Wednesday, March 02, 2005

"Mama, I hope my Uni doesn't fall over..."

Yesterday the girl-child went back to Uni for the final year of her Degree.
I like to chat to her and compare my Uni experience with hers.

She displayed disappointment at the changes she has observed in the 3 years she's been at Uni. These include, student union services diminishing, access to lecturers and their individual time diminishing, number of student to tutor ratio increasing (if tutorials are offered at all), and overall student numbers diminishing, she describes it as...sad,
"It's sad mama, there are no places left to meet up. We don't stay at Uni any longer than is necessary 'cos the parking is just too expensive (public transport from here to there would take 2.5 hours one way.) No one seems to care anymore. All my lecturers seem so defeated and it's rubbing off on us. I hope my Uni doesn't fall over."
She tells me that only 25 percent of people she began the course with are still attempting to complete it.

What are we allowing this government to do to our tertiary education? Or should the question be "What are we allowing this government to not do for our tertiary education?"

As described by the girl-child, the 2005 University experience has lost much of what was delicious about being at Uni. The endless debates and discussions after, before and during seminars. The cross pollination of disciplines as you inadvertently sat with a group of anthropology students and were delighted by what you found. What fun to know if, after listening, you were more a multi-modal or out-of-Africa type of person...

Ok, I am a romantic and I accept that not everyone wants the same Uni experience, but is the best we can do now a form of 'assembly-line' learning?


Blogger bogan-A said...

They are just becoming trade schools. Degrees like Law and Business are largely non-intellectual, designed to teach a trade, and even the humanities faculties are becoming overwhelmed by trade-courses (eg professional writing instead of literature).


1:12 pm  
Blogger suki said...

Sadly, in agreeance Martin!
I read her course outlines and there are no 'compare and contrast' assignments, no 'discuss' questions.

What I find most disappointing is the girl-child's own estimation of the value in what she calls 'my piece of paper.'
She deserves to have pride in her achievement, but sees very little merit in the whole system.

I've put off further studies for just these reasons.

1:45 pm  
Blogger bogan-A said...

I'm completely enjoying my masters because for the first time in my study history I picked something (international relations) that interests me, rather than one of the courses best positioned to fix me up with a job.

6:06 pm  
Blogger suki said...

I envy you.
I thoroughly enjoy learning and research, but have to address my cynism before I do anything.

8:07 am  
Blogger sjusju said...

the reason i didn't convert my masters into a phd and pursue a career as a lecturer was because i could see the dismal state that unis were sinking into (even a top-range uni like melbourne uni). i couldn't see any prospect of finding a position which wasn't a) casual and therefore a very uncertain base to live on or b) fraught with the stress of continually having to apply for grants to ensure that you still have a job, and spending valuable teaching and research time on administrative and bureacratic tasks - and having budgetary pressures limit your academic integrity. Not only was the curriculum being shaped by what subjects would "sell" well to student-consumers, there was also pressure to accept (and design special "soft" subjects for) growing numbers of US "study abroad" students who were effectively full-fee paying students and few of whom met the basic standards of Australian HSC/VCE in terms of writing / analysis or research.

Really depressing!

as for the proposals "to reduce their focus on research and to concentrate on teaching students"
and to "allow foreign universities to operate in Australia as long as they meet certain education standards". This doesn't make any sense. The whole way of setting educational standards within Universities REQUIRES that the University also carries out research.

The identifying standard for a university is that it is at the forefront of newly discovered knowledge and analysis - you cannot do that without doing your own research. Any institution that can't meet that standard is not a university. And the moment you take away the requirement to conduct research (in order to provide suitable fresh knowledge / analysis for teaching, and people familiar enough with it to teach) you lose that standard, and the invention, innovation, and culture of creativity that goes with it.

Aside from all the noble stuff about universities as part of humankind's repository and engine for knowlege, innovation and creativity are also the drivers of our economy. Under Howard, we have stagnated - the "rosy figures" of the last few years have been sustained entirely by rapidly inflating real estate prices (due to baby boomers hitting their peak earnings and getting worried about living until they are 98) and consumer over-spending - leaving us with unprecedented levels of debt and no new industries to show for all that investment.

"innovative business" under Howard, is all about fiddling your tax and negative gearing your properties - activities which produce nothing, and encourage people to get into debt up to their eyeballs.

And now, as the reserve bank points out, it is coming to bite us on the bum.

sorry about the big rant - i think howard & costello need to be exposed as lousy economic managers who think it is all about government budget surpluses and looking after their mates in big business.

12:18 pm  
Blogger bogan-A said...

Never apologise for a good rant!

1:00 pm  

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