Scholarly conglomerations go back thousands of years but the first European universities date back to the 11th century.
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The prime functions of universities are to 1 research, 2 teach and 3 inform the public. However universities have now become crucial for educating an increasingly sophisticated workforce and for supplying expertise for societal problem-solving and rational risk management crucial for societal safety. Critical to all 3 functions is honesty, free inquiry, and free expression. Scientific research advances through the critical testing of potentially falsifiable hypotheses and free expression of findings so that others can critically test advanced hypotheses.
Neoliberalism simply demands maximal freedom for the smart and advantaged to exploit the world and in particular the less smart and the disadvantaged. In Australia and in the West in general, the corporatizing of universities has mirrored the corporatizing of society as a whole.
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The Australian university system commenced in the midth century but the poor were largely excluded by expensive fees. Large numbers of overseas students were attracted to study in Australia , lured by the promise of permanent residence. This promise was unethically withdrawn several years ago but was reintroduced in a more restricted form post-graduate work for several years. Similarly, Labor set up a Murray-Darling Commission to advise on saving this key Australian river system — but then rejected scientific advice on the minimum return of water needed to save the system.
Australian academics are highly intimidated by institutional Codes of Conduct and scientists in particular are overwhelmingly silenced by fear of losing vital research grants and are effectively ignored when they do speak out. It forces institutions into cut-throat competition where brand distinctiveness is pivotal to institutional survival. I read it in just two sittings but finished with conflicted feelings.
Whackademia: An Insider's Account of the Troubled University
This book made me angry when I agreed with what it had to say, and even angrier when I disagreed. He then goes on to rant for or so pages without offering any viable alternatives. On reflection, I would have been much happier with this book if had just been the memoirs of a grumpy old academic man rather than what it is: an extended essay on the ills of the contemporary university from a left of centre point of view.
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Richard Hil went to university in the s when, apparently, Things Were Better. It all went to hell in the 80s when governments around the world had a neo-liberal makeover.
Richard Hil: Whackademia
Suddenly academics were accountable to taxpayers, the HECs scheme was introduced and universities started selling education to students from overseas. Now, according to Hil, academics are not trusted to do their primary job, which he believes is to produce engaged and informed citizens.
Hil claims that campuses have become like malls, with cafes and shops. I do agree with Hil that a purely vocational education is not what universities should offer, mostly because we cannot predict the future. My job and the jobs of many people I know did not exist when I was at university. Perhaps Hil has not looked at the primary and high school curriculum lately; the pre-tertiary educators are doing a pretty good job of covering the basics.
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