Page 1

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019 Published by NTEU

ISSN 0818–8068

AUR

Australian Universities’Review


AUR Editor Dr Ian R. Dobson, Monash University

AUR Editorial Board Dr Alison Barnes, NTEU National President Professor Timo Aarrevaara, University of Lapland Professor Jamie Doughney, Victoria University Professor Leo Goedegebuure, University of Melbourne Professor Jeff Goldsworthy, Monash University Dr Mary Leahy, University of Melbourne Professor Kristen Lyons, University of Queensland Professor Dr Simon Marginson, University of Oxford Matthew McGowan, NTEU General Secretary Dr Alex Millmow, Federation University Australia Dr Neil Mudford, University of Queensland Jeannie Rea, Victoria University Professor Paul Rodan, Swinburne University of Technology

Editorial Policy

Style

The Australian Universities’ Review (AUR, formerly Vestes) is published by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) to encourage debate and discussion about issues in higher education and its contribution to Australian public life, with an emphasis on those matters of concern to NTEU members. AUR publishes articles and other contributions, including short commentary and satire.

Download full Style Guide at www.aur.org.au/submissions.

Although some contributions are solicited by the Editor or the Editorial Board, AUR is anxious to receive contributions independently from staff and students in the higher education sector and other readers.

Use single quotation marks. Use double quotation marks for quotes within a quote. Indent quotes of more than 50 words.

Articles will be assessed by independent referees before publication. Priority is given to contributions that are substantial, lively, original and have a broad appeal. Responses to previously published contributions are encouraged.

Contact Details Australian Universities’ Review, c/- NTEU National Office, PO Box 1323, South Melbourne VIC 3205 Australia Phone: +613 9254 1910 Fax: +613 9254 1915 Email: editor@aur.org.au

Website

Contributions

Contributors should send digital manuscripts in Word format to editor@aur.org.au. Contributions should be between 2,000 and 7,000 words, although longer articles will be considered. All articles should be accompanied by an abstract that would not usually be longer than 150 words. The author’s full contact details should be provided, including email address and phone numbers. Contributions are sent to a minimum of two referees, in accordance with DIISR requirements for peer blind review. Contributors should read the website before submitting a paper.

AUR is free to NTEU members on an opt-in basis. Full details at www.aur.org.au/subscriptions.

Post packaging is 100% degradable biowrap.

Tables and figures should be incorporated into the text close to where they are first referred. In general, ‘tables’ comprise data, and ‘figures’ comprise everything else (graphs, photographs, etc.). Do not refer to position of tables/figures (e.g. ‘above’, ‘left’) Tables and figures should have separate numbered sequences, and titles should be above for tables, and below for figures. Figures should be prepared in black and white. Graphs with coloured bars are often illegible in black-and-white print.

References References to be cited according to APA Publication Manual 6th edition (with minor exceptions). References in the text should be given in the author–date style: King (2004) argues ... or as various authors (King, 2004; Markwell, 2007) argue ...

More than two authors cite as

Subscriptions

In accordance with NTEU policy to reduce our impact on the natural environment, AUR is printed using vegetable-based inks with alcohol-free printing initiatives on FSC® certified paper by Printgraphics under ISO 14001 Environmental Certification.

Avoid use of abbreviations, except for well-known organisations or processes.

Two co-authors should be cited in the text as

Responses should be a maximum of 1,000 words, and should be received within a month after the publication of the journal so that they can be properly considered by the Editor and the Editorial Board for the following issue.

NTEU members may opt for ‘soft delivery’ (email notification rather than printed copy) for all NTEU magazines. To access your membership details, log in to the members’ area at www.nteu.org.au.

Do not use underlining.

Books for review should be sent to the Editor. Our policy is to review books dealing either with tertiary education or with matters pertinent to issues in tertiary education. Book reviews should be between 200 and 1200 words; review essays may be longer.

AUR welcomes letters of response to articles published in the journal. Longer responses to articles are also encouraged.

AUR is also available online as an e-book and pdf. Visit www.aur.org.au for details.

Neither male nor female pronouns should be used to refer to groups containing persons of both sexes.

Book reviews

Replies and letters

www.aur.org.au

Authors should ensure that the material cited in the text matches the material listed in the References.

Do not use footnotes, endnotes or any headers or footers except for page numbers (bottom of page, centred).

Please adhere to the style notes outlined on this page.

Cover photograph: NeW Space, University of Newcastle. Photograph by Peter Miller. Printed with permission.

Dates thus: 30 June 2010.

It is presumed that authors have followed the standard scholarly ethical practices involved in seeking to have their work published. Authors should take their lead from the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research and the Committee for Publication Ethics.

Natasha Abrahams, CAPA National President

Editorial Assistance: Anastasia Kotaidis

Use a single space at the end of sentences.

Do not use numbered sections.

Intending contributors should refer to the AUR website for full information about submissions: www.aur.org.au/submissions.

Design & layout: Paul Clifton

Use ‘s’ rather than ‘z’ in words such as ‘organise’ (analyse, recognise, etc.).

AUR is listed on the Government’s register of refereed journals and is included in Scopus.

Cathy Rytmeister, Macquarie University

Production

Use ‘per cent’ rather than ‘%’ in the text. Use ‘%’ in tables and figures where space is constrained.

Annual subscription rates (inclusive of GST where applicable) are $71.50 AUD (Australia and NZ), $86.00 AUD (overseas airmail). Overseas payments should be made by credit card or bank draft in Australian currency.

Advertising AUR is published twice a year, in February and September. The current hard copy circulation is approximately 8,000 per issue. Rates are available on application to aur@nteu.org.au.

Archive This issue and previous issues of AUR can be viewed online at www.aur.org.au.

(Smith & Jones, 2013). (Jones et al., 2011). Page references should be thus: (King, 2004, p. 314). Page references should be used for direct quotations. The reference list should be placed in alphabetical order at the end of the paper, utilising the author–date system. For a reference to a book: Gall, M., Gall, J. & Borg, W. (2003). Education Research: An introduction (7th ed.). New York: Allyn & Bacon. For a journal reference: King, D.A. (2004). What different countries get for their research spending. Nature, 430, 311–316. For a reference to a chapter in a collection: McCollow, J. & Knight, J. (2005). Higher Education in Australia: An Historical Overview, in M. Bella, J. McCollow & J. Knight (Eds). Higher Education in Transition. Brisbane: University of Queensland Press. For a web reference: Markwell, D. (2007). The challenge of student engagement. Retrieved from http://www.catl.uwa.edu.au/__data/ page/95565/Student_engagement_-_Don_Markwell_-_30_Jan_2007.pdf Do not include retrieval dates for web references unless the source material may change over time (e.g. wikis).


vol. 61, no. 2, 2019 Published by NTEU

ISSN 0818–8068

Australian Universities’ Review 3

Letter from the editor Ian R Dobson

ARTICLES 4

‘My study is the purpose of continuing my life’: The experience of accessing university for people seeking asylum in Australia Lisa K. Hartley, Sally Baker, Caroline Fleay & Rachel Burke

Asylum seekers face significant barriers accessing higher education. In this regard, the authors’ focus is on their ‘lived experience’ and they found six major themes. Read on! 14 W(h)ither the honours degree in Australian universities? Louise Horstmanshof & Bill Boyd

Australian universities offer diverse approaches to bachelor’s (honours) degrees. However, the Australian Learning and Teaching Council review of Australian honours programs in 2009 has been subjected to little research. 21 Academic administration and service workloads in Australian universities John Kenny & Andrew Fluck

This paper highlights the need in a modern, corporatised university to consider the nature of academic work and optimal ways to develop workload allocation and performance management processes. 31 Examiner feedback and Australian doctoral examination processes Kerry Dally, Allyson Holbrook, Terence Lovat & Janene Budd

Receiving and responding to feedback during the doctoral process are integral parts of a formal learning process but little is known about what happens after examiner reports are received by an institution. This paper reveals all! 42 Engagement and impact through ‘amplifier platforms’ Kim Osman & Stuart Cunningham

The growth of digital and social media ‘amplifier platforms’ such as The Conversation are of burgeoning importance. The authors review ‘…the growth of amplifier platforms and the academic and contextual reasons for their growth’. 49 More work for less reward: Academic perceptions of service teaching Delma Clifton & Steve McKillup

This paper reports on a survey of science academics involved in service and discipline teaching, and reports on their experiences and perceptions. This is an area that has received little attention and this paper suggests strategies for improvement.

OPINION 57 ‘Continuous improvement’in higher education: Response to ‘Neoliberalism and new public management in an Australian university: The invisibility of our take-over’ by Margaret Sims (2019) Cat Mitchell

Reacting to Margaret Sims’ paper from AUR v61(1): 22-30, in this letter, Cat Mitchell reports ‘…much in [Sims’] text speaking directly to the higher education situation in Aotearoa/New Zealand’. 59 Three cheers for the Ramsay Centre Martin Davies

In 2018 Australia’s leading national university, the ANU, broke off consultation with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation over a generous bequest to fund a course in Western civilisation. In doing so, the university ‘…turned its back on humanities funding’. 65 The Ramsay Centre and ‘Western Civilisation’: An attempt at historical perspective. A reaction to Martin Davies’ paper (this issue) Andrew G. Bonnell

In responding to Martin Davies’ piece, among other things, Bonnell notes that ‘Western Civilisation’ has its own, comparatively recent, history, and needs to be viewed in its own historical context and that the term ‘civilisation’ has relatively little utility as a unit of scholarly analysis. 72 The End of Endeavour: The short and tumultuous life of ‘Australia’s Fulbright’, the Endeavour program. Joanne Barker

The Australian Government’s well-regarded Endeavour Leadership Program was ‘quietly scuttled’ in April 2019. Read all about it! REVIEWS 78 Knowledge: tomato is a fruit Wisdom: you don’t put it in fruit salad Knowledge and Global Power – Making New Sciences in the South, by Fran Collyer, Raewyn Connell, João Maia & Robert Morrell

Reviewed by Neil Mudford 81 Per aspera ad astra? High Participation Systems of Higher Education by Brendan Cantwell, Simon Marginson & Anna Smolentseva (Eds)

Reviewed by Andrys Onsman 84 An insider’s account of wages campaigns for women Winning for Women: A Personal Story by Iola Mathews

Reviewed by Kate White


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

85 Dumb and dumber

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

91 Back to basics

Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (And how to fix it) by Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic

The Good University: What Universities Actually Do and Why It’s Time for Radical Change by Raewyn Connell

Reviewed by Kate White

Reviewed by Natasha Abrahams

86 Working people into misery Lab Rats – Why Modern Work Makes People Miserable by Dan Lyons

Reviewed by Thomas Klikauer

2

V



93 STEM – Education for the global economy Miseducating for the Global Economy: How Corporate Power Damages Education and Subverts Students’ Futures by Gerald Coles

Reviewed by Thomas Klikauer

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Letter from the editor Ian R Dobson Welcome to Round 2 for 2019! This issue comprises a

platform. I have been reading The Conversation daily for

lively mix of scholarly refereed papers, tantalising opinion

several years without realising that it was such a platform.

pieces and reviews of several books that might be worth

The authors explain about the growth in digital and social

buying or borrowing.

media and how alternative metrics (‘altmetrics’) generated

The papers in this issue start with one by Lisa K. Hartley, Sally Baker, Caroline Fleay and Rachel Burke.They

by these platforms are becoming more important as indicators of impact and engagement.

explain about the significant barriers to accessing higher

Finally, Delma Clifton & Steve McKillup report on a

education faced by people seeking asylum in Australia.

survey of science teachers, comparing discipline teaching

They found six major themes from an examination of

with service teaching. They note that the experiences of

the ‘lived experience’ of their sample. They find that ‘the

service teachers have received little attention but that the

priority should be on addressing the Australian Federal

perceptions and experiences of service teachers could

Government policies that underpin the most significant

help ‘…to suggest strategies for improvement’.

barriers facing people seeking asylum in accessing higher

In this issue’s opinion pieces, we start with a letter

education…’. A bit of heart from those in power would

from Cat Mitchell from Aotearoa/New Zealand’s Unitec

help! (Heart: that organ behind your shoulder holster).

Institute of Technology. She comments on Margaret Sims’

Louise Horstmanshof & Bill Boyd of Southern Cross

paper (AUR, 61(1)) concerning the impact of aspects of

University help to fill in the gaps in our knowledge about

neoliberalism on Australian universities and suggests that

honours degrees at Australian universities. They explain

the impact across the ‘dutch’ has been similar.

how the Bologna Declaration, tensions between the

We have a paper from Martin Davies on the torrid

conventional role for honours as a PhD pathway or as

history of the Ramsay Centre, which has been refused a

professional development, and the rigid funding model

home by a few Australian universities. Davies sees this as

for honours have led to the current situation since the

turning down a huge bequest to the humanities. However,

Australian Learning and Teaching Council’s 2009 review

in his response to Davies, Andrew Bonnell does not agree.

of Australian honours programs.

The Ramsay Centre eventually found its place at the

Complementing their earlier work, John Kenny and

University of Wollongong, with the academic senate being

Andrew Fluck report on management of academic

bypassed. Cultural wars or loss of academic freedom?

performance and workload. They explain ‘…the need in

Read both pieces; see what you think!

a modern, corporatised university to consider the nature

In the final opinion piece, Joanne Barker reports on

of academic work and optimal ways to develop workload

the ‘quiet scuttling’ of the Australian Government’s well-

allocation and performance management processes’.

regarded Endeavour Leadership Program (b. 2003) in

Kerry Dally and her colleagues from the University of

April 2019. The official reason for the termination was

Newcastle explain how ‘…doctoral thesis examination is

that the money would be more effectively used to fund

the litmus test for doctoral quality’. However, little is known

a scholarship program for studies at regional Australian

about what occurs in response to examiner feedback.

universities, but many Australian and international

They report on a review of policies and protocols. They

scholars will be ‘losers’ in this policy reversal. Hmmm!

wonder

whether ‘…current

examination

processes

This issue finishes with several book reviews on recently-

allow adequate opportunities for candidates to actively

published work. Book review regulars like Andrys Onsman,

engage with examiner feedback and take advantage of

Neil Mudford, Kate White and Thomas Klikauer have

this final opportunity to demonstrate, or further develop,

chipped in to help you see what you should be reading.

authoritative judgement and research autonomy’.

Ian R Dobson is Editor of Australian Universities’ Review, and an Adjunct member of the Professional Staff at Monash University, Victoria, Australia.

The paper by Kim Osman and Stuart Cunningham introduced an expression that was new to me: amplifier vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Letter from the editor Ian R Dobson

3


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

‘My study is the purpose of continuing my life’ The experience of accessing university for people seeking asylum in Australia Lisa Hartley Curtin University

Sally Baker University of New South Wales

Caroline Fleay Curtin University

Rachel Burke University of Newcastle

People seeking asylum in Australia face complex and significant barriers accessing higher education. Due to the temporary nature of their visa, their only pathway to university is being granted admission as an international student, which is financially prohibitive. This paper focuses on the lived experience of people seeking asylum with regard to accessing higher education, and identifies six major themes: the importance of accessing studies; the stress of struggling to meet living expenses while studying; mental health issues; support for people with disabilities, health challenges, and family responsibilities; the importance of language support and navigational brokers; and the role of higher education in the settlement of people seeking asylum. The research indicates that more university and community support is needed to foster access and participation, but the priority should be on addressing the Australian Federal Government policies that underpin the most significant barriers facing people seeking asylum in accessing higher education. This recommendation is most pressing in light of the re-election of the Coalition Government in May 2019, which has committed to continue these restrictive policies. Keywords: refugees, asylum seekers, international students, temporary visas

The United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees

yet been finalised – are denied opportunities to develop

(UNHCR) estimated in 2017 that only one per cent of

the capacities and knowledge to sustain their livelihoods

refugees have access to higher education, compared with

and to contribute to their communities and host societies.

36 per cent of the global population (UNHCR, 2017).

The lack of access to higher education is particularly

Without access to higher education, refugees and people

complex in the Australian context where refugees and

seeking asylum – those who have sought protection as a

people seeking asylum are afforded different rights and

refugee, but whose claim for refugee protection has not

entitlements based on their mode of arrival to Australia.

4

‘My study is the purpose of continuing my life’ Lisa Hartley et al.

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

For example, refugees and humanitarian entrants who are

(McCarthy & Dauba, 2017), the financial expense of

resettled to Australia through the offshore component

admission to higher education via the international

of Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program have

student program is prohibitive for most people seeking

access to services and entitlements that are denied to

asylum. As such, while students from asylum-seeking

people seeking asylum who arrive to Australia without

backgrounds may successfully complete secondary

a valid visa (the majority of whom have arrived in

schooling in Australia and qualify for entry to university,

Australia by boat) (Hartley & Pedersen, 2015). One of the

most are unable to continue their education due to the

significant differences in entitlements relates to access to

cost of enrolling as an international student (Hirsch &

higher education.

Maylea, 2017).This situation highlights a contrast in policy

For much of the past six years, approximately 30,000

where people seeking asylum are permitted to attend

people seeking asylum in Australia have resided in

government schools yet, upon graduation, they are not

community detention, or lived in the community

deemed to be local students for the purposes of receiving

on temporary Bridging Visas, while they await the

financial assistance to attend university (White, 2017).

processing of their claim for refugee status. These are

In addition to their ineligibility for student income

people who arrived in the country by boat either before

support, further barriers to accessing higher education

13 August 2012 without having their protection visa

for people seeking asylum include a lack of access to

application finalised as at 18 September 2013 or those

alternative pathway courses and government-funded

who arrived on or after 13 August 2012 and were not sent

English language courses (Fleay, Lumbus & Hartley,

to offshore detention on Nauru or Papua New Guinea’s

2016; Hartley & Fleay, 2014; Refugee Council of Australia,

Manus Island. If people seeking asylum are deemed

2015). These barriers raise important questions about the

eligible for protection in Australia, the Department of

potential impact on people seeking asylum who attempt

Home Affairs issues them with one of two temporary

to undertake education in Australia without the various

visas: a 3-year Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) or a

support mechanisms available to other groups in the

5-year Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV). While more

community.

than half of these people have now received a decision

Thus, the significant obstacles facing people seeking

on their refugee claim, as at July 2018 there were still

asylum who wish to participate in higher studies renders

12,290 people seeking asylum who continue to wait.

education impossible for most people in this situation.

(Department of Home Affairs, 2018). In this paper, the

Exclusion from tertiary education diminishes employment

term ‘people seeking asylum’ is used to refer to people

potential and has been shown to undermine positive

who are either awaiting the outcomes of their refugee

resettlement prospects and social inclusion significantly

application and living in the community on a Bridging

(Fleay, Lumbus & Hartley, 2016; Hirsch, 2015).

Visa or in community detention, or those already found to be a refugee and granted a TPV or SHEV. People seeking asylum who hold Bridging Visas, TPVs,

In response to the substantial barriers preventing people seeking asylum from participating in higher education, some universities have introduced full fee-

or SHEVs are ineligible for income support programs

paying/fee-waiver

such as the Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, or

and part-time employment opportunities attached to

Austudy. While they may apply for Special Benefit – the

scholarships as well as computers. Furthermore, state/

Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) payment

territory governments in Victoria, New South Wales,

which at a maximum equates to 89 per cent of the

South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory have

Centrelink NewStart – there are stipulations about

offered various forms of support for people to access

the nature and length of study that may be undertaken

higher education. There have also been local community

while receiving this income support. Further, they are

responses seeking to facilitate access to education for

ineligible for Australian Federal Government programs

people seeking asylum. These include the provision of

designed to assist students with financing higher study

case management to link people seeking asylum with

and concession rates. Accordingly, people seeking asylum

potential scholarship opportunities and liaising with

are generally required to pay international student fees in

universities to highlight the urgent need for full fee-paying

order to attend tertiary education (comprising vocational

scholarships/waivers and other support.

education and training (VET) and university) in Australia.

network of academics, education practitioners, and

With the average undergraduate degree costing

community sector organisations has also been established

over $30,000 per year without government subsidies

by the Refugee Education Special Interest Group (https://

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

scholarships,

bursaries,

stipends,

A national

‘My study is the purpose of continuing my life’ Lisa Hartley et al.

5


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

www.refugeecouncil.org.au/educationsig/), which hosts

also included some quotes from community organisation

quarterly national teleconferences to discuss developing

representatives working with people seeking asylum to

challenges in this area.

help contextualise the students’ contributions.

Overview of the current study

a safe space for our research participants to share their

Consistent with our ethical stance, we sought to open experiences and to amplify their voices rather than us There is a relatively large body of work focusing on the

as researchers recasting all of their stories in our words.

educational experiences of people with refugee status;

Exploring the journey experiences of people seeking

however, most of this work relates to the school sector

asylum (including through systems and institutions

(e.g., Naidoo, Wilkinson, Adoniou, & Langat, 2018). A

like higher education) can help to ‘challenge the

central focus of the small amount of work undertaken

competing voices that come from [those] more socially

within the higher education sector includes approaches

powerful’ and allow for people’s experiences to be

to facilitating successful transitions to, and participation in,

elevated (BenEzer & Zetter, 2014, p.304). The precarious

higher education for people with refugee backgrounds, as

position of asylum-seeking students means that telling

well support mechanisms for assisting with the navigation

their stories can be felt as a risk. We have tried to bring

of linguistic and sociocultural practices (Baker & Irwin,

participants along with us throughout the process of

2019). Yet despite the growing recognition that people

the current study – which extends to our advocacy and

seeking asylum represent a particularly disadvantaged

practice beyond this project. However, even with the

group due to the uncertainty of their situation, the ongoing

best intentions, participatory research can inadvertently

impact of trauma, and their limited access to government

objectify and reduce people from a refugee background

services and support, there remains a dearth of research

(Doná, 2007). We have sought to avoid this as much

examining the experiences of such people (see, however,

as possible by seeking to learn from, and with, our

Hirsch & Maylea, 2017; White, 2017).

participants throughout each part of the research

The findings presented here are part of a larger research project involving analysis of Australian Federal

process (Block, Warr, Gibbs & Riggs, 2012).

their ability – or lack thereof – to access higher education

National Symposium: People Seeking Asylum and Higher Education

and creation of a nation-wide map of university and

In November 2017, a public symposium was convened at

community responses to the issue. However, for the

The University of Melbourne organised by the research

purposes of this paper, we focus on the findings regarding

team (the authors of this article) in collaboration with

the lived experience of people seeking asylum in higher

community sector organisations including the Refugee

education in Australia in the current restrictive socio-

Council of Australia, the Multicultural Youth Advocacy

political climate. This is critical because, currently, there

Network, and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, as well

are no clear indicators as to how people seeking asylum

as colleagues from the Melbourne Social Equity Institute

manage to navigate the financial, linguistic, bureaucratic,

at the University of Melbourne and Monash University

social, and cultural landscape of Australian higher

(see Hartley, Fleay, Baker, Burke & Field, 2018 for the final

education institutions.

symposium report). The symposium was organised with

Government policy about people seeking asylum and

the purpose of bringing key ‘stakeholders’ from across

Method

Australia together for the first time to discuss the ways people seeking asylum to access university study could

The data discussed in this paper have been drawn from

be better supported and focused on identifying emerging

the aforementioned participatory research project, which

challenges and future opportunities. The stakeholders

employed a mixed-methods design. The project design

included 25 students with asylum-seeking backgrounds

pertaining to the lived experience of people seeking

(both currently enrolled in higher education programs

asylum involved two main forms of data collection: a

and prospective students) and 40 representatives from

public symposium on issues of access to higher education

universities and community organisations.The symposium

for people seeking asylum (based on notes made

privileged the students’ voices and stories, thus enabling

throughout the symposium), and a series of individual

the broader community to listen to and learn from people

semi-structured

education

seeking asylum and their experiences and creating the

students with lived experience of seeking asylum.We have

possibility for rich and honest conversations about

6

interviews

with

higher

‘My study is the purpose of continuing my life’ Lisa Hartley et al.

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

existing practices, challenges and setting an agenda for

the myriad challenges experienced in trying to access

collective advocacy.

higher education in Australia, including their treatment as international students and the barriers created by

Semi-Structured Interviews

complicated application processes. However, they also

As part of the broader research project, we also conducted

discussed the importance of key allies, such as a trusted

a series of semi-structured interviews with asylum-seeker

broker or friend, in enabling their participation, and

students, university representatives and representatives

many demonstrated tenacity in the face of extraordinarily

from community organisations. In this paper, we draw on

difficult circumstances.

the interviews conducted with people seeking asylum.

Six major themes emanated from the data. The first

Participants were recruited via their engagement in either

was the importance of accessing studies (scholarships;

the symposium or contacts known to the researchers. In

loans; commitment; resilience). The second was the stress

total, we conducted 11 interviews with students with

of struggling to meet living expenses while studying,

lived experience of seeking asylum and studying in higher

and the third was the impact of all of this on the mental

education residing in Western Australia, New South Wales,

health of students. The fourth theme involved support

and Victoria (ten men, one woman) and six community

for people with disabilities, health challenges, and family

organisation representatives. The interviews were either conducted

face-to-face

or over the phone, and the majority were audio recorded and transcribed by a professional transcription company.

Some

of

responsibilities, and the fifth

...currently, there are no clear indicators as to how people seeking asylum manage to navigate the financial, linguistic, bureaucratic, social, and cultural landscape of Australian higher education institutions.

the

theme was the importance of language support and the need for brokers. The sixth and final theme was the importance of higher education in the settlement of people seeking asylum.

participants did not want to be recorded for reasons of sensitivity or perceived risk, and in those cases extensive notes were made during the conversation.

All the

The importance of accessing studies

transcriptions or notes of the recordings were sent back

Scholarships

to the participants to ensure that they were happy with

The critical importance of scholarships in enabling

the representation of their conversation, and participants

access to higher education was highlighted by student

were offered the opportunity to edit or remove parts of

participants at the National Symposium as well as students

the interview if desired. We received feedback from a

taking part in the interviews. As Student Participant B

number of participants and incorporated their comments

noted in their interview:

into our report. The interview data were coded using thematic analysis, as described by Braun and Clarke (2006). In the first phase, one of the research team coded the interview transcripts into themes. In the second phase, we reviewed the initial codes and removed themes that overlapped or did not have enough data to support them. In the final stage,

I just wanted to appreciate whoever gave us this opportunity [to obtain a scholarship] ... [it] is going to open a way for us, not just me for a lot of people. I know a lot of young people just hoping to go to university to find a way to get out of this miserable life that I don’t know that life brought for them. It’s not their decision actually they had to just move, they had to, they had to escape from whatever life…

we crossed checked the themes, deliberated about any

Student participants emphasised the value of education,

themes that were unclear or appeared counter-intuitive

not simply as a means of acquiring the qualifications

then confirmed the theme names and definitions.

necessary for employment, but as essential to living a meaningful life. The opportunity to undertake study

Results

was regarded as an important tool for self-actualisation and for contributing to society, as articulated by Student

The findings represented in this section arise out of an integration of data collected from the National Symposium and the interviews with students with lived experience of seeking asylum. At the symposium and throughout the interviews, the students spoke of vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Participant C in their interview. Each person, each person has to have a purpose or goal you may say. My study is the purpose of continuing my life. If that is taken away from me, I am nothing. ‘My study is the purpose of continuing my life’ Lisa Hartley et al.

7


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

However, while the provision of fee-waiving scholarships

literacy class who also wanted to go to university, but

is a welcome response from universities to the limitations

he also reflected that he had ‘worked [his] arse off’. He

caused by Federal policy, this alone cannot support the

said, ‘I would just say that I broke the norms and made it

successful participation of people seeking asylum in

possible’.

their studies. As Engstrom and Tinto (2008) succinctly

The degree of persistence demonstrated by some

described, ‘access without support is not opportunity’;

people seeking asylum was also noted by community

therefore offering a ‘free’ place in a course is the first

organisation and educational institutional participants.

of a series of types of support that universities need to

For example, one Community Organisation Participant

offer in order to respond to the complex needs of people

noted in their interview that:

seeking asylum, particularly in the context where welfare payments are cut as a direct result of studying at university. Loans

Many students expressed a preference for loans like other

...we do see some of the most unbelievably resilient individuals going through all of these kinds of setbacks to be able to then actually succeed…I think that despite what I’m describing in terms of quite a bleak context, what we do see when people get [study opportunities] is that they really thrive

Australian students, rather than scholarships to facilitate access to studies. The desire to ‘earn’ their education, or

Student Participant D also described how he was

to reimburse the institution for the opportunity to study,

undertaking a heavier load of study in order to get through

is indicative of their willingness to contribute to the

his degree as quickly as possible given the severe financial

resettlement context and play a role in ‘giving back’ to the

constraints he faced. Despite his very heavy study load

community.

over the past two years, he expressed his gratitude for the opportunity and when asked how he was experiencing

Commitment

his studies replied that he was ‘loving it’.

Despite the significant challenges associated with

Research into the experiences of students with refugee

studying in a foreign language and unfamiliar institutional

and humanitarian status also highlights how resilience

environment with limited financial resources, student

and courage is shown by many (Eades, 2013; Earnest,

participants

to

Joyce, DeMori, & Silvagni, 2010). However, while the

successfully completing their education in Australia. A

determination of these students can be an important

desire to make family proud, and an appreciation for

factor in their overall success in higher education, a sole

educational opportunities that were denied to parents

focus on resilience can also obscure the systemic barriers

and other relatives was identified as a chief motivating

to meaningful participation in education, including racism

factor. For example, Student Participant F stated in their

and restrictive government policy, as identified in our

interview that their ‘parents never had an opportunity to

research.

maintained

a

strong

commitment

study... my parents said to me if you got the opportunity us study at, get one degree you know’. Student Participant

The stress of struggling to meet living expenses while studying

C also stated in their interview that it was:

The policyscape outlined earlier in which people seeking

just make our dream real. We want to see at least one of

…so hard to study and the first semester but I tried my best to concentrate and move forward and stuff. You know like all my families when we were kids like my father and my mum was telling us like you have to study, you have to be a good person like for community.

asylum are treated as international students has an extremely negative personal impact on students. Financial concerns are a primary cause of stress, given that the limited government financial assistance for people on a SHEV or TPV is not available for people undertaking education for longer than 12 months, and the cessation

Persistence in the face of significant challenges

of SRSS payments for increasing numbers of Bridging

Another clear theme that was present in discussions at

Visa holders. Homelessness and a lack of food seriously

the symposium and in the interviews was the students’

detract from students’ capacity to focus on their studies.

tenacity, devotion, drive to study, and the use of coping

Many student participants also identified the rapidity with

strategies to achieve good outcomes from participation in

which policy changes were implemented, and a lack of

higher education.

clear communication around the new policy stipulations

Student participant D believed that he ‘got lucky’

particularly regarding SRSS payments, as creating

reflecting on the many other people he had met in his

considerable confusion and distress. These concerns,

8

‘My study is the purpose of continuing my life’ Lisa Hartley et al.

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

combined with ongoing trauma from past experiences

that he was in danger of failing if he tried to work at the

and separation from family, weighed heavily on these

same level he had been able to manage the previous year.

students.

He described never having enough money especially

The cost of living is a significant barrier to people

since his SRSS payments were stopped without prior

seeking asylum accessing higher education. One of the

notification. Despite these additional pressures on his

student participants at the National Symposium described

finances, however, he was adamant that nothing would

their daily life as a student as ‘eat, survive, study’. Student

stop him from studying.

Participant H described in their interview how difficult it was to survive even with Centrelink support: ‘… sometimes the money even that Centrelink were giving… ‘cause I was living alone…that was money was exactly for food and just the rent’ (Student Participant: Individual Interview). Other students described the great degree of stress they endured when they were suddenly cut from the SRSS scheme. As Student Participant K described in their interview: They just suddenly stopped everything. I didn’t have food money and I had to study for an assignment and I was really stressed. I said I’m going to have to go and make some, find food or I have to do assignment. [I was] really struggling and I was just, the problem was I couldn’t concentrate. I forced myself to study...

Student Participant E described the following in their interview: I know a lot of people are struggling with their study as well in my situation….I can say we are going through a lot of stressful life, it’s not an easy life like others just coming to university and cheering up and just focussing on the study. We have a lot of other concerns as well. In my case I have to work and study at the same time. And I have to find actually a fulltime job to cover my expenses so it’s going to be hard for me to do my assignment and yeah get on with my study load. The difficult and very specific challenges that these students face with regards to meeting living costs and consequent labour exploitation was also highlighted by a number of higher educational and community organisation participants. As one Community Organisation Participant

Frequently, assistance from community organisations provided the only means by which students were able to survive while continuing their studies. For example, Student Participant D described going to the Red Cross and telling them: I am homeless, I am an engineering student, they couldn’t believe it. They said are you serious? I say yes … and they gave me, I think they gave me two gift cards for Coles… I say what will happen next week and this was on my brain (Student Participant: Individual Interview).

put it in their interview: I just don’t know how they’re going to survive… It’s a hard flog for them but then they look at their mates… and some of them have worked really crappy, have been exploited in shitty jobs in Sydney where they’re getting paid a pittance (Community Organisation Participant: Individual Interview). Unmistakably, students who are seeking asylum are significantly disadvantaged as they cannot access income support as other Australian students. While a range of universities who offer full fee-paying/fee-waiver

The costs of living, and a lack of financial support from

scholarships also offer income support for helping to

the government, means that students – even those with a

contribute to living expenses, more needs to be done.

full fee-paying/fee-waiving scholarship – are required to

Federal policy change which ensures all people seeking

work. Difficulties balancing work and study forces people

asylum and refugees have access to income and student

seeking asylum into part-time study in order to have the

support on par with other Australians would be the

ability to work enough to afford basic living expenses.

ultimate solution, but in the interim, income support

However, at some universities, students receiving a

and subsidised accommodation for students who receive

scholarship or stipend are required to maintain a full-time

scholarships is a necessary first step.

study load, which exacerbates the difficulty of balancing education with the hours of work necessary to pay for

Impacts on mental health

food and accommodation.

The third major theme involved the stresses of adjusting to

One

student

by

new academic life while coping with financial difficulties

working 20 hours a week in a restaurant, which was a

and living in an extremely precarious and uncertain

reduction from the nearly full-time job he had while he

situation, which has a significant, negative impact on

was undertaking his Diploma course. The student had

students’ mental health. The long-term uncertainty

to reduce his paid work because he had a ‘gut feeling’

around their future in Australia due to the lack of access

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

described

supporting

himself

‘My study is the purpose of continuing my life’ Lisa Hartley et al.

9


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

to permanent protection and the right to family reunion,

accessing appropriate and affordable health care and

the mental health impacts of detention, and living in the

support while undertaking studies. More information

community for years without the right to work, amplifies

needs to be collected about the numbers of students

the trauma experienced in their country of origin and

seeking asylum who struggle with ongoing health and

while fleeing. These significant pressures can act as

disability issues and the official structures in place to

further barriers to higher education making it difficult

support such students.

for people seeking asylum to focus on their studies. As Student Participant D described in their interview:

People seeking asylum with children, particularly women, who are not able to access affordable childcare

When I came here I started in my first semester, imagine…knowing nobody and being in the shock with the [new study environment], fulltime study, … English as a second language and studying [a difficult subject] and all that and you get a letter from the Department [of Immigration], you may apply [for refugee status] and you have no money to get a lawyer to help you. I did my application myself, and my statement, I had a draft of the statement and I had to work on it and it was the most depressing year of my life

also face further barriers to accessing higher education. For students with responsibilities to financially support family members either in Australia or elsewhere, there is the added barrier of needing to find employment given the lack of access to student financial support.

The importance of language support and the need for navigational brokers Developing English language proficiency is a key barrier

People seeking asylum also have to endure not seeing

to finding employment and accessing education and can

their families who remain in the country they fled and

be a source of social isolation and marginalisation (for

not knowing when – or if – they will ever see them again.

example, Ager & Strang, 2008; Fozdar & Hartley, 2013).

