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Education and the budget

May 17th, 2009

No group in the community greeted the election of the Rudd government with more enthusiasm and more relief than the higher education and research sector. The Howard government had treated the sector to a decade of ideologically motivated cutbacks combined with a tribal history which reflected, in large measure, the defeats and slights its members had endured as student politicians in the 1970s and 1980s. The number of places for domestic students was effectively frozen for most of the Howard era, reflecting both a desire to pressure the universities into offering full-fee places and a belief that Australia did not really need a more educated workforce.

Rudd’s election on the platform of an Education Revolution offered not only the end of the long-running culture war between the government and the universities but a substantial, and much-needed, increase in funding. Even when the government’s budget delivered little in the way of extra money, most in the sector were willing to wait their turn.

Then came the financial crisis. Having spent billions on physical infrastructure, the government began sending signals that the Education Revolution would have to be postponed again. There was money for new buildings but, it seemed, there might be little left to pay for teachers and researchers to work in them. How did it all turn out on Budget night.

The backdrop to Wayne Swan’s press conference, a banner emblazoned with the slogan ‘Nation Building: Road Rail Ports – Jobs’ was far from promising. In its exclusive focus on concrete it summoned up memories of the failed Japanese response to the economic crisis of the 1990s.

But the picture brightened with Swan’s speech. Each time he talked about infrastructure he was careful to add ‘unis and hospitals’ to the concrete-intensive list on his backdrop. Presumably the government’s message controls were trying to give one signal to TV viewers looking at the visuals, and another, more sophisticated version to those who were listening to, or reading, the words.

Looking at the actual measures in the Budget, the government has promised to make university places available to all qualified students by 2012, meeting a key recommendation of the Bradley Review. And the COAG goal of 90 per cent school completion remains, though the aspirational date of 2015 offers plenty of room for slippage.

There is particularly promising news on innovation, where the recommendations of the Cutler review (and to some extent the 2020 Summit) have been influential. There a 25 per cent increase in this year’s budget, compared to 5 per cent in 2008-09.

And the CPI-based indexation imposed under Howard, which inevitably fell short of the actual rate of increase in the labour costs of research is to be replaced by a wage-based system of indexation. If it sticks, this reform will end the routine erosion in the effective value of research grants over time. On the other hand, it is hard to see how this (and many similar measures) will be consistent with the government’s desire to hold real increases in expenditure to 2 per cent a year after 2010-11.

Overall, the outcome is far better than might have been feared in the light of pre-Budget softening up, even if a fair way short of what might have been hoped for when the government was elected.

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  1. May 18th, 2009 at 05:39 | #1

    The Howard government had treated the sector to a decade of ideologically motivated cutbacks combined with a tribal history which reflected, in large measure, the defeats and slights its members had endured as student politicians in the 1970s and 1980s.

    Are you ideologically blinkered to private funding?

  2. SeanG
    May 18th, 2009 at 06:41 | #2

    The problem, ProfQ, with your assessment is that from my own experience I have seen left-wing bias in universities. However while university academics preach the argument that we should “challenge” them and that they welcome “debate”, it tends to be accepted if you agree with them.

    This is anecdotal evidence I know, but academics tend to be more left-wing than the public in general.

  3. Alice
    May 18th, 2009 at 08:07 | #3

    Sean – really this is a furphy “academics are more left wing than the general population” . It was an orchestrated media beat up which mainly emerged under the Coalition (actually it wasnt just unis – it was supposedly most public sector departments, and the entire arts and media industry – they were everywhere!).Probably CIS and IPA and likes who flamed this accusative and divisive beat up and of course Howard, being the somewhat antiquated ideologically narrow minded chap that he was was all for wading in, in agreement. There are conservatives, liberal conservatives and cenrists and centre lefts in unis you know and long may there be a range of noisy opinions across the entire continuum..its called freedom of speech.

  4. Ernestine Gross
    May 18th, 2009 at 08:34 | #4

    Sean @ 2,

    “academics tend to be more left-wing than the public in general”

    Assuming your statement is true, what is the problem?

  5. nanks
    May 18th, 2009 at 08:46 | #5

    Actually I’d be happy to claim that Academics were more ‘left-wing’ than the population as a whole. Although I find the term ‘left’ a little too vague to be useful I like that there are less red-neck racists and capital punishment crush the worker bigots at universites than there are in Australia in general. If anything Unis should reject the accusation of left-wing bias with the rejoinder that they are far more radical and ecnompassing than that and hence more useful.

