and metal-working.

  44. .

    Are you sure you’re not contradicting yourself here? You criticise the sandstones’ research output on a quantitative basis, then criticise DEST for measuring research output on a quantitative basis.

    No I am not. The metric is stupid. They often have a lower per capita output.

    If you’d rather abolish research funding for sandstones than for Dawkins universities you’re at liberty to argue for that, but that’s not inconsistent with the problems in higher education being caused at least in part by too many institutions masquerading as “universities”, and Dawkins is responsible for that situation.

    What a load of crap. Too much research is a problem? Cut out the administrators out of the sandstones. Unless you’re arguing the low output princesses in the sandstones need more research funds than everyone else to do the same work. In the private sector we call these people “useless”. It isn’t them, really. It is the hangers on.

  45. cohenite

    School teachers and academics until proven otherwise, are pricks.

  46. .

    That’s a put down from some sort of antique class hatred Dot, and unworthy of you.

    Class hatred? It is the preference of their parents that they study “useless” crap and their parents give them a job. It is a luxury that the rich can afford. Other people can’t afford to get “useless” degrees.

    Do whatever the hell you like, but unless your parents can get you a job, these majors are worthless as on the job training.

    Even my law degree now is worthless at that – not because it is “the new BA”, but because it is merely a long IQ test and another signal/barrier to entry.

    The TAFE sector is still rife with the PC of fifteen years ago

    Oh no. Yet more class hatred. Those dreadful bogans are unfashionably late in their political correctness.

    A week fixing busted headgaskets or pulling condoms out of sewer lines will cure that.

  47. .

    Look at this from U Syd!

    http://sydney.edu.au/calendar/general_information.shtml#pro-vc

    Look at the number of DVCs and PVCs they have generally and on various boards, Senates and committees.

    Completely frickin’ ridiculous.

  48. Tim Neilson

    Too much research is a problem?

    Too much money spent on “research” is a problem given our debt levels. The law of diminishing returns applies to “research” as much as to any other phenomenon. The more of it we fund, the more dubious the merit of the subject matter of the lowest level becomes and the less able the lowest level of researchers are.

    If you really are studying law, you must be aware that much of what passes for “research” is either drivel or is really the sort of trade journalism that the market already supplies to the extent that it is required, and is produced not because it has any intrinsic merit, but to tick off the KPI’s required for promotion, tenure or contract renewal.

    Even if it is presumed that we need as many schools for law as we have got, we could save a lot of money by making some of them pure teaching schools, not funding “research” in them, and letting those who want to do research compete harder for appointments at the remaining institutions where research funding is available.

    Maybe it’s different in other disciplines, but I’ve seen no evidence of that.

  49. True Aussie

    Irreversible, what a country with a lower IQ average than Australia is should not need explaining. Take the average IQ of the population in Australia. Take another country and look at the average IQ of its population. If the other country has a lower IQ than it is a lower IQ country by comparison to Australia.

    I really don’t believe I needed to explain something so obvious.

  50. James Hargrave

    In Nov 2010, I had a letter in the Oz advocating, in passing, that the ARC be measured against other research councils and suggesting that it would receive low marks. From experience, procedures are much more straightforward when dealing with its equivalent in an obscure outcrop of the former USSR.

    To business. Recent appointments to one of Australia’s leading history departments (in its own estimation), located a short tram-ride north of Sinc’s emporium, include: someone with ‘a special focus on print culture, supernatural beliefs, disasters and wonders’, another who ‘researches the early modern tradition of singing the news, using a comparative approach across multiple European languages’, a third whose book ‘explores cross-cultural marriages between white women and Indigenous men’, and is now working on ‘a history of Aboriginal exemption policies and explores the ethical connotations of working in extraordinarily intimate government archives detailing the lives of Indigenous people’ [as a sometime archivist I think I have probably been exposed to a deal more of this just from Smethwick Quarter Sessions papers].

    But these are simply the warm up act to ‘work on the contemporary history of the Southern Ocean [and] international environment and fisheries regulation’ and a ‘6-year project on the Australian experience of becoming a mother since 1945’ from one whose previous research has followed three major threads, one of which is ‘histories of menstruation’.

  51. Squirrel

    “Last year 1.25 million people were studying at Australia’s universities, a more than 10-fold increase in the overall population share from 50 years ago. It’s hard to believe this is optimal.”

    One of the more interesting points in Adam’s article, even allowing for the fact that everything is so much more complicated and sophisticated these days (blah blah blah). Perhaps if the ratio was somewhat more in keeping with the actual skills needs in the economy, we wouldn’t need to be flogging off the prospect of permanent residency and citizenship to quite so many of the full fee-paying overseas students who currently help to keep the system afloat.

  52. .

    If you really are studying law, you must be aware that much of what passes for “research” is either drivel or is really the sort of trade journalism that the market already supplies to the extent that it is required, and is produced not because it has any intrinsic merit, but to tick off the KPI’s required for promotion, tenure or contract renewal.

    Correct. Publish or perish is nonsense.

