Servants of three masters

Universities are the servants of three masters: the state governments that provide the statutory basis, the federal government which provides most of the funding for research and domestic students and the international market.
* The Australian public are not among those to whom the universities see themselves as owing a duty
* These multiple allegiances create great opportunities for the managers of the university to pursue their own interests, playing off the various masters against each other
* It all goes bad when the international market fails

All of this can be seen at work with the refusal of the University of Melbourne to enter into an agreement with the NTEU, saying that its statutory obligations (presumably to the state government) prohibit any element of joint management.

The need for action results from the collapse of the international market, and the refusal of the third master (the Morrison government) to accept its obligation to educate Australians. Instead, they offered a “rescue” package, consisting of a promise not to impose even further cuts this year, if domestic enrolments fell.

14 thoughts on “Servants of three masters

  1. John did you see FDotMs cartoon about us all being in this together? https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/15/the-coronavirus-is-terrible-and-its-good-we-are-all-in-this-together-except-for-everyone-who-isnt?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
    Just curious if you agree with him regarding universities? I imagine that this crew are seeing silver linings everywhere. Culture war- Win! Siphon more money to the top- Win! More big bother (Peter Dutton wet dream)- Win!
    This catastrophe leaves us with the opportunity to reshape our society for the better of all, planet on down. At the very least it would be nice to have an economy that works for everyone and to recognise the true value of life in ALL its amazing glory, to see our very exaggerated idea of our place within, rather than the damage we have wrought to the planet and its inhabitants (no use in starting small 😀).
    With the current lot of lying, authoritarian, christianist RWNJ in charge it doesn’t look promising. But I can’t give up hope because of my precious 18 month old granddaughter, whom I adore beyond all reason. But how and where on earth do we begin?

  2. I find it quite extraordinary how the purpose and excitement of going to University has changed in a very short time form a life changing experience to learn, to establish a career, to establish new links and ideas, to revenue creating factories. The whole concept of knowledge, development and extension of individuals benefiting the country disappeared down the neoliberal plughole. It is not just Universities but the whole erosion of achievement in society, erosion lead by individuals who have themselves benefited from the higher studies, mainly Law. Sadly we don’t have the Mick Youngs and Tom Urens of the past.

  3. Bring the universities back under democratic control. End its visa sale business. Direct its energies towards Australian interests and much more towards Australian students.

  4. I’m curious to see how UQ will respond. I suspect the biggest stumbling block will be the framework’s demand that universities shelve capital works before they beginning cutting staff. UQ has some big vanity projects in the pipeline and I suspect they won’t want to cancel their tennis centres and off-campus hubs, given the prestige they bring (in certain circles, at least).

  5. I assume this talk will be of value in this thread; Prof Harvey mentioned the now missing university attribute – scholarship. He would be abke to demolish;
    “* These multiple allegiances create great opportunities for the managers of the university to pursue their own interests, playing off the various masters against each other”.

    “Digital universities
    Digital technology has transformed universities.

    It’s now an expectation, not a bonus, that they offer the latest technologies: around the clock access to educational resources, an intuitive platform for discussion, cloud collaboration and knowledge exchange, recorded lectures on demand.

    But is it working? Some of it is fascinating, some of it has deep implications for privacy and some of it is downright weird.

    The Digital University and Other Mythical Creatures presented by Gresham College. February 11, 2020

    Big Ideas – What makes great teaching and great schools?

    Speaker
    Richard Harvey – IT Livery Company Professor of Information Technology at Gresham College; Professor at the School of Computing Sciences, University of East Anglia

    https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bigideas/digital-universities/12060322

    …” but also on matters relating to admissions policy and widening participation”
    https://www.gresham.ac.uk/professors-and-speakers/richard-harvey/

  6. Bring the universities back under democratic control.

    There never was a time when universites were more under democratic control than they are now.

  7. “There never was a time when universites were more under democratic control than they are now.”

    That may be true if you equate democracy with absolute subservience to market control. Is that your premise?

  8. That may be true if you equate democracy with absolute subservience to market control. Is that your premise?

    No, but thank you for playing.

  9. It was the view of radical students and staff in past decades that the universities were not, and never had been, under democratic control. Some said that this would only be rectified by establishing some form of “student/staff/worker” self-management of universities, while others argued that the community outside the campus gates also had to be involved in university self-management structures. I recall being involved in these debates in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and they had been going on for decades before that.

  10. Is it now time to shut down the fascist University of Queensland?

  11. Is it now time to shut down the fascist University of Queensland?

    Don’t forget to post an after-action report here when you do that.

  12. The dangers posed by our economic and political subservience to China are immense. Apologies to Martin Niemöller for word changes as below:

    “First they came for the Tibetans, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Tibetan.

    Then they came for the campus protestors, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a campus protestor.

    Then they came for the Chinese diaspora, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not of the Chinese diaspora.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

  13. Yep, not a single peep from acquiescent UQ functionary John Quiggin and our resident far right commentariat, J D and faustusnotes, find the whole business a source of merriment. We live in evil times, I tells ya.

    Hugo, you’re permanently banned. I don’t have time to waste dealing with this kind of thing – JQ

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