  6. jquiggin
    May 18th, 2009 at 08:51 | #6

    “Are you ideologically blinkered to private funding?”

    Universities are mostly privately funded. Students in subjects like law and business pay the full cost of their education and maybe more (overseas students pay enough to cover fixed costs, while domestic students pay marginal cost and probably more). This is as it should be since the benefits are mostly private. And there are many other sources of private funding that are pursued very vigorously.

    But that still leaves large areas where public funding is needed – fundamental research and training in areas like science that generate positive externalities. The cuts made under Howard have undermined all of these areas.

    Given your apparent opposition to even a partial restoration of public funding, I’d say it is you who is taking an ideological approach on this one.

  7. Socrates
    May 18th, 2009 at 09:20 | #7

    JQ I think your personal perspective of academia may be slightly biased by your circumstances. I am not an academic but those I know are all struggling under high student workloads and inadequate funding. More senior academics that can buy themselves out of teaching with research grants have no idea how badly things are going at the under graduate coalface. While I appreciate this budget didn’t make things worse, it didn’t help either. Australia’s education spending as a % of GDP is quite low by OECD standards.

    Of that spend, there is waste in some unis through bloated administrations pursuing grandiose building plans at the expense of retaining staff. Most VCs are paid double a State education minister, despite not being answerable to any parliament. I think that is symptomatic of the problem – the university is a medieval structure trying to cope with modern political pressures. It needs reform as well as more support. Tony Coady wrote a good book on the topic a few years ago.

  8. Socrates
    May 18th, 2009 at 09:22 | #8

    JQ 6

    Sorry I missed your subsequent post, which I agree with. I think there is a general problem with funding courses producing graduates in areas where most employment is in public services. This includes medicine, teaching, nursing and some areas of engineering (civil and power).

  9. nanks
    May 18th, 2009 at 09:28 | #9

    JQ – what do you think “make university places available to all qualified students” will mean that is different to current practice.

  10. May 18th, 2009 at 10:52 | #10

    “But that still leaves large areas where public funding is needed – fundamental research and training in areas like science that generate positive externalities”.

    This begs two questions:-

    - It does not address just which areas could generate benefits in this way, as opposed to simply being costly (think how often education spending gets called “investment” whether it generates additional revenue for the “investors” on some time scale or not).

    - It does not address for whom the benefits would be generated. Even when there really are positive externalities, the argument for Australian public spending is only sound when sufficient net benefits spill over onto the Australian public. Wider benefits are a form of foreign aid; on the one hand there may be no need for spending if we can get a free ride from others, and on the other hand our own spending cannot be justified then unless that embedded foreign aid itself has a further justification.

  11. John Quiggin
    May 18th, 2009 at 11:23 | #11

    #9 Nanks, at present there is a fixed allocation of places. If you don’t get a high enough ranking to beat others, you don’t get in. By contrast, in school education, the government is obliged to educate everyone who shows up (assuming they have completed the grade below the one they want to study).

  12. nanks
    May 18th, 2009 at 11:33 | #12

    thanks JQ – that is what I assumed it meant – the end to competitive entry and the transition of University (as a teaching institution) to grades 13,14 and 15.

  13. May 18th, 2009 at 11:58 | #13

    So why are QLD teachers on strike? Any thoughts JQ?

  14. Ikonoclast
    May 18th, 2009 at 12:31 | #14

    Irony alert ON!

    In the dark ages of the early 1970s, when Keynesianism and ideals about the common good ruled and when I and my brothers went to university, tertiary education was publicly funded. There were no fees. Apparently the country could afford it then.

    Then after years of supposed phenomenal economic performace and wealth creation(even before the GFC), the country could not afford to publicly fund tertiary education. Isn’t progress marvellous!

    Irony Alert Off.

    The above is another phenomenon (one of many) which indicates that late era capitalism is in the stage of parasitising off itself (for want of a better phrase).

    In many respects, the system is not truly productive any more. Education (to follow that example) is now far less productive and far less effective than it was a generation ago. The next generation will not possess the technical or social competence to run a complex society. Decline is now locked in to the system. The catastrophic collapse in written language skills, scientific skills and mathematical skills is indicative of this.

    It is clear to me that my childrens’ private secondary education is far poorer than my public secondary education was in the 1960s. The standards set are far lower. Reports I have had of current public education indicates that public secondary education is now in an even worse state.

