Challenges ahead

The uniform system of liberal arts [Trivium and Quadrivium] is being progressively replaced with a diet of professional specialisation as a result of a student demand-driven market.  This has increased the need for academic credentials and licensure which, in turn, increases interest in setting university standards and regulation.  This leads to question whether resource-poor universities can withstand economic pressures when committing their resources to ambitious themes of both institutional survival and relevance.

UNE’s collegiate college system must be embraced, but we need to ensure that the ‘experience’ and ‘standards’ are balanced for all on- and off-campus students.  After all, a UNE student is a UNE student regardless of where he or she resides.

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Increased competition amongst universities

Increased competition amongst universities is creating a trend toward various models of meritocracy which, in turn, is leading to power struggles, conflicting standards, and stratifying knowledge-based social classes.

Comparing regional universities to their metropolitan counterparts is like comparing apples to oranges.  Worse yet, Australian universities are lagging behind other OECD countries in research because they are not properly resourced.  What is needed is an infusion of funds that are directed towards not only the research strengths of each institution, but also the institution’s strategic vision.

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Governance and risk

Here, balance is critical: Issues will always be on the table. Balance can be best achieved by collegial governance where all parties are represented and communicate effectively. Over the last two years as Council rep, I have worked well with all members on Council

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Elitism

Egos aside, the promotion system in Australia is problematic at best. Town/gown issues remain but am optimistic about two-way collaboration and building a University town

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Accreditation and audits

There is a proliferation of quality assurance agencies worldwide. The problem is audit-fatigue. Overuse could lead to cost-ineffectiveness.  Multiple layers of regulatory and accrediting entities will attempt to standardise educational systems, but may not be able to increase levels of academic standards.

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Administrivia

This is used increasingly for benchmarking performance (New Public Mgmt). Unfortunately, these benchmarks are tied to funding opportunities so are therefore becoming an evidence-based necessity. They must be tightly monitored and justified; otherwise, they could become cost-ineffective and dysfunctional

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Commodification of education

I contend that there is a global trend in shifting from serving the public good to the private. This ultimately undermines the true essence of education for life.  If left to market forces, universities will increasingly be amalgamated in such ways to generate new types of knowledge, not for the sake of knowledge advancement, but for financial gain.

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Casualisation of the sector

I contend that there is a confidence crisis in academia.  Generally speaking, academic staff are loyal to their discipline more than they are to their employer (the university).  If student demand dictates what degrees are kept or discarded, this creates angst in maintaining a strategic presence in one’s discipline or field of study.  An ageing workforce and poor succession planning further escalate this angst, particularly when universities are asked to cut budgets and ‘casualise’ staff appointments from permanent to fixed to casual.

Casualisation tends to compromise the strategic vision.  It undermines the essence of what a university is and does.  If there is no other recourse due to financial hardship, it is only effective when correctly administered (e.g. ‘duty of care’)

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Why do universities exist?

Broadly, they educate and advance society (knowledge). Am interested in the well-roundedness of the curriculum (liberal arts upbringing) and lateral/critical thinking. Believe that there is a cultural lens to the way we approach teaching and research

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Are universities good for the economy?

Yes, they are sources for innovation and advancement.

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