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International education, we are told, is Australia’s third-largest export industry; in 2019 it was valued at more than $32 billion annually. But it is now also one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. The publication of Gwilym Croucher and James Waghorne’s history of Australia’s universities, one of the principal institutional drivers and beneficiaries of that industry, is thus timely, even if it went to press before Covid-19 was detected. Government policymakers and higher-education institutions alike will need to respond to the present crisis not only with fresh thinking but also with a clear understanding of how the university sector got itself into such a vulnerable position in the first place.

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The idea that academia is a meritocracy in which intelligence and hard work will inevitably result in a long and storied career sounds these days like the foundation myth of a dead religion. Inger Mewburn’s How to Be an Academic is a salve for people such as myself who were silly enough to pursue a research career anyway ...

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Ever since Henry VIII plundered the monasteries, relations between those in seats of power and learning have tended to be fraught, since political administrators do not take kindly to scholars thinking they know best how to run their own affairs, and vice versa ...

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Required Reading: Literature in Australian schools since 1945 edited by Tim Dolin, Joanne Jones, and Patricia Dowsett

October 2017, no. 395

At the heart of Required Reading is a database called ALIAS (Analysis of Literature in Australian Schools). It includes all the reading material prescribed for senior secondary English and Literature courses in most of the states from 1945 to 2005. Like all electronic databases, ALIAS comprises a structured collection of items ...

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It stands to reason, apparently, that universities are inefficient creatures that need ever more market discipline and corporate responsiveness to fulfil their potential. After all, what is education but an industry, and British industry is plainly more successful than British universities. Or perhaps not. Stefan Collini points acerbically to the fact that British i ...

Hannah Forsyth, a lecturer in history at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney, begins her first chapter with the words: ‘In 1857 all of the Arts students at the University of Sydney could fit into a single photograph.’ Some neo-liberal critics of universities would argue that it has been downhill ever since. By World War II, Forsyth estimates that there ...

I’ve never looked at a big independent school in an established suburb and thought ‘that’s not fair’ … I look at a big independent school in an established suburb and think ‘that’s a great example’.
Julia Gillard

If Julia Gillard were to drive past the main campus of the Methodist Ladies’ College (MLC), a big ...

Although the World Wide Web was begun in 1990, it didn’t really get going in a big way until 1994, with the First International World Wide Web conference held at CERN in Switzerland. That was less than a decade ago. And that should give us pause. Think how important the Web has become in those few years. Consider, too, what sort of computer you were using in 1994 and compare it to what you deploy now (assuming you’re not a holdout). No pause there. It’s been an ongoing vertical projection that is no doubt just the beginning of an enormous change that will affect almost every aspect of our lives. Of course, we’ve heard this technological refrain over and over (with various apocalyptic shadings), and we probably believe it to be true. Still, we’re not likely to get excited about it. We’ll deal with it when it comes. In many instances, it’s already here, but we haven’t fully noticed. In part we’ve simply accustomed ourselves to some of the demands of a ubiquitous silicon-based technology, and in part we’ve remained unaware of what’s headed our way in the form of a techno-savvy younger generation. We seldom see into the future because we usually look in the wrong direction: the future’s not ahead, it’s behind us, and it’s coming up fast.

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