    Our society would be ripe for collapse even if we weren’t facing resource and environmental collapse as well.

  15. David Booth
    May 18th, 2009 at 12:59 | #15

    Ikonoclast is right, why can’t our society afford to invest in education? Instead we invest in submarines and fighters. Could it be that we don’t want any critical thought pulsing through our national veins?
    John, the educational reform you mention is laced with disappointment. Students are given access to youth allowance for higher degrees but at the same time the eligibility for youth allowance is tightened. The age for independence is reduced but the hours needed to work each week for 18 months to become eligible for Youth Allowance is doubled to 30 hours. These students are forced to work longer hours to survive since the actual allowance is well below the poverty line. This, in turn, means they can not perform as well at their studies (supposed to be full time). Standards fall. The 18 months spent effectively delays their graduation and forces them to complete with other applicants for a declining number of jobs. Probably increasing unemployment. Sorry John, but to you the Government may be supporting education as a system, but it is certainly (as Ikonoclast has said) letting down a whole generation of students. What is needed is a government that treats our future leaders with respect and encourages them to strive for educational excellence. This means re examining the need for fees and an improvement of the levels of support provided to them during their study. Do we really need to place our students into poverty and saddle them with debt?

  16. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    May 18th, 2009 at 13:20 | #16

    JQ – in comment #6 you attempt to draw a clearer distinction between public education and public research. However this distinction does not sit easily with the rest of the first paragraph of your article which I did not previously quote, but now will.

    The number of places for domestic students was effectively frozen for most of the Howard era, reflecting both a desire to pressure the universities into offering full-fee places and a belief that Australia did not really need a more educated workforce.

    This seems to suggest your concern is not at all confined to public funding of research and is primarily about education. Given that the Rudd government has closed the door on full-fee places to domestic students it seems to me that accusations of ideology could just as easily be pinned on the current government. And your use of the word “pressure” in this context also seems ideologically loaded.

    Don’t get me wrong. The previous government was full of crap. However implications that the current government, or your commentary, are free of ideology does rankle.

    As an aside. Given your comment at #6: “This is as it should be since the benefits are mostly private”, would you agree then that funding Medicare via a HECS style income contingent loan scheme would also be as it should, since the benefits of health care are mostly private.

  17. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    May 18th, 2009 at 13:23 | #17

    Then after years of supposed phenomenal economic performace and wealth creation(even before the GFC), the country could not afford to publicly fund tertiary education. Isn’t progress marvellous!

    I suspect that the answer lies somewhere in the trade off between quantity and quality. If you ask for more graduates then it is either going to be less affordable in terms of public funding, lower quality or both.

  18. May 18th, 2009 at 14:41 | #18

    Education should be given more importance by any government. Without it, people will not easily get jobs.

  19. SeanG
    May 18th, 2009 at 15:04 | #19

    Alice,

    Maybe I should have written “tend to be left wing” or “tend to be more extreme than the general public”.

    An example would be in economics where I would suggest that academic economists (sorry ProfQ) tend to swing a little more to the extremes than their business economist counterparts. As an example, I tend to compare the works produced at universities over here in the UK with comparable work produced by economists where I am and other banks. There tends to be noticeable differences and divergencies even between economists who work on the trading floors of banks as opposed to those behind the scene.

    What I am trying to get at is that universities can breed a sort of black-and-white puritan strain of thought that no wonder grates with the Coalition.

  20. Milton Keynes
    May 18th, 2009 at 16:40 | #20

    Isn’t the problem with Australian universities that far, far too many – and let’s be honest – completely thick people are admitted, with the taxpayer footing the bill. Any person with a UAI below 80, and certainly below 75 is simply not cut out for academic work.

  21. nanks
    May 18th, 2009 at 17:16 | #21

    I’d almost agree Milton – if universities become grades 13,14,15 – which they are in the process of doing – then how do the brightest get an advanced education? I put this to one of Australia’s most senior politicians a few years ago. They blithely said they can go elsewhere. I can see their point – mass education has tremendous value. I just can’t see why we can’t have both mass and higher ed.

  22. Monkey’s Uncle
    May 18th, 2009 at 17:37 | #22

    The problem with allowing more people to attend universities is that too often the academic standards need to be lowered in order to accomodate less able students.

    Particularly in humanities-type subjects, the standards of empirical rigour are often laughably low.