Some have endured separation from family members after

Being essentially locked out of government-funded free

they arrived in Australia. As Student Participant F put it in

English language classes due to the temporary nature of

their interview: ‘I got depressed because they separated

their visa means that developing language proficiency

my brother and I at the first day coming out of detention.’

is much more challenging for people seeking asylum

Community organisation participants also noted the

and places a significant burden on the individual to find

negative mental health impacts of living in extreme

affordable ways of learning the host country’s language.

uncertainty. For example, one community organisation

In our study, community organisations observed the need

representative

insecurity,

for greater and more specialised English language support

indexing what van Kooy and Bowman (2019) refer to as

as a chief priority and we note here that many offer free

‘manufactured precarity’:

classes to people seeking asylum. People who were pre-

lamented

this

sense

of

The stress of not knowing about what’s going to happen in your future. And that visa processing can take you know up to five years or sometimes longer. Depending on the situation and what’s decided, it really does take a huge toll on people and their mental health. And can cause things like depression and anxiety, which then again has an impact on peoples’ ability to engage in education and employment.

or semi-literate in their first language(s) were particularly

Mental health pressures and pre-existing trauma are

language adds an additional, but invisible, language load

exacerbated by the lack of time for self-care. High study

on their studies. As Student Participant G articulated, ‘I

and employment workloads leave little time for people

have to study a lot, especially as a second language you

seeking asylum to create a work/life balance. Greater

have to make it double sort of’. For this student, like many

financial support was identified as one way in which

others, this additional work (of translating, of reading

students could reduce their hours in the workplace and

course materials several times, of practising writing

maintain a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.

and checking its accuracy) is on top of their paid work,

Support for people with disability, health challenges, and family responsibilities

affected. When it comes to accessing tertiary education, a person’s language proficiency can provide significant barriers, not only to meeting the entry requirements of the institution but also in terms of their participation in their studies. For people seeking asylum, studying in English

travelling, and caring responsibilities, and thus constitutes a significant burden on their time. In addition to establishing fluency in academic

As raised at the National Symposium, students with

language and terminology of their discipline, students also

ongoing health concerns and disabilities are a particularly

need to develop the academic literacies through which

vulnerable group of people, especially with regard to

they can demonstrate successful learning, and which will

10

‘My study is the purpose of continuing my life’ Lisa Hartley et al.

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

help them to secure meaningful employment after they

successful, successful settlement....what we want to see is

have completed their studies. There is therefore a need

social inclusion and people being able to participate fully

to support the language and literacies development of

in their new community’.

culturally and linguistically diverse students, especially for people seeking asylum who are likely to have experienced

Discussion

disruptions to their education, and who do not have easy access to free English language tuition. Tertiary education

This first Australian-wide research highlights that people

institutions need to ensure that sufficient and responsive

seeking asylum face complex and specific challenges

support for academic language, literacies, and cultural

and barriers to higher education access and enrolment.

navigation are available.

These barriers function as a compound set of injustices.

A number of student participants highlighted the

In addition to the financial implications of the barriers,

importance of key people, such as a trusted broker or

they are also causing considerable distress and eroding

friend, to help at all stages of the process of accessing

the hopeful possibilities that engaging in education can

higher education including locating courses, scholarships,

offer. A major barrier is that the only current pathway

writing

and

submitting

course

and

scholarship

applications, transition

and

into

the

university

life. One student who had a disability described that successful

transition

to

university had only been

to

Mental health pressures and pre-existing trauma are exacerbated by the lack of time for self-care. High study and employment workloads leave little time for people seeking asylum to create a work/life balance.

possible through having a

accessing

higher

education is being granted admission as an international student,

resulting

from

the temporary nature of the visa they are issued by the Australian Federal Government. This

means

that they are ineligible for

mentor and friends. Another student who was present at

Government programs designed to assist students with

the National Symposium spoke positively of the profound

financing higher study including the Higher Education

impact that key people within community and university

Loans Program, Commonwealth Supported Places, and

sectors have had in enabling access to higher education:

concession rates. Therefore, for most, this entry-point is

‘I am an example of what the community can do…

financially prohibitive.

when the community takes responsibility for others’. It is

Another significant barrier that originates at the federal

therefore important that both educational and community

policy level is the lack of access to student or other

institutions recognise and valorise the efforts of these

forms of income support for people seeking asylum. Our

trusted people, so that their efforts do not go unseen.

research highlights that this puts students from asylum-

The role of higher education in the settlement of people seeking asylum

seeking backgrounds at even greater risk of destitution and homelessness, and places substantial pressure on them to try to balance work and study while living

Another common theme across all data sources was the

with extreme uncertainty. Further barriers given their

importance of viewing higher education in the context

temporary visa status include difficulties in accessing

of successful settlement in Australia. Some community

enabling courses and a lack of access to affordable English

organisation and student participants articulated the

language courses. In addition, people seeking asylum

need to provide career support and guidance, along with

are forced to endure a policy landscape that is not only

scholarships and stipends, in order to ensure that the

hostile but also highly changeable with very little or no

choice of degree would not only satisfy the interests of the

warning, which creates considerable stress and confusion.

student but would provide them with a realistic pathway

A range of Australian universities have responded to

to ongoing employment. This would help to address the

these restrictive government policies by implementing

situation in which students undertake a course of study

mechanisms to support access to higher education

because it is dictated by the terms of their scholarship,

coupled with community sector advocacy and support.

or because it was a strategic choice in their country of

Our broader research project highlights that these

origin, without any knowledge of the Australian job

efforts have resulted in more than 204 people seeking

market and professional prospects. As one Community

asylum studying in 23 universities across the country on

Organisation Participant said in their interview:‘It’s about

scholarships that meet their full tuition fees, as of October

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

‘My study is the purpose of continuing my life’ Lisa Hartley et al.

11


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

2018 (Hartley et al., 2018). Some of these universities also

that people seeking asylum face in accessing higher

offer living allowances (ranging from one-off case-by-case

education need to be addressed including the need for

payments to $7,500 per year), language support, and other

permanent protection visas to be issued to all who have

measures. Other institutions offer partial-scholarships,

been recognised as a refugee. This recommendation is

that is, they were still paying international fees, but partial

most pressing in light of the re-election of the Coalition

scholarships were used to contribute to the cost of the

Government in May 2019, which has committed to

degree. While data were not collected on this cohort of

continue the restrictive policies. Collective and sustained

students, a number of universities disclosed that they

efforts directed at realising this are clearly needed.

offered partial scholarships. Based on the numbers provided of people seeking asylum who had been offered

Ackowledgement

these scholarships, there were at least 15 people seeking asylum studying in this situation. However, the numbers

The research presented in this paper is from a project

in this cohort are likely to be higher as not all universities

funded by the National Centre for Student Equity and

that offer partial scholarships disclosed these numbers or

Higher Education, which can be accessed from: https://

had access to such data.

www.ncsehe.edu.au/publications/people-seeking-asylum-

These measures are seen as critical and welcome

in-australia-access-and-support-in-higher-education/.

responses by our participants. The advocacy of community organisations for the establishment of

Lisa Hartley is Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Human

such scholarships and income support, and the bridge

Rights Education, Curtin University, Western Australia, where

they provide between people seeking asylum and

she conducts research with people seeking asylum and her

the complex admissions and scholarship application

interdisciplinary research is focused on questions of human

process, are also seen as critical. However, there are

rights and social change.

many other people seeking asylum who remain unable

Contact: lisa.hartley@curtin.edu.au

to access a scholarship and/or meet the university entry requirements. There are also challenges related to the effectiveness of scholarships and other measures as well as the retention, participation, success of, and support for people seeking asylum in their studies.

Conclusion University scholarships for people seeking asylum that meet the full cost of tuition fees, coupled with a living allowance and other support, have enabled access to higher education for more than 200 people across Australia. The determination and commitment of these students to their studies, while living in situations of extreme uncertainty and receiving minimal support compared with most other students in Australia, is clear

Sally Baker is a Lecturer in equity, academic language and literacies and higher education and is also a co-chair of the Australian Refugee Education Special Interest Group for/ with students from refugee backgrounds, supported by the Refugee Council of Australia (http://www.refugeecouncil.org. au/ourwork/educationsig/). Caroline Fleay is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University, where she conducts research with people seeking asylum and is currently a Board Member of the Refugee Council of Australia. Rachel Burke is Senior Lecturer in the School of Education, at the University of Newcastle, NSW, whose work focuses on linguistically and culturally diverse educational contexts, the critical examination of policyscape, and praxis-driven approaches to language and literacies education.

and needs to be lauded. The university and community organisations responsible for the scholarships and other forms of support are also to be commended. However, further measures need to be provided by other universities to ensure that these opportunities are available to people seeking asylum across the country; it is also essential that universities ensure that these students receive support that is necessary for their retention, participation, and success in their studies. Most critically, the Australian Federal Government policies underpinning the most significant barriers

12

‘My study is the purpose of continuing my life’ Lisa Hartley et al.

References Ager, A. & Strang, A. (2008). Understanding Integration: A Conceptual Framework. Journal of Refugee Studies, 21(2), 166–191. Baker, S.& Irwin, E. (2019). Disrupting the dominance of ‘linear pathways’: how academic language and navigational confusion create ‘stuck places’ for refugee students’ transitions into higher education, Research Papers in Education, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02671522.2019.163 3561?af=R  BenEzer, G. & Zetter, R. (2014). Searching for directions: Conceptual and methodological challenges in researching refugee journeys, Journal of Refugee Studies, 28(3), 297–318. vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Block, K, Warr, D. Gibbs, l. & Riggs, E. (2012). Addressing ethical and methodological challenges in research with refugee-background young people: Reflections from the Field. Journal of Refugee Studies, 26(1), 69–87.

Hartley, L.K. & Pedersen, A. (2015). Asylum seekers and resettled refugees in Australia: Predicting social policy support prejudice versus emotion. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3(1), 179–197.

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77–101.

Hirsch, A. (2015). Barriers to education for people seeking asylum and refugees on temporary visas. Refugee Council of Australia. Retrieved from http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/1512-Education. pdf

Department of Home Affairs (2018). IMA legacy caseload: Report on processing status and outcomes. Retrieved from https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/researchand-stats/files/ima-legacy-caseload-august-2018.pdf – 15 November 2018.pdf Doná, G. (2007). The microphysics of participation in refugee research. Journal of Refugee Studies, 20(2), 210–229. Eades, D. (2013). Resilience and refugees: From individualised trauma to post traumatic growth. M/C Journal, 16(5) Retrieved from http://journal.mediaculture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/700 Earnest, J., Joyce, A., de Mori, G., & Silvagni, G. (2010). Are Universities Responding to the Needs of Students from Refugee Backgrounds? Australian Journal of Education, 54(2), 155–174. Engstrom, C. & Tinto, T. (2008) Access Without Support is not Opportunity. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 40(1), 46–50 Fleay, C. Lumbus, A. & Hartley, L. (2016). People Seeking Asylum in Australia and their Access to Employment: Just What Do We Know?, Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 8(2), 63–83. Fozdar, F., & Hartley, L. (2013). Refugee Resettlement in Australia: What We Know and Need to Know. Refugee Survey Quarterly, 32(3), 23-51. Hartley, L. & Fleay, C. (2014). Policy as Punishment – Asylum Seekers in the Community Without the Right to Work. Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University: Perth. Hartley, L., Fleay, C., Baker, S., Burke, R., & Field, R. (2018). People Seeking Asylum in Australia: Access and Support in Higher Education. National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education: Curtin University, Perth.

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Hirsch, A. & Maylea, C. (2017). Education Denied: People Seeking Asylum and Refugees Trapped in Limbo. (2016). Retrieved from https://ssrn.com/ abstract=2916950 McCarthy, P. K. & Dauba, I. (2017). How do I pay for my studies in Australia? SBS. Retrieved from https://www.sbs.com.au/yourlanguage/punjabi/en/ article/2017/11/01/how-do-i-pay-my-studies-australia Naidoo, L. Wilkinson, J., Adoniou, M., & Langat, K. (2018). Refugee background students transitioning into higher education. Springer, Singapore Refugee Council of Australia (2015). Barriers to education for people seeking asylum and refugees on temporary visas. Retrieved from http://www. refugeecouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/1512-Education.pdf UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) (2017). Left Behind: Refugee Education in Crisis. Retrieved from http://www.unhcr. org/en-au/events/conferences/59c4bd3b7/behind-refugee-education-crisis. html?query=left%20behind. van Kooy, J. And Bowman, D. (2019). ‘Surrounded with so much uncertainty’: asylum seekers and manufactured precarity in Australia. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 45(5), 693–710. White, J. (2017). The banality of exclusion in Australian universities. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 21(11), 1142–1155.

‘My study is the purpose of continuing my life’ Lisa Hartley et al.

13


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

W(h)ither the honours degree in Australian universities? Louise Horstmanshof & Bill Boyd Southern Cross University

Australian universities offer diverse approaches to bachelor’s (honours) degrees as a means of dealing with a range of contemporary demands. These demands include responding to (i) the Bologna Declaration, (ii) tensions between the conventional role for honours as a PhD pathway and an emerging role for honours as professional development, and (iii) the rigid Commonwealth funding model for honours. Benchmarking of honours across the Australian higher education sector remains problematic, much as it did in the 2009 Australian Learning and Teaching Council review of Australian honours programs. Little research into honours degrees has been done since that review. Nevertheless, while honours degrees continue as a pathway to higher degree research, other modes of honours and other programs (e.g. master’s) vie for equivalent status in the Australian higher education sector, each seeking to adapt to professional development and accreditation education demands. These shifts raise questions about the role of honours in Australian higher education, hence our question, ‘W(h)ither the honours degree in Australian universities?’ Keywords: honours degrees, bachelor’s degrees, PhD pathways

Introduction

for a research or academic career. Instead, they are often preparing for research-integrated practice in their various

The Australian bachelor’s (honours) program is a distinctly

fields of endeavour. In response, a continuing discussion

Australian product, recognised nationally as the traditional

across Australian universities is occurring related to the

pathway to a PhD. Globalisation and the importance of

role and form of honours programs, with some discussions

international mobility have exerted their influence on

broaching the possibility of moving away from offering

the nature and purpose of the honours degree to provide

an honours program (e.g. Schweinsberg, Wearing, &

an internationally recognised and globally transferrable

McManus, 2013).

award (Bishop, 2006). There is, however, a tension

We trace the multiple meanings and models of the

between preparing students for a research pathway – the

honours degree and note how Australian universities are

conventional role of honours programs – and preparing

positioning themselves to provide for the needs of their

students to meet the demands and complexity of the

students and the communities they serve. The honours

world of work outside academia (Australian Learning and

program offers several advantages to students, notably

Teaching Council, 2009; Barron & Zeegers, 2012). While

that it is shorter and less complex than either the research

many students are looking to enhance their knowledge and

master’s or the PhD in Australia. The honours degree is

skills in research to understand and implement evidence-

regarded as an undergraduate degree, and importantly,

based approaches better, they are not necessarily looking

this qualifies students to benefit from the undergraduate

14

W(h)ither the honours degree in Australian universities? Louise Horstmanshof & Bill Boyd

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

funding arrangements. Both within the scholarly culture of

They argued that the Australian honours degree was

universities and embedded in the Australian Government’s

poorly understood, both nationally and internationally,

own guidelines and definitions (AQFC, 2013), an honours

especially since it varied substantially across disciplines

degree in Australia is also recognised as implying a higher

and between universities. They noted its hybrid

level of achievement than a bachelor’s degree, and therefore

nature: while having significance as a ‘pathway to and

graduates may be seen as more employable.

prerequisite for direct entry into doctoral programs’, they

The implication of this situation is that across the

also argue that it is seen as ‘a qualification, an experience,

Australian university sector there are several models of

or a program’ (p. 619). Indeed, the Australian Learning and

honours on offer. Some reflect traditional understandings

Teaching Council’s commissioned review into honours in

of academic and scholarly progression – i.e. as pathways

Australian higher education in 2008, found that ‘honours’

to PhD studies – while others are more closely aligned

has ‘multiple meanings and models and the privileging

with the requirements for registration as a discipline

of any one tends to undermine the others’ (Australian

specific practitioner. At the same time, some disciplines

Learning and Teaching Council, 2009, p.2).

do not have honours, and rather provide a professional

Kiley, Boud et al. (2009) found that honours degrees

entry to PhD studies via master’s programs. Despite these

were highly valued within the Australian higher education

complex and unresolved issues, there is a notable sparsity

context, but not necessarily beyond. They reported that

of recent literature on the Australian honours degree (D.

an honours degree in Australia holds a pivotal position

Boud, pers. comm., 12 August 2018).

between the undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. However, there are many differing practices among

Background: the 1999 Bologna Declaration

honours degrees. These have evolved in response to a range of student and discipline needs, staff expertise,

Increasing globalisation and academic mobility place a

professional association and employer requirements

focus on transportability of educational achievement and

(Halcomb, Smyth, Moxham, Traynor, & Fernandez, 2018;

qualifications. The 1990 Bologna declaration provides a

Kiley, Moyes, & Clayton, 2009). Questions about success

framework for this, in its adoption of a system of ‘easily

rates,

readable and comparable degrees’ (European Ministers of

numbers and drop-out rates continue to cycle (Flynn &

Education, 1999 para 9). The system comprises two main

Brydon, 2013; Kiley, Boud et al., 2009). Many honours

cycles: undergraduate and postgraduate. Entry into the

programs are therefore under pressure both from

postgraduate cycle depends upon successful completion of

within and outside the university. It seems that nothing

the first cycle. Facilitating academic mobility, both between

much has changed in the past decade, with Australian

institutions and internationally, relies on comparable

honours programs continuing to be broadly defined and

curricula, itself driven by standard criteria and methods

operationalised (Flynn & Brydon, 2013; Halcomb et al.,

to provide quality assurance in curriculum development.

2018). In fact, a ‘climate of tensions and concerns’ has

The Bologna Process and its Diploma Supplement provide

enveloped the Australian honours degree for many years

that framework and is now recognised as the instrument

(Australian Learning and Teaching Council, 2009, p. 10;

allowing global evaluation of qualifications.

D.Boud. pers. comm., 12 August 2018).

completions,

projects,

resources,

enrolment

In 2006, the Australian Federal Minister for Education,

There is much debate about the purpose of this

Science and Training commenced a discussion around

Australian specific pathway to higher degree research in

Australia responding to the Bologna Process.The Minister

view of globalisation and international mobility on the

argued it was important to consider the ‘long-term vision

one hand, and sustainability and affordability for students

for higher education in Australia’ (Bishop, 2006), and by

and their institutions, on the other. Honours programs

2009 Australia, along with several other countries, was

continue to be difficult to benchmark, owing to the range

actively engaged with the Bologna Process.The Australian

and variation across programs, disciplines, schools and

response included the development of an Australian

universities. Regardless of the variation, the common

Diploma Supplement, known as the Australian Higher

goal is to assist students to transition from knowledge

Education Graduate Statement (AHEGS). This active

acquisition to knowledge production (Manathunga, Kiley,

engagement with the Bologna Process resulted in the

Boud, & Cantwell, 2012). Nevertheless, there is concern

review of many aspects of higher education.

that the honours as an extended bachelor’s qualification

Of note here is the exploration by Kiley, Boud, Cantwell and Manathunga (2009) of the Australian honours degree. vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

may not be providing optimal preparation for candidates seeking research training (McGagh et al., 2016)

W(h)ither the honours degree in Australian universities? Louise Horstmanshof & Bill Boyd

15


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

It should be noted that there are similar concerns

Consequently, the honours degree has been interpreted

about relevance and purpose around other degree

differently across disciplines, universities and countries

programs. Doctoral degrees are also under review and

(Anderson et al., 2018; Kiley et al., 2011).

transformation, both nationally and internationally. The

The value of undertaking an honours degree is described

professional doctorate is gaining favour, heralding an

by Australian universities in various ways. Honours

increasingly industrially focused move towards doctoral

degrees provide advantages both for a potential employer

education paralleling the expanded collaboration between

and the student. Successful completion of honours studies

universities and industry (McGagh et al., 2016). In a period

demonstrates a range of capacities around identifying

of increasing globalisation and other international social,

and addressing a complex problem, mastering scholarly

economic and cultural transformations (Walker, Campbell,

skills, conducting independent investigation, and writing

Duff, & Cummings, 2016), the important discussion is not

at a high intellectual level. Currently, honours degrees

merely about the role of research in higher education and

comprise the primary pathway to enrolment in a PhD.

the changing nature of the knowledge product (Cashin,

However, while regarded as an appropriate preparation

2018), but goes to the heart of the challenges of multi-

for further higher degree research, these abilities are also

disciplinary and transdisciplinary scholarship (Fillery-

deemed attractive to future employers.

Travis, 2018).The important move is from purely academic enquiry, through which candidates make a ‘unique and significant contribution to knowledge’ (Jones, 2018), to

International perspectives on honours programs

practice-based research. The professional doctorate now requires candidates who are not novices at entry, but

The bachelor’s degree with honours has been in existence

experienced professional people (Fillery-Travis & Robinson,

in the UK for over two hundred years, having first been

2018). These new generation professional doctorates have

introduced at Oxford University early in the nineteenth

emerged to address the growing multi-cultural, multi-

century (Universities UK/SCOP, 2004). It provides a

disciplinary and technical demands of the environments in

summative assessment of a student’s achievement in an

which such experienced professional people work (Lester,

undergraduate honours degree program (Universities

2004).This shift shines a light on the relevance of honours

UK, 2007). Such graduates have acquired ‘understanding

programs as pathways to doctoral studies.

of a complex body of knowledge, a wide range of highlevel skills and a broad level of experience’ (p. 56). There

Multiple meanings and models of the honours degree

is no mention anywhere of this degree being a pathway to a research higher degree, although there is a clear expectation that a graduate would have acquired the

The honours degree has different meanings across

skills and knowledge to comment on aspects of current

countries, disciplines and degrees (Anderson, Johnston,

research in a discipline.

Gunnarsson, & Larkins, 2018; Kiley, Boud, Manathunga,

Scottish universities have a different system and

& Cantwell, 2011). In Australia, an honours program

award some undergraduate degrees as master’s degrees

is intended as a link between undergraduate and

rather than as bachelor’s degrees (e.g. MA (Hons) and

postgraduate research (Shaw & Holbrook, 2006). In most

MSc (Hons)). These are four-year programs progressing

cases, an honours degree requires an additional year of

from typical undergraduate content to higher order

study after the successful completion of a three-year

scholarship that bridges undergraduate and postgraduate

undergraduate degree. This fourth year involves in-depth

levels (University of Edinburgh, 2019). The honours

research into an issue or question. It is an undergraduate

degree in Ireland is a graduate entry one-year program,

degree. However, this is not the only model, and in some

providing additional in-depth and specialised knowledge;

disciplines, the honours level is integrated into bachelor’s

interestingly, it is not necessarily regarded as a pathway to

programs as a third and fourth, or final year. Beyond this

a higher research degree, although variations occur, such

binary definition of honours lies considerable variation

as the Single Honours History four-year program at Trinity

in modes of offering and practice, developed in response

College Dublin, with its final year dissertation (Trinity

to

College Dublin, 2019); the master of research degree is

discipline-

and

profession-specific

professional

requirements and the needs of students, employers,

the accepted PhD pathway in Ireland (FindAPhD, 2019).

community and industry as well as scholarly discipline

In Canada, bachelor’s degrees vary by province and

cultures (Kiley, Boud, et al., 2009; Shaw & Holbrook, 2006).

discipline, requiring three to four years of full-time study.

16

W(h)ither the honours degree in Australian universities? Louise Horstmanshof & Bill Boyd

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Programs may be general or specialised; the honours

undergraduate honours degree in Australia. Baron and

baccalaureate degree has a greater focus on the program’s

Zeegers (2012) acknowledge the tension that arises

area of study and reflects higher levels of achievement

when honours is positioned as a fourth-year skills-based

than the ordinary bachelor’s degree. In some programs, an

program focused on the workplace, while viewed by the

additional year of study may be required for honours, and

academy as the preparation and prerequisite for entry

generally a master’s degree provides the PhD pathway (ELS,

to a PhD. They argue that these competing pressures for

2019).The higher education system in the United States of

‘advanced vocational training and preliminary research

America differs from other systems (EEN, 2019). Honours

training for doctoral research’ (p.35) are heightened by

denotes a level of academic excellence as a summative

the necessity for universities to provide research cohorts

assessment of achievement, while the successful attainment

that attract funding.

of a master’s degree provides the pathway to a PhD.

The status of the honours degree in Australia has mostly escaped review and scrutiny since the Murray report on

The Australian honours degree

Australian Universities (Murray et al., 1957). While the Bologna Declaration and the 2009 review commissioned

In Australia, the honours degree has been the conventional

by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council into

pathway to higher research degrees and an academic

honours (Kiley et al., (2011)) generated interest and

career (Anderson et al., 2018). In the 1980s, honours

publications in this area, there has been little recent

programs primarily linked undergraduate studies and

literature on the Australian honours degree. Zeegers

postgraduate research (Shaw & Holbrook, 2006); today,

and Barron (2009) contend that the tension between

the honours degree remains the most common pathway

preparing students for a research pathway on the one hand

to PhD enrolment, while the bachelor’s degree remains

and needing the fourth year to prepare graduates for ‘the

the most common pathway to a master’s by research

more demanding segments of employment niches’ (p. 573)

degree (Australian Government, 2017).

on the other, raises ‘issues of pedagogy as well as policy’.

According to the Australian Qualifications Framework

This tension may be addressed to a large extent by the

Council, the purpose of the honours degree is ‘to

master’s by coursework and the professional doctorate.

qualify individuals who apply a body of knowledge in a

However, the honours degree is one instance in which an

specific context to undertake professional work and as a

undergraduate degree (a bachelor’s degree with honours)

pathway for research and further learning’ (AQFC, 2013).

outranks a postgraduate degree (a master’s, for example) as

It is specified as a level 8 qualification in the Australian

a pathway to higher research degrees (Barron & Zeegers,

Qualifications Framework (AQF), which states that students

2012; Zeegers & Barron, 2009). A first-class honours

achieving at this level will ‘have advanced knowledge and

degree is required to qualify for the principal Australian

skills for professional or highly skilled work and/or further

Government Research Training Program scholarship

learning’. Further, the volume of learning is ‘typically

(formerly Australian Postgraduate Awards). An exceptional

one year following a bachelor degree’, but ‘may also be

master’s degree with a relevant research component

embedded in a Bachelor Degree’ as an additional year: an

that has been formally assessed and which has attained a

Honours degree ‘can be achieved as either a stand-alone

standard that is rated as exceptional or outstanding, also

degree following the completion of a Bachelor Degree or

qualifies for the Research Training Program scholarship.

as part of a cluster of qualifications comprising a Bachelor

The difference here is not only the duration of the two

Degree and Bachelor Honours Degree’. Two important

degrees, but the fact that the honours degree is at AQF

principles are relevant: (i) research is a core pedagogical

level 8 while the master’s degree is AQF level 9.

element; and (ii) the term ‘honours’ is not intended to

Zeegers and Barron (2009) argue that the unique

denote ‘meritorious achievement for an AQF qualification’

position and status of the Australian honours degree should

(Australian Qualifications Framework Council, 2013).While

imply consistency in their implementation and guidance

the Australian Government’s Tertiary Education Quality and

in terms of what it means across the Australian university

Standards Agency (TEQSA) acknowledges that honours

sector. Apart from the two formats mentioned – the three

degrees provide pathways to further research training and

years plus one honours year and the embedded four-year

may include a substantial research component, they are not

undergraduate degree – there are also inconsistencies

measured against their research Standards (TEQSA, 2018).

in grading and output across the sector. In 1995, the

These statements indicate some of the complexity

Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee provided a set of

and confusion that exists in our understanding of the

guidelines for good practice for the Fourth Year Honours

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

W(h)ither the honours degree in Australian universities? Louise Horstmanshof & Bill Boyd

17


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Program (AVCC, 1995). In this document, the honours

graduate coursework program. The graduate entry one-

program was described as an add-on fourth year following

year honours degree, nevertheless remains their pathway

a bachelor’s degree. This committee has been superseded

to a graduate research degree, and the University’s Faculty

by Universities Australia and, interestingly, the document

of Arts 110 Scholarship scheme provides scholarships for

in question cannot be located through database searches,

honours students (University of Melbourne, 2019). Monash

even with the help of a qualified librarian. However,

University signed a Memorandum of Understanding

several universities have adopted and adapted these

with the University of Bologna in 2016, and now offers

guidelines, such as Federation University, who state that

a PhD student exchange program (Monash University,

the document in question was last accessed in 2003

2016). It continues to offer the graduate entry one-year

(Federation University Australia, 2013).

honours degree, except in Engineering and Law where an honours degree is awarded as a summative assessment of

Australian adaptations to accommodate the Bologna Declaration

a student’s academic achievement. New generation universities are also reconsidering their options about honours programs. Our own

An illustration of the variation of concept and execution of

university, Southern Cross University, for example, is

the honours degree in Australian universities is the relatively

typical of the sector, with a range of honours programs

recent move by Macquarie University (2013) to repurpose

offered across Schools and disciplines. All are consistent

their honours degree as a ‘master of research’ (Kilmeny,

with accreditation and AQF requirements, and generally

2012). This move was motivated by the University’s aim

comprise some variation of one-year pathways to higher

for better recognition of this qualification by overseas

degree research, based on a research project that is

audiences, as the honours degree in Australia is frequently

relevant to the student’s discipline or future vocation.

viewed internationally as equivalent to a master’s degree

Honours in the arts and social sciences, for example, is

(Kilmeny, 2012). The then deputy vice-chancellor believed

a one-year program providing research training in which,

this change would provide greater transportability of the

while considered to be the pathway to higher degree

qualification for Macquarie University’s graduates and be

research, can also enable students to develop investigative

attractive to overseas students wishing to do a PhD (Kilmeny,

skills of vocational relevance, or produce a creative

2012).This change was not merely one of name, but one of

thesis (exegesis) with a non-text component. Honours in

improving the coursework standard by providing a greater

tourism management and education are, likewise, one-year

focus on research techniques. The master’s of research at

programs of independent study to develop research skills;

Macquarie University is a core pathway to a PhD or MPhil,

typical of such programs at the University, they are based

providing an international standard two-year full-time

on a research apprentice pedagogical model, supported by

research training curriculum. This approach is consistent

coursework, often with a strong methodology or literature

with the Bologna model. More recently, Professor Isak

review basis. Other programs in Indigenous studies, law,

Pretorius, DVC Research at Macquarie University, reported

environmental science and social science follow similar

that his University’s ‘brave but forward looking decision’ to

models, with varying degrees of coursework, but all

abolish the honours degree and replace it with a two year

focused on the apprenticeship model. Engineering, on the

master’s of research degree was the right one (I. Pretorius,

other hand, provides a model of customised professional

pers. comm., 03 August 2018; NTEU, 2011; Kiley, 2018). It

development honours. Embedded in bachelor’s programs,

has provided students with a superior pathway towards

the engineering honours programs are structured around

the PhD, he claims. He cites evidence that the university’s

Engineers Australia’s key graduate competencies and are

annual higher degree research completions have doubled

strongly focused on project engineering with the fourth

within the past five years, and that completion rates

year dedicated to an engineering research thesis.

continue to improve.

Health programs provide a particularly interesting case

While other Australian universities state they are aligned

study of the variability with which Australian universities

with the Bologna model, many retain the Australian style

approach honours. While some areas of health also

honours degrees. In 2006, the University of Melbourne

follow the one-year model, they offer flexibility reflecting

created a 3+2 model (a combined three-year bachelor

student career needs. The recent change at our university

plus two-year master’s program) like the Bologna

in honours psychology, from an embedded (four-year)

model (McPhee, 2008), allowing students to complete

program to a one-year program reflects needs for a

a generalist program before enrolling in a specialist

pathway to professional accreditation; further structural

18

W(h)ither the honours degree in Australian universities? Louise Horstmanshof & Bill Boyd

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

changes are afoot as the university seeks to find an

since, and despite, the Australian Learning and Teaching

optimal way to address professional accreditation. Such

Council review of honours in 2009 (Kiley, Boud, et al.,

moves are mirrored elsewhere in the higher education

2009). Despite the adoption of the Bologna Declaration,

sector in Australia. Despite having removed honours from

changes in other levels of higher education programs,

all programs, for example, Macquarie University continues

shifts in relationships between universities, industry

to offer the honours degree as a pathway for Psychology

and the professions, honours programs continue to

registration (N. Mansfield, pers. comm., 06 August 2018;

be considered to be the traditional pathway to higher

Macquarie University, 2019).

degree research.

Honours in other health areas also reflect professional

However, there is a proliferation of models, largely

development needs; students undertake honours studies

responding to professional development and accreditation

within

develop

demands, and students appear, regardless of the model

professional research expertise, a practice appearing at

transition-to-practice

programs

to

of honours, to be using honours both as a pathway to

other universities.The University of Tasmania, for example,

access higher degree research and professional careers.

offers a Bachelor of Nursing with Clinical Honours

In reflecting on these tensions, David Boud, one of

(Transition to Practice) as a work-integrated learning

the authors of the Australian Learning and Teaching

course for newly registered nurses in their first year of

Council’s 2009 report (Kiley, Boud, et al., 2009), confirms

practice (University of Tasmania, 2019). Instead of being

that honours degrees in Australian higher education

a research pathway or a professional specialist stream, it

remain an ‘unsolved dilemma’ (D. Boud, pers. comm., 12

is customised to the students’ workplaces, and comprises

August 2018). He believes that universities are trapped

a learning contract, a customised clinical project and a

in an unsustainable position by government funding

practice portfolio. Halcomb et al. (2018) reinforces the

arrangements that are resistant to change. Honours

diversity described above. In the ‘first national snapshot’ (p.

programs remain as undergraduate programs, from a

430) of Australian bachelor honours programs in nursing,

funding perspective, perhaps better reflecting the non-

they report on data from 19 of 35 Australian universities

research pathways they serve for many students. This

with a School of Nursing or equivalent. Four do not offer

begs the question of their role as PhD pathways, hence

an honours program, citing low demand, while the others

our titular question, ‘W(h)ither the honours degree in

provided evidence of substantial variation in delivery and

Australian universities?’.

cohort size.The average cohort size is small (2.58 full-time enrolments in 2016), and programs reported declining

Acknowledgements

numbers since 2013; completion levels are low (less than 50 per cent). All programs include a research project,

This review is in part based on an internal, unfunded, and

and some offer coursework; only 13 programs require

unpublished report on honours programs in one of the

a thesis. Grading approaches varied, based on varieties

Schools at Southern Cross University by the first author.

of markers – departmental colleagues, other university scholars and outside clinical experts. Many graduates did

Louise Horstmanshof Louise is a Senior Lecturer in the

not progress to PhD study, but moved to clinical nursing

School of Health & Human Sciences, Southern Cross

employment. Halcomb et al. point to the difficulties in

University, NSW, Australia.

benchmarking curriculum and policy development in

Contact: louise.horstmanshof@scu.edu.au

such an environment of diversity.

Bill Boyd is the Professor of Geography in the School of Environment, Science & Engineering, Southern Cross University.