    Even if it is presumed that we need as many schools for law as we have got, we could save a lot of money by making some of them pure teaching schools, not funding “research” in them, and letting those who want to do research compete harder for appointments at the remaining institutions where research funding is available.

    Research can often be easier than teaching. Also, this is correct. You could just limit the research requirements and we’d see less crap written, WHICH WOULD ACTUALLY HELP ACADEMICS BY VIRTUE OF MAKING LITERATURE REVIEWS LESS TEDIOUS…

  53. Defender of the faith

    Sinclair: you are quite right, though your thread seems to be to trend towards the immeasurable in terms of metrics. But you then amplify by discounting the idea that once narrow institutions (elite in today’s parlance) may still be universities without sustaining elitism.
    I rather prefer the idea that the pointyheads should congregate in universities doing fine things together in the name of progress while the rest of us make do with learning stuff. I remain, for example, flummoxed by the idea that one can be awarded a PhD in accounting. I barely accept that it is worthy in economics, which poses a few more notional challenges. Of course there are also nonsenses beyond the idea Say may have a Law (Lord Kates is such a humorist).
    In fact much of what universities do is purely vocational in its outcome, as you say. So most of them should be teaching institutions. Research is for the pointyheads. My vote is for elite research. Indeed, for elitism in all theoretical priorities but especially in research. So, to your point, let’s separate the wheat from the chaff and cut some budgets big time.
    As I recall you assert that yours is a market driven activity, so offer yourself to the market I say!
    (Btw: I am very supportive of the cuts proposed and would choose to revert to pre Dawkins arrangements).

  54. Irreversible

    True Aussie: you mean like Essendon versus Geelong? Is there data? How do they separate the samples? Surely it must be obvious, as you say?

  55. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    A week fixing busted headgaskets or pulling condoms out of sewer lines will cure that.

    That was actually my point, Dot. I have no down on plumbers (I currently have a plumbing problem and will pay a lot to a master plumber to fix it), just on TAFE teachers who think they have to be ‘up-to-date’ in their leftism, and patently are not. That they are not is a good thing, because, as I pointed out, by the time the cascade of such stuff reaches them, it is totally worn out and any plumbing or other trade apprentice can see straight through it. It’s harder to see through in the higher reaches of academia because it is laced through with intellectual bullship.

  56. Diogenes

    Even if it is presumed that we need as many schools for law as we have got, we could save a lot of money by making some of them pure teaching schools, not funding “research” in them, and letting those who want to do research compete harder for appointments at the remaining institutions where research funding is available.

    The point of my post – this is “trade school” stuff, and should be relegated to CAEs or equivakent. Learning to do a job that requires some sort of difficulty and advanced training does not require research. My neighbour is do a Masters of Education. Because it is a “masters” he has to undertake a research project, that time should be spent on learning about classroom management etc etc

  57. john constantine

    In the near future Australia, where robotics and artificial intelligence software are doing many or most jobs better, faster and cheaper than meat drones can, universities will be needed to fill in the vast empty hours for great convoys of the population.

    Uni will be the opium of the masses.

  58. John constantine

    Still not impressed with universities being allowed to sell Australian residency for cents in the dollar of its true value.
    Do we really think that all those wealthy families from dodgy countries send their kids here because nowhere else on earth offers courses of such pure Marxism?.

  59. David Palmer

    How come every one is a professor today. What happened to lecturers, senior lecturers, readers? Money and prestige?

  60. Up The Workers!

    Rather than looking on Universities only as places to ‘churn’ through students, pushing them out onto the streets with degree in hand as quickly as possible, maybe we should look at it from the opposite perspective.

    Given the fact that there is a very large number of utterly unemployable University-degreed dunces and semi-literate dullards in our community (just look at any State or Federal Parliament and the Public Serpentry they support) there is something to be said for the important role of Universities as ‘adult day-care centres’.

    Juliar Gillard for instance, spent 9 years studying for a 4 year law degree. If only her University had ‘kept her in’ for another 30 years or so, just think of how much better off this country would be today!

  61. But then we know signals are only effective when costly to reproduce or fake.

    Is it therefore virtuous that these signals are only provided to those than can afford them?

    Presumably if education is about producing the best possible quality labour inputs, then denying the signals which could have existed by improvement through education, is to waste the potential labour force from the outset.

    This is absolutely fine if you are prepared to accept the proposition that some people are just better than others and if this is true, then by logical extension, we should defund all public education. Let the scum deal with it themselves.

  62. Rob MW

    As I see it currently, universities do not produce anything less than skilled opinionated morally superior chieftains who’s ambition(s) only stretches as far as employment as a bureaucratic supremacist, an atypical ABC social justice expert, or failing that, as taking up rentable floor space at CentreLink.

  63. True Aussie

    Irreversible you are a prime example of how stupid this country is becoming.

  64. Combine Dave

    Irreversible
    #2368339, posted on May 1, 2017 at 2:14 pm
    True Aussie: what the f*ck is a lower IQ country?

    According to Google; France, Spain, Malta, Turkey etc..

    According to numerous rankings Australia is not even in the top ten for education, let alone among the best…

    Global School rankings

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