    Years ago I did an honours politics course, and I would say that about half the people in the course that year were nowhere near across the subject to be seriously considered for an honours course. This often means that more capable students get held back, while more of the material has to be dumbed down to cater to the less capable.

    I agree with Uncle Milton that it is a complete waste of taxpayers money to pay for not terribly bright people to go to university.

  23. nanks
    May 18th, 2009 at 18:20 | #23

    There is no doubt that standards are too low for higher ed – but that is okay as long as we put in higher ed (again?) I don’t see why we can’t have both mass ed and higher ed as far as the cost is concerned – culturally it would take quite a change.

    Also I’d point out that the best students are still the best students, and they are the ones being disadvantaged.

    As someone who has marked PhDs/Honours etc – you cannot assume that someone with an Australian PhD is either good or not – there are still some excellent centres, better than ever, but also ones that will pass more or less anything. I see the lack of a consistent standard as a problem.

  24. Uncle Milton
    May 18th, 2009 at 18:23 | #24

    Monkey’s Uncle, that was Milton Keynes who said that, not me.

  25. Monkey’s Uncle
    May 18th, 2009 at 18:29 | #25

    Sorry Uncle Milton,

    what with all these uncles and Milton’s posting, I get a bit confused in my old age :-)

  26. May 18th, 2009 at 19:38 | #26

    SeanG: It depends greatly on what part of the university you happen to be in, and the extent to which it matters.

    I don’t think most of my students would have a clue what my party political views are.

  27. Alice
    May 18th, 2009 at 20:59 | #27

    Terje
    You say on unis
    “Are you ideologically blinkered to private funding?” (of unis)

    Well I work at both public and private and Im damned if youll get reserach or course development technologies out of privates. They want THE MOST of the students price they can get and they want it now. They wont pay for research unless they can sell it now….and research isnt like that (nor it seems is improving quality for students). Its not a cost they will bear, they will only pay wages for knowledge taught elsewhere in teachers – they dont invest in new knowledge…..

    Terje knowledge and knowledge advancement is so much of a public good….yes – its a market failure argument.

    Alanna

  28. Alice
    May 18th, 2009 at 21:07 | #28

    #19 Sean – some of the economists at banks and financial firms also leave the economists at unis feeling like a chill wind walked over their grave…there are institutional and promotion seeking economists you know who walk the corridors of power yet the economics of the firm and institutional advancement isnt necessarily the best economics for the economy as a whole…..

  29. May 18th, 2009 at 21:59 | #29

    Alice – so why not privatise higher education and invest public funds in research. They can still share a campas and buildings and probably even human resources.

  30. Alice
    May 18th, 2009 at 22:25 | #30

    That is happening already Terje.. but the link between research and teaching breaks down ie students are not taugght by the best in the fields…sorry but that is how it is….you either want quality of knowledge and wuality in reserach or you settle for the vocational teaching style export market. Society’s choice Terje.

  31. Alice
    May 18th, 2009 at 22:26 | #31

    Sorry – tired… “wuality in reserach” should read “quality of research.” in line 3 above.

  32. May 18th, 2009 at 22:30 | #32

    It is pretty rare for students to get taught by the best in the field. And to be honest the best in the field isn’t always the best teacher. I don’t know why people presume that teaching skills and research skills should be highly correlated.

  33. Alice
    May 18th, 2009 at 22:52 | #33

    Terje P….its about the intellectual development of good students here…into research…a selection process that culls those not equipped so that in the end the best students can understand the best researchers who may not be the best teachers for the masses of students…. and privates only want to give a piece of paper for a price and say thankyou…and ta ta!
    Terje – you are missing the point of knowledge and the support of those most able to develop to extend it.

  34. Ubiquity
    May 18th, 2009 at 23:04 | #34

    Seang @ 2 says

    “The problem, ProfQ, with your assessment is that from my own experience I have seen left-wing bias in universities”

    Here some more evidence to support your claim

    http://www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org/news/1898/lackdiversity.html

    A Study by David Horowitz and Eli Lehrer

    “This report on political bias at 32 elite colleges and universities…” in the US.

    “compiled lists of tenured or tenure-track professors of the Economics, English, History, Philosophy, Political Science and Sociology departments – choosing these because they teach courses focusing on issues affecting the society at large.”