Conclusions This review of honours across the Australian higher education sector demonstrates that benchmarking is problematic. What is clear, however, is the significant range of variation, both between universities and within disciplines, in how, and to what extent,

Australian

honours programs relate to the Bologna Declaration.The basic approach – honours as a one-year pathway to a

References Anderson, E. M., Johnston, K., Gunnarsson, R., & Larkins, S. (2018). Perceptions of a research honours program embedded in a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery degree: “The worst and best years of my life”. Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-disciplinary Journal, 19(1), 1-11. Australian Government. (2017). Higher degree by research pathways of graduates. Retrieved from https://docs.education.gov.au/documents/higherdegree-research-pathways-graduates

higher research degree – has largely remained unchanged vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

W(h)ither the honours degree in Australian universities? Louise Horstmanshof & Bill Boyd

19


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

Australian Vice-chancellors’ Committee, (AVCC). (1995). Fourth Year Honours Programs: Guidelines for Good Practice. Canberra: Australian ViceChancellors’ Committee. Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC). (2009). The role of honours in contemporary Australian Higher Education. Strawberry Hills, NSW, Australia. Australian Qualifications Framework Council (AQFC). (2013). Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) Second edition. www.aqf.edu.au Barron, D., & Zeegers, M. (2012). Honours in Australia: Globally recognised preparation for a career in research (or elsewhere). Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, 13(2), 35-45. Bishop, J. (2006). The Bologna process and Australia: Next Steps. Canberra ACT: Australian Government. Cashin, A. (2018). The debate on the knowledge product developed in nursing doctorates and the assignment of the PhD to a modernist endeavor in the creation of the contrasting position. Nurse Education in Practice, 31. doi:10.1016/j.nepr.2018.05.012 European Ministers of Education. (1999). The Bologna Declaration of 19 June 1999. Retrieved from https://www.eurashe.eu/library/modernising-phe/ Bologna_1999_Bologna-Declaration.pdf. EEN. (2019). United States of America. EuroEducation.net: The European Education Directory. http://euroeducation.net/prof/usa.htm ELS. (2019). Degree options in Canada. ELS Educational Services, Berlitz. https://www.universityguideonline.org/eS/InternationalPathways/degreeoptions-in-canada Federation University Australia (2013). Fourth Year (Honours) Programs Procedure. http://policy.federation.edu.au/learning_and_teaching/ academic_programs_and_courses/fourth_year_honours_program/ch01. php#Ch1889Se218558 Fillery-Travis, A. (2018). Introduction. Studies in Higher Education, 43(5), 809-813. doi:10.1080/03075079.2018.1439717 Fillery-Travis, A., & Robinson, L. (2018). Making the familiar strange – a research pedagogy for practice. Studies in Higher Education, 43(5), 841-853. doi:10.1080/03075079.2018.1438098 FindAPhD. (2019). PhD Study in Ireland – A Guide for 2019. FindAUniversity Ltd. https://www.findaphd.com/study-abroad/europe/phd-study-in-ireland.aspx Flynn, C., & Brydon, K. (2013). Students’ views on the knowledge development in a social work honours program. Advances in Social Work and Welfare Education, 15(2), 84-96. Halcomb, E., Smyth, E., Moxham, L., Traynor, V., & Fernandez, R. (2018). Bachelor of nursing honours programs in Australia: Current trends and key challenges. Collegian, 25(4), 429-434. doi:https://doi.orgian/10.1016/j. colegn.2017.11.003 Jones, M. (2018). Contemporary trends in professional doctorates. Studies in Higher Education, 43(5), 814-825. doi:10.1080/03075079.2018.1438095 Kiley, M., Boud, D., Cantwell, R., & Manathunga, C. (2009). The role of honours in contemporary Australian higher education. Canberra, ACT: Australian Learning and Teaching Council Ltd, An initiative of the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. Kiley, M., Boud, D., Manathunga, C., & Cantwell, R. (2011). Honouring the incomparable: Honours in Australian universities. Higher Education, 62(5), 619–633. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-011-9409-z Kiley, M., Moyes, T., & Clayton, P. (2009). ‘To develop research skills’: Honours programs for the changing research agenda in Australian universities (Vol. 46). Kilmeny, A. (2012, 1 September). In line with global norms. Sydney Morning Herald, p. 11. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.scu.edu.au/login?url=https:// search.proquest.com/docview/1037294485?accountid=16926

20

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Lester, S. (2004). Conceptualizing the practitioner doctorate. Studies in Higher Education, 29(6), 757-770. doi:10.1080/0307507042000287249 Macquarie University. (2019). Bachelor of Psychology (Honours). Macquarie University. https://students.mq.edu.au/study/my-study-program/honoursprogram Manathunga, C., Kiley, M., Boud, D., & Cantwell, R. (2012). From knowledge acquisition to knowledge production: Issues with Australian honours curricula. Teaching in Higher Education, 17(2), 139-151. doi:10.1080/13562517.2011. 590981 McGagh, J., Marsh, H., Western, M., Thomas, P., Hastings, A., Mihailova, M., & Wenham, M. (2016). Review of Australia’s Research Training System. Report for the Australian Council of Learned Academies. Retrieved from https://acola. org.au/wp/reports-library/ McPhee, P. (2008, 6th April). Australia: Melbourne aligns with Bologna. University World News. Retrieved from http://www.universityworldnews.com/ article.php?story=20080404081116753 Monash University. (2016). Monash to collaborate with world’s oldest university. Monash University. https://www.monash.edu/discovery-institute/news-and-events/ news/2016-articles/monash-to-collaborate-with-worlds-oldest-university Murray, K., Ross, I.C., Morriss, C.R., Reid, A.J. & Richards, J.C. (1957). Report of the Committee on Australian Universities: The Murray Report. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. NTEU. (2011). Proposed Abolition of Honours at Macquarie University. National Tertiary Education Union. www.nteu.org.au/library/download/id/2026 Schweinsberg, S., Wearing, S.L. & McManus, P. (2013). Exploring sustainable tourism education in business schools: The honours program. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 20, 53-60. Shaw, K., & Holbrook, A. (2006). An investigation of the nature and contribution of Honours programs in Australia. Paper presented at the Quality in Postgraduate Research Conference: Knowledge Creation in Testing Times, Adelaide SA. TEQSA. (2018). Guidance Note: Research and Research Training. Australian Government Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. https://www. teqsa.gov.au/sites/g/files/net2046/f/guidance-note-research-and-researchtraining-v1-3_0.pdf?v=1530748445 Trinity College Dublin. (2019) Single Honors History. Trinity College Dublin. University of Edinburgh. (2019). Names of our Degrees. University of Edinburgh. https://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/undergraduate/student-life/ academic/degree-structure/degree-names University of Melbourne. (2019). The Faculty of Arts 110 Scholarship. University of Melbourne. https://arts.unimelb.edu.au/scholarships/prizes-and-scholarships/ the-faculty-of-arts-110-scholarship University of Tasmania. (2019). Bachelor of Nursing with Clinical Honours (Transition to Practice) (H4B). University of Tasmania. http://www.utas. edu.au/courses/chm/courses/h4b-bachelor-of-nursing-with-clinical-honourstransition-to-practice Universities UK. (2007). Beyond the honours degree classification: Burgess Group Final Report. Retrieved from https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/ policy-and-analysis/reports/Documents/2007/beyond-the-honours-degreeclassification-burgess-group.pdf Universities UK/SCOP. (2004). Measuring and recording student achievement: Report of the Scoping Group. Retrieved from https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/ policy-and-analysis/reports/Documents/2005/measuring-and-recording-studentachievement.pdf Walker, K., Campbell, S., Duff, J., & Cummings, E. (2016). Doctoral education for nurses today: The PhD or professional doctorate? Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, 34(1), 60-69. Zeegers, M., & Barron, D. (2009). Honours: A taken-for-granted pathway to research? Higher Education (00181560), 57(5), 567-575. doi:10.1007/s10734008-9162-0

W(h)ither the honours degree in Australian universities? Louise Horstmanshof & Bill Boyd

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Academic administration and service workloads in Australian universities John Kenny & Andrew Fluck University of Tasmania

This paper addresses the important and linked questions of how to manage academic performance and workload effectively. It highlights the need in a modern, corporatised university to consider the nature of academic work and optimal ways to develop workload allocation and performance management processes. This paper complements two previous papers on time associated with teaching and research components of academic work by exploring service/administration workloads. Data were collected from 665 academics with recent administration experience through a nation-wide survey in 2016 and 2018. The data were analysed to understand the median annual work hours for a range of internal and external service activities, and for a range of formal administrative roles. The analysis showed a further categorisation of academic service into operational and strategic activities. Together, the three papers underpin holistic academic workload model development using empirical annual hour allocations from a large and representative national sample of academics. This article provides an essential basis for any future consideration of performance assessment based on output measures such as research expectations, impact or quality. Keywords: academic workloads, workload models, service teaching, academic administration

Introduction

components of their work. Without this information, the staff costs associated with conducting research, teaching,

Universities and their middle managers face increasing

administrative and service duties remain opaque, making

demands for improved efficiency and accountability

planning for efficiency gains nearly impossible.

(Stensaker, Frølich & Aamodt, 2018). These internationally

Academic work is notoriously difficult to quantify (Boyd,

relevant economic drivers have led to quality assurance

2014), but the rationale for managing academic workload

measures (Song, 2018) and diminishing university

stems from the notion of accountability as one of the

autonomy (Eastman et al., 2018). Performance-based

‘tenets of new public management’ (Bryson et al., 2014,

metrics have emerged, most notably in research, such

p. 446).Through performance management and workload

as Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA); Research

allocation processes, accountability for institutional

Excellence Framework (Britain) and elsewhere (Kwok,

performance has been increasingly transferred onto

2013).These metrics purport to measure output quality at

individual academics (Franco-Santos, Rivera & Bourne,

an institutional level yet have direct impact for individual

2014; Kenny 2017). This further underscores the need

academics (Kwok 2013, Kenny 2017). To date, little

for effective processes to manage academic workload

research has been done on the level of inputs (in terms

and performance. However, the resolution of these

of time) required for academic staff to undertake key

issues carries deep political and power undertones in

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Academic administration and service workloads in Australian universities John Kenny & Andrew Fluck

21


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

universities (Kenny, Fluck & Jetson, 2012; Kenny & Fluck,

(or service) components of academic work as presented

2014; Kenny & Fluck, 2017; Soliman, 1999; Vardi, 2009).

by the respondents to the survey. While the term has

Boyd (2014) reported mistrust giving rise to scepticism

had different interpretations over the years, Macfarlane

and anger if workload models were perceived as imposed

(2007) identifies service as fundamental to the notion of

by management to control staff; they highlighted ‘the need

a University. He talks of ‘academic citizenship’ to describe

for enhanced collaborative endeavours and transparency

how academics are expected to serve various groups in

from managers within all sectors of the university’ (p. 320).

the community. The notion of academic citizenship also

Moreover, workload models were perceived ‘as a means of

implies a moral obligation to contribute to the academic

restoring trust between academics and management’ (pp.

community through service. Based on what is rewarded

321-2).

by the institution’s performance systems, he claims

Boyd (2014, p.317) also noted that ‘(p)ublished literature

academics perceive service, in relative ascending order

dealing with workload models within the tertiary sector

of importance, as their students, their colleagues, their

is scarce’. Further, drawing parallels between academics

institution, their discipline or profession and the public.

as workers and those working in creative industries, Gill

However, Macfarlane (2007, p.266) noted that many

(2014) linked exploitation to the increasingly casualised

academics felt ‘their service activities went unrecognised’

workforce, ‘spiralling overall demands’ (p. 20) and a

as their universities tended to undervalue many service

surveillance culture driven by technology and external

aspects of their roles relative to research and teaching.

performance metrics. She pointed out the dearth of

Clearly, in a performative culture, if Service is a

research into the actual experience of academics as

fundamental aspect of academic work, it needs to be

workers:

examined, properly acknowledged and accounted for.

to date there has been very little research on the experiences of academics, a marked reluctance to examine our own labour processes, organisational governance and conditions of production. Despite the growing interest in reflexivity in recent decades, the experiences of academics have largely escaped critical attention. (p. 17)

Service encompasses a broad range of activities, including

We concur with these views and argue that, in a

The online questionnaire that forms the basis of this

managerial environment this issue is of such fundamental

study, was circulated in early 2016 to 8000 academics

importance, that it must be addressed with thoroughness

across the Australian university sector, including both

and credibility. Otherwise, it will not only continue

union members and non-members. The questions asked

to damage the career aspirations and welfare of many

individual academics to estimate the time they spent on

academics, but also the performance and effectiveness of

a wide range of teaching, research and service-related

their institutions.

activities. Responses were received from academics at

formal administrative and leadership roles, and the many informal or discretionary activities academics may be required to undertake.

Methodology

each of the 39 Australian universities. The respondents

Background to the study

included a spread of academic levels, years of experience, disciplines and gender which broadly reflect the general

This is the third in a series of papers, in which we have

academic population. In the section of the survey on

addressed this gap in the literature by examining academic

Service, the preamble stated:

work from the perspective of individual academics in Australian universities. This paper complements our two previous papers in which we explored the time associated with activities for the teaching and research components of academic work (Kenny & Fluck, 2017; 2018). Those papers proposed credible time-based allocations for a range of activities related to teaching and research based on median reported values from a national survey of over 2000 Australian academics.

‘You are asked to provide an annual estimate of the time (in hours) each of the roles below actually takes to do competently. This group of questions is concerned with formal leadership or administrative roles. Please include all aspects of the role such as chairing/ attending meetings, managing staff, travel, reporting, etc, to determine the annual time spent (in hours). In responding to these questions please draw on your own recent experience in undertaking a specific administrative role.’

In this paper we complete the analysis of inputs by

In comparison to teaching and research,a relatively small

exploring activities associated with the administrative

proportion of the initial survey respondents provided

22

Academic administration and service workloads in Australian universities John Kenny & Andrew Fluck

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Table 1: Internal Service – median annual workloads for common internal service roles Elected staff representative on Academic Board (or Senate)

Formal school or cost centre review

Service & Member of training as OH&S disciplinary representative board

Member of ethics committee

Other

N

74

43

29

44

57

227

median hours

40

30

30

40

50

50

data on their service and administrative activities, so this

The median time values provided for these types of

section of the survey was circulated again in early 2018 to

internal operational service varied between 30-50 hours

increase the sample size.The combined data set from 665

per annum. A range of other internal service activities

respondents related to their experience of administrative

were mentioned, and these tended to have a median

roles. The results below are presented in two sections:

time of 50 hours. Only those identified by more than 5

the first relates to time spent on informal service and the

participants were included in the estimate. Examples

second relates to formal administrative roles.

included teaching and learning committee, disciplinary administrative committees, promotions, equity committee,

Results – Informal service roles

working parties, research committee, marketing and outreach (curriculum committee). A number of these

The survey suggested a number of common service roles

committees/roles were clearly established at the local,

(e.g. service on ethics committees), but the open text

work unit level such as an ethics committee or work,

questions invited respondents to suggest other service-

health and safety representative.

related duties and roles they had undertaken. These were

Yet other service was performed at the institutional

later categorised to include roles internal to the university

level (e.g. elected representative on academic senate,

and those which were external. The term ‘internal’

university teaching and learning committee). Some

refers to university-based committees and roles whereas

service roles existed at two levels (e.g. there was also

‘external’ refers to roles involving official representation

a university-level human research ethics committee to

on behalf of the university on external bodies, or official

oversee and set research policy frameworks). While some

interactions with outside stakeholders such as industry,

roles were clearly operational in nature (e.g. discipline

professional accreditation, community or governmental

committee, ethics), others were more strategic in nature

bodies. Table 7 provides examples of committees and

(e.g. academic senate). We can only assume that the

roles under these categorisations.

existence of a committee indicates the tasks it fulfils are

A large variety of informal service-related roles were

necessary for the proper functioning of the university.

reported, with 278 respondents providing examples of

Many staff also reported they served on several

other internal service roles and 230 providing examples

committees and provided annual estimates of their

of other external service roles. While there was variation

time commitments. The anonymous coding identifies

in language across institutions, some of these roles clearly

respondents by a unique identifier, their gender (male /

overlapped with those already recognised within the

female, M-F), academic level (A-E), role (e.g. teaching and

survey or performed similar functions. In many cases

research-T&R) and employment status (e.g. full-time, FT):

committees fulfilling similar roles were described with

a) Workload committee work: 100 hours b) Member of Academic Staff Consultative Committee: 100 hours c) Member of School Research Committee: 40 hours d) Attending to and responding to official university correspondence: 120 hours e) Administrative aspects of course convenorship: 80-100 hours f) Attending school meetings and events: 30 hours g) Union delegate (advice to members on performance review matters): 40 – 50 hours (4386279315, M. level B, T&R, FT)

different terminology across different institutions or different disciplines. For example, faculty higher degrees committee, research higher degrees committee, higher education coursework committee, school research committee and school research management committee appear to perform similar functions. Internal service

The annual workloads of respondents performing types of informal service for their universities was categorised and tabulated in Table 1. vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

8 meeting groups which meet an average of monthly for 1 hour each. Academic staff must attend university open days and various professional exhibition days in their own time. (4441698047-M, level B, T&R, FT)

Academic administration and service workloads in Australian universities John Kenny & Andrew Fluck

23


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

Table 2: Other internal service roles Role/Committee

N

Median hours per year as a member

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

teaching and learning committees at both their local

Median hours per year as a chair/ leader (n)

(operational) level and at institutional (strategic) level. Therefore, for the associate dean, the time associated with these duties should be clearly built in to the overall time allowance for their formal role, not as an additional allowance on top.

Faculty board

6

20

Course review

12

60

Teaching and learning (curriculum)

21

50

100 (6)

Research committee

13

25

140

Working party

22

50

a service-related activity. Within our own institution, the

9

100

rationale for this was that research activities focus on

NTEU (union) elected representative

External service The survey identified activities, such as peer reviewing and editing for journals, as service to the discipline. We note that Seaberg (1998) also categorised peer review as

tasks that might lead to measurable research outcomes

40

140 (10)

and productivity. By contrast, while activities such as

Marketing outreach, professional experience organiser, industry liaison

80

Confirmation, promotions, selection, misconduct

15

60

Deputy head of school

9

200

of developments in their field. This form of service to

University human research ethics committee

5

130

the discipline underpins the scholarly endeavours of

peer review and editorial work do not result in direct measurable research outcomes, they are important activities that provide prestige for the individual academic and their institution; and help academics stay abreast

a university and is an essential service performed by academics. Critical peer review provides the ‘grease’ which enables quality research scholarly activity. Research

Where a person was chairing a committee, this

would soon grind to a halt if academic staff did not engage

necessarily involved more work than someone who

in these activities, so they, and other important service

served as a member of the committee. As was the case for

work, need to be acknowledged and supported in any

teaching or research data, there was significant variation

consideration of academic work.

in the individual estimates for service-related activities.

On analysing the data from the initial survey, it

In order to reduce the effects of any outliers, the median

had become evident there was confusion amongst

values were determined for a range of internal service and

respondents about where certain roles fitted in their

are presented in Table 2.

academic duties. In constructing the survey, we had

A wide variety of other internal service roles were

placed peer review and editorial roles into the service-

mentioned without workload estimates. These included

related section. However, 89 respondents had added peer

Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) coordinator

review and 23 had added editorial roles with journals as

(40 mentions), Indigenous liaison (100), postgraduate

activities within the ‘other research’ section, with median

committee (20), workload committee (20), graduation,

values of 50 hours per annum and 200 hours per annum

orientation, open days (30), staff forum (50), staffing (175),

respectively, as published in Kenny & Fluck (2018). Other

practicum supervision (40), and academic misconduct

activities for which this confusion was evident included

(integrity) (30).

serving on ethics committees and peer reviewing grant

For staff not in formal recognised roles, it would seem

proposals. Table 3 summarises annual workloads for the

reasonable to account for this work by awarding 40 hours

range of external service roles from the second survey

per annum (average from Table 1) for each committee on

respondents.

which they serve.

External service roles tended to be associated with

Staff who hold formal administrative roles (as outlined

an average median workload of 50 hours per year. As

in Table 4), may be on some of these committees as

the discussion above implies, individuals who work on

ex-officio members. This should be acknowledged and

several such committees should be provided with time

built in as part of the overall time allowance for their

(50 hours) per external committee unless their presence

substantive service role. For example, an associate dean

is part of their official role, in which case it should be built

(teaching and learning) would be expected to attend

into the time allowance for that role.

24

Academic administration and service workloads in Australian universities John Kenny & Andrew Fluck

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Table 3: Median annual workloads for external service roles Office holder on professional body associated with your role N

Editor of a journal

Member of an editorial board

University Examine rep. on a state theses or national board

Formally reviewing articles and course materials

Other external service activities

153

76

129

62

294

321

190

50

100

40

40

30

40

50

median hours

Selected representative on industry partner projects – 1 hr / week. Provision of education resources and workshops to industry partners – 1 hr / week (4387752188, F, Level B, T&R, FT)

any outliers. For example, three of the records suggested a dean’s role could be done in 50 hours a year, and another suggested all roles could be done in 400 hours a year each. These records were deleted to maintain the

Seaberg (1998) found smaller academic units had fewer

highest level of credibility in the database. Other entries

committees than larger units. Our data show little real

ascribing zero hours to administrative roles were treated

variation by discipline. However, responsibilities such as

as a non-response. Table 4 presents the initial analysis for

chairing or coordinating duties associated with service

the range of common service-related roles. Respondents

duties clearly required more time. These roles generally

were asked to estimate the time required to undertake

fell to more senior staff (level C and above).

these roles based on their recent and direct experience.

Chairing accreditation review: 200 hours (4339337280, F, level D, T&R, FT) Member and chair of School outreach and marketing committee = 120 hrs per year (4333062505, F, level C, T&R, FT) Coordinator of a sub-discipline where I am the only academic. Expectations here include attending conferences to market the sub-discipline, be ahead of trends, support Course Director re policy and enrolment matters (4332229041, F, Level C, T&R, FT)

The frequency, mean, standard deviation, number of respondents and median values are reported. As expected, the number of respondents for some of these roles was very small. Generally, the patterns in the reported median annual work hours in each role made relative sense. The workload reported for Deans of larger centres was greater than for medium or smaller centres. Workloads reported for sub-deans or deputies were less than deans. Associate dean workloads are smaller again, with broad equivalence between research and teaching

It is clear that while many academics volunteer for

& learning positions. There was an anomaly detected

these committees, they feel professionally obliged to

for course coordinators, with the estimated workload in

engage in such activities, and therefore these tasks should

small centres reportedly about three times higher than for

form a legitimate part of any conversation about their

medium or large centres.

workload. The danger of a focus on outcomes alone to

The data did not meet the assumption of a normal

measure performance is that these activities may be seen

distribution, so non-parametric methods were employed

as unproductive and therefore devalued by the university.

to analyse the data.

Results – Formal Administration Roles

Investigations of differences In our analysis we explored possible correlations between

To complete the analysis, we then explored the data

formal administrative workload by a range of factors:

specifically related to formal administrative roles. As

• Academic Level.

with the earlier teaching and research roles, the language

• Discipline (using groups from Cannizzo & Osbaldiston,

describing the title of these roles varied across universities.

2016) .

A range of common administrative roles were provided

• Years of experience as an academic.

as examples for comment, such as dean to honours

• Years working in the current institution.

supervisor with provision for distinction between large, medium, and small work units.

For each of these investigations, an independent samples Kruskal-Wallis test was conducted to explore

Again, considerable variation was evident in individual

any relationships between the range of academic

responses, so the same statistical process was followed

administrative roles and each of the factors in the list

for the analysis as for the teaching and research data:

above. Confidence intervals were set to 95%, and cases

the median figure was used to minimise the effects of

were excluded test-by-test.

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Academic administration and service workloads in Australian universities John Kenny & Andrew Fluck

25


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Table 4: Estimated annual work hours for academic administrative duties Role

Dean or director of a budget centre

Centre size

Mean annual hours worked in this role

Standard deviation

N

Median annual hours worked in this role

Largea

2027.50

1155.26

8

1860

Medium

1248.57

904.51

14

1250

Small

1011.67

815.25

18

825

Large

1178.00

904.28

10

1000

Medium

849.17

682.98

12

700

Small

798.00

653.39

17

700

Associate dean of teaching and learning

Large

1096.43

741.70

7

700

555.38

442.01

13

450

Small

476.36

409.59

11

400

Associate dean of research

Large

1114.29

696.25

7

700

649.00

528.32

10

550

Small

1235.71

1696.25

7

400

Sub-dean or deputy director of a budget centre

Medium

Medium Graduate research coordinator

Course (program) coordinator

Discipline coordinator

Honours, year level or campus coordinator

Large

558.89

489.22

9

500

Medium

376.56

290.30

18

300

Small

230.16

173.97

25

200

Large

406.87

589.02

43

150

Medium

300.89

408.07

56

150

Small

356.87

528.67

159

200 /145b

Large

453.67

505.40

15

180

Medium

325.65

349.11

26

180

Small

218.83

222.34

93

140

Large

317.45

393.98

20

150

Medium

232.52

238.45

31

150

Small

187.64

251.51

89

100

Large: Large faculty or cost centre (approx. 151 staff or more); Medium: Medium faculty or cost centre (approx. 51-150 staff); Small: Small faculty or cost centre (less than 50 staff). bSee comment below under ‘Academic level’. a

Table 5: Median estimated hours spent working each year as Course Coordinator in a small centre Academic Level

With only one exception, the null hypothesis was

Academic level

n

Median hours

A

5

500.00

B

70

275.00

discipline, years of experience or years working in an

C

54

155.00

institution.The exception was for course coordinators of

D

19

160.00

small centres which had an unusual distribution where

E

11

120.00

retained, meaning there was no difference in the median workload estimates for the roles by academic level,

the one-sample Kolmogorov-Smirnov test gave a result of .250 (p=.000) showing it did not follow a normal

The Minimum Standards for Academic Levels (Fairwork

curve. Course coordination was the most mentioned

Australia, 2018) state that level A academics ‘undertake

service role in survey returns (n=159). A closer analysis

administration primarily relating to their activities at the

revealed that level A academics were outliers with an

institution’, so they would not usually be coordinating

estimated 500 hours spent annually performing the role

other staff or looking after a course. Given the relatively

(see Table 5).

small number of level A academics responding and the

26

Academic administration and service workloads in Australian universities John Kenny & Andrew Fluck

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

Table 6: Median estimated annual hours worked as course(program) coordinator in a small centre by discipline Discipline group # n

Median 41

200

Science, Technology & Engineering

39

200

Health and Medicine

35

150

Social and Behavioural Sciences

11

250

Business and Economics

15

Professional 160 Disciplines

Education and Related

17

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

’

R

E

V

I

E

W

Discussion

Median

Arts, Law and Humanities

E

These results demonstrate the interrelated nature of academic work. Research informs teaching, service enables research and teaching, conferences enable formation of networks, etc. It is clear from the responses that many universities rely on service work by academic staff over and above their teaching and research responsibilities. A failure to include administration and service roles in workload discussions devalues them

350

and can have a detrimental effect on other components of the work. These commitments need to be included in workload discussions and to ensure the true costs and nature of academic work are captured. In total, 662 academics responded to the service and administration questions in the combined dataset from

500

2016 and 2018. Of these, 599 provided specific comments. It was clear that service-related tasks form an important

# See Cannizzo & Osbaldiston, 2016

part of academic work that must be acknowledged within

unlikely event that they would be asked to undertake such a role, this data was excluded. Therefore, it can be argued the workload allocation should be the average of the median figures for levels B and above (210 hours per year), scaled in the same proportion as the discipline coordinator for size of academic unit. Discipline

A further analysis was conducted to see if there were any statistically significant differences in annual workload by discipline. The course coordinator role in small centres once again showed great variation, with the median

their workload. In the last 12 months I have given up several University service roles to dedicate more time to my research. In previous times I was on 3 University committees and Deputy Head School (Research and International) (72741790, F, level D, T&R, FT) I took on a leadership/service role and fulfilled it to the best of my ability. After one year I was chastised during performance management for not reaching minimum expectations in research. I have since focused on research and cut corners (many, to my shame) in the leadership role. I felt as if I had no choice. (4333046177, F, Level C, T&R, FT)

allocation for ‘Education or related’ discipline estimated

The respondents to the open text questions in the

at more than three times the workload compared to

original survey (2016) reported a key challenge to

Health & Medicine (see Table 6). Given the considerations

the fair allocation of work at their institution was the

above, and the relatively small number of respondents

underestimation of the work they were required to

for the professional disciplines of Education, Business

undertake. Forty-nine respondents specifically reported

and Economics and the Social and Behavioural sciences,

an increase in the administrative component of their

in comparison to Health and Medicine, these data were

workload. Many staff (166) put these problems down

combined into a new category called professional

to poor management where the intention was to hide

disciplines and re-analysed to obtain the data in the final

the true costs of the work and a prevailing belief that

column of Table 6.

many academics will work for free (53), or for as long as it takes, without the need for due recompense. Many

Years of experience as an academic

There

were

no

significant

differences

respondents believed the increased work pressure on found

in

staff was driven by funding shortfalls (136) and a focus

administrative workload distributions by years of

on balancing the budget rather than properly resourcing

experience as an academic.

the work required (88).

Years working in the current institution

There

were

no

significant

differences

found

in

distributions by years working in the current institution. vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

The workload has got out of control. Every single administration task has been pushed to academics, whether teaching, research or service related. The amount of administration support has diminished,

Academic administration and service workloads in Australian universities John Kenny & Andrew Fluck

27


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Table 7: Academic service roles Operational

Internal operational service

External operational service

Median Allowance

• 40 hours per task/committee, per year • Chair, organiser or lead: 80 hours per role per year

• 50 hours per task/committee, per year • Leading role e.g. chair, organiser, journal editor = 125 hours per role, per year

Examples

Committees and working parties: Faculty Board, misconduct, disciplinary, curriculum, research, course or program, ethics, promotion, selection committee, learning and teaching, mentoring junior staff, first-aid and fire warden, ERA submission, open day (outreach), awards, graduation, review grants and awards, academic integrity, workload committee, discipline committee, etc.

Official disciplinary, school or work unit representation, member of an editorial board, peer reviewer, liaison roles with discipline, professional or industry, marketing and outreach roles, university teaching and learning committee, university research committee, conference committee.

Internal strategic service

External strategic service

Strategic Median Allowance

50 hours per committee per year

100 hours per committee per year

Examples

University council, academic senate, university level teaching and learning committee, sub-committees of senate, course review (quality assurance), course accreditation, new course development.

Official university representation, Industry advisory bodies, Government advisory bodies, Accreditation bodies, Industry liaison.

and a long time is spent doing tasks that would have taken a specialist minutes taker in much less time. (899372553, M, level C T&R, FT)

for academics to have several such roles or committees

The institutional, bureaucratic, and administrative environment is highly erratic. New tasks will be introduced one year, only to be abandoned the next and a new different system introduced. We are increasingly responsible for reporting on ourselves – that is spending increasing amounts of time telling the university what we do and why we are worth our jobs. (6925697896, M, Level B, T&R FT)

In addition, based on our experience and the practice at

associated with their position. Our survey did not capture incidental service activities. our institution, we also suggest a standard administration allowance of 150 hours for all academics to cover a range of everyday or incidental work-related or unforeseen, but time-consuming tasks, not necessarily covered elsewhere. For example, just half an hour a day monitoring and responding to emails and phone calls over 45 weeks

While the study identified service roles both internal

would amount to over 112.5 hours a year for a full

and external to the university, the analysis also suggested

time academic. Further, attending ad hoc professional

a

dimension: ‘operational’ and ‘strategic’.

development sessions and collegial meetings would add

‘Operational’ committees or roles are generally located

to this figure. Also, with increased casualisation, many

at the school, discipline or work unit level or involve a

academic staff find themselves managing small teams of

university level role with a specific function.These service

sessional teaching staff, with little or no acknowledgement

roles typically relate to implementing and monitoring

of the time required to administer contracts and provide

university policy, such disciplinary committees or

new staff inductions.

second

fire-wardens. By contrast, ‘Strategic’ committees or

When considered alongside the data in the two earlier

roles typically involve developing, evaluating and/

papers (Kenny & Fluck, 2017; 2018) the suggested

or recommending strategic approaches on policy or

workload service related allocations and categorisations

matters of concern to the work unit or university. These

in this paper can form a transparent suite of credible

committees or roles provide advice and report directly to

time allowances that could be used as a guide during

senior managers or key university committees and would

negotiations with individuals about their workload. If

include university council members and industry liaison

used as a standard, the allowances for the range of tasks

bodies.

to be undertaken in a given year, across research, teaching

This suggests the typology of service roles as categorised

and service would enable individuals to build a realistic

in Table 7 and recommended time allocations for each

estimate of their workload that both reflects the varied

category drawn from the discussion above. Internal

roles they may undertake in a given year, but also enables

service role/committee memberships took an average

direct comparison with their colleagues to ensure fairness.

of 40 hours per annum each, while an external service

Aggregation of this data across a cost centre would enable

role took 50 hours per year on average. It was common

cost-centres to quickly identify overloaded staff and

28

Academic administration and service workloads in Australian universities John Kenny & Andrew Fluck

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

estimate academic staffing costs for their teaching and

decision-making and efficiencies that seek to optimise the

research programs.

use of resources. This study provides an essential starting

If universities venture down the path of allocating

point for such conversations, because optimisation is not

the time academics put into their work, it cannot be

feasible without a clear idea of resource costs and staff

done dishonestly. While the detailed atomisation of the

capacities. The data in this study were obtained from

complex academic role is not our aim, the time associated

involved staff from every university in Australia. The

with genuinely important activities or roles must be

associated input times proposed for the activities are

acknowledged within an individual’s workload to be

empirically based and realistic.

credible. Attempts to hide important academic service,

This study of administrative academic workload in

or other academic tasks, in order to reduce costs due to

Australian universities has provided reference levels for

budget pressures, will destroy trust and could be counter-

many formal leadership positions (Table 4). Staff take on

productive in the longer run for universities.

these roles partly through ‘a sense of duty’ and with little

For any individual academic, work is a complex

training (Preston & Floyd, 2016, p. 266) and often cope

mixture of teaching, research and service related duties.

with complex situations at work. The baseline annual

The extent of each component of their work can vary

hours for roles proposed in this paper, in combination

considerably according to experience and seniority of the

with the results in the first two papers, may form the basis

individual, but this must be accounted for, in a realistic

for the development of a holistic, transparent, flexible and

and transparent manner, if we want to understand the

reasonable process to guide discussions with about their

true nature of and costs associated with the demands on

workload. Consideration of how this may be done will

academic time.

form the basis of the next stage of our research.

Conclusion

John Kenny and Andrew Fluck are Associate Professors in the Faculty of Education at the University of Tasmania, Australia.

This paper concludes that academic work must be

Contact: John.Kenny@utas.edu.au

considered holistically, and that academic staff must be consulted in the development of an academic workload allocation model if it is to be considered credible, realistic and capture the work that needs to be done. As the third component to be considered, and often the least examined, service and administration roles and tasks are important aspects of academic work. These roles and tasks are not always adequately accounted for in workloads, either for formal roles but also for more discretionary tasks that academics undertake. It appears that universities have relied on staff goodwill to execute many compliance and regulatory functions as part of their administration and service work. Support for academic publications through peer review and editing is an example of expected ‘voluntary’ work without which the ‘publish or perish’ system of performance evaluation would disappear. While the performance management process will vary between contexts, for example an esteemed older urban university may have different priorities compared to a newer regional university, this study considered the essential nature of academic work and provides some credible metrics for a wide range of teaching, research and service that can be used in workload and performance management conversations. Within the power structures of universities there are budget pressures and political tensions that drive strategic vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

References Boyd, L. (2014) Exploring the utility of workload models in academe: a pilot study, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 36:3, 315-326, DOI:10.1080/01587919.2014.899050 Bryson, J.M., Crosby, B.C., & Bloomberg, L. (2014). Public value governance: Moving beyond traditional public administration and the new public management. Public Administration Review, 74(4) 445–456. DOI: 10.1111/ puar.12238 Cannizzo, F. & Osbaldiston, N. (2016). Academic work/life balance: a brief quantitative analysis of the Australian experience. Journal of Sociology, 52(4) 890–906. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1440783315600803. Eastman, J., Jones, G.A., Bégin-Caouette, O., Li, S.X., Noumi, C. And Trottier, C. (2018). Provincial oversight and university autonomy. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 48(3), 65-81. Fairwork Australia (2018). Higher Education Industry – Academic Staff – Award 2010 Schedule A: Minimum standards for academic levels. Author: Australia. Retrieved from http://awardviewer.fwo.gov.au/award/show/ MA000006#P739_70205 Franco-Santos, M., Rivera, P. & Bourne, M. (2014). Performance Management in UK Higher Education Institutions: The need for a hybrid approach. Leadership Foundation for Higher Education. Gill, R. (2014). Academics, cultural workers and critical labour studies. Journal of Cultural Economy, 7(1), 12–30. doi:10.1080/17530350.2013.861763. Kenny, J. (2017). Academic work and performativity. Higher Education, 74 (5) pp. 897-913. doi:10.1007/s10734-016-0084-y Kenny, J. & Fluck, A. (2014). The effectiveness of academic workload models in an institution: a staff perspective. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 36(6), 585–602. doi:10.1080/1360080X.2014.957889.

