Archive for December, 2008

A comparative view of local government reform

December 22nd, 2008

briandollery The role of Australian local government is expanding because that of State governments is contracting, according to a new book co-edited by a University of New England academic.

Professor Brian Dollery (pictured here), the Director of UNE’s Centre for Local Government, is a widely published authority on Australian local government finance and reform.

His new book, Local Government Reform: A Comparative Analysis of Advanced Anglo-American Countries (Edward Elgar, 2008), looks at local government change over the past 20 years in Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Ireland, the United States and Canada.

‘Issues in Australia, such as the constant withdrawing of services from regional areas by State governments – especially NSW – and the controversial theme of local government amalgamations, are explored and then compared to the other countries,’ Professor Dollery said.

‘A good deal of light can be shed on the principles of local government reform by looking at changes in countries with much in common,’ he explained. ‘The next step will be to broaden this comparative approach by including developed countries outside of the “Anglosphere” group.’

The book, which Professor Dollery co-edited with Professor Joseph Garcea from the University of Saskatchewan and Professor Edward Lesage from the University of Alberta (both in Canada), also works through five ‘pillars’ of municipal reform: structural, functional, financial, jurisdictional and organisational/managerial.

‘Until now my books have explored two main themes,’ Professor Dollery said. ‘On the one hand they have focused on Australian local government; on the other, I’ve tried to develop theoretical principles for the analysis of local government reform. This new book represents a new direction in the research program.’

This is the UNE academic’s seventh book on local government. His previous books include The Political Economy of Local Government (Edward Elgar, 2001) and Reform and Leadership in the Public Sector (Edward Elgar, 2007), both written in collaboration with Professor Joe Wallis from the American University of Sharjah.

Other works include Reshaping Australian Local Government (UNSW Press, 2003), co-edited with the UNE’s Associate Professor Neil Marshall and Professor Andrew Worthington from Griffith University, which has recently been translated into Mandarin and published by Peking University Press.

‘Interest in this book arose in China mainly as a consequence of two papers I gave in Beijing in 2006 that focused on reform in Australian local government and lessons that could be learnt for municipal reform in China,’ Professor Dollery said.

Another of the leading international authorities who have collaborated with Professor Dollery is Fabio Fiorillo, Professor of Public Economics at the Università Politecnica delle Marche in Ancona, Italy. Professor Fiorillo, who has published widely in the area of local public finance, fiscal federalism and taxation, has contributed three co-authored chapters to one of Professor Dollery’s latest books, The Theory and Practice of Local Government Reform, co-edited with Professor Lorenzo Robotti of the Università Politecnica delle Marche and published this month by Edward Elgar Publishers.

Professor Fiorillo visited UNE last month for discussions with Professor Dollery and the Deputy Director of the Centre for Local Government, Bligh Grant – discussions that were a part of ongoing collaboration between Professor Fiorillo’s research group in Italy and the UNE Centre.

UNE helps Vietnamese universities build leadership

December 18th, 2008

vietstudents Twenty-five leaders of Vietnamese universities and colleges visited the University of New England for two days last week as part of a leadership program involving a week-long study tour of Australia.

The leadership program, sponsored by the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training, is part of a major Vietnamese Government initiative, called the Higher Education Reform Agenda, which aims to modernise and strengthen the Vietnamese system of higher education and to facilitate a 45 per cent rise in the nation’s tertiary enrolment rate by 2020.

As part of the program, lectures and workshops were held in Hanoi the week before the visitors arrived in Australia. Professor Victor Minichiello, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of UNE’s Faculty of The Professions, travelled to Hanoi to give a number of presentations during that week – presentations outlining staff development strategies used by UNE. Professor Minichiello is one of several professors from Australia, the United States, Japan, Singapore and Europe who have been invited by the Vietnamese Government to contribute to the leadership program.

‘UNE has been invited to participate in delivering training programs in staff development to rectors and senior managers of universities and colleges In Vietnam,’ Professor Minichiello explained. ‘The Government of Vietnam has recognised the importance of higher education and is introducing reforms to shape the future direction of the nation’s universities.’

Participants in the program examine developments in higher education at a global level, with particular emphasis on the skills required of leaders to introduce and promote higher education reforms.

‘The visitors to UNE wanted to examine alternative ways universities cope with management issues,’ said Professor Grant Harman from the Centre for Higher Education Management and Policy in UNE’s School of Business, Economics and Public Policy. ‘They spent two jam-packed days exploring all UNE has to offer.’

‘They said they were very impressed with the Learning Commons and electronic information resources in the Dixson Library,’ Professor Harman added. ‘They also regarded the facilities in the School of Rural Medicine and the School of Science and Technology as top-notch.’

‘Vietnam has made substantial progress in its tertiary education scheme in the last decade,’ he said. ‘Their government is keen to adopt a Western style of university management. The Vietnamese Government also wants to see a significant increase in the number of qualified higher education staff, and to restructure governance and management mechanisms to create a system where legal autonomy is conferred on individual higher education institutions.’

UNE has a strong link with Vietnam, particularly through the Faculty of The Professions. A large number of Vietnamese students have come to UNE to undertake Master’s and PhD degrees. UNE has offered the Master of Educational Administration degree, which is based in Vietnam, in partnership with the National University in Hanoi.

‘Recent discussions with senior government officials in the Ministry have been held in Hanoi to discuss how UNE, via its innovations in the delivery of PhD courses, can further assist Vietnam,’ Professor Minichiello said. ‘They aim to increase the number of academic staff with doctoral qualifications and increase the research capacity of Vietnam.’

As well as visiting UNE, the delegation also toured the University of Western Sydney, the University of New South Wales and the University of Wollongong.