    ” classified as Democrats or Republicans and avoiding the liberal vs conservative charecterisation and its prejudices”

    Summary of results includes:

    “The overall ratio of Democrats to Republicans we were able to identify at the 32 schools was more than 10 to 1 (1397 Democrats, 134 Republicans).”

    The rest of the results are at the link .. for all to see.

  35. May 18th, 2009 at 23:11 | #35

    Terje – you are missing the point of knowledge and the support of those most able to develop to extend it.

    Am I? So what is the point of knowledge?

  36. Alice
    May 18th, 2009 at 23:18 | #36

    Terje..Knowledege is advancement and progress…how many years of research does it take to make some new major discovery sometimes….think of the fact that the earth is round? How many generations of knowledge advanced that? Did it need a saleable contract or a patent or a factory production line? The advancement of human knowledge does not have to be linked to a product although it may well become linked at some stage in the process (at any stage). Why did we decipher the Rosetta stone? Why do we study anicent races? Why do we study the outer galaxies…? Terje you are being a philistine….or a mercantilist or have a blinkered “business knows best” view of mankind.

  37. Alice
    May 18th, 2009 at 23:24 | #37

    34# Ubiquity – Im insulted because they left me off the list. It would have been an honour after they compiled it. Whats the problem? Too much potential opposition for the frenetic young liberal rascals? Tell them to get over it and fight politics in the political arena..and stop whinging about poor marks because they couldnt see both sides of an argument (likely the truth that they took their politics into their essays – always a recipe for poor marks…left or right).

  38. Ubiquity
    May 18th, 2009 at 23:42 | #38

    Alice @37 I expected some sort of rebuttal and denial but your response is relatively mild mannered and your not denying it ! You show tremendous humility.

  39. May 19th, 2009 at 00:01 | #39

    Knowledege is advancement and progress

    Is it now.

    How many generations of knowledge advanced that?

    You mean to say you don’t know?

    Why did we decipher the Rosetta stone?

    To translate Egyptian into Greek. To be honest I thought you would have known that one.

    The advancement of human knowledge does not have to be linked to a product

    What an amazing revelation!! However if knowledge is advancement then what is advancement of human advancement?

    Why do we study anicent races?

    To see who was the fastest.

    Why do we study the outer galaxies…?

    Perhaps they are more interesting than the inner galaxies.

    Terje you are being a philistine…

    Isn’t that a little racist?

    or a mercantilist

    No risk of that I can assure you.

    or have a blinkered “business knows best” view of mankind.

    Hardly. Business is more about guile, ego, blind luck, trial and error. Occasionally there are faint glimers of wisdom but nothing to write home about.

  40. SJ
    May 19th, 2009 at 00:10 | #40

    Alice, Terje’s religion (aka libertarianism) doesn’t allow the poor fellow to honestly respond to the questions you posed. He’s doing the best he can given the handicap he has to work under.

  41. May 19th, 2009 at 00:28 | #41

    I wish libertarianism was a religion. Then I could set up a libertarian business and pay no tax. Wouldn’t that be cool!! Alas libertarianism has been denied recognition as a religion and it remains nothing more than a political philosophy.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian

    Actually I think that I’m most accurately described as a radical, minarchists, decentralist, incrementalist, federalist. ;-)

  42. May 19th, 2009 at 00:33 | #42

    Actually I think that I’m most accurately described as a radical, minarchists, decentralist, incrementalist, federalist.

    Which means I’m on speaking terms with the anarchists, but only just.

  43. Ernestine Gross
    May 19th, 2009 at 06:07 | #43

    Ubiquity, your selective quote could be said to be biased because, setting aside the admitted shortcomings in the head-count study you referenced, you fail to report that the largest number of academics in the arbitrary* set of faculties included are “nonaffiliated”.

    To quote:

    Total Schools Surveyed: 32
    Total Democrats: 1397
    Total Republicans: 134
    Total Unaffiliated: 1891
    Total TM : 790
    Total Miscellaneous: 43

    * I say arbitrary because the authors’ argument for exclusion of some faculties is not convincig (eg nuclear physics and technology are excluded but not humanities – but surely the said excluded faculties “can” affect society at least as much as knowledge of, say Accounting, taught in faculties that are included).

    Further, what about alternative hypotheses (to “bias”) for the reported difference in Republican vs Democrate affiliation – eg entry requirements (linked to prior higher education results) or alternative preferences of the individuals (knowledge vs money, say).

    Further, this study is irrelevant to Australia.