Academic administration and service workloads in Australian universities John Kenny & Andrew Fluck

29


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

Kenny, J. & Fluck, A.E. (2017). Towards a methodology to determine standard time allocations for academic work. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 39 (5) pp. 503-523. doi:10.1080/1360080X.2017.1354773 Kenny, J. & Fluck, A.E. (2018). Research workloads in Australian Universities. Australian Universities’ Review, 60 (2) pp. 25-37.

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Seaberg, J.R. (1998). Faculty Reports of Workload. Journal of Social Work Education, 34:1, 7-19, DOI: 10.1080/10437797.1998.10778901. Soliman, I. (1999). The academic workload problematic. HERDSA Annual International Conference, Melbourne, 12-15.

Kenny, J., Fluck, A. & Jetson, T. (2012). Placing a value on academic work, Australian Universities’ Review, 54 (2) pp. 50-60. ISSN 0818-8068

Song, J. (2018) Strategic responses to teaching quality accountability: A case study of a regional university in China from a decoupling perspective. Higher Education Policy. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41307-018-0113-9

Kwok, J.T. (2013). Impact of ERA research assessment on university behaviour and their staff. NTEU National Policy and Research Unit. Melbourne: National tertiary Education Union. ISBN 978–0–9806500-6-8. Retrieved fromhttp://www. nteu.org.au/policy/research/era/documents

Stensaker, B., Frølich, N. And Aamodt, P.O. (2018) Policy, perceptions, and practice: A study of educational leadership and their balancing of expectations and interests at micro-level. Higher Education Policy. https://doi.org/10.1057/ s41307-018-0115-7

Macfarlane, B. (2007). Defining and Rewarding Academic Citizenship: The implications for university promotions policy, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 29(3), 261-273, DOI: 10.1080/13600800701457863

Vardi, I. (2009). The impacts of different types of workload allocation models on academic satisfaction and working life. Higher Education, 57, 499–508.

Preston, D. & Floyd, A. (2016). Supporting the role of Associate Dean in universities: An alternative approach to management development, Higher Education Quarterly, 70(3) pp 264–280. DOI: 10.1111/hequ.12099

30

Academic administration and service workloads in Australian universities John Kenny & Andrew Fluck

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

’

R

E

V

I

E

W

Examiner feedback and Australian doctoral examination processes Kerry Dally, Allyson Holbrook, Terence Lovat & Janene Budd University of Newcastle

Doctoral thesis examination is the litmus test for doctoral quality. Of those candidates who reach examination, most are notified they have more work to do on their thesis. Receiving and responding to feedback are integral parts of a formal learning process that continues until the final thesis is submitted. However, little is known about what happens after examiner reports are received by an institution, how recommendations and feedback are filtered through institutional processes to influence thesis outcomes, or about the roles that candidates and supervisors play in determining and giving action to thesis revisions. This article reports the findings from a desktop review of institutional protocols and policies governing doctoral thesis examination in Australian universities. Given that the PhD Viva, or oral examination, is rare in Australian universities, the authors question whether current examination processes allow adequate opportunities for candidates to actively engage with examiner feedback and take advantage of this final opportunity to demonstrate, or further develop, authoritative judgement and research autonomy. Keywords: doctoral examination, examination process, examiner report, response to feedback

Introduction

publicly accountable to ensure that both conform to the appropriate standard. In order to fulfil the traditional

A key indicator of research excellence institutionally and

aim of knowledge creation, doctoral education needs

systemically is the quality of doctoral theses and this in

to develop and elicit the highest levels of cognitive

turn presupposes robust, fair and equitable assessment

functioning and skills in candidates (Kandiko & Kinchin,

processes. Getting assessment right is fundamental

2012). Recent debates concerning the aims of doctoral

to any successful academic program and is therefore

study have also positioned the thesis as an ‘object of

especially critical in high stakes programs such as those

learning’ and it is in connection with the latter that

for higher research degrees. There are approximately

feedback by examiners requires further study. The

8000 higher research degree completions annually in

intention of examiner feedback, implicitly or explicitly,

Australia and hundreds of thousands of completions

is to broaden the outlook or extend the knowledge of

world-wide (OECD, 2016). What distinguish doctoral

the candidate (Holbrook et al., 2004). It is an interesting

thesis examination from other types of assessment are

feature of doctoral examination processes that examiners

the level and focus of the degree. The award of the

are able to feed into learning at the examination stage. It

doctorate implies both the completion of a successful

is even more intriguing that there is little evidence about

product (thesis) and the development of a well-qualified

how this feedback is managed through institutional

researcher. Institutions

processes and how it influences candidate outcomes.

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

have

become

increasingly

Examiner feedback and Australian doctoral examination processes Kerry Dally et al.

31


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

There has been intensifying interest in studies of

meeting the criteria and provides feedback about how to

assessment feedback in higher education (Pereira,

address these gaps (Sadler, 1989). The final step is for the

Assunção, &

doctoral

learner to use this feedback to ‘improve their product’ or

education. Almost two decades ago, Tinkler and Jackson

inform future activities (Taras, 2009). The doctoral thesis

(2000, p.168) observed that the PhD examination process

examination framework used by institutions nationally

was ‘shrouded in mystery’ and attempted to ‘shed light’

and internationally is part ‘grade’ (summative assessment

on this process through an interrogation of institutional

of doctoral standard) and part ‘gauge’ of what still needs

policies governing examination practices in Britain. In a

to be done to a thesis (formative assessment) in order to

recent review of research investigating thesis examiner

meet doctoral standards (Holbrook et al., 2014).

Niklasson, 2016), including

practices, Golding, Sharmini and Lazarovitch (2014) called

The summative aspect of doctoral assessment is

for more detailed research to ‘demystify’ examination

reflected in the examiners’ final recommendations

processes and better understand how theses are assessed.

about whether the thesis is at a standard deemed to be

While many aspects of the process are clearly set out in

‘doctoral’. In the Australian context, the recommendation

policy, much of the mystery resides in the less visible

options available to examiners typically include passed

facets of decision-making and discussion. Some time

with no requirement for correction or amendment,

ago, a review of PhD examiner guidelines and reporting

passed subject to minor or major revisions, resubmit

conventions in Australian universities identified numerous

or failed (Lovat et al., 2015). To judge the quality of a

‘institutional differences’ in examination processes, noting

thesis, examiners are usually provided with specific

these reflected ‘matters of detail rather than matters

guidelines addressing the originality and significance of

of substance’ (Lawson, Marsh, & Tansley, 2003, p.36).

the project, as well as the merits of different elements of

However, that work did not tease out the silences or gaps

the thesis itself, such as the literature review, methods,

in the documentation and tended to overlook processes

results, conclusions, etc. However, previous research on

post the point of receiving examination reports, including

Australian doctoral examination processes has found

the role and treatment of feedback.

that even when examiners are provided with specific

This article reports the findings from the first stage of

assessment criteria, they do not necessarily follow these

an ARC Discovery Project investigating the processes,

when making judgements about thesis quality (Mullins

practices, and impacts of the end-stage of doctoral

& Kiley, 2002). Delamont, Atkinson and Parry (2000,

examination. It explored the policies governing PhD

p.4) observe that examiners make judgements about

examination in Australian universities to understand how

‘indeterminate’ skills and qualities of the candidates. It is

the examination process is enacted and what impact

difficult for candidates to interpret and act on examiner

these processes and the absence of a Viva might have

feedback to address any gaps between their own work

on candidates’ engagement with examiner feedback. The

and ‘acceptable’ standards if the skills being judged, and

paper will commence with a brief overview of literature

the standards that candidates are aiming for, are unclear

on summative and formative assessment, with a focus

or ill-defined.

on student engagement with feedback, and the critical components required for an effective feedback loop.

Formative feedback and the feedback loop

Summative and formative assessment In countries such as Australia, NZ and the UK, formative Scriven (1967) described assessment as a single process

feedback makes up the majority of comment in the average

involving both summative and formative elements. An

examination report, directed primarily at improving the

evaluation is summative if it is used in decision-making

thesis and/or subsequent publications (Holbrook et al.,

concerning the end result of an educational process

2014; Lovat et al., 2015). Examiners spend considerable

(Scriven, 1967), while formative assessment can be

effort in providing feedback on doctoral theses they

used by learners to improve their performance (Sadler,

consider to be worthy of doctoral standards and even on

1989). The doctoral thesis examination process starts

those of exemplary quality (Lovat et al., 2008). Regardless

with summative evaluation where a judgement is made

of the quality of a doctoral thesis, examiners tend to

about the quality of a product according to specified

treat a thesis as a work-in-progress and, in their reports,

criteria or standards. This is followed by formative

position candidates as learners (Starfield et al., 2017),

assessment which identifies any possible deficiencies in

offering them advice and feedback about improvements

32

Examiner feedback and Australian doctoral examination processes Kerry Dally et al.

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

to the thesis or guidance about how they can develop as

and taking action based on instructor comment with

researchers (Golding et al., 2014).

the ‘consumer’ mentality of learners who are content

Research on assessment consistently identifies a

to be ‘passive recipients of education’. Compared to

number of common key themes regarding feedback for

‘passive receivers’, engaged learners understand and

learners. The most prominent issue is that the feedback

value feedback, are able to make decisions about how

process is a dialogic loop in which assessment results

to incorporate the feedback and are self-regulated and

and comments only become ‘feedback’ if the information

motivated to act upon the advice. Both the feedback

is ‘fed back into’ the original system or learner to effect

sender and the feedback receiver share responsibility for

improvements. Feedback is not a one-way transmission

the effective implementation of feedback, which is reliant

of information and, according to Sadler (2010), is only

on four essential elements: Awareness – understanding

valuable insofar as it is used. Similarly, Carless and Boud

what the feedback means; Cognisance – knowing how to

(2018) assert that students need to use feedback for

act upon the feedback; Agency – having the opportunity

improvement purposes.Without action, comments do not

to act upon the feedback; and Volition – having the desire

become feedback.

to interrogate and engage with the feedback and instigate

To turn ‘formative instruction’ into ‘feedback’, the

the strategies required to implement the feedback (Nash

learner needs to be actively engaged in the ‘feedback loop.’

& Winstone, 2017). As discussed next, the educator has

From their systematic review of research concerning

a major role in supporting the learner’s awareness and

learners’ receptiveness to and implementation of feedback,

cognisance by providing clear feedback that can be

Winstone et al. (2017a) identified four ‘recipience’

understood and acted upon, however, the learner has

processes that can affect the uptake and implementation of

prime responsibility for the volition and agency necessary

information and the ultimate completion of the feedback

to incorporate the feedback into the examined product or

loop. These include the characteristics and behaviour of

future endeavours (Nash & Winstone, 2017).

the receiver, characteristics and behaviour of the sender, characteristics of the message and characteristics of the context.

Characteristics and behaviour of the feedback receiver

Characteristics and behaviour of the feedback sender While the receiver needs to be willing, or at least prepared, to accept feedback, the sender also shares responsibility for the effective uptake of the feedback they are providing

The giving and receiving of feedback are a communication

(Winstone et al., 2017a). Instructional comment needs

exchange between a sender and receiver of information.

to be clear and communicated in a way that enables the

Most of the research on feedback has focused on the

learner to understand, value, and act upon the advice

role of the sender (Burke 2009), however, Johnson and

being given.

Johnson (1994) emphasise that the receiver’s role is just

(2017) responsibility distribution model, the educator is

as crucial as is the role of the sender in the effective

primarily responsible for the clarity of the message so

transmission of a message. According to Winstone et al.

that the student can then be aware of what the feedback

(2017b), the success of the feedback process relies on

means. The educator also has major responsibility for

learners being in a state of ‘proactive recipience’. The

ensuring that sufficient details are provided so that the

extent to which examiner recommendations are acted

student understands (is cognisant of) how the feedback

upon depends on both the capacity of a candidate to

can be acted upon.

As illustrated in Nash and Winstone’s

interpret examiner feedback as well as the candidate’s

In order to act upon feedback, learners first need

willingness to accept and incorporate the feedback.

to appreciate and value the feedback and then make

Carless and Boud (2018, p.5) assert that students

judgements about what actions to take. In order to

require ‘the understandings, capacities and dispositions

appreciate and value feedback the receiver needs to be

needed to make sense of comments and use them for

assured of the expertise and credibility of the feedback

enhancement purposes.’

sender. As noted by Starfield et al. (2017), examiners of

For feedback to be effective, the feedback receiver

doctoral theses are typically selected because of their

needs to take an active and volitional role in responding

expertise and academic achievements in the relevant

to and acting on the comments provided by the feedback

field of research. Thus, candidates are generally confident

sender. Nash and Winstone (2017) contrast the agentic

that the feedback they are being given is coming from an

learner who takes responsibility for making decisions

esteemed and trustworthy informant.

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Examiner feedback and Australian doctoral examination processes Kerry Dally et al.

33


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Characteristics of the message

Characteristics of the context

High-quality feedback clarifies what good performance

It could be assumed that if educators clearly communicate

entails and provides corrective, ‘task-specific’ advice

the ways in which students’ work has not addressed the

for how the current work can be improved, or ‘process

required standards or criteria and have clearly conveyed

feedback’ regarding what could or should be done in

information regarding what needs to be done to address

the future (Winstone et al., 2017a). Some researchers

these inadequacies, then students will be cognisant of the

in the higher education context have found that

gaps or errors in their work and, as long as they have the

learners prefer future-oriented feedback regarding skills

motivation to act upon the advice, will be well equipped

development (e.g. Carless, 2006), while others maintain

to remedy any omissions or inaccuracies. However, Price,

that the ‘ideal’ is a balance between task-specific and

Handley and Millar (2011) argue that engagement with

process feedback (Sadler, 2010). The results from

feedback is influenced by both individual and contextual

Winstone et al.’s review of assessment feedback in the

factors. From their analysis of student perceptions of

higher education context suggested that as well as the

feedback in higher education systems, Price et al. (2011)

focus and content of the feedback, a critical or negative

concluded that engagement with feedback is a socially

tone, nuances in the wording of the message and tacit or

embedded process that operates within the discourses,

ambiguous comments also influenced learners’ attitudes

policies and culture of the learning institutions. Lovat et al.

towards the feedback and their motivation to act on it.

(2008) postulated that the abovementioned dominance of

Higher education students were found to be less likely to

‘deficit discourse’ in examiner reports could be emanating

act on feedback that was perceived as being negatively

from an incumbent set of cultural expectations in a

judgemental, unconstructive or insensitive. Similarly,

‘doctoral regime’ that positions examiners as experts, and

some studies found that university students often

doctoral candidates as novice researchers who require

reported feeling confused and unsure how to respond

further instruction.This in turn brings the discussion back

to feedback that was couched in unfamiliar academic

to an earlier point about seeing the thesis as an object of

discourse or that did not clearly communicate what

learning and that learning, and learner status, do not cease

changes should be made or if any revisions were actually

at the point of examination.

required (Jonsson, 2012).

Winstone et al.’s (2017a) review of the literature

In the Australian doctoral examination process,

also identified several characteristics of the higher

examiners provide feedback to candidates via a written

education learning and assessment environment that

report and for most doctoral degrees there is no oral

have the potential to affect learners’ engagement with

examination or any direct contact between the examiner

feedback adversely. Key among these were the timing

and the candidate. Thus, candidates generally have no

of feedback delivery, institutional policies and the lack

opportunity to clarify with examiners the meaning or

of opportunities for face-to-face dialogue. Learners

intent of the comments provided in the written report.

who have to wait a long time to receive feedback are

Monfries and Lovat (2006) analysed 23 examination

typically less engaged with the feedback once it finally

reports for top-rated theses in one Australian university

arrives and are less motivated to act upon it (e.g. Nicol

and found a ‘pervading theme of deficit’ and a high

& McFarlane-Dick, 2006). As noted previously, the giving

proportion of text devoted to how some aspect of the

and receiving of feedback is a communicative event and

thesis could have been improved, even in cases where the

numerous assessment researchers and theorists have

examiners had recommended that the thesis should be

noted the importance that learners place on responding

passed without any revisions or amendments. From their

to educators and completing the dialogic feedback loop

analysis of the discourse of 50 examiner reports from

(Winstone et al., 2017a). As a general rule, Jonsson (2012,

one New Zealand university, Starfield et al. (2017) noted

p.72) recommends ‘an active and dialogic model of

that because of the multiple roles that examiners assume

feedback.’ This has some bearing on the value of an oral

when writing their reports, doctoral candidates may have

component to doctoral examination. From their review

difficulty in distinguishing whether or not examiner

of the role of the Viva in the PhD examination process,

comments are intended as feedback for further action.

Lovat et al. (2015) suggest that the inclusion of a Viva is

These authors argue that institutions may need to ‘provide

unlikely to change the results of the examination process

more explicit guidance to examiners and raise examiners

but might offer candidates an opportunity for collegial

awareness of the need to more clearly distinguish the

discussions with their examiners and thus provide a

functions of their comments’ (Starfield et al., 2017, p.54).

greater sense of closure.

34

Examiner feedback and Australian doctoral examination processes Kerry Dally et al.

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

The context for this study

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

might have on candidate agency and engagement, in light of the research on feedback receptiveness and the factors

The

introduction

of

the Australian

Qualifications

Framework (AQF) in 1995 aimed to provide a nationally

that can affect the uptake of examiner guidance and completion of the feedback loop.

consistent description and hierarchical classification of all tertiary awards and qualifications. The framework, which

Method

was revised in 2013, describes the characteristics of each qualification in terms of learning outcomes and specifies

The authors undertook a desktop review of publicly

progression pathways from Certificate 1 qualifications

available doctoral examination policies and procedures

(AQF Level 1) to doctoral degrees (AQF Level 10). The

from the total population of 39 Australian universities that

AQF Level 10 criteria explicate the specific knowledge

offer PhD degrees and are listed on the UniversitiesAustralia

and skills that candidates are expected to have acquired

website

and be able to apply in order to qualify for the award of

universities/university-profiles#.W4Sr22eQmws).

a doctoral degree. The summary statement for Level 10

thesis examination policies and procedures were sourced

indicates that ‘graduates at this level will have systematic

from each university’s web-pages in July and August 2018.

and critical understanding of a complex field of learning

The search terms included: thesis examination/examiner;

and

specialised

research

skills for the advancement of

learning

professional be

able

and/or

for

practice’ and

to

demonstrate

‘autonomy,

authoritative

judgement,

adaptability

and

responsibility

(www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/australias-

as

The

doctoral thesis; and PhD

Higher education students were found to be less likely to act on feedback that was perceived as being negatively judgemental, unconstructive or insensitive.

thesis. The

review

collated

information relating to the following seven aspects of the

examination

process:

examiner and examination

an

criteria;

determining

expert and leading practitioner or scholar’ (AQF, 2013,

examination outcomes; reconciling disparate examiner

p.63). McInnis (2010) argues that while the AQF creates

reports; responding to examiner reports; revision

transparency and consensus about the requirements for

procedures and the terminology used to describe

each qualification among different sectors, it is limited

recommendations and revisions; and the inclusion or

in its capacity to directly ensure academic standards.

absence of a Viva in the conduct of the examination.

While examiners are tasked with making judgements

Information was typically sourced from several policy

and recommendations about doctoral standards, final

documents as well as from guidelines provided to students

responsibility for determining whether a candidate will

and examiners. Complete data from the 39 universities

be awarded a doctoral degree rests with the institution.

was available for all aspects, with the exception of

Higher degree by research (HDR) examination

examination criteria, where we could only locate this

processes are not static and appear to be in a state of

information for 19 institutions. We acknowledge that that

flux given the changes in the scope and the forms of

there is likely to be additional information concerning

the doctoral degree. In every institution, examiners have

internal processes that was not publicly available. The

the option of passing or failing the candidate outright

Stage 2 interviews with Deans or Directors of Graduate

or requiring changes of a lesser to more major extent –

Studies from ten universities will provide further insights

the most extreme being revise and resubmit. What do

into examination processes.

candidates have to do to meet the demands made of them at this point and how is the need to successfully meet these demands evident in policies and decision-making

Results

processes? We limit our focus in this paper to the policies

Examiner criteria

and processes connected with securing examiner reports

In Australia, university policies dictate a common set

through to the decisions around awarding the degree and

of criteria which must be applied to the selection

making revisions. Based on the above, we targeted the

of examiners. All of the universities surveyed for this

processes which govern how candidates and supervisors

project stipulated that PhD examiners must be external

receive and respond to examiner feedback. In the

to the university in which the candidate is enrolled and

discussion, we consider the impact that current processes

have no conflicts of interest, thus ensuring impartiality

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Examiner feedback and Australian doctoral examination processes Kerry Dally et al.

35


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

and minimising any chance of bias or subjective

Determining examination outcomes

judgement. In addition, examiners must have a doctoral

In most universities, once examiner reports are received,

qualification or equivalent, be currently active in the

they are read and ‘evaluated’ by an HDR panel or

field of research and have international standing in the

committee and a recommendation is made based on the

research topic. Just over one quarter (11) asked that

examiners’ recommendations and comments. In some

examiners have adequate experience in examining – or

institutions, the recommendation is determined by a

at least supervising – HDR students, with one university

committee delegate such as the chair of a faculty research

explaining that ‘inexperienced examiners might be

or thesis examination committee, and then considered

more critical’.

by a key individual such as the Dean, Director or Deputy

Close to one quarter (10) of universities required

Dean of Research. The recommendation is generally made

that there must be at least one examiner from outside

prior to student notification and without consultation

Australia. One university suggested selecting an examiner

with supervisors. There were eight universities where

from an international candidate’s home country, to

supervisors played an integral role in assisting the

facilitate the examiner later becoming a mentor to that

committee to decide about the classification level and

candidate. It is also noteworthy that there is sometimes a

a further four where supervisors were consulted only

degree of flexibility about the requirements for examiners

if the committee were seeking advice to help reconcile

being external or international, due to the need in some

examiners’divergent views. At one university the candidate

disciplines for the examiner to sight a creative work in

and the supervisors received the examiner reports before

person. Several universities mention other requirements:

the committee and were required to provide a response

that examiners are drawn from different institutions, or

to the examiner comments before a determination was

that they are available for an oral examination if required,

made. Under this arrangement, the candidate’s response

or available for a certain period (to provide the report

to examiners and the Principal Supervisor’s commentary

within two months, for example), or that they are well-

on the examiners’ reports were considered along with the

informed about the standards expected of the thesis. A

examiners’ reports to assist the committee in making their

few universities asked for examiners who have empathy

recommendation.

for the theoretical framework used by the candidate, or even expertise in that framework.

Examination criteria

In about a quarter of the universities, the supervisors were consulted as part of the determination of outcomes process and thus received the examiner reports before the candidates, but in the majority of universities the

Thesis examination criteria were located for 19 of the 39

reports were sent to the supervisors and candidates at the

universities. Of these, the majority described common

same time along with the committee recommendation.

features and standards expected in a doctoral thesis

The three categories – Passed with no amendments,

including: a systematic and comprehensive literature

Revise and resubmit, and Fail, were evident in every

review; effective and rigorous methodology that is

institution. There was also always an option for a thesis

appropriate for the thesis topic; results presented in an

to be passed with amendments.The majority of Australian

accurate and logical manner; and a lucid discussion and

universities (24) favoured five levels of classification with

conclusions that are linked to the research questions.

the additional two recommendations being – Passed with

In addition, the thesis (or parts thereof) had to be

minor amendments and Passed with major revisions.

suitable for publication and the literary presentation was

At the 15 universities with only four recommendation

expected to be clear, discernible, coherent, accurately

options, the minor and major revisions were combined

and cogently written, concise and authoritative. The

into one category. An additional option of awarding an

criteria mostly referred to the thesis, but 12 institutions

appropriate master’s degree instead of Fail at PhD level

referred to the research skills and qualities of the

was offered by 14 institutions.

candidate, while two universities referred separately to both the essential elements of the thesis as well as the

Reconciliation of examiners’ reports

specific skills and competencies of the candidate. Ten

Most universities included several options for reconciling

universities specifically mentioned the requirements

disparate recommendations by the examiners. In addition

of the AQF concerning the candidate’s capacity to

to seeking input from the supervisors or heads of schools

demonstrate and independently apply their research

and faculties, the next most common method was to

skills and knowledge.

contact the ‘reserve examiner’ or appoint an additional

36

Examiner feedback and Australian doctoral examination processes Kerry Dally et al.

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

examiner. In this case, neither the candidate nor the

Thesis Examiner reports, and Thesis corrections letter.

supervisor is given the original reports until after the

Candidates were usually advised that they did not need

additional examiner’s report has been received. In one

to make all the revisions recommended by the examiners,

university the original examiners could be contacted

but they should still address all of the examiner comments

and asked to provide additional information in either

and if any changes suggested by the examiners were not

written or verbal form. Three universities have an option

enacted, then the candidate should provide a justification

of appointing an adjudicator or arbitrator whose role is

as to why the suggestions were not implemented.

to consider and report on the research and review the

Candidates who completed a thesis by publication were

reports of the examiners, while 25 institutions reserve an

also warned that ‘having published sections of the thesis

option to ask or require candidates to participate in an

in a peer-reviewed format is not an adequate defence for

oral or written examination.

not actioning suggested changes.’ There were also various terms used to describe the thesis that was submitted

Responding to examiner reports

along with the response to the examiners’ report. The

As noted by Lovat et al. (2015), most doctoral candidates

most common was revised thesis, followed by corrected

are required to make either minor or major revisions

thesis and final copy of thesis.

to their thesis before the degree is conferred. At most

Apart from the general instructions provided to

universities, the supervisor and candidate appear to

candidates about the format of the amendments report

be given joint responsibility for making the decisions

and the timelines allocated to the various levels of

about the extent and nature of any revisions. However,

revisions, very few universities provided information

four universities stipulate that the decision on how to

about the process of undertaking revisions and the

respond to examiner reports will be made by the Thesis

respective roles of the candidate and supervisor in

Examination Committee or the Chair of such committees,

deciding what and how examiner comments should be

apparently without consultation with the candidate

addressed. However, one university specifically noted

or supervisor. This advice could be general (‘address

that throughout the thesis examination and review

all points raised by examiner X’) or specific (‘insert a

processes, the role of the supervisor should be as ‘guide,

discussion of YYY on p.37’). Another university advised

advisor and critical reviewer rather than co-author or

candidates that ‘rewriting instructions will be composed

editor of the thesis.’Another university attempted to assist

by your supervisory panel, endorsed by the School or

candidates, supervisors and the examination committee

Institute Research and Higher Degrees Committee and

in interpreting examiner reports by providing specific

then approved by the Research Studies Committee’.

guidelines for examiners about how to write ‘valid’

There were various terms used to describe the ‘revisions’ required under the ‘passed with amendments’ category. The most common terms in order of decreasing frequency were, amendments, corrections, and revisions. These terms were often preceded by the descriptors ‘minor’ or ‘major’. Less frequently used terms included changes, additions or additional work, rewriting and clarifications.

Revision processes In 19 of the 39 institutions, candidates who were awarded a ‘pass with amendments’ (either minor or major) were

suggestions for revisions: The examiner must state clearly in the examination report what the candidate needs to do to address issues and to provide specific guidance to the candidate as to how he/she can address the issues raised. Vague statements that can be interpreted as opinion, such as “it would have been good if ...”, “the candidate could have ...”, “discussion of ... would have been useful”, without specific direction, such as “the candidate must ...”, “the candidate should ....”, cannot be given weight. The candidate will not be expected to respond to vague comments or statements of opinion.

required to prepare a response to the examiner reports.

The inclusion of a Viva

This response was usually completed by the candidate in

At the time of writing, only 2 of the 39 universities

conjunction with their supervisors and then submitted

incorporated a Viva as an integral and compulsory part

to an examination committee or delegate for review

of the PhD examination process. These initiatives were

and final approval. There were various terms used to

relatively recent with one university introducing the Viva

describe the ‘form’ or ‘report’ that candidates were

requirement in 2016 and the other in 2018.There were 25

required to submit. These included:Table of amendments,

universities where a Viva could be conducted as an option

Detailed response to Examiner comments; Response to

to resolve examination outcome differences or where

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Examiner feedback and Australian doctoral examination processes Kerry Dally et al.

37


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

it was essential in some disciplines or for conjoint and

Candidate agency

cotutelle programs. Two universities allowed candidates

Stracke and Kumar (2010, p.19), note that ‘the ultimate

to choose whether they wanted to participate in a Viva

aim of doctoral education is to train scholars to become

as part of their PhD examination. While a formal Viva was

independent learners’ and independence as researchers

uncommon, ten universities referred to a public seminar

is also specified in the AQF. Given this expectation, it

or oral presentation that occurred three to six months

appears incongruous that candidates should be the last

prior to submission. At five of these ten universities, the

to receive feedback about their thesis or if, as is the case

seminar and subsequent feedback appeared to be purely

in some institutions, decisions about which examiner

formative in nature, while three universities specified that

comments should be addressed is relegated to supervisors

this presentation was a milestone that must be passed

or an examination committee. When examiners make it

before thesis submission and the other two universities

clear that a candidate needs to do more, then is the thesis

indicated that the oral presentation ‘may form part of the

‘not doctoral’, not complete, or something else again? Is

approved examination process’.

the candidate trusted? If doctoral candidates are being adequately prepared to meet the AQF Level 10 standard

Discussion

of demonstrating ‘autonomy, authoritative judgement, adaptability and responsibility as an expert and leading

In the discussion, the authors will examine what has

practitioner or scholar ‘(AQF, 2013, p. 63), then the implicit

been learned about policy in respect to the end stage of

questioning of candidate readiness to make decisions

examination and features identified as integral to closing

about how to implement feedback suggests fundamental

the feedback loop.

tensions in the interpretation of recommendations

Candidate receptiveness

and candidate agency. As noted by Nash and Winstone (2017), the effectiveness of feedback depends on both the

An integral part of responding effectively to feedback

learner’s cognisance of what needs to be done as well

is managing ‘negative’ emotions that can arise when

as the opportunities provided to the learner to engage

the feedback is interpreted as ‘criticism’ or implies that

with, and act on, the feedback provided. Winstone et al.

the learner has been deficient in some way. Candidates

(2017b, p. 2026) suggested that ‘feedback without action

who strongly believe their thesis is a ‘finished product’

is unproductive’ but actions based on supervisor or

at the time of submission are unlikely to be in a state

committee advice without reflective engagement by the

of ‘proactive recipience’ when they receive examiner

candidate can be equally unproductive.

feedback recommending that revisions and improvements can, should or must be made. If, as Golding et al. (2014) and Kandiko and Kinchin

Characteristics and behaviour of the feedback sender

(2012) suggest, doctoral candidates tend to focus on the

The desktop review confirmed Starfield et al.’s (2017)

PhD as a ‘product’, then a mismatch might arise between

contention that Australian universities apply strict criteria

candidate, institutional and examiner expectations of

to ensure that examiners are impartial experts in the

the purpose and contents of examiner reports. In their

field of study. While an examination or HDR research

attempt to standardise processes for examining PhD

committee might reserve the ultimate role of selecting two

theses in Australian universities 15 years ago, Lawson et

to three examiners, it is supervisors who are tasked with

al. (2003) recommended that candidates be provided

nominating an appropriate array of suitable examiners

with the same materials that are developed for examiners

from which this choice is made.Thus, both supervisors and

so that the formative elements of examination feedback

candidates should be confident about the characteristics,

will be anticipated well before thesis submission or the

expertise and credibility of the examiner. While a strict

receipt of examiner reports.

selection process appears to ensure examiner credibility,

The current review of documents available on university

what appears more problematic and less easy to address

websites regarding examination processes suggests that

directly in policy, is the quality of feedback. Without

candidates now do have access to detailed information

knowing the individual, feedback can be difficult to

about examination criteria, how examination results are

target and not all examiners may have the same facility

determined, and the processes required for responding to

in their communication of feedback. The desktop review

examiner reports. It remains to be seen if students take

revealed that at least one university provided explicit and

this on board and feel well informed.

prescriptive guidance to examiners about how to write

38

Examiner feedback and Australian doctoral examination processes Kerry Dally et al.

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

their report in a way that clearly differentiated essential

neutral terms such as changes, clarifications and additions

revisions from optional improvements, in an endeavour

gaining prominence.

to clarify the intentions underlying examiner feedback. While the development of more specific guidelines for

Contextual influences

examiners has the potential to improve the clarity of

The current review also revealed that the inclusion of a

examiner reports, Lovat et al. (2015) noted that examiners

Viva in the Australian PhD examination process is rare. All

rarely follow the guidelines they are given. Nonetheless,

universities required written examiner reports, but only

clearer guidelines for examiners about the importance of

two institutions incorporate a Viva in the examination

explicating what changes they require is both possible

process. At both of these universities, the introduction

and useful.

of the Viva is very recent, with one commencing the Viva in 2016 and the other in 2018. The inclusion of a

Characteristics of the message

compulsory or optional pre-submission seminar at some

A separate issue to the clarity of the feedback sender and

universities provides an opportunity for candidates to

the characteristics of the examiners’ message concerns

gain formative feedback from academics within their own

the implicit message that is being communicated to

institution prior to thesis completion, but this mechanism

candidates and examiners by the terminology that

does not address the communication gap between a

institutions use to describe examination outcomes and required changes to a thesis before it can be passed. The review indicated that the terms

‘amendments

corrections’

were

and often

used in the context of minor changes while ‘revisions’ was

candidate and their ultimate

Candidates who strongly believe their thesis is a ‘finished product’ at the time of submission are unlikely to be in a state of ‘proactive recipience’ when they receive examiner feedback recommending that revisions and improvements can, should or must be made.

more often associated with

expert examiners.

Nicol

(2010)

argues that feedback can only be effective if it involves a ‘two-way dialogic process’ and it could be assumed that feedback provided through written examination reports, without the inclusion of a

recommendations requiring

Viva, constitutes a ‘one-way

major changes. While these terms were typically used

process’. However, when minor or major changes are

interchangeably, they have quite different meanings,

required, candidates in most Australian institutions are

with amendments suggesting changes for improvement

asked to provide a response to the examiner reports in

and corrections, suggesting changes to rectify an error

which they explain the changes they have made and,

or omission. Revision is technically a more neutral term

where necessary, justify why they have not acted upon

signifying a change or alteration, but it implies a more

some of the examiners’ suggestions. While this response

serious ‘problem’ with a thesis because of its usual

is not sent to the examiners, the decisions and revisions

association with the recommendation categories of

are considered by an examination committee or delegate

‘Accept with major revisions’ or ‘Revise and resubmit’.

and thus the feedback loop is completed to some extent,

Regardless of the term used to describe the required

albeit with a different ‘expert’. This process ensures

changes, the descriptors of ‘minor’ and ‘major’ carry

that candidates are ‘cognisant’ of the feedback (Nash &

loaded implications for candidates about the magnitude

Winstone, 2017) but the extent to which candidates

of the ‘problems’ that examiners identified in their thesis.

are actively engaging with the feedback, taking prime

The difficulties involved in accurately gauging the extent

responsibility

of the changes that examiners required was evidenced by

embarking on revisions is unclear.

for

making

decisions, and

willingly

the substantial proportion of universities that elected to dispense with demarcations between minor amendments

Conclusions

and major revisions. This dissolution goes some way to alleviating candidates’ likely negative emotional response

The desktop review of the policies and processes

to reports that explicitly categorise the changes that need

of Australian universities investigated the channels

to be made as ‘major’. A small proportion of universities

through which doctoral candidates receive and respond

appear to be conscious of the impact of the words they

to examiner reports, and the language that is used to

use to describe recommendation categories with more

describe examination recommendations and thesis

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Examiner feedback and Australian doctoral examination processes Kerry Dally et al.

39


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

revisions.The analysis suggests that some current doctoral assessment practices might inadvertently have an adverse impact on candidate receptiveness to, and engagement with, examiner feedback. Specifically, there appears to be a lack of emphasis given to candidate agency and volition in the processes that govern decisions about thesis revisions. Universities are understandably concerned with maintaining standards and ensuring that examiner reports are taken seriously and objectively considered. However, there might be scope for providing more immediate access to examiner reports and allowing PhD candidates to assume greater responsibility for interpreting and digesting examiner feedback and taking the lead in making decisions about the revision strategies. As well as having an opportunity to be actively engaged in responding to examiner feedback, candidates need to be willing to embark on incorporating changes that they may not have anticipated. Candidate volition to act on examiner feedback might be negatively impacted by the terminology surrounding changes, such as classifications of ‘major’ and ‘minor’ and the use of terms such as ‘corrections’ and ‘revisions’ when perhaps ‘amendments’ is what examiners intended. A more consistent use of terminology might assist candidates, supervisors and university committees to accurately interpret examiner reports and determine whether examiner comments are identifying flaws that need to be rectified or are offered as optional adornments to complement the existing work. Given that the majority of Australian doctoral candidates do not complete a feedback loop through dialogue with their examiners at a Viva, we need to consider whether current examination processes allow adequate opportunities for candidates to actively engage with examiner feedback and take advantage of this final opportunity to demonstrate, or further develop, authoritative judgement and research autonomy.

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

References AQF (Australian Qualifications Framework Council). (2013). Australian Qualifications Framework (2nd ed.) Adelaide: Australian Qualifications Framework Council. Retrieved from https://www.aqf.edu.au/sites/aqf/files/aqf2nd-edition-january-2013.pdf Burke, D. (2009). Strategies for using feedback students bring to higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 34(1), 41-50. Carless, D. (2006). Differing perceptions in the feedback process. Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 219-233. Carless, D., & Boud, D. (2018). The development of student feedback literacy: enabling uptake of feedback. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(8), 1315-1325. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2018.1463354 Delamont, S., Atkinson, P. & Parry, O. (2000). The doctoral experience: Success and failure in graduate school. London/New York: Routledge. Golding, C., Sharmini, S. & Lazarovitch,A. (2014). What examiners do: what thesis students should know. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 39(5), 563-576. DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2013.859230 Holbrook, A., Bourke, S., Fairbairn, H., & Lovat, T. (2014). The focus and substance of formative comment provided by PhD examiners. Studies in Higher Education, 39(6), 983-1000 Holbrook, A., Bourke, S., Lovat, T., & Dally, K. (2004). Investigating PhD thesis examination reports. International Journal of Educational Research, 41(2), 98-120. Johnson, D.W. & Johnson, F.P. (1994). Joining together: Group theory and group skills. (5th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Jonsson, A. (2012). Facilitating productive use of feedback in higher education. Active Learning in Higher Education, 14(1), 63-76. Kandiko, C.B. & Kinchin, I.M. (2012). What is a doctorate? A concept-mapped analysis of process versus product in the supervision of lab-based PhDs. Educational Research, 54(1), 3-16. DOI: 10.101080/00131881.2012.658196 Lawson, A. Marsh, H, & Tansley, T. (2003). Examining the examiners. Australian Universities’ Review, 46(1), 32-36. Lovat, T., Holbrook, A., & Bourke, S. (2008). Ways of knowing in Doctoral examination: how well is the doctoral regime? Educational Research Review, 3, 66-76. Lovat, T., Holbrook, A., Bourke, S., Fairbairn, H., Kiley, M., Paltridge, B., & Starfield, S. (2015). Examining doctoral examination and the question of the Viva. Higher Education Review, 47(3), 5-23 McInnis, C. (2010). The Australian qualifications framework. In D. D. Dill & M. Beerkens (eds). Public policy for academic quality: Analyses of innovative policy instruments (pp. 145–160). Dordrecht: Springer.

Acknowledgements

Monfries, M. & Lovat, T. (2006). Power discourse in PhD examination reports: A cross-disciplinary analysis. Paper presented at the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) conference.

This study is funded by an Australian Research Council

Mullins, G. & Kiley, M. (2002). ‘It’s a PhD, not a Nobel Prize’: How experienced examiners assess research theses. Studies in Higher Education, 27, 369-438. http://dx.doi.org/10.10800307507022000011507

Discovery Project Grant (DP180100448). This sponsor had no involvement in the design or implementation of this study, in analyses of data, or in the drafting of this manuscript. Kerry Dally, Allyson Holbrook, Terence Lovat and Janene Budd are colleagues at the Centre for the Study of Research Training and Impact (SORTI) in the School of Education at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Contact: Kerry.Dally@newcastle.edu.au

40

Nash, R.A. & Winstone, N. (2017). Responsibility-sharing in the giving and receiving of assessment feedback. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1519. doi:10.3389/ fpsyg.2017.01519 Nicol, D. (2010). From monologue to dialogue: improving written feedback processes in mass higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(5), 501-517. Nicol, D.J. & McFarlane-Dick (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 199-218. DOI: 10.1080/03075070600572090

Examiner feedback and Australian doctoral examination processes Kerry Dally et al.

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

OECD (2016). Education at a glance 2016. OECD Indicators. Paris: OECD Publishing. http://dx.org/10.1787/eag-2016-en Pereira, D., Assunção, M., & Niklasson, L. (2016). Assessment revisited: a review of research in Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 41(7), 1008-10032. DOI:10.1080/02602938 .2015.1055233 Price, M., Handley, K., & Millar, J. (2011). Feedback: focusing attention on engagement. Studies in Higher Education, 36(8), 879-896. Sadler, D.R. (1989). Formative assessment and the design of instructional systems. Instructional Science, 18, 145-165. Sadler, D.R. (2010). Beyond feedback: developing student capability in complex appraisal. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(5), 535-550. Scriven, M. (1967). The Methodology of Evaluation. AERA Monograph Series on Evaluation, 1, pp. 39-83. Starfield, S., Paltridge, B., McMurtie, R., Holbrook, A., Lovat, T, Kiley, M., & Fairbairn, H. (2017). Evaluation and instruction in PhD examiners’ reports: How grammatical choices construe examiner roles. Linguistics and Education 42, 53-64. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.linged.2017.07.008

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Stracke, E. & Kumar, V. (2010). Feedback and self-regulated learning: Insights from supervisors’ and PhD examiners’ reports. Reflective Practice, 11(1), 19-32, DOI:10.1080/14623940903525140 Taras, M. (2009). Summative assessment: the missing link for formative assessment. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 33(1), 57-69. DOI:10.1080/03098770802638671 Tinkler, P. & Jackson, C. (2000). Examining the Doctorate: Institutional policy and the PhD examination process in Britain. Studies in Higher Education, 25(2), 167-180. DOI:10.1080/713696136 Winstone, N.E., Nash, R.A., Parker, M., & Rowntree, J. (2017a). Supporting learners’ agentic engagement with feedback: A systematic review and a taxonomy of recipience processes. Educational Psychologist, 52(1), 17-37. DOI:10.1080/0 0461520.2016.1207538 Winstone, N. E., Nash, R. A., Rowntree, J., & Parker, M. (2017b). ‘It’d be useful, but I wouldn’t use it’: Barriers to university students’ feedback seeking and recipience. Studies in Higher Education, 42(11), 2026-2041. doi: 10.1080/03075079.2015.1130032

Examiner feedback and Australian doctoral examination processes Kerry Dally et al.

41


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Engagement and impact through ‘amplifier platforms’ Kim Osman & Stuart Cunningham Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology

Digital and social media have grown exponentially to become highly influential spheres of public communication – increasingly crowded, contested, and corrupted, and increasingly in need of scholarly engagement. As public debate is conducted more through social and digital media, alternative metrics (‘altmetrics’) that are generated from social and digital media platforms become important as indicators of impact and engagement. We review the growth of amplifier platforms and the academic and contextual reasons for their growth. Amplifier platforms are defined to distinguish them from traditional media outlets (where the scholarly voice is mediated through and ‘gatekept’ by journalists, whose editors retain final control), personal blogs (very few of which can be maintained over time) and from social media platforms (where the scholarly voice is accorded no presumptive standing). A significant range of amplifier platforms is canvassed while acknowledging that in Australia, the amplifier platform The Conversation plays a central role. Keywords: public scholarship, amplifier platforms, digital media, online scholarly communication, The Conversation

Introduction

This article reports insights from an ARC-funded Linkage project (LP160100205 Amplifying Public Value: Scholarly

The Australian Research Council (ARC) recently released

Contributions’ Impact on Public Debate) to shed light

the findings of its first engagement and impact assessment

on the public communication element of engagement

exercise in March 2019. Of the 626 case studies that were

and impact. As public debate increasingly is conducted

submitted to the ARC for assessment, 85 per cent were

through social and digital media, alternative metrics

rated as having a high or medium level of engagement,

(‘altmetrics’) that are generated from social and digital

while 88 per cent of the 637 submitted impact case

media platforms become more important as indicators

studies were assessed as having a medium or high level

of impact and engagement. We seek to understand how

of impact. Seventy-six per cent were assessed as having a

scholars frame their own practices of engagement and

medium or high rating for approach to impact (Australian

impact, how they use platforms like The Conversation,

Research Council, 2019). Minister for Education Dan

and how institutions are supporting such activities on

Tehan said the results show that ‘University research is

these sites.

improving the lives of every Australian’ (Ministers for the Department of Education and Training, 2019). Universities

Amplifying public value

are pleased with what appear to be good results, but what work practices and institutional dynamics lie behind

The understanding of the term impact differs between users

these results?

and audiences and as most scholars are publicly-funded

42

Engagement and impact through ‘amplifier platforms’ Kim Osman & Stuart Cunningham

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

researchers, understanding how they pursue impact and

The Conversation or IndigenousX, or a mainstream news

‘influence beyond academia’ (Penfield et al., 2014, p. 21)

story) that contained scholarly intellectual content. We

is vital. Australian researchers engage in a variety of public

used issue mapping techniques (Burgess & Matamoros-

communication activities.They can write for platforms like

Fernández, 2016) to identify stakeholder groups who were

The Conversation, conduct interviews with local radio

discussing Australia Day, historically a contested date. Our

stations, share research with people involved in discussions

findings suggest that articles with a strong positionality

on social media about topical issues like climate change or

are taken up by like-minded, interest-based subcultures

the minimum wage. These activities connect researchers

and communities, while those that demonstrate authority

directly with the public and stakeholders. Using sites

and/or provide an overview of the issues at hand may be

like these also generates metrics that offer new ways of

able to reach across these different groups.

measuring impact and engagement with a scholar’s work. These metrics are called alternative metrics or altmetrics

Amplifier platforms

(Priem et al., 2010). They include reading, viewing, and listening to scholarly material, across diverse reception

This type of public communication by scholars is

channels; on-sharing through additional channels, including

important in a public sphere reconfigured by digital

social media;and responding through comments attached to

media. Traditional media is heavily intermediated and

the original publication, or in follow-on discussion through

space constrained. They make editorial decisions, act as

social media and other channels. Alternative metrics are

gatekeepers and refuse on principle to allow final checks

diverse and while there is a growing interest in altmetrics

by sources on copy. In response to these closed systems

which look to mainstream and social media to measure

of traditional reporting and also the tightly controlled and

the reach of scholarly content beyond formal citation data,

pay-walled structure of traditional academic publishing,

there is little systematic research on the practices of public

scholars turned early in the digital era to the blogosphere

communication by academics – as represented by so-called

to circulate their work. Work in progress could be

‘TED talks’ (influential videos from experts), podcasts,

presented, pre-prints published, findings discussed, and

blogging and participation in social media conversations

research shared. Academic blogs were an early form

on expert topics (Marshall & Atherton, 2015).

of ‘amplifier platform’. We define this as a digital media

This article forms part of a larger ARC Linkage project

platform the content of which is primarily written by

investigating these practices and scoping advanced

scholars, is intended for a lay audience and is available for

impact metrics based on the different ways in which

reuse and republishing in other media channels.

scholars engage in public communication in the pursuit

Puschmann and Mahrt (2012) found academic blogs to

of impact. Along with these metrics we are interested also

be an important site of debate and discussion for scholars;

in how engaging in public communication via different

a place to answer questions about science, in this case,

digital media channels and platforms affects career paths

and give back to the community. They also found ‘thirty-

and how institutions may be better able to support

five per cent of the respondents blog because they enjoy

scholars to engage in impactful public communication.

controversies, highlighting the function of blogs as places of

Engagement and impact measures that accurately capture

debate and opinion rather than neutrality and impartiality’

research use is not just of interest to funding bodies and

(Puschmann & Mahrt, 2012, p. 177). However, it is a rare

those who allocate the resources. Being able to effectively

academic who can sustain engagement with a blog over

measure the impact of your research is necessary for

time (notable examples are Alice Gorman and John Quiggin

scholars in research priority settings and particularly early

among others. See Appendix 1 for a full list of the blogs

stage career planning.

and amplifier platforms discussed in the article). However,

Public communication is often necessary for research

those who do, demonstrated the power of digital media for

translation to take place. Policymakers and practitioners

engaging others with academic research and, over time,

in government, industry and the third sector often do

platforms emerged that started to aggregate or curate blog

not have access to academic journals where much of

posts from multiple academics (e.g. hypotheses; SciLogs).

the bibliometric effort is located, or the time for them.

Institutional support for blogging emerged and, in some

Our project team studied social media data relevant to

instances, this came through the creation of university and

the 2018 debate concerning Australia Day. We captured

department blogs (e.g. LSE (London School of Economics)

tweets that contained URLs of media objects (where the

Blogs) or professional associations (e.g. AMS (American

object was either an article on an amplifier platform like

Mathematical Society) Blogs) that had a cohort of expert

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Engagement and impact through ‘amplifier platforms’ Kim Osman & Stuart Cunningham

43


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

authors. LSE Blogs are mostly written by academics and

Examples include Pursuit from the University of

‘while not peer reviewed in the same way as most journal

Melbourne and the Newsroom at UNSW.

publications, each LSE blog is overseen by a dedicated editor

Amplifier platforms are sites of debate and discussion,

or editors, with contributions carefully selected, revised,

sites of communication and sociality, and for many, sites

and improved’ (Arrebola, 2017). This model, similar to The

of information and knowledge. Considering questions

Conversation, is somewhere ‘in between an academic and

about the integrity of information found on digital media

a mass-media piece’ and has been found to be an important

sites and the rise of ‘fake news’, it can be argued that

platform for generating citations for academics comparable

the role of scholarly contributions in these spaces is

to ‘the likes of Nature, Scientific American or PLOS One,

increasingly important to counter misinformation. They

and web platforms of publishers such as Wiley or Springer’

operate outside the traditional academic peer-review

(Arrebola, 2017). Blogs also became features of traditional

publication system and alongside social and mainstream

publishing’s digital media channels on journal sites like

media to facilitate public engagement with scholarly

PLOS One and Scientific American.

content. It should be noted that while social media can

While all these sites contain content for lay audiences,

amplify scholarly research, for example a tweet with a

they are still part of the traditional academic publishing

link to an academic journal article, social media platforms

landscape. Other platforms that emerged included

themselves are challenged in terms of establishing an

platforms like Medium that have ‘expert’ authors, who

authoritative voice. Social media contain many voices, and

are not necessarily scholars and Open Salon, a curated

scholarly contributions are part of social media streams

blog that fed featured content into Salon.com. Magazine

among everyday commentary, entertainment and news.

Slate also featured topical blogs, of which most, like Open

Andrew Hoffman (2016, p. 78) notes a shift among the

Salon, have since folded, but Future Tense, a ‘partnership

types of scholars who are using these platforms as ‘there

of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that

is a demographic shift in play, where young scholars are

examines emerging technologies, public policy, and

seeking more impact from their work than their more

society’ (Slate, 2019) survives with a mix of articles from

senior colleagues.’ Although Hoffman also realises that

freelancers, staff writers and scholars.

engagement and impact is a concern for all scholars:

More recent platforms that sit at the boundary of science communication and amplifier platforms include Undark and Massive Science. Both accept unsolicited articles (‘pitches’), content is openly accessible and can be republished freely. Similar to these models, but with authorship limited almost exclusively to academics is The Conversation. A global platform, The Conversation’s

…scientists have a duty to recognize the inherently political nature of their work when it impacts on people’s beliefs and actions, and they have a duty to communicate that impact to those who must live with the consequences…Those of us who are privileged enough to live the life of an academic possess a privileged opportunity to contribute to the world around us (Hoffman, 2016, p. 91).

articles are authored by scholars and edited by topicexpert journalists in an intermediated editorial model.

The Conversation

Our research suggests that The Conversation is the primary amplifier used by scholars in Australia, although

The Conversation ‘s content is produced by a new type

Scimex, the Science Media Exchange run by the Australian

of hybrid journalism that works with scholars and other

Science Media Centre, also featured as a platform many use

experts to co-produce value. On the one hand, it shares

to generate engagement and impact with their work. The

characteristics with traditional news organisations: it is

Science Media Exchange and a similar amplifier platform,

staffed by trained journalists and its topical sections are

the Analysis and Policy Observatory, work with scholars

recognisable news categories. On the other hand, The

and experts to provide press releases and stories that can

Conversation is a prototypical content amplifier platform:

be republished, and like The Conversation, provide access

born online, drawing on a large community of contributors

to a database of experts for other media opportunities.

(26,000 scholars across four continents, contributing

We concentrate on The Conversation as it is the main

content pro bono), and adding value to their research

amplifier platform for Australian academics (it is also one

outputs by amplifying their impact on public debate. The

of our Linkage partners). Also emerging in the quest for

Conversation is a prime example of a transformational

impact are university blogs, containing professionally

shift supporting the distribution of knowledge goods.

curated and mediated content in the form of an amplifier

The Conversation describes itself as ‘an independent

platform, but with content only from its host institution.

source of news and views, sourced from the academic and

44

Engagement and impact through ‘amplifier platforms’ Kim Osman & Stuart Cunningham

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

research community and delivered direct to the public’

media platforms people use everyday can increase

(The Conversation, 2018a). It publishes long form posts

scholars’ traditional citation rates and altmetrics scores.

that respond to current events, introduce new research

And while this can help scholars’ careers, participating in

findings or review existing research on a topic. The

these sites can often be an extra layer of work that needs

site is organised like an online news site with sections

institutional support and recognition.

like Science & Technology, Arts & Culture, and Business & Economy. Zardo et al. (2018, p. 7) found 15 per cent

Audiences and the public

of readers used The Conversation articles to inform development of strategy, policy and programs: ‘This is an

Levels of engagement with the public therefore need to be

important finding that demonstrates that politicians and

negotiated by scholars who are using these new amplifier

policy officers are actively seeking out research evidence

platforms as it is ‘the case that up until the last decade or

and academic expertise on The Conversation and using

so, the only outlets that could report on research in lay

it to inform policy and program development’ (Zardo et

terms were the mainstream media’ (Arrebola & Mollett,

al., 2018, p. 13).

2017). As amplifier platforms open up new channels of

The Conversation has been increasingly establishing

engagement, academics now have to decide how they use

itself in the Australian media by way of its open and

different platforms and how much they engage. As Zardo

Creative Commons-licensed model that enables the site

et al. found on analysing responses in The Conversation’s

via republication to integrate well with other major

annual survey, ‘increased engagement can support

mainstream news platforms – a key feature of amplifier

increased research impact, but also highlight that not all

platforms. In doing this, it has become an effective outlet

engagement actions have the same effect’ (Zardo et al.,

for scholars to publish their findings, in a format that is

2018, p. 12). So, responding to a reader’s comment at the

freely accessible for the public, practitioners and key

bottom of an article on an amplifier platform (that may

decision-makers. The Conversation has a non-academic

prompt a change in attitude or behaviour) may not have

readership of 82 per cent, and of the total readership, 13

the same level of impact as replying to contact from a

per cent of users come from the government and policy

public servant that results in policy change.

sectors (The Conversation, 2018b). ‘Across the global

However, scholars’ involvement in these debates is

network, our audience is 11.8 million on theconversation.

important as it contributes to public engagement with

com and 38 million through republication. For TC Australia,

research, and the debates form a significant part of the

our audience is 3.8 million onsite, and 12 million through

overall information landscape about a given topic. As

creative commons republication’ (The Conversation,

Lörcher and Taddicken found when researching climate

2018b, p. 8).

change

communications,

‘Overall,

user-generated

The Conversation’s 2018 Stakeholder Report has cases

content constitutes a crucial part of the climate change

where authors have been contacted by an Australian

communication online’ (Lörcher & Taddicken, 2017, p.

Senate Committee and one author was contracted directly

3). When user-generated content does not align with the

by then Australian Labor Party leader, Bill Shorten. Articles

latest scientific research or is not evidence-based, the

written by academics are republished on over 22,000

scholars we interviewed for the project felt an ethical

different sites (The Conversation, 2018b) and authors are

imperative to engage in public communication.

reporting high rates of readership of their articles. With

With this in mind, scholars are engaging with people

this level of impact being achieved by academics, it makes

outside academia, and they do this in a variety of ways

sense for institutions to support academics contributing

on amplifier platforms like The Conversation, Medium,

to amplifier platforms.

Wikipedia and social media like Twitter and Facebook. Amplifier platforms are important in this landscape for

Why is publishing on amplifier platforms important?

two main reasons. First, these sites are free and openly accessible, unlike paywalled journals. Second, they link to sites where people are engaging in everyday

Amplifier platforms are important in the impact and

activities like socialising, reading news, information and

engagement landscape because they connect with a

topical stories and sharing things they find interesting

variety of audiences and the public and tie into the

(for example The Conversation has widgets to enable

social media ecosystem where debates are happening.

easy sharing of articles to platforms like LinkedIn and

Including hyperlinks to scholarly content on the digital

Facebook).

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Engagement and impact through ‘amplifier platforms’ Kim Osman & Stuart Cunningham

45


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

The content on them is pitched at a different register

of the community (an additional layer of labour).

to academic journals. It’s therefore interesting to see

Morin also found that ‘scientists should be willing to

how users of these platforms engage with scientific

debate both scientists and non-scientists in the public

information and academic research via altmetrics,

arena without necessarily having to worry about their

as to date there is very little research on this type of

opponent’s credentials’ (2018, p. 12). This raises issues

engagement. As Hargittai, Füchslin and Schäfer (2018)

of risk and risk mitigation that these platforms provide.

note, ‘The lack of focus on how people engage with

Participating in the public sphere opens scholars up

scientific topics on social media is surprising …[as]… a

to engagement which can include harassment, and

wide range of issues that were traditionally the purview

often these activities travel across platforms like news

of scientists such as climate change and vaccination have

media and different social media sites (for example the

become popular topics in the 21st century’ (Hargittai et

comments section on mainstream press articles and

al., 2018, p.1). While we acknowledge there has been a

Twitter discussions around a central hashtag). Hodson

rich tradition of research on the public understanding

et al. note that there is now an expectation that scholars

and public awareness of science, research ‘has not yet

will engage online, and ‘for women scholars in particular,

focused strongly on public engagement through social

sharing one’s work online comes with the risk of online

media’ (Hargittai et al., 2018, p. 1). This is despite many

abuse or harassment’ (Hodson et al., 2018, n.p.).

academics being active on Twitter and other social

As the logic of social media platforms demands

media, as they engage with other academics, and the

sharing and connection (van Dijck & Poell, 2013), this

general public by sharing research and participating in

broadens not only the potential for awareness of issues

discussions. Amplifier platforms also work like a broker

and the relevant research, but also the potential of risk

in this space, connecting academics with journalists and

to scholars themselves as their voices are amplified in

everyday readers alike via the content on the platform

these disintermediated spaces. A benefit of amplifier

itself and the outlets and social media channels on

platforms like The Conversation is its active comment

which it is republished.

moderation. Scholars can choose to engage with readers

It is also not just academics who are sharing research

in the comments section, however all comments (by

on social media, many social media accounts like IFL

readers and authors) are independently moderated in the

Science and ScienceDump share research through their

interests of progressing the discussion constructively.

social media channels. Although sites like these contain more news and advertisements than scientific discoveries

Amplifier platforms and career progression

(Hitlin & Olmstead, 2018) they are still a site of public engagement with research via comments, likes and

Navigating the impact of engagement can be tricky for

shares. Hargittai et al. (2018, p. 7) found ‘Sharing science

scholars. ‘The academic of today has many options for

and research content on social media also rivals sharing

communicating the findings of their research: whether

content about health and fitness as well as entertainment

to discuss ideas and results in a blog post, upload a

and celebrity news.’ Platforms like Facebook and Twitter

working paper before submitting it to a journal, or to

offer scholars the chance to directly share research with

use social media to share their findings on the big story

a non-scholarly audience. Communicating like this (a

of the day’ (Arrebola & Mollet, 2017). Lupton, Mewburn

Facebook post, or a tweet) means anyone can comment

and Thomson (2017, p .2) state there is ‘some degree of

on the scholarly content shared, and scholars themselves

controversy among academics about which media should

can engage in a conversation with others via social media.

be employed and in what ways.’ Amplifier platforms like

While this is surely an example of an engaged scholar,

The Conversation address this challenge for scholars

David Morin (2018, p. 2) cautions: ‘Scholars have found

by providing a platform for their research that can be

that although scientists are observed to be credible and

easily shared across social media and republished in

may use that integrity to increase scientific understanding,

traditional media. Bridging these different parts of the

outside actors can create a sense of skepticism and doubt

public sphere is important as different stakeholder groups

surrounding settled issues by politicising neutral scientific

are more active across different media. For example, in

findings into manufactured controversies’.

the comments section of online British and Dutch

The nature of social media commenting can mean

newspapers user comments are ‘found to be mostly

that scholars find themselves having to correct

climate change sceptical’ (Lörcher & Taddicken, 2017,

misinformation and to engage with hostile members

p. 3). On the other hand, ‘Twitter communication is less

46

Engagement and impact through ‘amplifier platforms’ Kim Osman & Stuart Cunningham

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

climate sceptical than mass media coverage in the UK

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Discussion and Conclusion

and the US, contains more emphasis on the broad expert consensus, and highlights the need for action’ (Lörcher &

The growing need for scholars to engage outside

Taddicken, 2017, pp. 3-4).

the academy puts questions of popular prejudice

If universities are serious about engagement and

about academic relevance, institutional support for,

impact they should be enabling academics to write for

and guidance on, such activity, and alignment with

amplifier platforms. Biswas and Kirchherr (2015) found

professional personae and career goals on the agenda.

‘impacts of most peer-reviewed publications even within

Biswas and Kirchherr (2015) note that for some scholars

the scientific community are miniscule’ and ‘it is widely

contributing to public debate runs into advocacy, and that

acknowledged practitioners rarely read articles published

scholarship containing policy advice has decreased since

in peer-reviewed journals.’ The inability of decision-

the 1930s and 1940s. Similarly, Hoffman (2013) notes that

makers, professionals and the public to access expensive,

scholars are not trained to do this kind of communicative

pay-walled publications can mean key people are not able

work. The lack of scholars in public arenas has led to

access the latest research and the information they need.

The New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof to observe,

This has given rise to the open access movement and the

‘The most stinging dismissal of a point is to say: “That’s

creation of open platforms like arxiv.org and PLOS One,

academic.” In other words, to be a scholar is, often, to be

along with institutional open access repositories. Melissa

irrelevant’ (Kristof, 2014). Amplifier platforms, then, offer

Terras found a positive correlation between uploading

scholars a chance to be present in public debates and to

Open Access versions of her work to her institutional

share research and expertise with others. And indeed,

repository and the subsequent blogging and tweeting

this kind of activity, even in controversial areas of debate

she did about her work (Terras, 2012). Similarly, The

like climate change, can help scholars to impact public

Conversation uses a Creative Commons licence and

opinion. Kotcher et al. (2017, p. 423) note, ‘Our results

encourages the republication of its content on other

suggest that scientists who wish to engage in certain

popular media and news sites that facilitate engagement

forms of advocacy may be able to do so without directly

and impact with many members of the public. Biswas and

harming their credibility, or the credibility of the scientific

Kirchherr (2015) note that ‘If academics want to have

community.’

impact on policy makers and practitioners, they must

In a time when misinformation can be spread relatively

consider popular media, which has never been easy for

easily, and experts and amateurs are contributing in the

scholars.’

same social spaces, scholarly contributions can improve

Booluck (2017) found LSE blogs have impact with

the quality of public debate and provide evidence-based

scholars’ research being accessed by policy makers and

information to those who need it. Marshall and Atherton

scholars being invited to input into national strategy

(2015) observe how popular platforms that replicate

and policy. The advantage of amplifier platforms like The

social media are presenting new opportunities for

Conversation and LSE blogs is that ‘unlike the majority

scholars to engage. Our issue mapping case study, outlined

of academic research and a number of established news

above, supports Marshall and Atherton: ‘the public

outlets – the shorter, distilled format holds obvious appeal

intellectual must be able to communicate their views

to many people’ (Booluck, 2017). Research on individual

on a range of public issues, not just issues that connect

amplifier platforms has found that they are effective at

with their narrow specialisation’ (2015, p. 71). Digital

getting research to key decision-makers and a variety of

and social media have grown exponentially to become

audiences, where the information can be used in anything

highly influential spheres of the public communication:

from popular entertaining content to strategic policy

increasingly crowded, contested, and corrupted, and

advice (Booluck, 2017; Zardo et al., 2018). Scholar Pam

increasingly in need of scholarly engagement.

Oliver wrote about the potential of open models like The Conversation and PLOS One and advocates: …moving from our current model to the open model. I think the academic field as a whole wins when the work is made public and accessible as soon as possible: the author wins from getting their work noticed, and knowledge wins from everybody knowing about it. This is also the best model for influencing public debate outside the academy (Oliver, 2018). vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Acknowledgement We

acknowledge

the

support

LP160100205

Amplifying

Contributions’

Impact

on

provided

by ARC

Value:

Scholarly

Public Public

Debate.

Chief

Investigators are Professors Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess, Stuart Cunningham, Patrik Wikström and Nic Suzor.

Engagement and impact through ‘amplifier platforms’ Kim Osman & Stuart Cunningham

47


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

Kim Osman is a Research Associate at the Digital Media Research Centre at Queensland University of Technology, Australia. Stuart Cunningham AM is Distinguished Professor of Media and Communications at Queensland University of Technology Contact: s.cunningham@qut.edu.au

References Arrebola, C. (2017). How do LSE blogs impact the academic sphere? Blogs as citable items in scholarly publications. Retrieved from http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/ impactofsocialsciences/2017/06/13/how-do-lse-blogs-impact-the-academicsphere-blogs-as-citable-items-in-scholarly-publications/ Arrebola, C., & Mollett, A. (2017). Introducing the Impact of LSE Blogs project! Retrieved April 4, 2019, from http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/ impactofsocialsciences/2017/05/31/introducing-the-impact-of-lse-blogs-project/ Australian Research Council. (2019). Engagement and Impact Assessment 2018-19 National Report. Retrieved from https://dataportal.arc.gov.au/EI/ NationalReport/2018/pages/section1/engagement-and-impact-ratings/ Biswas, A., & Kirchherr, J. (2015). Citations are not enough: Academic promotion panels must take into account a scholar’s presence in popular media. Retrieved April 4, 2019, from https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2015/04/09/ academic-promotion-scholars-popular-media/ Booluck, K. (2017). How can blogging help research make an impact beyond academia? Illustrative examples from the LSE blogs. Retrieved from http://blogs. lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2017/09/27/how-can-blogging-help-researchmake-an-impact-beyond-academia/ Burgess, J. & Matamoros-Fernández, A. (2016). Mapping sociocultural controversies across digital media platforms: one week of #gamergate on Twitter, YouTube, and Tumblr. Communication Research and Practice, 2(1), 79–96. https://doi.org/10.1080/22041451.2016.1155338 Hargittai, E., Füchslin, T., & Schäfer, M. S. (2018). How Do Young Adults Engage with Science and Research on Social Media? Some Preliminary Findings and an Agenda for Future Research. Social Media and Society, 4(3). https://doi. org/10.1177/2056305118797720 Hitlin, P., & Olmstead, K. (2018). The science people see on social media. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch. org/science/2018/03/21/the-science-people-see-on-social-media/ Hodson, J., Gosse, C., Veletsianos, G., & Houlden, S. (2018). I get by with a little help from my friends: The ecological model and support for women scholars experiencing online harassment. First Monday, 23(8). doi: https://doi. org/10.5210/fm.v23i8.9136

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

and perceptions in online climate change communication in different online public arenas. Journal of Science Communication, 16(2), 1–21. Lupton, D., Mewburn, I., & Thomson, P. (Eds.). (2017). The digital academic: Critical perspectives on digital technologies in higher education. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com Marshall, P. D. & Atherton, C. (2015). Situating public intellectuals. Media International Australia, 156:69-78 Ministers for the Department of Education and Training. (2019). Uni research delivering real benefits for Australians [Press release]. Retrieved from https:// ministers.education.gov.au/tehan/uni-research-delivering-real-benefitsaustralians Morin, D. (2018). To debate or not debate? Examining the effects of scientists engaging in debates addressing contentious issues. Journal of Science Communication, 17(04), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.22323/2.17040202 Oliver, P. (2018). On sharing work in progress and anonymity. Retrieved April 4, 2019, from https://socopen.org/2018/09/20/on-sharing-work-in-progress-andanonymity/ Penfield, T., Baker, M. J., Scoble, R., & Wykes, M. C. (2014). Assessment, evaluations, and definitions of research impact: A review. Research Evaluation, 23(1), 21–32. https://doi.org/10.1093/reseval/rvt021 Priem, J., Taraborelli, D., Groth, P. & Neylon, C. (2010). Altmetrics: a manifesto. Retrieved from http://altmetrics.org/manifesto/ Puschmann, C., & Mahrt, M. (2012). Scholarly Blogging: A New Form of Publishing or Science Journalism 2.0? Scholarly Blogs: Issues of Definition. Proceedings of the International Conference on Science and the Internet (Cosci 2012), (January 2012), 171–181. Retrieved from http://files.ynada.com/ papers/cosci12.pdf Slate. (2019). FutureTense. Retrieved from https://slate.com/technology/futuretense The Conversation. (2018a). Who We Are. Retrieved from https://theconversation. com/au/who-we-are The Conversation. (2018b). The Conversation Stakeholder Report 2018. Retrieved from https://cdn.theconversation.com/static_files/files/395/ TCSR_2018singlepagesupdated.pdf Terras, M. (2012). The impact of social media on the dissemination of research: results of an experiment. Journal of Digital Humanities, 1(3). Retrieved from: http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-3/the-impact-of-social-media-on-thedissemination-of-research-by-melissa-terras/ van Dijck, J., & Poell, T. (2013). Understanding Social Media Logic. Media and Communication, 1(1). doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/mac.v1i1.70 Zardo P., Barnett A.G., Suzor N., & Cahill T. (2018). Does engagement predict research use? An analysis of The Conversation Annual Survey 2016. PLoS ONE 13(2): e0192290. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0192290

Hoffman, A. J. (2013). Academic Engagement in Public and Political Discourse: Establishing the Rules of the Game. Michigan Journal of Sustainability, 1(20181221), 5–13. https://doi.org/10.3998/mjs.12333712.0001.003

Appendix 1: Blogs & amplifier platforms

Hoffman, A. J. (2016). Reflections: Academia’s Emerging Crisis of Relevance and the Consequent Role of the Engaged Scholar. Journal of Change Management, 16(2), 77–96. https://doi.org/10.1080/14697017.2015.1128168

https://blogs.lse.ac.uk https://blogs.plos.org

https://apo.org.au https://blogs.ams.org/blogonmathblogs https://blogs.scientificamerican.com https://hypotheses.org

Kotcher, J. E., Myers, T. A., Vraga, E. K., Stenhouse, N., & Maibach, E. W. (2017). Does Engagement in Advocacy Hurt the Credibility of Scientists? Results from a Randomized National Survey Experiment. Environmental Communication, 11(3), 415–429. https://doi.org/10.1080/17524032.2016.1275736

https://www.iflscience.com https://johnquiggin.com

Kristof, N. (2014, February 15). Professors, We Need You! The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/opinion/sunday/kristofprofessors-we-need-you.html

https://www.scimex.org https://slate.com/technology/future-tense

Lörcher, I., & Taddicken, M. (2017). Discussing climate change online. Topics

https://zoharesque.blogspot.com

48

https://massivesci.com https://medium.com https://www.sciencedump.com https://scilogs.spektrum.de https://theconversation.com/au https://undark.org

Engagement and impact through ‘amplifier platforms’ Kim Osman & Stuart Cunningham

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

’

R

E

V

I

E

W

More work for less reward Academic perceptions of service teaching Delma Clifton & Steve McKillup CQUniversity

Service teaching, through which core courses or modules are provided by a department other than the one administering the degree, occurs in universities worldwide, but there have been many reports of student dissatisfaction with their service-taught courses. The experiences of service teachers have received little attention and may help to suggest strategies for improvement, so we surveyed service and discipline teachers from the science departments/faculties at Australian universities for their perceptions of the difficulty, the effect on the likelihood of promotion, and qualifications needed, for each type of teaching. Both service and discipline teachers perceived service teaching to be significantly more difficult, yet significantly less valuable for promotion, than discipline teaching. More research is needed to investigate whether these perceptions reflect the realities of service teaching because, if they do, they will have implications for university policies and workload models. Keywords: service teaching, discipline teaching, academic attitudes, academic promotion, perceived value, curriculum integration

Introduction

expansion of profession-specific programs and declining enrolments in traditional generic disciplines such as

Service teaching, defined as the situation when

arts and science (McInnis, 2000). In many departments,

core courses or modules are provided by a different

service teaching is an increasingly important source of

department to the one administering the degree (Brown

funding that helps maintain academic positions: for some

& Atkins, 1988), is common in universities worldwide.

it provides over half of the income based on student load

For example, life scientists teach anatomy, physiology

(Pollard et al., 2006).

and pathophysiology to health science students (Clifton

For the majority of Australian and international

& McKillup, 2016); statisticians teach students in

nursing programs, the science components have been

biology, agriculture, environmental science, psychology

service-taught (Logan & Angel, 2014), but there has

and business (Fawcett, 2017; Pollock & Wilson, 1976);

been considerable debate about the effectiveness of

economists teach economic theory to business and

service teaching of science (i.e. chemistry, microbiology,

management students (Barrett, 2005); and historians teach

human anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology) to

students in education and journalism (Crotty & Eklund,

health science students in relation to graduate outcomes

2006).