  44. Alice
    May 19th, 2009 at 07:33 | #44

    #39Terje – pure poetry in a Japanese style…lol!

  45. Alice
    May 19th, 2009 at 07:54 | #45

    Ubiquity – the underlying complaint here is that conservative students dont think their voices are being heard ….??? That is not a problem unique to conservative students in universities these days. Students are not getting their voices heard. They have been chased out of representation bodies in unis, they have been turned into customers (we only listen when they have an individual appeal) and they have been silenced by the installation of VSU on all sides of the political arena.

    No one is listening to their views on the economy, on the political economy, or on the social economy and this is really the greatest tragedy of modern campuses.

    Your take on it is all wrong. Any good lecturer would encourage a finely crafted argument be it left or right…there is no greater joy but a sledgehammer approach crying “we are outnumbered so we will count and publish who we think are against us..boo hoo” is the stuff of late teen angst and nothing more. When students are polished and honed in the arts of debate Ubiquity, it can be pure music to listen to any side’s argument at all….alas we now deny students the opportunity…

  46. May 19th, 2009 at 16:06 | #46

    Alice @ 37 – Michael Berube is always boasting about being on David Horowitz’s list of dangerous professors!

    Yes, it is seen as a bit of a hoot in academia it appears.

  47. Alice
    May 19th, 2009 at 16:12 | #47

    46# Helen, If I got hold the little rascals who compiled it, Id be dangerous too Helen, LOL!

  48. jquiggin
    May 19th, 2009 at 18:18 | #48

    Don’t worry too much, Alice. I was left off the Oz list too, so of course Bérubé can bag me out any time he wants now. Maybe these conservative students should stop whinging and start working on their research skills.

  49. Alice
    May 19th, 2009 at 21:02 | #49

    #49 I couldnt agree more JQ – Id be more than happy to be on the list and keep them tied up in knots adding more names…! (and if they dont get on with some real work we will have them in unis even longer!)

    If they can waste their research skills on something as trite as this, they can also use them productively and help their cause by producing more sophisticated works. There are elegant conservative speakers in history – Id suggest they start there and see how they can improve!

  50. Ubiquity
    May 19th, 2009 at 23:40 | #50

    Ernestine @43

    Your brief critique of the research is worthwhile. Regardless of the weaknesses you pointed out (which I mostly agree with ) the result still makes a good argument for the fact that university academics in humanity faculties are likley to be bias toward the democrats. This despite the large number (50-60%) identified as unaffilliated in the study sample.

    Your alternative hypothesis adds unnecessary complexity to this particular research. This research, using a “global” or more general measure ie. using the republican/ democrat affiliation of academics, set out to identify any ideological bias in humanity departments of elite US unis. I think how the academics “got there” is not relevant for this question. Perhaps for future research.

    My personal opinion (hypothesis) on this matter is that those on the ideological left are more likely to end up academics in humanity departments at universities simply because of the natural synergies between the life sciences and there ideologies. It is unlikely you will find a successful conservative in humanities as the majority consensus ideology rules in these departments. So given my complete resignation to the fact that in state owned universities conservatives have no hope of recognition/influence in a significant way, how do you provide multiple sides of any issue to students in humanities departments stacked with academics of left leaning ideology . This is a dilemma.

    Alice @45

    I agree with your comments entirely.

    Alice @47 and 49. You are becoming more combative. That is what the left is famous for. You may drown out the conservatives at uni, but life after uni has a funny way of revealing other truths for those that are disillusioned with “absolute” truths sold by the humanities departments at uni.

  51. Alice
    May 20th, 2009 at 06:27 | #51

    Ubiquity – I have no intention of drowning out any students voice at uni. My main complaint at uni is they are too quiet on a range of matters that affect them or on the world around them. I would prefer they actually had more of a voice per my comment at 45.

  52. Alice
    May 20th, 2009 at 06:40 | #52

    Ubiquity – Oh and these students are engaged in an unproductive listing of names. Commonly known as witchhunting Ubiquity. Now unless the peoples revolution or the spanish inquisition arrives peopled by young conservative students accyusing me of being left without trial by court or jury (and its my right if I want, to be whatever I want) I have no intention of burning my books just yet. If left wing / labor students did the same thing Id tell them to get back to productive research also. Thats my job – to encourage well written speech and discourse. A list of names wouldnt get a pass in any subject.

  53. Alice
    May 20th, 2009 at 08:20 | #53

    Ubiquity at 50.
    Ill be more precise Ubiquity

    1.These students lists of names is not factually based. Did they ask the lecturers what their politics were? Did they ask if the Lecturers had voted that way always? Were the Lecturers surveyed? No. It is poor non factual and no scientific research based on hearsay and innuendo.

    2. They drew their list from supposed works given to students to study or “topics”. Lecturers would be remiss in their duties if they did not present a range of views to students.

    3. Students have responsibility for their learning. There are such things as libraries. Students are supposed to draw their views from a range of views and be able to understand arguments from a range of sides from which they develop their own argument. It is called academic development. Presenting only one side of any view is narrow despite arguing for one view ultimately, will lose marks (be their argument “left” or “right”). It generates an undeveloped argument that is unlikely to be either clever or persuasive.

    4. The students do not have enough say these days. All students. Yet for conservative students to suggest it is “left” lecturers silencing them is incorrect. The singularly greatest reduction in political expression on uni campuses came from their own political masters. The VSU. I used to like watching debates between left and right student groups. Alas no more. There are no political societies,few debating societies amongst students anymore and many of our political leaders honed their skills in such uni societies. A great shame.

    5. The conservative students would presumably agree with the concept of the individual being “free to choose.” In this instance it appears they, the students, want the freedom to choose the political persuasions of their Lecturers. Yet they do not recognise the ability of academics to choose their own political persuasion. That is hypocrisy.

    6. In no job description, either public sector or private sector, are you asked your politics or your religion. This adds to my argument that individuals are “free to choose” their own politcal persuasions despite, what is quite likely to be a relatively small group of students, deciding they have the right to determine the politics of their teachers. If that is the case I suggest they lobby for an institution where conservative political persuasion is a requirement on the job application form and go there to study.

  54. Ernestine Gross
    May 20th, 2009 at 09:20 | #54

    Ubiquity @50,

    As far as I am concerned, you are floggig a dead horse with your ‘bias toward the Democrats in the humanities’.

    As far as I remember, J. Carter is a scientist by education and he definitely was a Democratic President in the USA.

    President G.W. Bush, to the best of my knowledge, does not have a science background.

  55. jquiggin
    May 20th, 2009 at 09:33 | #55

    The whole idea of “bias” is the problem here. Far fewer scientists than American non-scientists are likely to believe in creationism. Far fewer economists than American non-economists are likely to believe that cutting taxes will increase revenue. Far fewer social scientists than Americans in general are likely to believe that abstinence-only sex education is likely to be effective.

    For these and other reasons, academics are less likely than Americans in general to support the Republican Party. Educated people in general oppose Republicans for obvious reasons, even though it is, broadly speaking, against their financial self-interest to do so.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/109156/Obama-Retains-Strength-Among-Highly-Educated.aspx

    This is bias only in the well-known sense that reality is biased.

  56. Ubiquity
    May 20th, 2009 at 11:21 | #56

    Alice @53

    In regard to your fourth point:

    “4. The students do not have enough say these days. All students. Yet for conservative students to suggest it is “left” lecturers silencing them is incorrect. The singularly greatest reduction in political expression on uni campuses came from their own political masters. The VSU. I used to like watching debates between left and right student groups. Alas no more. There are no political societies,few debating societies amongst students anymore and many of our political leaders honed their skills in such uni societies. A great shame.”

    Why is that ? Do you think it has something to do with the greater intolerances the left and right have for each other. Perhaps in our busy convuluted state dependent / moderated society we have no time for this type of essential dialogue. We are to busy juggling our proffesional lives, family lives, civil and state obligations.

  57. Ubiquity
    May 20th, 2009 at 11:38 | #57

    @56

    Perhaps there are no more conservatives to debate with ?

  58. David Irving (no relation)
    May 20th, 2009 at 13:18 | #58

    Ubiquity @ 50, I’m not sure that conflating “Democrat” with “ideological left” makes a lot of sense. I’d regard the Democrats as being much like the Republicans, but with shorter boots. They’re both well to the right of where I stand.

  59. David Irving (no relation)
    May 20th, 2009 at 13:23 | #59

    Ubiquity @ 50 – I just noticed the (unintentional?) irony in your last paragraph. Surely the main complaint of the right about university Humanities departments is that they are infested with post-modernists who deny the possibility of absolute truth.

    You need to get your talking points straight, pal.