(Prowse & Heath, 2005; Prowse & Lyne, 2002), student

The advantages of service teaching include reducing

satisfaction and perceptions of the value of service-

the duplication of expertise, facilities, and courses; and

taught courses (e.g. Friedel & Treagust, 2005; Gresty &

exposing students to broader knowledge delivered

Cotton, 2003; Jordan, Davies & Green, 1999; Ralph et al.,

by teachers who have appropriate depth and current

2017). A good understanding of anatomy, physiology and

understanding of the topic (Brown, White & Power, 2017;

pathophysiology underpins and is essential to professional

Gordon, Petocz & Reid, 2007; Pollock & Wilson, 1976).

practice, but the majority of studies have found that

Service teaching is becoming more common due to the

health science students are dissatisfied with their science

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

More work for less reward Delma Clifton & Steve McKillup

49


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

service courses (Craft et al., 2013), often describing them

the extent of course development required or the level of

as content heavy, frightening, and neither enjoyable nor

prior knowledge of their students, nor be aware of the

valuable (Birks et al., 2011; Dawson, 1994; McKee, 2002;

techniques needed to design, teach and maintain a relevant

Walker, 1994).This has led to calls to rethink how science

and effective service course. Even if they do, they may not

is taught to health science students (e.g. Larcombe &

have sufficient time or motivation for such development.

Dick, 2003; McVicar, Andrew & Kemble, 2015).

Previous studies have concentrated upon surveys

However, there are some reports of health science

of the recipients (i.e. students and recent graduates) to

students appreciating the importance and relevance of

investigate their perceptions of service-taught courses.

bioscience courses to their careers (e.g. Friedel & Treagust,

Feedback from the teachers who deliver service courses

2005; Gresty & Cotton, 2003; Jordan et al., 1999; Nicoll &

may also suggest strategies for improvement and we

Butler, 1996). Reporting on student satisfaction, Clifton

found it surprising that their perceptions and experiences

and McKillup (2016) found their nursing students rated

had received very little attention, with no comparative

the three service-taught science courses in the top four of

studies of the perceptions of service and discipline

the 14 that comprised the first and second years of their

teachers.Therefore, as an initial step, we surveyed service

degree and, from these results, suggested four strategies

and discipline teachers employed in the science faculties

for successful service teaching. First, the teacher needed

of Australian universities for their perceptions of service

to have enough knowledge, commitment and confidence

and discipline teaching, including the relative difficulty of

to develop and offer clear and conceptual explanations

each, the qualifications required and how well each type

instead of excessive and often irrelevant detail. Second,

of teaching is valued for promotion.

they needed to see things from the student’s perspective and start at an appropriate level, take advantage of prior student knowledge and experiences, and put concepts

Methods

into the context of the service class. Third, they needed

Participants

to provide well organised, quality teaching materials

A survey was circulated by email to 37 Deans of Science

that catered for a range of learning styles. Fourth, it was

in Australia with a request to forward it to their staff. We

important to communicate clear expectations, give

used a web-based survey as an efficient and inexpensive

detailed and prompt feedback, respect the diversity

way of reaching as many staff in as many different

within classes and encourage interaction with students.

institutions as possible. To ensure the introduction to the

These strategies, and other recommendations (e.g.

survey did not bias responses, potential participants were

Brown & Atkins, 1988), suggest service teaching is

only told that the purpose of the research was to examine

more difficult and time-consuming than teaching into a

the attitudes of science academics towards service and

program within one’s discipline (henceforth referred to

discipline teaching. All responses were voluntary and

as ‘discipline teaching’). First, service teaching requires a

confidential.The survey had low-risk ethics approval from

high level of ongoing consultation between the teacher

our university (number H13/06-107).

and the recipient department. Second, the service teacher must design their teaching materials, explanations and

Data

presentation to cater for students who do not have a

The 18 survey questions and their set response ranges

strong background, and often little interest, in the subject

are shown in Table 1. Since the survey was designed

being taught (Pollock & Wilson, 1976). Third, they need

to provide comparative data for service and discipline

to be able to integrate what they are teaching into the

teachers which may be confounded by differences in

context of the external program (e.g. A physiologist

teaching experience, gender and academic level between

teaching about respiratory physiology may have to

these two groups, respondents were asked to give the

be aware of the procedures used to assess and treat

number of years they had worked as an academic, their

respiratory dysfunction in hospitals). Fourth, they may

current academic level, highest academic qualification

experience, and have to work to overcome, considerable

and whether they held a teaching qualification (questions

initial hostility from students who have an aversion to, or

1 – 9). These were followed by questions 10 – 15 that

even fear, the service topic (Pollock & Wilson, 1976).

were designed to compare the perceptions of service

If service teaching is more difficult, it may help explain

and discipline teachers of both types of teaching in

why service-taught courses are often rated poorly by

relation to the qualifications needed, difficulty of the

students because many service teachers may not appreciate

work and how it may affect a person’s likelihood of being

50

More work for less reward Delma Clifton & Steve McKillup

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Table 1. Questions asked in an anonymous survey of science academics in Australian universities and the set range of responses for each. Question

Response range

(1) Are you female or male?

1 = female, 2 = male

(2) At which university do you work? ##

1 – 13 where 1 = ACU, 2 = CQU, 3 = CDU, 4 = ECU, 5 = GU, 6 = SCU, 7 = UA, 8 = UNE, 9 = UQ, 10 = USyd, 11= UTS, 12 = USC 13 = CSU

(3) How many years have you been an academic?

1 – 4 where 1 = 0-5, 2= 6-10, 3=11-15, 4 = >15

(4) What is your academic level?

1 – 5 where 1 = A (Associate Lecturer), 2 = B (Lecturer), 3 = C (Senior Lecturer), 4 = D (Associate Professor), 5 = E (Professor).

(5) What is the highest level of education you have completed?

1 – 5 where 1 = PhD, 2 = Masters by research, 3 = Masters by coursework, 4 = Honours, 5 = Bachelor

(6) What teaching qualifications have you completed?

1 – 5 where 1 = Cert IV, 2 = GC or GD, 3 = Bachelor, 4= Higher degree, 5 = None

(7) Do you have any teaching qualification?

1 = yes, 2 = no

(8) Does your school/department offer service teaching of science (e.g. chemistry, anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology for programs such as a Bachelor of Nursing)?

1 = yes, 2 = no

(9) Do you teach science courses for other programs (e.g. A Bachelor of Nursing?)

1 = yes, 2 = no

(10) How difficult is it to teach science to science students?

1 – 5 where 1 = Very easy, 2 = Easy, 3 = Average, 4 = Difficult, 5 = Very difficult

(11) What level of qualification is necessary to teach science to science students?

1 – 5 where 1 = PhD, 2 = Masters by research, 3 = Masters by coursework, 4 = Honours, 5 = Bachelor

(12) How well regarded is teaching science to science students for academic promotion at your institution?

1 – 5 where 1 = Very low, 2 = Low, 3 = Neutral, 4 = High, 5 = Very high

(13) How difficult is it to teach science to non-science students such as nursing students?

1 – 5 where 1= Very easy, 2 = Easy, 3 = Average, 4 = Difficult, 5 = Very difficult

(14) What level of qualification is necessary to teach science to non-science students such as nursing students?

1 – 5 where 1 = PhD, 2 = Masters by research, 3 = Masters by coursework, 4 = Honours, 5 = Bachelor

(15) How well regarded is teaching science to non-science students such as nursing students for academic promotion at your institution?

1= Very low, 2 = Low, 3 = Neutral, 4 = High, 5 = Very high

(16) In my school/department service teaching is used to ‘top up’ science staff workloads.

1 – 5 where 1 = Strongly disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Neutral, 4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly agree

(17) In my school/department active researchers are not required to do service teaching.

1 – 5 where 1 = Strongly disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Neutral, 4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly agree

(18) I would be likely to apply for a job in which a major component of the workload was service teaching.

1 – 5 where 1 = Strongly disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Neutral, 4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly agree

## ACU = Australian Catholic University; CQU = Central Queensland University; CDU = Charles Darwin University; ECU = Edith Cowan University; GU = Griffith University; SCU = Southern Cross University; UA = University of Adelaide; UNE = University of New England; UQ = University of Queensland; USyd = University of Sydney; UTS = University of Technology, Sydney; USC = University of the Sunshine Coast; CSU = Charles Sturt University.

promoted. Then each respondent was asked to give their

Data analysis

perceptions of the administration of service teaching in their department/school and whether they would be

Data were analysed with SPSS version 25 (IBM Corp.,

likely to apply for a service teaching position. Finally,

Armonk, New York 2017). All ordinal scale data showed

respondents were invited to submit a free text comment

no significant heteroscedasticity or lack of normality, so

in answer to the question ‘Would you like to make any

were analysed with parametric tests: either single factor

other comment about service teaching in universities?’.

ANOVAs, two factor repeated-measures ANOVAs or single

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

More work for less reward Delma Clifton & Steve McKillup

51


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

sample t tests. For all analyses p < 0.05 was considered

Perceptions of service and discipline teaching

significant.

Respondents gave their perceptions of the difficulty of teaching science to science students and science to non-

Results The profiles of service and discipline teachers

science students; how each teaching type was regarded for promotion; and the academic qualification required to teach each. These three sets of dependent data were

We received responses from 136 academics, of which

analysed as two factor repeated measures ANOVAs with

40 per cent were female and 60 per cent male, at

the between-subjects factor whether the person was

13 universities. Most respondents (106) belonged to

a service or discipline teacher, and the two types of

departments or schools that conducted service teaching

teaching (i.e. science to science students and science

and approximately half (62) were service teachers.

to non-science students) the within-subjects (repeated

The universities were a mix of older and more-recently

measure) factor.

established, city and regional, and included researchfocussed and teaching-intensive institutions.

Teaching science to non-science students was perceived as significantly more difficult than science to science students (F1,111 = 52.041, p < 0.001). There was no significant difference between the perceptions of service and discipline teachers (F1,111 = 1.712, NS) and no interaction between the two factors (F1,111 = 0.200, NS) (Figure 2). The mean difficulty scores given by service and discipline teachers, respectively, for service teaching were 3.48 and 3.38, while for discipline teaching they were lower: 2.95 (by service teachers) and 2.77 (by discipline teachers) (Figure 2). On the response scale of 1 – 5, where 3 was average, (Table 1), discipline teaching was rated as having slightly below average difficulty while service

Figure 1. The number of responses received against academic level for service teachers (black bars) and discipline teachers (grey bars).

teaching was rated between ‘average’ and ‘difficult’. The perceived difficulties of teaching a service course and a discipline course were also compared between respondents who held a teaching qualification and those

Ten respondents did not specify whether they were

who did not. There was no significant difference in the

service or discipline teachers and were excluded from

perceptions of teaching difficulty by these two groups

all analyses. Almost equal proportions of female (47.5

(two factor repeated measures ANOVA: F1,104 = 0.007,

per cent) and male staff (52.5 per cent) were service

NS) so the possession or lack of a teaching qualification

teachers and the gender ratio did not differ significantly

had no effect on the perceived difficulty of either

between service and discipline teachers (Fisher exact

service or discipline teaching. Here too, however, both

test, p = 0.068). There was no significant difference between the distributions of the academic levels of service and discipline teachers (Fisher exact test, p = 0.463) (Figure 1), the mean number of years spent teaching (single factor ANOVA: F1,127 = 1.036, NS) or the mean highest academic qualification (single factor ANOVA: F1,125 = 0.317, NS). Although a greater proportion of service teachers (53.6 per cent) had a teaching qualification compared to discipline teachers (35 per cent) this difference was not significant (Fisher exact test: p = 0.065). For those with a teaching qualification there was no difference in the proportions of each type of qualification between service and discipline teachers (Fisher exact test: p = 0.640).

52

More work for less reward Delma Clifton & Steve McKillup

Figure 2. The perceptions of service and discipline teachers of how difficult it is to teach science to science students (grey bars) and science to non-science students (black bars). vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

There was no significant difference in the qualification level considered necessary to teach science to science students compared to non-science students (F1,107 = 1.049, NS), no difference between the perceptions of service and discipline teachers (F1,107 = 0.004, NS) and no interaction between the two factors (F1,107 = 0.070, NS) (Figure 4).

Perceptions of the administration of service teaching Figure 3. The perceptions of service and discipline teachers of the value for academic promotion of teaching science to science students (grey bars) and science to non-science students (black bars).

For each of the last three questions (16 – 18) we used

groups perceived service teaching to be significantly

service teaching is used to ‘top up’ science staff workloads’

more difficult than discipline teaching (F1,104 = 45.98,

showed no significant difference between service and

p < 0.001) and this perception was consistent between

discipline teachers (F1,110 = 0.202, NS). A single sample

groups (interaction F1,104 = 0.028, NS).

t test comparing the combined mean response of 2.88 for

single factor ANOVA to examine the relationship between the response to the question (coded as 1 – 5 on the Likert scale:Table 1) by service and discipline teachers. The responses to question 16 ‘In my school/department

Teaching science to non-science students was perceived

both service and discipline teachers to an expected mean

as significantly less valuable for promotion than teaching

of 3.0 corresponding to ‘Neither agree nor disagree’ was

science to science students (F1,108 = 7.437, p < 0.01).

not significant (t111 = 1.07, NS).

Here too, there was no significant difference between the

For question 17 ‘In my school/department active

perceptions of service and discipline teachers (F1,108 =

researchers are not required to do service teaching’

1.486, NS) and no interaction between the two factors

there was no significant difference in the mean response

(F1,108 = 0.472, NS) (Figure 3). Service teaching was

between service and discipline teachers (F1,111 = 2.50,

given a mean value for academic promotion of 2.69 by

NS). A single sample t test comparing the mean (2.48) of

service teachers and 2.85 by discipline teachers, both

all respondents to an expected mean of 3.0 (i.e. neither

of which are between ‘low’ and ‘neutral’ for the scoring

agree nor disagree) showed that active researchers were

system used (Table 1). The perceived promotional value

also required to service teach in that there was significant

of discipline teaching was consistently higher with a

disagreement with the statement in question 17 (t112 =

mean of 2.83 (but still between low and neutral) by

5.31, p<0.001) (Figure 5).

service teachers and 3.08 (very slightly above neutral) by discipline teachers.

Figure 4. The perceptions of service and discipline teachers of the academic qualification required to teach science to science students (grey bars) and science to non-science students (black bars). vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Figure 5. The number of responses for each category on the Likert scale (1= Strongly disagree, 2= Disagree, 3=Neutral, 4= Agree, 5= Strongly agree) to the statement ‘In my school/department active researchers are not required to do service teaching’. The mean of the distribution is significantly less than a neutral response of 3. More work for less reward Delma Clifton & Steve McKillup

53


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Perception of the desirability of a service teaching position

neutral scores assigned to both service and discipline

The response to ‘I would be likely to apply for a job where

were that university teaching was given little recognition

a major component of the workload was service teaching’

compared to research. This is a common perception

showed no significant difference between teacher type

worldwide (e.g. French & O’Leary, 2017).

teaching) and seven of the 55 free response comments

(F1,113 = 2.50, NS) nor a significant difference between

All teaching shows some degree of instructor-specific

the mean response to the question by all respondents

student satisfaction, but this may be accentuated in

and an expected mean of 3.0 (neither agree nor disagree)

service classes where students have no interest in the

(single sample t test, t114 = 0.690, NS).

topic and see it as an unpleasant hurdle to overcome as part of their study. Only three of the 55 free responses to

Discussion

our survey reported that service teaching was enjoyable: we suspect they were from academics who had the time,

This appears to be the first report of the perceptions

skills and personalities to be able to engage with their

of service and discipline teachers about the relative

service students. For example, for the service teaching

difficulty, promotional value and qualifications needed for

of statistics, Pollock and Wilson (1976, p. 248) emphasise

these two types of teaching. Our samples of service and

that ‘far more than with specialist students the service

discipline teachers appeared comparable in that they did

course lecturer has to be showman and salesman as well

not differ significantly in the proportions at each academic

as teacher’. A basic and essential tenet of good teaching is

level, gender, whether they had a teaching qualification,

the contextualisation of course content to make it relevant

the level of teaching qualification, years spent teaching, or

to students, but even a service teacher who is extremely

highest academic qualification.

knowledgeable may be unfamiliar with the application of

Perceptions of service and discipline teaching

the material they are teaching in the program taken by their service students.

Both service and discipline teachers perceived science

Furthermore, it is not uncommon for universities to

service teaching to be significantly more difficult than

offer one service course to students from several different

science discipline teaching and both groups had extremely

programs (e.g. engineering, psychology, environmental

similar perceptions of the difficulty of each teaching type.

science and biomedical science students taking the same

Five of the 55 free text comments emphasised that service

service course in introductory statistics) but this is likely

teaching is difficult because students have not chosen to

to make it even more difficult and time-consuming for an

study the service topic and are less prepared than discipline

instructor to contextualise the material and engage with

students, as noted by Pollock and Wilson (1976).

such a diverse class. Service-taught classes are often much

Both types of teacher perceived science service

larger than those in science disciplines and therefore

teaching as being significantly less valuable for promotion

have the potential to greatly affect the reputation of a

than science discipline teaching. Here too, the perceived

department and university if they are taught badly: they

difference between the two teaching types was consistent

cannot be taken for granted and should be taught by

between groups. The reason why service teaching was

experienced, capable and committed staff.

considered less valued for promotion may be because

There was no significant difference between service

most service teaching is in first and second year of an

and discipline teachers of the perceived level of academic

undergraduate degree, whereas discipline teaching

qualification (i.e. from A to E) needed to teach science

occurs across all three years and is therefore seen as being

to science students and science to non-science students.

of ‘higher level’ and of greater value and importance: five

This is not surprising considering that most academic

of the 55 free-text comments were that service teaching

qualifications above bachelor level are based on research,

is regarded as less important than discipline teaching.

which may have little to do with the ability to teach. The

Discipline teaching can also provide an opportunity

free responses were consistent with this: seven noted that

for the teacher to showcase their research to students

having teachers who engage with their students and make

within their own discipline, thereby attracting future

material relevant was more important than specifying a

postgraduates who are likely to contribute to research

certain level of qualification needed to teach.

output, which may increase the teacher’s likelihood of

Taken together, the perceptions of greater teaching

promotion. It is notable that teaching, in general, was

difficulty and less value for promotion are of concern

perceived as having little value for promotion (with near-

because they suggest service teachers are disadvantaged

54

More work for less reward Delma Clifton & Steve McKillup

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

compared to discipline teachers, but further research is

service courses are likely to need more time per enrolled

needed to investigate whether these perceptions reflect

student and perhaps even the opportunity for industry

reality: do service teachers have a greater workload per

experience to help them integrate what they teach with

student and are they less likely to be promoted? If they

the program they are servicing and to use examples

do reflect reality then, for the same number of students, a

their students can identify with, as well as assistance in

service teacher may a have higher workload, experience

developing teaching materials and techniques to help

greater levels of stress and have less time for research.

them successfully engage with service classes. These

Furthermore, the perception that service teaching is

recommendations, from our survey of tertiary teachers,

significantly less valued for promotion may reduce the

are congruent with those from student and graduate

self-esteem of service teachers and affect their attitude

perceptions of service teaching which also emphasise

towards their students. We received responses from 13

the need for more collaboration between the service

Australian universities: further research is also needed to

teacher and staff in the recipient department to achieve

establish whether these perceptions of service teaching

better integration of service content (e.g. Larcombe &

are more widespread. We have only considered service

Dick, 2003; Ralph et al., 2017; Wynne, Brand & Smith,

and discipline teaching in science: it would also be useful

1997). More research is also needed on the staff

to investigate whether staff in other fields (e.g. economics,

perceptions and realities of service teaching in other

psychology, statistics) have similar perceptions of service

fields. If service teaching is found to be more difficult

teaching.

and time-consuming than discipline teaching, it will

Perceptions of the administration of service teaching

need to be recognised and accounted for in institutional workload planning and assessment of applications for promotion, to ensure service teachers are given

For the administration of service teaching there was no

adequate support and gain appropriate recognition for

evidence it was being used to ‘top up’ staff workloads and

their work.

there was significant disagreement with the statement that active researchers are not required to do service

Disclosure statement

teaching. As we noted earlier, there has been an expansion in profession-specific courses and a decline in enrolments

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the

in traditional courses such as arts and science, so service

authors.

teaching is increasingly important to maintain academic positions in science departments, resulting in increased

Acknowledgements

student to staff ratios and academics being expected to spend more time teaching. The widespread adoption of

We thank two anonymous reviewers whose comments

formula-based workload calculations, which often differ

improved the manuscript.

greatly among departments and institutions but are usually heavily dependent on the number of students

Delma Clifton is Academic Lead – Scholarship of Learning and

taught, also means that researchers are increasingly likely

Teaching and an Associate Professor in the School of Health,

to be asked to teach.

Medical and Applied Sciences at CQUniversity, Queensland,

Despite the poor perceptions of service teaching, the

Australia.

response to the statement to ‘I would be likely to apply for a job where a major component of the workload was

Steve McKillup is from the Audit and Advisory Directorate in

service teaching’ was neutral. It may reflect the current

the Vice-Chancellor & President Division, Rockhampton North

shortage of available academic positions in Australia so

Campus, CQUniversity.

that even a service teaching position is desirable.

Contact: s.mckillup@cqu.edu.au

Conclusion

References

More research is needed to establish whether the

Barrett, S. (2005). Addressing the problem of service teaching introductory economics subjects. International Education Journal 5(5), 152–165.

perceptions that science service teaching in Australian universities is more difficult, and less valued for promotion, reflect reality. If they do, then staff who teach vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Birks, M., Cant, R., Al-Motlaq, M., & Jones, J. (2011). I don’t want to become a scientist: undergraduate nursing students’ perceived value of course content. Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing 28, 20–27. More work for less reward Delma Clifton & Steve McKillup

55


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

Brown, G., & Atkins, M. (1988). Effective teaching in higher education. London, Routledge Publishers. Brown, S.J., White, S., & Power, N. (2017). Introductory anatomy and physiology in an undergraduate nursing curriculum. Advances in Physiology Education 41, 56–61. Clifton, I.D., & McKillup, S.C. (2016). Why such success?: Nursing students show consistently high satisfaction with bioscience courses at a regional university. Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, 33, 21-28. Craft, J., Hudson, P., Plenderleith, M., Wirihana, L., & Gordon, C.J. (2013). Commencing nursing students’ perceptions and anxiety of bioscience. Nurse Education Today 33, 1399–1405. Crotty, M., & Eklund, E. (2006). History as service teaching: possibilities and pitfalls. History Australia 3, 47.1–47.10. Dawson, P. (1994). Contra biology: a polemic. Journal of Advanced Nursing 20, 1094-1103. Fawcett, L. (2017). The CASE Project: Evaluation of Case-Based Approaches to Learning and Teaching in Statistics Service Courses. Journal of Statistics Education, 25, 79–89.

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Logan, P.A. & Angel, L. (2014) Exploring Australian Undergraduate Preregistration Nursing Curricula: Where do Science Subjects Fit? Journal of Learning Design, 7 (2), 62-84. McInnis, C. (2000). Changing academic work roles: the everyday realities challenging quality in teaching. Quality in Higher Education, 6, 143–152. McKee, G. (2002). Why is biological science difficult for first year students? Nurse Education Today, 22, 251–257. McVicar, A., Andrew, S., & Kemble, R. (2015). The ‘bioscience’ problem for nursing students: An integrative review of published evaluations of year 1 bioscience, and proposed directions for curriculum development. Nurse Education Today, 35, 500–509. Nicoll, L., & Butler, M. (1996). The study of biology as a cause of anxiety in nursing students undertaking the common foundation program. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 24, 615-624. Pollard, J., Sharma, M., Mills, D., Swan, G., & Mendez, A. (2006). Physics Education for Australia. Australian Physics, 43, 20–26. Pollock, K.H., & Wilson, I.M. (1976). Statistics Service Teaching in Universities. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series D 25, 247-252.

French, A., & O’Leary, M. (2017). Teaching Excellence in Higher Education: Challenges, Changes and the Teaching Excellence Framework. Bingley, UK. Emerald Publishing Limited.

Prowse, M. A., & Heath, V. (2005). Working collaboratively in health care contexts: The influence of bioscientific knowledge on patient outcomes. Nurse Education Today, 25, 132–139.

Friedel, J.M., & Treagust, D.F. (2005). Learning bioscience in nursing education: perceptions of the intended and the prescribed curriculum. Learning in Health and Social Care 4, 203-216.

Prowse, M. A., & Lyne, P.A. (2002). Revealing the contribution of bioscience based nursing knowledge to clinically effective patient care. Clinical Effectiveness in Nursing, 4, 67–74.

Gordon, S., Petocz, P., & Reid, A. (2007). Teachers’ conceptions of teaching service statistics courses. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 1, 1-14

Ralph, N., Birks, M., Cant, R., Chun Tie, Y., & Hillman, E. (2017). How should science be taught to nurses? Preferences of registered nurses and science teaching academics. Collegian 24, 585–591.

Gresty, K.A., & Cotton, D.R.E. (2003). Supporting bioscience in the nursing curriculum: development and evaluation of an online resource. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 44, 339–349.

Walker, K. (1994). Confronting ‘reality’: nursing, science and the micro-politics of representation. Nursing Inquiry 1, 46–56.

Jordan, S., Davies, S., & Green, B. (1999). The biosciences in the pre-registration nursing curriculum: staff and students’ perceptions of difficulties and relevance. Nurse Education Today, 19, 215–226.

Wynne, N., Brand, S., & Smith, R. (1997). Incomplete holism is pre-registration nurse education: the position of the biological sciences. Journal of Advanced Nursing 26, 470–474.

Larcombe, J., & Dick, J. (2003). Who is best qualified to teach bioscience to nurses? Nursing Standard, 17, 38–44.

56

More work for less reward Delma Clifton & Steve McKillup

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

OPINION

‘Continuous improvement’ in higher education Response to ‘Neoliberalism and new public management in an Australian university: The invisibility of our take-over’ by Margaret Sims (2019) Cat Mitchell Unitec Institute of Technology

Introduction

of the millennium, neoliberalism became firmly rooted in Aotearoa/New Zealand higher education and since this

It is difficult to overestimate the reach of neoliberalism

period its influence has been strengthened by various

across social, cultural and political life, including in higher

governments (Roper, 2018). This neoliberal positioning,

education. Margaret Sims (2019) makes this apparent in

particularly in response to national and international

her examination of the impacts of neoliberal rationalities

economic developments such as the global financial crisis,

on an Australian university based on her experience

has resulted in sustained periods of fiscal austerity leading

as a senior academic. Her account is a resonant one,

to significant reductions in social provision in Aotearoa/

with much in her text speaking directly to the higher

New Zealand (Roper, 2018).

education situation in Aotearoa/New Zealand. In this

The practices associated with this policy framework

response, I seek to pick up one of the threads in Sim’s

in the public sector, including within higher education,

article, specifically her comments about the demands

include a growing reliance on short-term labour, strategic

on academic staff for continuous improvement. This is a

plans, performance-linked remuneration (Boston, Martin,

discourse that is brought to bear in a complex matrix of

Pallot, & Walsh, 1996, p. 26) along with ‘a stress on cost-

measures to enable the audit, evaluation and close control

cutting … and cutback management’ (Roper, 2018, p.

of academic work in pursuance of the neoliberal focus on

24). These approaches contribute to increased scholarly

efficiency (Olssen & Peters, 2005).

workloads with writers such as Currie, Harris and Thiele (2000) arguing that the university can be understood as a

Higher education in Aotearoa/New Zealand

‘greedy institution’ and ‘one which makes total claims on its members’(p. 270). In line with Sims (2019), I suggest there needs to be focused attention on claims made

Worldwide, neoliberalism has become the dominant

on academics via neoliberalism and, in particular, the

paradigm for policy making and economic management

claims articulated through the discourse of ‘continuous

(Roper, 2018). From the mid-1980s through to the turn

improvement’.

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

‘Continuous improvement’ in higher education Cat Mitchell

57


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

The discourse of ‘continuous improvement’

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

around them about their deployment of this construct in the words they speak and write. I also see the need

A variety of players within the higher education space

to engage with the broader ideological dimensions of

have become ‘enamoured with applying the language of

neoliberalism. I identify particular promise in drawing

continuous improvement to learning outcomes’(Arnold &

on social democratic discourses to challenge neoliberal

Marchese, 2011, p. 16). And, on the face of it, this discourse

orthodoxy.

may be seen as possessing some common-sense merit

At present the articulation of the role of higher

that involves a search for better ways of working in the

education in promoting democratic values may be

university context. However, it is a construct that operates

especially effective in the context of rising concerns

within a constellation of neoliberal concepts which in

about the threats to democracy in a post-truth world. Such

combination work to make ever more demanding claims

concerns are arguably re-focusing the public’s attention

on academics. For Sims (2019) ‘this discourse positions

on the importance of knowledge, questioning and

staff as though they never perform their jobs correctly,

critique, and therefore, these discourses may have new

always needing to improve something about their

found resonance in policy contexts. Invocation of such

performance’ (p. 26).

social democratic discourses may enhance the agency of

As performance measures themselves are malleable and moveable (Smyth, 2017), achieving such shifting

academics and may ultimately enable higher education to better serve individuals, communities and nations.

targets becomes challenging, if not at times, impossible. The deployment of neoliberal constructs such as

Cat Mitchell is Learning Development Lecturer at Unitec

‘continuous improvement’ has led to universities

Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.

becoming

Contact: cmitchell@unitec.ac.nz

‘increasingly

authoritarian,

non-critical

and corporate entities’ (Roper, 2018, p. 25) which fundamentally undermines the ability of a university academic to undertake the role of public intellectual or of ‘critic and conscience of society’ as is a legislated requirement in Aotearoa/New Zealand (The Education Act 1989, s162[4]). Moreover, a ‘do more for less’ aspect of the drive for continuous improvement means academics are ‘being asked to give more time to the university, work overtime and weekends while not being paid any more money for doing so … this takes a toll on families, friends and the general health of university workers’ (Currie et al., 2000, p. 270). In this way the discourse of ‘continuous improvement’ significantly shapes the lives of academics and is far from being benign or innocuous.

References Arnold, D. L., & Marchese, T. J. (2011). Perspectives: The continuous improvement trap. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 43(2), 16–20. https://doi.org/10.1080/00091383.2011.550249 Boston, J., Martin, J., Pallot, J., & Walsh, P. (1996). Public management: The New Zealand model. Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press. Currie, J., Harris, P., & Theile, B. (2000). Sacrifices in greedy universities: Are they gendered? Gender and Education, 12(3), 269–291. https://doi. org/10.1080/09540250050122203 Olssen, M., & Peters, M. A. (2005). Neoliberalism, higher education and the knowledge economy: From the free market to knowledge capitalism. Journal of Education Policy, 20(3), 313–345. https://doi.org/10.1080/02680930500108718 Roper, B. (2018). Neoliberalism’s war on New Zealand’s universities. New Zealand Sociology, 33(2), 9–39. Retrieved from https://nzsociology.nz/index. php/nzs

Ways forward

Sims, M. (2019). Neoliberalism and new public management in an Australian university. Australian Universities’ Review, 61(1), 22–30. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1206807

The term ‘continuous improvement’ is one example of

Smyth, J. (2017). The toxic university: Zombie leadership, academic rock stars and neoliberal ideology. London, U.K: Palgrave Macmillan.

neoliberal managerial speak which has come to dominate much of the language of higher education institutions. In accordance with Sims (2019), I argue that academic

The Education Act. (1989). Retrieved from http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/ public/1989/0080/latest/DLM183668.html

workers need to recognise and identify the significance of this discourse and be active in challenging those

58

‘Continuous improvement’ in higher education Cat Mitchell

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Three cheers for the Ramsay Centre Martin Davies University of Melbourne

In 2018 Australia’s leading national university, the ANU,

Academic autonomy

decided to break off consultation with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation over a generous bequest to fund

The issue of academic autonomy has been raised as a

a course on Western civilisation. It is not every day that a

reason, but this is, at best, ostensible. Former PM Tony

university decides to turn down a $3 billion bequest to fund

Abbott, and Simon Haines, the Director of the Ramsay

a humanities program (Groch, 2018). In these straitened

Centre, have both claimed that the terms of the contract

times this seems a very regrettable decision indeed.

made no demands on the ANU in terms of appointments,

As a side note: There is usually never enough funding

or autonomy (Haines, 2018; Urban, 2018a). I have no

for the humanities, and many outside the tertiary sector

privileged access to the terms of the contract, which

seriously question the value of what little funding there

I assume is commercial in confidence, but this can’t be

is. Instead, the humanities are criticised for their capacity

the real reason. If this was, it would have been merely a

to soak-up meagre funding that could be used to greater

matter of finessing the contract to the satisfaction of both

benefit in medicine, engineering and other practical areas.

parties, since neither of them appear to disagree with the

My own discipline, philosophy, comes in for particular

proposition that a university should be able to run its own

hostility in this regard (Tovey, 2018). Put simply, research

affairs. I suspect the ‘autonomy’ issue is a red herring.

on the philosophy of Hegel does not matter as much as

The real reason for the decision seems to hinge on the

important work on prostate cancer. There is some truth

notion of ‘Western civilisation’. The place and purpose of

in this. As a man of a certain age I am more worried about

this in a university like the ANU is what is really at issue.

my prostate that anything Hegel thought. But despite this,

The ANU claims to already offer courses in elements of

I find these attacks on the humanities to be unsubtle in

Western culture, more than 150 in fact, albeit they do

the extreme. They are ignorant of the many surprising

not come under the rubric ‘Western civilisation’ (Powell,

contributions the humanities have made and continue to

2018). Might this not be enough?

make. The debate between what is considered ‘wasteful’

Clearly, not in the view of the Ramsay Centre and its

and ‘not wasteful’ in terms of funding priorities is a debate

supporters. If it were, they would not be making another

that is stale, old and tired (Davies, 2013).

offer. There is doubt that many of these courses resemble

The ANU/Ramsay dispute is, in effect, a reversal of this

anything like the ‘great books’ courses offered in the US

bleak situation; it is a case of a university turning its back

(Balbones, 2018). It is also suggested that the current ANU

on humanities funding.

offerings are, in any case,‘framed through the perspectives

Accepting for the purposes of the argument that

of class, race, gender and associated theories’ and thereby

humanities should receive some funding, what is at the

infused with left-wing ideology (Urban 2018b). (The ANU

heart of the decision of a major university to turn down

may dispute it, but there is certainly evidence that left-

the magnanimous proposal offered by the Ramsay Centre?

wing agendas have more or less taken over the humanities

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Three cheers for the Ramsay Centre Martin Davies

59


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

in university departments (Windshuttle, 2018). Late as it

large (Balbones, 2018). This is regrettable. Fair or not, call

may be, there are moves against this hegemony: witness

this account of history ‘Western Civilisation 1’ (WC1).

the rise of the Heterodox Academy). A class-focussed, left of centre approach, is not quite, it

Western Civilisation 1

appears, what the Ramsay Centre had in mind. Contemporary historians seem to despise this view

Western Civilisation?

of history (Cairns, 2018). To them, this is a hard sell. It reeks of colonial imperialism for one thing, they say, and

Regrettably, a debate about the merits or otherwise of

is inaccurate. And colonialism – even discussion of it

Western civilisation appears to be in danger of being lost

– is certainly not flavour of the month (Lusher, 2017).

by the ANU/Ramsay fall-out. ‘Lost’ in two senses: 1) lost to

Anything that remotely smells of WC1 is toxic.This seems

further scrutiny, discussion and refinement; and 2) lost in

to be the nub of the dispute between the ANU and the

terms of a potential source of much-needed funding in an

Ramsay Centre.

environment of funding scarcity for the arts.

For sure, real history is not as simple as a single narrative

Ghandi may have been a tad mean-spirited when he

of White Men Rule: civilisations ebb and flow and take

responded to a question about Western civilisation with

many forms and directions. Not all of them are pretty. As

‘I think it would be a good idea’, but a place to start in

Peter Craven has noted ‘Western civilisation that brought

such discussions is surely not to snuff out debate (and

us Mozart and Mahler also brought us the Holocaust

funding) about courses in Western civilisation – however

and Hiroshima’ (Craven, 2018). Western civilisation has

one defines it – but to encourage both and see where they

also availed itself of many non-Western influences from

lead.That’s the real spirit of Western intellectual inquiry.

China, the Middle East, and elsewhere. In a sense ‘Western’

In any case, it seems to me that the Ramsay Centre did

civilisation is a civilisation that belongs to everyone.

not pitch its proposal at all well. I suggest that it’s not

One can admire Western civilisation for all that it offers

‘civilisation’ so much as Western ‘thinking’ that it wishes

without committing to ‘promote’ it, as it were, a priori.

to promulgate. And, as I shall argue, that’s a very different

Moreover, if something is a good thing it doesn’t need

thing.

promoting; it should sell itself. And finally, a suitably

By asking to fund a program in ‘Western civilisation’, the

Western approach to Western civilisation and their

Ramsay Centre seems to be presupposing a narrative of

Great Books would not abandon self-criticism. As Carr

history that contemporary historians find objectionable.

puts it: ‘It’s about interrogating the works, not exalting

Moreover, they seem to be explicitly fostering it.

them’. Elsewhere he asks: ‘Would half the objections to

This was clear in the off-hand comment by Mr

the Ramsay proposition vanish if we settled on the verb

Abbott in Quadrant that seemed to derail discussions

“interrogate”; that is, that we seek critical readings’? Yes, I

(Abbott, 2018). He claimed that the Ramsay Centre was

suspect they would. But, by the time this was said it was

not just encouraging a course on Western civilisation

too late and the ANU/Ramsay negotiations were over.

but promoting it. According to Mr Abbott: ‘The key to

I am sure Mr Abbott knows all this, but in the fog of claim

understanding the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation

and counter-claim his comments weren’t interpreted that

is that it’s not merely about Western civilisation but in

way.This seems to have gotten the ANU offside.

favour of it.’

There are, in truth, plenty of examples where history

This sticks in the craw of modern professional historians

might well have been cast very differently if its authors

who, in fairness – whether we agree with them or not

were part of the marginalised, the colonised, and the

– would have a broader understanding of contemporary

oppressed. Western civilisation is not a necessary good in

historical trends and theories than Mr Abbott. The reason

other words, though it may well be a contingent good.

for their disaffection is that the former PM’s view seems to

Western civilisation is not so much a coherent single

presume a narrative of history that defends an uncritical

offering either but a smorgasbord or à la carte: it’s

view of Western-centrism.

conceivable to take what one likes and reject the rest.

There is something to this objection. As Bob Carr

Compare China, the ‘socialist system with Western

has noted, an emphasis on ‘Great Books’ of Western

characteristics’, which seems to have done quite well for

civilisation rightly or wrongly tends to be conflated by

itself (economically anyway) despite not having some of

the Left as an emphasis on a ‘Dead White Males’ view of

the staples of Western civilisation, notably human rights,

history (Carr, 2018). It is seen as European centrism writ

freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary.

60

Three cheers for the Ramsay Centre Martin Davies

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Western civilisation need not be adopted en bloc. There

law, representative democracy, freedom of speech, of

is no plausible reason to think that Western civilisation

conscience and religion, liberal pluralism, the prosperity

is necessarily and unarguably a basis on which construct

born of market capitalism, the capability born of scientific

a singular historical narrative, even if one is very partial

rigour, and the cultivation born of endless intellectual and

to it.

artistic curiosity’ (Abbott, 2018).

The WC1 way of framing the notion of ‘Western

To that list we can add, (Western) analytic philosophy,

civilisation’ just raises the hackles of those who object

a goodly proportion of it, emanating from – surprise,

to the ‘black armband’ view of history and plays into the

surprise – Australia. Cambridge Don, Hugh Mellor, is

quagmire of the ‘history wars’.

noted for commenting: ‘It’s just as well for the rest of the

Best avoided.

world that philosophy is not an Olympic sport. In the last few decades, Australasia has produced more good

Western Civilisation 2

philosophers per square head than almost anywhere else’ (Oppy & Trakakis, 2014, p. 9).

Some suggest, because of this, that the notion of ‘Western

That’s some legacy.

civilisation’ is past its use-by date (Coleborne, 2017). This

In other words, a rejection of WC1 as a historical

would be to take the argument too far. According to

narrative does not mean a historical free for all: that

some, history should ask ‘… why things are historically significant to certain people at certain times. They need to understand the past from their position in the world, as well as different perspectives

all

There is no plausible reason to think that Western civilisation is necessarily and unarguably a basis on which construct a singular historical narrative, even if one is very partial to it.

in relation to their own

systems

merit

equal

attention from one’s own ‘perspectives’ and ‘cultural identities’. This is as absurd as

insisting

on

teaching

astrology alongside physics (paraphrasing

Christopher

Hitchens: ‘I’ve finished my

cultural identities’ (Cairns,

Chemistry period, now I

2018). But this essentially relativist account of historical

am off to my Alchemy class’.) In a certain sense, Western

thinking assumes – in some timeless and uncritical fashion

civilisation and culture offers a clear and unambiguous

– that each culture and civilisation is as good as any other.

advance over despotic and backward-leaning regimes.

And, like the defenders of the Ramsay proposal, I think

Were it not so, it would not be so popular, nor widespread.

this is far from clear.

Credit where credit is due.

Certainly, there is much to admire and celebrate in what

‘Western Civilisation 2’ (WC2) by contrast to WC1,

is good about Western civilisation, and plenty of reasons

is a contingent thesis: Western civilisation is not in any

to prefer it to other perniciously misogynistic, autocratic

principled sense better nor worse than other civilisations

or culturally backward systems. I am thinking of North

(it could well have been otherwise in some other possible

Korea here, but also many Islamic cultures whose cultural

world) though it does appear to have palpable advantages

practices seem curiously immune from criticism from

over others, which other civilisations end-up coveting –

the Left (Bindel, 2018). As Churchill was reported to

as they very often do. Moreover, reports of the decline of

have to said in relation to one crucial feature of Western

democracy are greatly exaggerated (Tupy, 2018).

civilisation, democracy (although the attribution is

This neatly side steps the ‘Great White Men’ narrative

unclear): ‘[it is] is the worst form of government, except

that others find objectionable and goes some way to

other forms that have been tried from time to time’. In

defusing the history wars.

consideration of the various alternatives around, there seems little to disagree with here.

WC2 is the weaker thesis in that it just turns out that history took the course it did and that Western civilisation

There is little doubt that Western culture has offered

triumphed where it did, and failed where it didn’t,

great advances in innovation too, from the miraculous

and spread where it spread. A recent book charts its

(space travel and modern telecommunications) to

astonishing rise (Daly, 2013). It presupposes no hint of

the necessary (modern medicine and healthcare). As

Great White Men and their Great Books, just good men

Mr Abbott notes: ‘To the question: “What has Western

(and women) and good books. An impartial analysis of

civilisation ever done for us?” [Ramsay] would have

WC2 would also point out the less than favourable aspects

ventured: not so much, perhaps, save for the rule of

of it too, e.g., great wealth inequality, its fragmentary

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Three cheers for the Ramsay Centre Martin Davies

61


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

history of oppressing the poor, and so on with plenty of

philosophically; the latter arguably invented logic as

room for discussion and debate over the details. Nothing

a discipline and provided a taxonomy of the natural

is perfect.

sciences that largely remains today).

Bring it on. A Ramsay-style course devoted to Western

Thence, of course, to the enlightenment thinkers of

civilisation can consistently be critical of WC1 as well as

Bacon, Descartes, Locke, Voltaire, Rousseau, Mill, Hume,

full of admiration of WC2. (It is, I suggest, important to get

Kant, and others in the ‘modern’ period who championed

the emphasis right, but one shouldn’t stop the generous

tolerance, ant-religiosity, rational thinking, the scientific

hand that might wish to feed the debate.)

method and, in some cases, reductionism. There might be

This idea of funding a course on WC2, and the books thereof does not seem to me to be objectionable on any

disputes in the margins, but this trajectory of thinking, has, it must be said, led to a greatly enlightened world.

grounds; indeed, it seems to be sorely needed – especially

Onwards, of course, to the rise of analytic philosophy

given the fact that many millennials seem ignorant of

and the brilliant work in formal logic by thinkers such

the culture that gives rise to and safely harbours them.

as Rudolf Carnap, Gottolb Frege, Bertrand Russell,

Perhaps it is time to educate them about themselves.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Alan Turing. The latter, recently

(Deneen, 2016)

honoured on the new UK £50 banknote (Yates, 2019), is

Moreover, it doesn’t seem historically objectionable

usually regarded as the ‘father’ of computer science (in

either: a narrative about WC2 would be one that tells a

that he invented the concept and effectively started a

dispassionate and unbiased story about what occurred

modern-day industry) but he also attended Wittgenstein’s

without all the ‘Great White Men’ overtones of WC1.

philosophy classes and published his famous paper on ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’ in the philosophy

Western reasoning

journal, Mind. Turing (1950), incidentally, could be said to belong in both camps in that his work was a philosophical

Simmering beneath all this is, I think, the real aim of the

advance as much as a technological and scientific one.

Ramsay Centres’ largesse. What the Ramsay Centre really

I mention other examples of philosophical advances

seeks to do is to fund a program in Western thinking.

that have changed our world in various surprising ways

And this does seem to me to be unambiguously worth

elsewhere (Davies, 2013).

defending.

This really does need further support,

widespread endorsement, and cultivation.

Along the way, many female thinkers have greatly contributed to the progress of Western thinking as

It also needs more funding.

well, including Mary Wollstonecraft, Ada Lovelace, Mary

Western thinking, as opposed to Western civilisation,

Midgley, Rosalind Franklin, Philippa Foot, and countless

is indeed something to celebrate. While of course the

others.

two often go together – albeit not necessarily so (things

To be sure, there is evidence of Western-style thinking

might have been otherwise) – a distinction needs to be

in many literary works too, in additional to treatises

made between ‘Western thinking’, which is culturally

in philosophy. Bob Carr mentions Dante, Homer,

independent (no-one, and no culture, has a monopoly

Shakespeare and the Greek tragedies as providing an

over thinking) and ‘Western civilisation’ that carries the

instructive basis for philosophical discussion and debate

baggage of hostilities over the ‘history wars’.

on a variety of topics, and to this we can add Jane Austen

While emanating from and originating largely from a

in illuminating and providing a perceptive account of

history of Western traditions, there is nothing intrinsically

human relationships, and many others besides. (My

‘Western’ about it. Indeed, plenty of non-Anglo thinkers

favourite poet is Australian, Kenneth Slessor. His poem

have contributed to it. The great Indian mathematician,

Five Bells is a philosophical meditation about time

Srinivasa Ramanujan, comes to mind, and there are plenty

perception, memory, life and death, and other very

of others; for example, the Arabs in Mesopotamia invented

human experiences.)

the useful concept of ‘zero’. While culturally neutral, Western thinking, as it has

Whither ‘Western’ thinking?

been called, (unsurprisingly) does have a history largely deriving from the West.

From the Pre-Socratics like

Could this thinking have emanated in places other than

Democritus – who invented the atomic theory of the

the Western hemisphere, for example in the Middle

universe – to the earliest musings of Socrates, Plato and

East or Asia? Could the enlightenment have started in

Aristotle (the former two devised a ‘method’ for thinking

China, Thailand or Japan? Could the Renaissance have

62

Three cheers for the Ramsay Centre Martin Davies

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

commenced in India? Could the scientific revolution or

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Postscript

IT revolution have emerged in Indonesia? Could these traditions of innovative Western thinking have arisen

Shortly after this piece was written the Ramsay bequest

elsewhere in the world than where they did?

had found a home at the University of Wollongong. It was

In principle, of course, they could have; in practice, it

announced that: ‘The Centre, funded through a bequest

appears they did not (leaving aside important examples

from the late healthcare magnate Paul Ramsay, will give

such as those mentioned earlier).

UOW more than $50 million over the next eight years

Why not? These are interesting empirical questions. One academic has written an entire book on this

so students can study great thinkers, philosophers and scientists of the Western tradition’ (Baker, 2018).

phenomenon (Kwang, 2001). Another, the psychologist Richard Nisbett (2004), has looked at subtle differences

Martin Davies is an Associate Professor/Principal Fellow

in intercultural thinking patterns and concluded that

in the Melbourne Graduate School for Education at the

there are indeed differences between the thinking of

University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. He works on

those in the ‘West’ and ‘East’, that have resulted in the

topics at the intersection of Philosophy and Education.

enormously disproportionate contributions of ‘Western’

Contact: wmdavies@unimelb.edu.au

thinkers to the history of intellectual thought. Some of the experimental data is summarised at paper-length here (Davies, 2006). Without a program of study that focusses on the unique legacy of Western thinking, and a program that offers a dedicated opportunity to teach and critique such things in an unbiased and coordinated way, we will remain forever in the dark. The Ramsay Centre bequest offers the promise of commencing just such a discussion – by means of a course in Western thinking; thinking that came to us – not only, nor exclusively, but predominantly – from what we call ‘Western civilisation’, an intellectual culture we all contribute to, and enjoy and benefit from daily (see Stephen Pinker’s book Enlightenment Now. Thanks to it, we live in a time where we have the lowest mortality rate, highest life expectancy, lowest amount of murders per community, greatest amount of social services offered, most educated, and the safest time in all world history.) We should perhaps learn to appreciate it more.

Coda It is possible, I think, to chart a course through the Scylla and Charybdis of the ANU/Ramsay dispute. It is possible to buy into the idea that there is a narrative of Western civilisation worth celebrating, and there is certainly good reason to celebrate Western reasoning. Indeed, there probably is no other game in town. Scylla and Charybdis are, of course, a literary allusion and perhaps, as Chesterton observed, it’s probably also a fallacy of the false alternative (in logic) too – at least in respect of this discussion. These are concepts that are probably well worth teaching – as they would be in a dedicated course on the traditions of Western thinking. vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

References Abbott, T. (2018, May 24). Paul Ramsay’s vision for Australia. Quadrant. Retrieved from https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2018/04/paul-ramsays-visionaustralia/ Baker, J. (2018, December 17). University of Wollongong first to run Ramsay’s Western degree. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com. au/education/university-of-wollongong-first-to-run-ramsay-s-Western-degree20181215-p50miq.html Balbones, S. (2018, July 11). Western civ versus Western civilisation-ish. Quadrant. Retrieved from: http://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2018/07/ Western-civ-vs-Western-civilisation-ish/ Bindel, J. (2018, 3 April). Why are so many left-wing progressives silent about Islam’s totalitarian tendencies? Unheard.com. Retrieved from https:// unherd.com/2018/04/many-left-wing-progressives-protest-pope-silent-islamstotalitarian-tendencies-victims-cowardice-overwhelmingly-women/ Cairns, R. (2018, June 6). Western civilisation has moved on and so should those who champion it. The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation. com/Western-civilisation-history-teaching-has-moved-on-and-so-should-thosewho-champion-it-97697 Carr, B. (2018, June 30). The great books broaden minds, pave way for works of other civilisations. The Australian. Retrieved from: https://www.theaustralian. com.au/news/inquirer/the-great-books-broaden-minds-pave-way-for-works-ofother-civilisations/news-story/3bcfe3dc0d27aa6b9a33b630bdfd0128 Coleborne, C. (2017, Nov 21). The concept of ‘Western civilisation’ is past its use-by date in university humanities departments. The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/the-concept-of-Western-civilisation-is-past-itsuse-by-date-in-university-humanities-departments-87750 Craven, P. (2018, June 16). There’s an ugly side but it does not diminish Western civilisation. The Australian. Retrieved from https://www.theaustralian.com. au/news/inquirer/theres-an-ugly-side-but-it-does-not-diminish-Westerncivilisation/news-story/85f850203621f4caeb3f4952000410fc Daly, J. (2013). The rise of Western power. Bloomsbury, UK. Retrieved from https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-rise-of-Western-power-9781441161314/ Davies, M. (2006). Cognitive contours: Recent work on cross-cultural psychology and implication for Education. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 26(1): 13-32. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11217-0069012-4 Davies, M (2013, October 17). A farewell to Arts: On philosophy ARC funding and ‘waste’. The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/afarewell-to-arts-on-philosophy-arc-funding-and-waste-19064 Three cheers for the Ramsay Centre Martin Davies

63


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

Deneen, P. (2016). How a generation lost its common culture. Minding the Campus, retrieved from https://www.mindingthecampus.org/2016/02/02/how-ageneration-lost-its-common-culture/ Groch, S. (2018). Why the ANU walked away from the lucrative Ramsay Centre deal. Canberra Times. Retrieved from https://www.canberratimes.com.au/ national/act/why-the-anu-walked-away-from-the-lucrative-ramsay-centre-deal20180606-p4zjph.html Haines, S. (2018, June 28). No veto or no control: Ramsay response of ANU’s Evans, Schmidt. The Australian. Retrieved from https://www.theaustralian.com. au/opinion/no-veto-or-control-ramsay-response-to-anus-evans-schmidt/newsstory/37f6d7133b47f2edbb1cd9f0715fb219 Kwang, N. A. (2001). Why Asians are less creative than Westerners. PrenticeHall: UK. https://www.amazon.com/Asians-Less-Creative-than-Westerners/ dp/0130404756 Lusher, A. (2017, October, 12). Professor’s ‘bring back colonialism’ call sparks fury and academic freedom debate. The Independent. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/colonialism-academicarticle-bruce-gilley-threats-violence-published-withdrawn-third-worldquarterly-a7996371.html Nisbett, R. (2004). The geography of thought. Free Press: USA. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com.au/Geography-Thought-Asians-Westerners-Differently/ dp/0743255356 Oppy, G. & Trakakis, N. (2014). History of philosophy in Australia and New Zealand. Springer: Netherlands. Retrieved from https://www.springer.com/us/ book/9789400769571

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Tovey, J. (2018, September 5). Academic ridiculed by coalition, says Sydney vice-chancellor. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from https://www.smh. com.au/education/academic-ridiculed-by-coalition-says-sydney-university-vicechancellor-20130905-2t86l.html#ixzz2gc5iMRyX Tupy, M. L. (2018, 5 July). The reports of the death of democracy are exaggeration. Human Progress. Retrieved from https://humanprogress.org/ article.php?p=1386 Turing, A. (1950). Computing machinery and intelligence. Mind LIX(236), 433-460. Urban, R. (2018a, June 28). Ramsay Centre denies bid to meddle in ANU Classes. The Australian. Retrieved from https://www.theaustralian.com.au/highereducation/ramsay-centre-denies-bid-to-meddle-in-anu-classes/news-story/0cac4 0caa86af23802c3bbee876e989d Urban, R. (2018b, June 29). Western civilisation offered at ANU but not as Ramsay knows it. The Australian. Retrieved from https://www.theaustralian. com.au/higher-education/Western-civilisation-offered-at-anu-but-not-asramsay-knows-it/news-story/2a019921620b695cf706da0c954f2610 Windshuttle, K. (2018, June 29). The secret world of academia. Quadrant. Retrieved from http://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2018/07/secret-worldacademia/ Yates, A. (2019, July 16). Code-cracker Turing to be on 50-pound note. The Australian. Retrieved from https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/ codecracker-turing-to-be-on-50pound-note/news-story/75e364efba162f2509340 d1ab372225a

Powell, S. (2018, June 20). ANU has Western civilisation more than covered, academics say. The Australian. Retrieved from https://www.theaustralian. com.au/higher-education/anu-has-Western-civilisation-more-than-coveredacademics-say/news-story/05d874cba44d8418593384605dc49169?login=1

64

Three cheers for the Ramsay Centre Martin Davies

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

The Ramsay Centre and ‘Western Civilisation’ An attempt at historical perspective A reaction to Martin Davies’ paper (this issue) Andrew G. Bonnell University of Queensland

Martin Davies’ paper seeks to vindicate the efforts of the

2018). Davies’ argument relies not only on the proposition

Ramsay Centre to fund courses in ‘Western Civilisation’ at

that the ANU’s Vice-Chancellor and Chancellor were

selected Australian universities. He begins by lamenting

being disingenuous in their public statements on

the rejection of vast amounts of philanthropic money for

university autonomy and academic freedom, but also on

the humanities, and all too quickly dismisses the stated

the argument that Tony Abbott, former Prime Minister and

grounds for the Australian National University’s decision

Ramsay Board member, did not mean what he wrote in

to decline a deal with the Ramsay Centre: ‘The issue of

his now-notorious April 2018 Quadrant article, which

academic autonomy has been raised as a reason, but this

frankly argued that the Centre’s program should take a

is, at best, ostensible’, Davies writes. He then goes on to

specific, explicitly right-wing, ideological position (‘not

defend the concept of courses in Western civilisation

merely about Western civilisation but in favour of it’), and

more generally.

should remain under the control of the Ramsay Board to

Davies’ account of the ANU’s decision not to enter

ensure that its purposes were not subverted by academics

into an arrangement with the Ramsay Centre is flawed.

(Evans 2018; Evans & Schmidt, 2018; Abbott 2018).

(It should also be clarified that the ANU was not being

A reader visiting from another planet might conclude

offered $3 billion, as Davies’ text might suggest – this sum

from Davies’ paper that the ANU had been capricious and

refers to the total wealth of the Ramsay Foundation, not

perverse in refusing a munificent philanthropic donation

the amount the Ramsay program at ANU would have cost.)

for the humanities. This overlooks the fact that a number

Davies relies heavily on the coverage in the Murdoch

of quite serious people at the ANU had felt an obligation

press, which used the incident as an opportunity to

to explore the proposal and its potential benefits in good

hyperventilate for some weeks in a familiar ‘culture wars’

faith and had invested significant effort in the process

mode, but conspicuously failed to engage with the issues

over a number of months before the unacceptable

of university autonomy and academic freedom. Sadly,

nature of the Ramsay Board’s position became clear.

the term ‘academic freedom’ is altogether absent from

It also overlooks the fact that a number of Australian

Davies’ essay, although the ‘Ramsay Centre’s very explicit

universities have welcomed philanthropic donations in

unwillingness to commit to the principle of academic

the humanities, including in areas that could be classified

freedom’ was central to the decision by the ANU’s

as falling under the category of ‘Western civilisation’; for

leadership to withdraw from talks with Ramsay (Evans,

example, the Hansen chair and lectureships in History at

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

The Ramsay Centre and ‘Western Civilisation’ Andrew G. Bonnell

65


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

the University of Melbourne, and a named chair in classics

S Before

I

T the

I

E

S

R

1930s, intellectual

E

V

I

discourse

E

W

about

in my own School at the University of Queensland. These

the relationship between European culture and the

endowments have not been controversial, but they have

United States tended to emphasise difference, rather

not come with the kinds of strings that trailed behind the

than commonalities, between the two. ‘European Anti-

Ramsay centre proposals.

Americanism’ was highly prevalent among cultural

There is a wider debate to be had about ‘philanthropy’:

conservatives and left-leaning critics of capitalism alike,

it should supplement, not replace, more sustainable public

while intellectuals in the United States felt an attachment

funding. Taxation of the wealthy should not be voluntary

to concepts of American exceptionalism. Only in the

(and suggestions that a private health entrepreneur like

1920s did American writers start to develop concepts of

the late Paul Ramsay was able to extract billions of dollars

a common ‘North Atlantic Civilisation’, with the United

from the pockets of the sick, infirm, and dying is a sad

States conceived of as a putative leader of the ‘Western

commentary on Australia’s public health policies, which

world’ and American universities began to introduce

have diverted large sums to the private for-profit sector

courses on ‘Western Civ’ (Saldern, 2017).

in place of improved funding for public health provision).

Prior to the First World War, Europeans themselves did

And ‘philanthropy’ has sometimes been a cover for

not necessarily see themselves as belonging to a single

corporate propaganda in the United States. But as things

‘civilisation’. As is well documented, nineteenth-century

stand, Australian universities currently have a strong bias

German cultural conservatives tended to contrast the

in favour of receiving more philanthropic donations, rather

profundity and inwardness of German Kultur with

than fewer, and they run large-scale campaigns to attract

superficial and materialistic Western (especially French)

more private funding. So, it is implausible for Davies to

civilisation (Elias, 1978; Ringer, 1969). The idea of an

suggest that the ANU made the decision to reject Ramsay

antithesis between German Kultur and French/Western

funding lightly. It is also worth noting that the ANU Vice-

civilisation found heartfelt expression in the book

Chancellor Brian Schmidt (the only Nobel Prize winner

Considerations of an Unpolitical Man by the great German

ever to hold the position of VC of an Australian university)

novelist Thomas Mann (Mann, 1919). Mann later modified

revealed that he consulted the vice-chancellors of

his views (and abandoned his distaste for democratic

Cambridge and Oxford Universities and the Presidents

politics) under the impact of the rise of Nazism. Such

of Yale and Berkeley on the Ramsay proposal ‘and they

opposition to any notion of belonging to a unified Western

agreed it was manifestly not appropriate for ANU to have

civilisation was not confined to Germany: one of the most

done that [agree to the Ramsay proposal], based on our

influential intellectual currents in nineteenth-century

understanding of this course’ (Visontay, 2018).

Russia was Slavophile thought (which later informed

If one makes the assumption (so far, counterfactual)

political pan-Slavism), which posited a fundamental

that the Ramsay Centre and its Board are able to meet the

antithesis between Orthodox Russian culture and Western

threshold tests of commitments to university autonomy

European modernity (Walicki, 1979; 1989 [1975]). In the

and academic freedom, there are still many practical

research and teaching of history in European universities,

questions to be resolved (for example, the duration of

national histories tended to predominate during the

funding for programs and the prospect of funding being

nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, rather than pan-

withdrawn after eight years). A university and its academic

European perspectives on the past.

board would also have to consider the academic merits of a program defined as ‘Western Civilisation’.

In the late 1920s, along with the appearance of books with titles like The Giant of the Western World: America

In the rest of this paper, I will briefly address a number

and Europe in a North Atlantic Civilisation (by F. Miller

of relevant points: firstly, the concept ‘Western Civilisation’

and H. Hill, 1930, cited in Saldern 2017), universities in

has its own, comparatively recent, history, and needs to be

the United States started to teach ‘Western Civilisation’

viewed in its own historical context; secondly, the term

courses, in which European history was integrated

‘civilisation’ has relatively little utility as a unit of scholarly

into ‘a grand, common European-American narrative’

analysis; thirdly, proponents of an academic program on

(Saldern, 2017, p. 22). It has been suggested that ‘Western

(or for) ‘Western Civilisation’ are operating with a reified

Civilisation’ was invented at Columbia University in 1919

and artificially unified concept that breaks up under

(Allardyce, 1982). The heyday of the ‘Western Civ’ course

closer examination; fourthly, that some of the advocacy for

in United States universities was from the 1920s to the

a ‘Western Civilisation’ program betrays an animus against

1960s, a product of the rise of liberal internationalism

the modern, secular, public university.

in the United States in this period and a desire to assert

66

The Ramsay Centre and ‘Western Civilisation’ Andrew G. Bonnell

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

American democratic values in the face of the rise of

human history, culminating in Western civilisation (even

‘totalitarianism’ in much of Europe, as well as educational

if Toynbee seems to have had an ambivalent view of the

reforms such as the emphasis on a common generalist core

latter and a pessimistic view of its trajectory). Toynbee’s

as a counterbalance to more specialist research training

work was subjected to trenchant criticism in his own

(from different perspectives, see Allardyce, 1982; Segal,

time, notably by the distinguished Dutch historian Pieter

2000). The Dean of Columbia summed up the objectives

Geyl, who accused Toynbee of being more a prophet

of the ‘Contemporary Civ’ course, as it was initially known,

than a historian (Geyl, 1970 [1955]; 1967 [1961]). For

as promoting liberal opinion, acculturating the young and

all his erudition, Toynbee’s volumes are largely unread

producing a ‘citizen who shall be safe for democracy’

today by historians – his concept of the civilisation as

(Allardyce, 1982, p.707). The ‘Western Civ’ course was

a unit of analysis for history has not been a fertile one.

committed to what Herbert Butterfield was starting to

Hardly any historian has chosen to follow Toynbee to the

call a ‘Whig conception of history’: history moved in

heights of his meta-historical God’s-eye vantage point.

a discernible, progressive direction until it ends in our

Since the 1960s, historians have studied societies, rather

present state of things. ‘Western Civ’ history depicted

than ‘civilisations’, and Toynbee’s system has not spoken

history as the progressive unfolding of freedom in the

to the concerns of subsequent scholars.

West, culminating in the constitution of the United States.

The reception and ultimate non-reception of Toynbee

During the Cold War, this took on an added political inflection, conveyed in the common tag used to describe ‘Western Civ’ courses: ‘From Plato to NATO’. However, not long after the end of the Second World War, ‘Western Civ’ courses started to fray at the edges. Well

before

the

raise the question of the

...much innovative historical work in the last two decades has focussed on the transnational and global dimension of history, and on the interconnections and mutual influences between disparate cultures. Against the backdrop of the new global history, the idea of a delimited Western civilisation now seems parochial.

utility of the concept of ‘civilisation’ as a unit of historical study. Furthermore, if Toynbee was able to chastise

many

contemporary

of

his

historians

for what he considered a comparatively

parochial

focus on national histories,

student

much innovative historical

movement of the 1960s,

work in the last two decades

Harvard academics started to question the Eurocentric

has focussed on the transnational and global dimension

nature of the ‘Western Civ’ course in a decolonising

of history, and on the interconnections and mutual

world (Allardyce, 1982). The ‘Western Civ’ course not

influences between disparate cultures.

only seemed increasingly anachronistic by the 1960s, its

backdrop of the new global history, the idea of a delimited

place at the centre of a ‘general education’ undergraduate

Western civilisation now seems parochial.

Against the

curriculum was increasingly undermined by the rise of

As late as 1965, Hugh Trevor-Roper could begin a book

electives, specialisation, and an emphasis on equipping

(for a popular illustrated history series) on The Rise

students to research history themselves instead of

of Christian Europe by dismissing students’ emerging

learning a prescribed narrative (Allardyce, 1982).

interest in the history of Africa before European conquest

It was during the apogee of the ‘Western Civilisation’

with the words: ‘Then indeed we may neglect our own

course in the United States, that the British historian

history and amuse ourselves with the unrewarding

Arnold Toynbee undertook his ambitious, if not heroic,

gyrations of barbarous tribes in picturesque but irrelevant

attempt to write world history as the history of a

corners of the globe’ (Trevor-Roper, 1965, p. 9). At the same

succession of ‘civilisations’ in his A Study of History

time as Trevor-Roper was writing these words, Geoffrey

(1934-1964), which

twelve

Barraclough, himself an expert in medieval German

volumes, including an atlas and gazetteer volume and

history, published a series of lectures on the new field of

a final volume entitled Reconsiderations (a reply

contemporary history, in which he identified the revolt of

to his numerous critics). Toynbee constructed a

Asia and Africa against European hegemony as probably the

schematic pattern of the genesis, growth, breakdown

most significant theme of the twentieth century:

eventually

comprised

and disintegration of civilisations. Toynbee argued that civilisations were the most meaningful unit of historical study, and that there had been 21 of them in recorded vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

The resurgence of Asia and Africa has given a quality to contemporary history different from anything that has gone before; the collapse of empire is one The Ramsay Centre and ‘Western Civilisation’ Andrew G. Bonnell

67


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

of its themes, but the other, and more significant, is the advance of the peoples of Asia and Africa – and, more slowly, but no less surely, of Latin America – to a place of new dignity in the world (Barraclough, 1967 [1964], p. 198).

appreciation of the internal complexity of cultures and

Of these two opinions, it is Barraclough’s that has

neo-conservative politics and a Manichaean view of an

proven to be the more prescient, and more fruitful for

inevitable clash between the ‘West’ and the ‘Islamic world’.

subsequent historical research in the last half century. In

It is useful to know where this term has been before we

contrast, Trevor-Roper’s comments seem shocking today,

turn to its use in the Ramsay Centre debate.

their mutual interactions and influences over centuries. Since Huntington’s essay, the controversial revival of the term ‘Western Civilisation’ has been associated with

not just for their casual racism, but for their wilful embrace

A programmatic essay on ‘Western Civilisation’ by Greg

of ignorance about the world outside Europe. Despite

Melleuish of the University of Wollongong published

such conservatism in parts of the history profession, we

on the Ramsay Centre website begins with some very

have learned far more about the ‘gyrations’ of peoples

sensible observations, including that the term ‘Western

outside Europe in the last half-century, and few practising

civilisation does not really appear on the scene until the

historians would advocate returning to Trevor-Roper’s

twentieth century and is largely an American creation’.

more obscurantist views.