  60. David Irving (no relation)
    May 20th, 2009 at 13:30 | #60

    Ubiquity @ 50 (again! I’m surprised you have any toes left), about 10 years ago I worked as a gofer for an academic in the geography dept at Adelaide Uni (part of the Arts faculty). It had a fair few post-modernists and marxists, so it certainly matches your stereotype. However, one of the senior lecturers was very conservative – always voted Liberal.

    Ironically, he was one of the first victims of the Howard-induced uni staff cutbacks. However, he had been a highly-valued member of the department.

  61. Ubiquity
    May 20th, 2009 at 13:38 | #61

    David.. ! I’ll sharpen my pencil and keep my toe nails trimmed.

  62. Alice
    May 20th, 2009 at 21:17 | #62

    Re 56 Ubiquity – I dont know. Maybe it is because people dont have time…. I really genuinely would like to see left right debates between students back on campus…I like the fire Ubiquity (of youth whatever their political views…).

    Call it selfish….or just an old woman…who would like to see idealism and inspiration in uni students on fire again. I dont like the market model that has pervaded unis, silenced the students and is treating them as fee paying consumers or clients. Its really really really boring! I dont care if they are left or right… what I want is to see them care!

  63. Alice
    May 20th, 2009 at 21:28 | #63

    56 Ubiquity re your comment

    “Do you think it has something to do with the greater intolerances the left and right have for each other. Perhaps in our busy convuluted state dependent / moderated society we have no time for this type of essential dialogue. We are to busy juggling our proffesional lives, family lives, civil and state obligations.”

    I agree. The elegance of the debates between left and right has gone…the essential dialogue, as you suggest is missing…the ability to engage and debate (without slurs, sithout insults, without cacophany) the other side. That takes consideration and time..

  64. May 27th, 2009 at 19:23 | #64

    Ubiquity @56
    “Why is that ? Do you think it has something to do with the greater intolerances the left and right have for each other. Perhaps in our busy convuluted state dependent / moderated society we have no time for this type of essential dialogue. We are to busy juggling our proffesional lives, family lives, civil and state obligations.”

    Personally I think its a number of things which the Howard government instigated, the cutting back of student services, less university funding and higher fees, a housing boom and the subsequent inflation which substantially raised students’ living costs and finally his relentless promotion of materialistic aspirational ideals.
    When you add it all up it means less time on campus and more time waiting tables.

  65. Alice
    May 30th, 2009 at 13:29 | #65

    Shane64#

    Yes unfortunately I noticed the word “state dependent” in Ubiquity’s comment at 56 a little too late. I think the “state” under Howard, who didnt think much of academia, our universities or our academics is responsible for the increasing commercialism of our universities at the same time as an anorexic approach to funding was applied. And you said

    “When you add it all up it means less time on campus and more time waiting tables.”

    If anyone by now doesnt realise that students have it tough these days (really tough) and to come out of overcrowded classrooms and campuses with their degree and a debt sufficient (if they actually still owned it) to make a deposit on a roof of their own is pretty damn unreasonable.

    I dont know how the children of the less well off can afford uni these days (and pay rent and support themselves). Nor do I understand how foreign student children of the less well off manage to survive here (Ive known quite a few who couldnt despite their families saving the equivalent of a years salary to get them here).

    Further, the services students dont get on campus anymore is obvious thanks to Brendan Nelsons ideological blindspot on unions that gave him the impetus to attack the least able to defend itself and innocuous “students associations” on campus (tragic little missive to the CFMEU was it? Why ddidnt he fight a union worth fighting of he felt that strongly about it?) that made campus life enjoyable for students for decades. Students associations alos gave students a voice the upper echelons had to listen to occasionally (as well as childcare, decent subsidised food on campus, recreational activities like dances, and social workers and student advocates for personal or academic problems).

    Now they dont get listened to by Uni managements (or much less). They just get charged fees and unis have become detached from students real needs. (Happy to take the money though).

    Really that was truly and utterly pathetic of Dr Nelson, like calling members of a lawn bowlers associations “unions” and banning them meeting in public!

    I feel sorry for many uni students these days. Many of them leave overcrowded impersonal uni cowbarns clutching their “business” degrees to find its worth only a clerical entry position and anything better will take another 5 to 8 years of self funded study with a multitude if institutions offering to relieve them of yet more fees for a vast array of postgrad, certificate, “two week” or even one “diplomas” (oversupply) and the many foreign students are even less likely to get those entry level jobs.

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