He also notes that the term ‘Western civilisation’‘does not

If historians today mostly find the term ‘civilisation’ too

have a single fixed meaning but can be used in a number

wide and diffuse to operationalise for analytical purposes

of different ways’ (Melleuish, 2018, p. 1). Melleuish

(and at the same time, potentially exclusionary of other

also allows that: ‘Civilisations are not hermits’ but

cultures and societies), advocates of a revival of ‘Western

encounter each other and are subject to the reciprocal

Civ’ programs are undeterred by such scholarly scruples.

influences of other ‘civilisations’ (Melleuish, 2018, pp.

As suggested above, there is a tendency by advocates of

2-3). However, by the end of the brief essay, Melleuish

projects like the Ramsay Centre to deploy a reified and

writes in a way that seems to attribute agency and even

totalising concept of ‘Western Civilisation’, despite the

a kind of personhood to the West, raising the question

vast contradictions such a sweeping construct has to

of whether the ‘West had an inbuilt inferiority complex’,

include within itself.

for example, while the West is also characterised as

The term ‘Western Civilisation’ started to make a

curious and open to new ideas (Melleuish, 2018, pp. 8-9).

comeback, not among historians, but among the US

Interestingly, Melleuish discusses ‘civilisation’ in terms of

political science establishment, as its leaders sought a

what he calls ‘cultural patterning’, bracketing out factors

role for themselves after the end of the Cold War. In 1993,

such as economics or political power. But it is highly

the prominent political scientist Samuel Huntington

questionable that one can understand the trajectories of

published an article in the high-profile journal Foreign

European and North American history without analysing

Affairs which proclaimed that ‘global politics’ would

the influence of these factors.

henceforth be dominated by a ‘clash of civilisations’,

Martin Davies also prefers to focus on what he calls

which was replacing the previous existential conflict

‘Western thinking’, rather than the material historical

between capitalist democracy and communism. For

dimensions of the rise of Western societies (which may,

Huntington, the world consisted of about eight (or seven,

on closer examination, turn out to be less edifying). He

or maybe nine) discrete civilisations, whose differing

also acknowledges that Western civilisation is ‘not as

cultural identities would necessarily lead to irreconcilable

simple as a single narrative of White Men Rule’ and that

conflicts. The main conflict would be between the ‘West’

it has interacted with other civilisations. But while Davies

and ‘Islam’ (Huntington, 1993). Huntington’s thesis gained

is willing to jettison a straw-man version of a ‘“Dead

intense publicity, and his John M. Olin Institute for Strategic

White Males” view of history’, he still wishes to defend a

Studies attracted enormous funding from the right-wing

concept of ‘Western civilisation’ as a more or less unified

Olin Foundation, boosting the influence of his views

phenomenon,which he insists on investing with essentially

and their popularity among American neo-conservatives

positive characteristics (preferable to alternatives, such as

(Mayer, 2016). Huntington’s views came under sustained

Islamic State or North Korea). He concludes:‘It is possible

criticism, however, from writers, including the late

to buy-into the idea that there is a narrative of Western

Edward Said (2001), who queried the perpetuation of

civilisation worth celebrating, and there is certainly good

a binary ‘West versus the rest’ view of the world in the

reason to celebrate western reasoning. Indeed, there is

post-Cold War global environment, the essentialising

probably no other game in town.’ But is it the purpose

depiction of cultural difference as opposed to an

of higher education to ‘celebrate’ its object of study, or to

68

The Ramsay Centre and ‘Western Civilisation’ Andrew G. Bonnell

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

understand it better, and is it in keeping with the legacy

the motto ‘écrasez l’infâme’ – ‘crush the infamous

of the Enlightenment, which Davies specifically praises, to

thing’, referring to the bigotry of the Church? That the

do so uncritically?

enthusiasm of the Ramsay Centre for the Enlightenment

In focussing on ‘Western thinking’, conservative

is somewhat tempered in practice is illustrated by their

intellectual supporters of the Ramsay Centre present

apparent reluctance to subscribe to precepts of academic

a positive view of a progressive narrative of Western

freedom, and the wish of the Ramsay Centre to monitor

civilisation (although there is also a culturally pessimistic

teaching in their sponsored programs to ensure that

ultra-conservative counter-narrative, as we shall see

teaching staff do not overstep the allowable bounds of

below). Conservative British historian (and outspoken

criticism in relation to the history of the West.

‘Brexiteer’) Robert Tombs defines Western civilisation

In a historical version of the ‘is-ought problem’

as ‘the sum total of our laws, our values, our arts, our

formulated by the eighteenth-century philosopher David

institutions, of the habits of mind and heart that enable

Hume, some advocates for the Ramsay Centre construe

us to live, fairly harmoniously, together …’ (Tombs,

the success of Western European countries and North

2018). While Tombs acknowledges the complexity of

America in achieving economic and

defining Western civilisation, he comes down on the

hegemony over much of the non-European world in the

side of those who argue for the existence of a ‘bedrock’

nineteenth and twentieth centuries as proof of the ethical

or ‘core’ of ‘ideas, practices and institutions’. There have been forces within the West that have rejected these core values – Tombs mentions ‘the Bolsheviks and the Nazis’ – but the influence of such

imperial/military

or normative superiority of

That the enthusiasm of the Ramsay Centre for the Enlightenment is somewhat tempered in practice is illustrated by their apparent reluctance to subscribe to precepts of academic freedom...

the West over the rest. (For examples of the insistence that the historical success of the West demonstrates its normative superiority over other civilisations, one could

movements on the course of

cite

history has been short-lived.

op-eds in the Murdoch press

Thus,Tombs is effectively suggesting that one can sort the

numerous, repetitive

by conservative education commentator Kevin Donnelly).

history of Europe and North America into a progressive

Historians and social scientists have devoted much

core (from ancient Greece to the middle ages, the rule of

intellectual labour to accounting for the economic

law, the scientific method, the Enlightenment, etc.) and

dynamism leading to industrialisation and then the

negative phenomena which are a priori defined as outside

imposition of Western imperial rule over most of Africa

and against Western civilisation. It is a return to the kind

and much of Asia. Explanations include analyses of

of Whig conception of history diagnosed by Herbert

ecological and geographical factors, the co-existence of

Butterfield in the 1930s.

political decentralisation and diverse state structures with

The boosters of the Ramsay Centre celebrate a reified

the ‘normative pacification’ enabled by the institutions

version of the history of ‘Western Civilisation’, with a

of Christendom, the rise of merchant capital and urban

narrative of stately progress from the classical Greeks to

self-government, the imposition of an unequal system

medieval Christendom,through to the Reformation and the

of exchange relations after the early modern European

Enlightenment. One wonders, however, how sincere the

incursions into the New World, and the successful

enthusiasm is for the Reformation and the Enlightenment

application of military technology. Revisionist writers

among some of the ultra-conservative Catholics among

like John M. Hobson (2004) and Andre Gunder Frank

the Ramsay cheer squad, such as Tony Abbott and Bella

(1998) have sought to challenge Eurocentric models of

d’Abrera, the in-house expert on ‘Western Civilisation’

explanation by drawing attention to the technological

for the corporate advocacy ‘think-tank’, the Institute for

and economic achievements of China and other parts of

Public Affairs. Can one simultaneously embrace, say, the

Asia, which were successfully appropriated by Europeans.

Spanish Inquisition (the subject of d’Abrera’s PhD) and

Jürgen Osterhammel’s magisterial global history of the

celebrate Voltaire, who excoriated the Inquisition in

nineteenth-century ‘transformation of the world’ stresses

his Candide, raged against the torture and execution of

the vitality and richness of Asian cultures and societies, and

the Huguenot Jean Calas in 1763 as a result of religious

the degree to which their development was comparable

prejudice, devoting three years to the campaign to have

to Europe before the ‘great divergence’ of the first half

the conviction quashed (Besterman, 1969), and adopted

of the nineteenth century, which saw the extension

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

The Ramsay Centre and ‘Western Civilisation’ Andrew G. Bonnell

69


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

of European dominance. This divergence was due to

formation of students’ values, and the more research-

a complex multiplicity of factors, including Europe’s

oriented, more ‘scientific’ mode of education of the

primacy in the exploitation of fossil fuel energy sources,

post-Wilhelm von Humboldt modern secular university,

the role of legal systems, and cultural and political barriers

which puts a priority on disciplinary training and

to technology diffusion in non-European societies, among

equipping students to discover new knowledge as well

others (Osterhammel, 2009). Equating the successful

as learning about existing bodies of knowledge. On the

imposition of European power over non-European parts

‘Indicative Curriculum’ displayed on the Ramsay website

of the world with ethical or normative superiority would

(Ramsay Centre n.d. [2018]) , there is a sample set of

underplay the role of violence in this process, and would

courses, nearly all of which are comprised of lists of

understate the significance of slavery, the destruction of

‘Great Books’ of the Western tradition (and one course,

indigenous societies, economic exploitation, the opium

out of 18, on comparative literature which includes a

trade (a mainstay of Britain’s imperial economy in Asia

few non-Western authors). Only one course lists what

in the early nineteenth century), and other fundamental

could be called works of ‘secondary literature’, which

characteristics of European expansion. The Ramsay

is a unit on the ‘History of Ideas’, and which mostly

curriculum allows little space to consider such factors,

consists of older canonical texts in the field (by authors

and too much discussion of them in classes (while

such as Arthur Lovejoy, Thomas Kuhn, and others).

consistent with the critical legacy of the Enlightenment)

Almost the only recent secondary work a student

might lead to sanctions and withdrawal of funding, in the

would encounter as a set reading is Brad Gregory’s The

light of Abbott’s insistence on a favourable portrayal of

Unintended Reformation (2012). Gregory’s book is a

Western civilisation.

highly polemical take on Western culture and thought

Martin Davies, a philosopher, cites the success of

since the Protestant Reformation, which he blames for

analytic philosophy as a proof of the superior qualities of

disrupting the harmony of the Western Christian world

Western civilisation. I was personally interested to see this,

and ultimately for a number of phenomena of which he

as one of my colleagues at the University of Queensland,

disapproves, including the modern secular university.

Joel Katzav, another philosopher, has been researching the

Gregory argues from what Mark Lilla has characterised

history of the rise of analytic philosophy, and attributes its

as a ‘theoconservative’ position (Lilla, 2012), which is

dominance in the academy not to its innate superiority

profoundly anti-modernist, and which ends up calling

over other kinds of philosophy, but to the notable success

for a reversal of the secularisation of the academy (see

of analytic philosophers in the mid-twentieth century

the review by Kathleen Crowther (2012) on this point).

in gaining control of key philosophy departments and

As Gregory’s book is the only text published this

journals, and monopolising them, thereby marginalising

century to be listed on the Ramsay Centre’s curriculum

other traditions of philosophy, both Western and non-

web-page, it is not too far-fetched to see it as a potentially

Western (especially Indian) (Katzav 2017; 2018). What

programmatic manifesto for the Ramsay project. If

one reader might consider to be a narrative of intellectual

Gregory’s theoconservative manifesto is the most recent

superiority, another may construe as a history of the

book listed there, the oldest texts are the works of Homer,

sectarian and monopolistic exercise of power, this time in

The Iliad and The Odyssey. It is to Homer that we owe

the academic sphere.

the story of the Trojan Horse, the notorious ‘Greek gift’,

Questions of norms and values loom large in the

which the defenders of Troy were tricked into hauling

statements of proponents of the Ramsay Centre, such

through their city gates. At the time of writing, the

as Tony Abbott and Kevin Donnelly, who stress the

theoconservative backers of the Ramsay Centre have

fundamental role of knowledge about the Christian

parked their Trojan Horses outside the gates of two of

origins of Western civilisation in the proposed academic

our secular public universities (the University of Sydney

program. One of the themes that emerges clearly from

and the University of Queensland), and are negotiating to

discussions with people associated with the Ramsay

be allowed inside. If Tony Abbott and Brad Gregory are

Centre (including at a recent symposium on ‘The Liberal

trustworthy guides, their mission is to try to ‘unsecularise’

Arts in the 21st Century’ in Brisbane on 17 September

the university and wind back half a millennium of free

2018 hosted by the University of Queensland’s Institute

thought. No wonder the Australian National University

for Advanced Studies in the Humanities) is a clear

couldn’t get the Ramsay Board to sign a pledge to commit

tension between a conception of a US-style ‘liberal

to academic freedom.

arts’ education, which puts a strong emphasis on the

70

The Ramsay Centre and ‘Western Civilisation’ Andrew G. Bonnell

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

Andrew Bonnell is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Queensland, Australia, and National VicePresident (Academic Staff) of the NTEU. His research interests include modern German and European history.

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Katzav, J. (2017). The Disappearance of Modern Indian Philosophy from Mind and the Philosophical Review, 25 January. Retrieved from http:// digressionsnimpressions.typepad. com/digressionsimpressions/2017/01/thedisappearance-of-modern-indianphilosophy-from-mind-and-the-philosophicalreview.html.

Contact: a.bonnell@uq.edu.au

Katzav, J. (2018). Analytic Philosophy, 1925-1969: Emergence, Management and Nature, British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 26(6), 1197-1221.

References

Lilla, M. (2012). Blame it on the Reformation, The New Republic, 14 September. Retrieved from https://newrepublic.com/article/107211/wittenberg-wal-mart

Abbott, T. (2018). Paul Ramsay’s Vision for Australia, Quadrant, April. Retrieved from https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2018/04/paul-ramsays-vision-australia/ dated 24 May.

Mann, T. (1919). Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen, Berlin: S. Fischer Verlag.

Allardyce, G. (1982). The Rise and Fall of the Western Civilization Course, American Historical Review, 87(3), 695-725. Barraclough, G. (1967 [1964]). An Introduction to Contemporary History, Harmondsworth: Penguin. Besterman, T. (1969). Voltaire, London and Harlow, Longmans. Crowther, K. (2012). Review of Gregory, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society, H-HRE, H-Net reviews, September. Retrieved from https://networks.h-net.org/node/15337/reviews/15467/crowthergregory-unintended-reformation-how-religious-revolution Elias, N. (1978). The Civilizing Process. The History of Manners (trans. B. Jephcott), Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Evans, G. (2018). Maintaining Universities’ raison d’être: Meeting the challenge, Inaugural Chancellor’s Oration, 11th National Conference on University Governance: The Challenge of Change for Australian Universities, University Chancellor’s Council (UCC), Adelaide, 4 October. Retrieved from http://www. gevans.org/speeches/Speech668.html Evans, G. & Schmidt, B. (2018). VC’s Update – our viewpoints on Ramsay. 25 June. Retrieved from http://www.anu.edu.au/news/all-news/vcs-update-ourviewpoints-on-ramsay Frank, A. G. (1998). ReORIENT: Global Economy in the Asian Age, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press. Geyl, P. (1967 [1961]). Encounters in History, London: Fontana/ Collins. Geyl, P. (1970 [1955]). Debates with Historians, London: Fontana/ Collins. Gregory, B. S. (2012). The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Hobson, J.M. (2004). The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mayer, J. (2016). Dark Money, Brunswick, Victoria: Scribe. Melleuish, G. (2018). ‘Western Civilisation’, on website of The Ramsay Centre. Retrieved from https://www.ramsaycentre.org/professor-greg-melleuish-politicalscientist-and-historian-at-the-university-of-wollongong-explores-the-questionwhat-is-western-civilisation/western-civilisation-gm-002/ Osterhammel, J. (2009). Die Verwandlung der Welt. Eine Geschichte des 19. Jahrhunderts, Munich: C.H. Beck. Ramsay Centre (n.d. [2018]). Indicative Curriculum: BA (Western Civilisation). Retrieved from https://www.ramsaycentre.org/wp-content/ uploads/2018/11/Indicative-Curriculum-BA-Western-Civilisation-updated.pdf Ringer, F. (1969). The Decline of the German Mandarins. The German Academic Community, 1890-1933, Cambridge MA: Harvard UP. Said, Edward. (2001) ‘The Clash of Ignorance’, The Nation, 4 October. Saldern, A. von (2017). Benchmark Europe: Liberalism and Cultural Nationalism in the United States, 1900-1930, Bulletin of the German Historical Institute (Washington DC) 60, Spring, 5-24. Segal, D.A. (2000). ‘Western Civ’ and the Staging of History in American Higher Education, American Historical Review, 105(3), 770-805. Tombs, R. (2018). Liberals are undermining western civilisation, on website of The Ramsay Centre. Retrieved from https://www.ramsaycentre.org/liberalsundermining-western-civlisation/ Trevor-Roper, H. (1965). The Rise of Christian Europe, London: Thames and Hudson. Visontay, E. (2018). Oxbridge, Yale backed ANU’s Ramsay stance, The Australian (Higher Education supplement), 10 October. Walicki, A. (1979). A History of Russian Thought. From the Enlightenment to Marxism (trans. H. Andrews-Rusiecka), Stanford CA: Stanford UP. Walicki, A. (1989. [1975]) The Slavophile Controversy, Notre Dame IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

Huntington, Samuel (1993) ‘The Clash of Civilizations?’, Foreign Affairs, Summer.

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

The Ramsay Centre and ‘Western Civilisation’ Andrew G. Bonnell

71


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

The End of Endeavour The short and tumultuous life of ‘Australia’s Fulbright’, the Endeavour program Joanne Barker RMIT University

Introduction

for different purposes, ranging from one-month executive fellowships for Australian working professionals (value

In April 2019, the Australian Government’s well-regarded

$A8000 per person), to four-year incoming PhD programs

Endeavour Leadership Program was quietly scuttled. Since

covering tuition fees, living allowances, flights and more

2003, the Endeavour program (previously known as the

(value $A272,000 per person).

Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships program) had

The result was an excessively complex and bureaucratic

supported Australian postgraduate students, researchers

program which, as funds diminished incrementally in

and career professionals to study overseas. It also brought

successive Budgets over several years, tried to spread itself

talented international scholars and fellows to Australia

too thinly between the multiple components it contained.

from all over the world. On the data available for the

It became increasingly difficult for stakeholders working

past 12 years, about 2000 Australians and 4500 foreign

in universities to understand what Endeavour was about

nationals were the recipients of Endeavour awards.

and for whom it was intended.The program was delivered

The official rationale for the termination was that

by the Department of Education and Training, but

the money would be more effectively used to fund a

confusion was exacerbated by the official name ‘Australia

scholarship program for studies at regional Australian

Awards Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships’, which

universities. The beneficiaries of the new program will

blurred the identities between Endeavour and the larger

be a few Australians and incoming international students

‘Australia Awards’ aid scholarship program offered by

who wish to study in regional Australia, outside the major

the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

metropolises. The losers are a larger number of Australian

Unlike the major DFAT scholarships programs (Australia

researchers and professionals who wish to advance their

Awards and the New Colombo Plan), Endeavour lacked a

work overseas, and many international scholars who wish

political champion. Not since the days of Brendan Nelson,

to access the best research and professional development

Education Minister from 2001 to 2006, had Endeavour had

opportunities available in Australia.

strong representation at the highest levels in Canberra.

Endeavour

was

a

two-way

program,

which

differentiated it significantly from other Australian

Endeavour is launched

government international scholarships programs. But it suffered from a ‘cure-all elixir quality which allowed it

Where did it all begin 16 years ago? The Endeavour

as a policy prescription to be spread too thinly to try to

Scholarships and Fellowships program was launched in

achieve everything’ (Anderson & Barker, 2019). Within

the 2003-04 Budget by the Howard Government as part

the two primary categories – incoming and outgoing – it

of a package of support for international education. It was

encompassed a complicated framework of sub-categories

created at a time when international student enrolments

72

The End of Endeavour Joanne Barker

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

in Australia were growing at a rapid rate. International

targeted inbound postgraduate students and outbound

education is dependent on strong relationships and those

Australian teachers of languages other than English.

relationships are undermined when Australia is perceived

Subsequently, the program evolved haphazardly through

to selfishly take without reciprocally giving back. As

numerous iterations depending upon the government of

Education Minister in 2003, Brendan Nelson issued the

the day and its policy priorities. As Prime Minister in 2008,

‘Ministerial Statement on International Education’ which

Kevin Rudd introduced the Prime Minister’s Australia-

pointed out that internationalisation is a two-way process,

Asia Awards as an elite ‘Asian Rhodes’ program, and his

and that there are significant benefits for Australians from

successor Julia Gillard created the AsiaBound program, a

the experiences and relationships developed through

broad-based initiative to support short-term mobility to

international education (Nelson, 2003). At that time, less

Asia. The funding for both these programs was carved

than one per cent of Australian students travelled abroad

out of existing Endeavour funding without any new

for study experiences. Endeavour served to redistribute

money, hence the tinkering with and shifting priorities of

some of the enormous economic benefits Australia

Endeavour began.

receives from educating privately-funded international

Meanwhile, on the other side of the political divide, Julie

students. The scholarships also assisted Australian

Bishop as Shadow Education Minister was considering

universities with new market development opportunities

another scholarship initiative, bearing some resemblance

and further diversification of the regions from which

to the Labor government initiatives AsiaBound and the

international students came.

PM’s Australia-Asia Awards. Bishop’s signature program,

Michael Gallagher – notable education bureaucrat,

the New Colombo Plan, was launched in 2014 after the

university administrator, and later Group of Eight Executive

Coalition had won government and Bishop had become

Director – was one of the key architects of the Endeavour

Foreign Minister. The New Colombo Plan (NCP) offered

program. He identifies ‘immigration, cultural-strategic and

young Australians elite scholarships to Indo-Pacific

commercial’ as the three major themes underpinning the

countries and support for broad-based short-term mobility

Australian government’s engagement with international

for undergraduates within the region. This new program,

education since 1950 (Davis & Macintosh, 2011, p. 116).

unlike Endeavour with its broad remit, was targeted

In the case of Endeavour, Gallagher suggests that it was

specifically to a particular cohort – young Australian

created in recognition of the cultural-strategic dimension

undergraduates studying in the Indo-Pacific.

of international education. It was intended to attract highperforming students from many countries around the

Endeavour runs aground

world (not only those countries which were eligible for Australian aid) and provide opportunities for Australians

In the last three years of Endeavour’s life, the Government

to undertake studies overseas. Importantly, the Endeavour

sent confusing signals as to the purpose and importance

initiative also served as a response to the pleas from Vice-

of the program. In November 2017, the Foreign Policy

Chancellors for more government support for international

White Paper declared: ‘Endeavour Scholarships and

education in Australia, which was increasingly perceived

Fellows and Endeavour Mobility Grants …build Australia’s

around the world as ‘all take and no give’.

reputation for excellence in the provision of education

The program’s name, Endeavour, was taken from the

and research’ (Australian Government, 2017, p. 111). Yet

ship in which Captain James Cook sailed to Australia in

just a few months later the Government announced that

1770. It is not known whether this had a detrimental

Endeavour’s budget would be cut by $63 million over four

impact on the uptake by Indigenous Australians of the

years, with an immediate cut of $7.2 million (Australian

Endeavour fellowships, one component of which was

Government, 2018, p 36). To achieve the budget cut,

specifically designated for Indigenous applicants.

Endeavour’s mobility grants component would be merged with its scholarship component to create the newly-

Endeavour sets sail

named ‘Endeavour Leadership Program’. The purpose, it was stated, was ‘to better target the delivery of the

In its first iteration in 2003, Education Minister Nelson

previous Endeavour programs to ensure that overseas

created the new Endeavour program to ‘boost the profile

study education, training and research opportunities for

of Australia’s education sector in overseas markets’

Australia’s highest-performing students, researchers and

(Nelson, 2003) and to diversify away from traditional

professionals are sustainable into the future and aligned

recruitment markets and disciplines. Initially the program

with the Australian Government’s strategic priorities’

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

The End of Endeavour Joanne Barker

73


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

[emphasis added] (Birmingham, 2018).This led to lengthy

Many individual applicants asked for an explanation. A

bureaucratic processes to bind the two components

response from the Department posted on the Whirlpool

together, which emerged looking remarkably like the two

blog showed how competitive the round had been.

original separate components. The long-awaited opening

There had been 7049 applications for the 107 individual

of applications for the 2019 round was received with

awards, and this was the lowest number of awards ever

great anticipation among the hopeful beneficiaries.

made – in the previous year there had been almost 700

In due course, Minister Tehan announced the 2019

awards. In 2019, the 65 Australian and 42 international

winners of Endeavour scholarships for local and foreign

individuals who succeeded represent a success rate lower

students. The Minister’s press statement trumpeted its

than 1.5 per cent and presumably an enormous amount

support for ‘2095 Australians with [international] study

of time and effort in selection.The success rate compares

and research grants’ and ‘387 international leaders [to

unfavourably with the American Fulbright program which

undertake] education and research at Australian institutions’

reportedly had success rates of around 22–24 per cent

(Tehan, 2019). Enthusiastic tweeting from the Department

in the period 2013–2016 (ProFellow, 2018). Endeavour’s

of Education and Training followed. Behind the scenes,

success rate of 1.5 per cent means that in 2019 an

however, the axe was ready to fall, which unbeknown to all

Endeavour award was almost as difficult to win as a

was scheduled to happen just 25 days later.

Rhodes scholarship, which anecdotally has a success rate

The impact of the 2019 round on hopeful international

of about 0.7 per cent.

applicants was devastating. The numbers announced in

Even on the night Endeavour was axed, the Budget

the Minister’s press statement caused immense confusion.

paper in which the death warrant was signed contained

Australian applicants were dismayed by the apparent

direct contradictions, with the following two statements:

contradiction between the ‘2095 places for Australians’

‘Objective: International education is increasingly important to Australia’s prosperity and our engagement with the world. The program aims to support the sustainable growth of Australia’s high-quality international education, training and research through strong government-to-government engagement, international mobility, strategic policy and legislation.

and the list of just 65 individual Australian names. The comparatively low cost per student of the mobility programs had encouraged the Government to offer more mobility places than in previous years, at the cost of the prestigious individual awards. This, it turns out, was the explanation for the mismatch between the number of places announced by the Minister, and the very short list of individual awardees released on the same day. On the incoming (international) side, there were just two offers to incoming PhD scholars, two to masters, and two to VET programs – a total of six long-term incoming places to international applicants. By comparison, in 2018

Delivery: Ongoing support for individual and institutional grants for inbound and outbound students, researchers and professionals to undertake projects and study exchanges through the Endeavour Leadership Program, which will cease after 2019.’ [Emphasis added] (Australian Government Department of Education and Training, 2019, p. 52).

there had been 52 incoming PhDs, 84 incoming masters’

In summary, over a period of 16 years Endeavour’s

scholars and 30 incoming VET places – a reduction of

sails flapped helplessly against the prevailing political

96 per cent across these three categories. International

and bureaucratic winds. The program had a ‘history of

applicants understandably felt that they had been duped

offering a little bit of everything to everyone depending

into applying for scholarships which essentially did not

upon where one looked and at what moment of time’

exist. A contributor to the Whirlpool.net.au discussion

(Anderson & Barker, 2019). The result was an excessively

forum wrote:

complex and bureaucratic program without a champion,

‘I have spent about $1,900 for my IELTS test, for notary fee, and for my flight to get some documents from my home country. I’m totally fine if my application is not successful due to my lousy application, but seeing there are only two awardees I feel I should not put in such efforts for this scholarship.’ (Whirlpool, 2019)

highly susceptible to being picked off.

The New Colombo Plan leads the fleet Any discussion of the Endeavour program is not complete without reference to the New Colombo Plan (NCP),

At best, the results were nearly impossible to explain

established in 2014. Its rise over the past five years has

and at worst masked a major shift in policy.The Whirlpool

been inversely proportional to the decline of Endeavour.

blog exploded, and even experienced commentators such

Located within the Foreign Affairs portfolio as part of

@harejulie tweeted ‘This is bizarre’.

the Government’s soft power approach, it also carries

74

The End of Endeavour Joanne Barker

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

key educational objectives. The program is focused on

awards, which understandably led to comparisons with

the young (aged 18–28) and aims to develop a change in

NCP. Under the Endeavour mobility stream, places were

cultural attitudes by Australians towards Asia.

for coursework students (including undergraduates) and

In its first year, NCP was available for study experiences

were not available to research students or professionals,

only in Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Indonesia, but

so it became more difficult to discern Endeavour’s unique

it expanded quickly to include 40 counties in the Indo-

purpose, other than covering different regions. As I have

Pacific. It has steadfastly stuck with its original remit, as a

stated, Endeavour and NCP are funded through different

program for young Australian undergraduates, the majority

government departments, but as the Endeavour program

of whom undertake international study experiences of

moved towards something which looked remarkably like

just two to four weeks in duration.The highly competitive

NCP, and less like something which supported research

‘NCP scholarships’ elite component of the program offers

excellence, it became more difficult to identify its unique

longer-term opportunities and offshore internships and

value proposition.

is available to a small number of high-achieving students each year. In its engagement with the private sector, NCP

Heading for the scrapyard

differs significantly from Endeavour, as NCP has built its resources and longevity by leveraging private sector

The sub-categories in the Endeavour program given

contributions.

priority over the years have waxed and waned with

In the five years that both schemes have coexisted,

political priorities. Data in the form of recipients’ names on

NCP and Endeavour supported international education

the Department’s website enables us to see that in all but

values and priorities. However, Endeavour’s primary

two years (2013 and 2019), the majority of awards were

policy focus was education, with soft diplomacy benefits

made to international applicants, but in 2013 and 2019, the

seen as a potential additional dimension. NCP is the inverse, with diplomacy being the primary

objective. Unlike

NCP which is for young undergraduates, focused research In

on

Endeavour

postgraduate,

and

vocational.

addition,

Endeavour

majority of Endeavour places

...as the Endeavour program moved towards something which looked remarkably like NCP [New Colombo Plan], and less like something which supported research excellence, it became more difficult to identify its unique value proposition.

reached beyond currently

were awarded to Australians rather

than

international

applicants. What happened in these two exceptional years?

Could it have been

because an election was imminent,

and

because

international students do not vote in Australian elections?

enrolled students to provide

The political parallels are

international learning opportunities for professionals

stark. As the 2013 awards were being finalised in late 2012,

in employment. Endeavour offered both outbound

the then-Labor government was struggling in the opinion

support for Australians and inbound support for foreign

polls. Gillard was still PM in an unstable environment

students, while NCP only supports young Australians

after having fought off the first Rudd challenge. In early

going overseas. A separate program again (and one which

2019 we saw a strikingly similar scenario, this time with

dwarfs both Endeavour and NCP in terms of funding) is

the Coalition in power, and newly-minted PM Morrison

the Australia Awards scholarships, the part of Australia’s

shoring up the Government’s position amidst uncertainty

aid program which supports incoming postgraduate

and key front bench resignations. Behind the scenes, the

students from developing countries. Endeavour’s eligible

Endeavour program was being tinkered with, apparently

regions covered almost the whole world, unlike all other

for political ends.

Australian international scholarship programs in which regions are strictly circumscribed.

Many Endeavour alumni are still not aware that the program has been axed. On Twitter, @DJMay19 wrote:

The 2018 changes to Endeavour, which merged the

‘This is horrible. I hadn’t realised the Endeavour program

two separate elements of the old program into the new

had ended. My Endeavour Fellowship made a huge

‘Endeavour Leadership Program’ introduced a new level

difference to my PhD studies, my career development,

of ambiguity about Endeavour’s purpose. Following

and (not to get overly sentimental) my life. It would

the changes, the short-term mobility component was

have been impossible to have such a strong experience

prioritised, at the expense of the prestigious individual

without it.’ One wonders whether any consideration was

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

The End of Endeavour Joanne Barker

75


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

given to the impact on individual scholars and fellows

The current situation represents a shift by the

who constitute Endeavour’s distinct alumni network. In

government of core responsibilities for international

an interview with me, Gretchen Dobson, an Australian-

education from the education portfolio to the foreign

based global alumni relations consultant who has worked

affairs portfolio. Of Australia’s several international

closely with Australian government scholarship programs,

scholarship programs, only the new regional scholarship

commented:

program Destination Australia remains within the

‘The Endeavour alumni umbilical cord is cut. The last class of 2019 scholars will inherit an alumni community full of esteemed professionals around the world but, without a program, all alumni will navigate their own networking and determine for themselves the value proposition for staying involved with an organisation with a shelf life of 15 years. The notion of alumni being brand ambassadors is now moot.’

education portfolio. The switching out of Endeavour

Adding to the complexity and inscrutability of

Australia responded ‘we shouldn’t have to choose

Endeavour is the apparent lack of any transparent

between supporting students in the regions and tapping

evaluation of the program since its launch in 2003. As

into the latest global knowledge that strengthens our own

part of my research, a former bureaucrat told me that an

research… the two programs should exist side by side as

‘evaluation framework’ was established in the early years

part of Australia’s strategic education and research effort’

of the Endeavour program, but it is not clear whether

(Crace, 2019). Kent Anderson observed that the change in

formal evaluation was ever implemented beyond the

policy ‘shifts Australian government policy settings from

level of impact on individual recipients.

A lack of

one that rewards excellence and merit to a five-year plan

rigorous evaluation contributes to the vulnerability of any

type program that favours one set of marginal seats over

government program, since it will not have the evidence

another’ (Anderson, 2019). Yet few other voices from the

it requires to respond to criticism. Only through rigorous

universities sector have been heard, possibly due to the

evaluation can a match be made between program goals,

identity crisis which Endeavour has suffered for at least

recruitment processes, and scholarship target groups,

the past decade.

particularly in rapidly changing environments (Dassin et al., 2018, p. 94).

in order to fund Destination Australia is not rational or consistent with various Ministerial statements about advancing Australia’s international education interests (Birmingham, 2018;Tehan, 2019). When the axe fell on Endeavour in favour of Destination Australia, Catriona Jackson at Universities

The loss of Endeavour leaves Australia significantly exposed in the international education mobility space – an area in which we have made great achievements.

Uncharted waters ahead

Other countries continue to treat education mobility as a priority, with programs such as the Fulbright in the

By March 2019, Endeavour’s constantly shifting priorities

US, the Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships

had left it without a core narrative. Its lack of a champion

program in the UK, MEXT Scholarships in Japan and the

is particularly noticeable when contrasted against former

DAAD in Germany. The benefits of two-way international

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s high-profile advocacy

education should not be interpreted solely through the

for the New Colombo Plan. Against Bishop’s clear and

lens of diplomacy and soft power. Australian universities

consistent message for NCP, Endeavour was buffeted by

have recognised this by making significant contributions

numerous changes in the Department of Education and

to the costs of outgoing mobility, and collectively they

Training, turnover of ministers and the revolving door

contribute $27.3 million per annum in outbound mobility

through which senior public servants came and went.

support (Australian Universities International Directors

Back in 2003, when responsibility for international

Forum [AUIDF], 2018). The amount contributed by

education was still primarily seen as a broader education

universities towards outgoing mobility exceeds the total

issue, it was natural for Endeavour to reside in the

funding allocated by the government to the Endeavour

government’s education portfolio, rather than in its foreign

program in its last year of life. Leveraging this spend with

affairs, trade or aid portfolios. In 2019, with Endeavour

the government commitment – for example, as matching

now in its final year, the Department of Foreign Affairs

funding – could produce broader and deeper results

and Trade carries all Australia’s international education

both for institutional and governmental objectives. Will

programs, apart from the new scholarship program for

the newly re-elected Coalition Government in Australia

those wishing to study in regional locations (which is only

recognise this during its current term?

marginally about supporting international education).

76

The End of Endeavour Joanne Barker

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

Acknowledgements Thanks to Professor Kent Anderson for working with me on an earlier and longer opinion piece about the Endeavour Leadership Program for Deakin University’s Australian Policy and History site, and to Professor Chris Ziguras for valuable feedback and encouragement. Joanne Barker is an international scholarships consultant and a PhD candidate at RMIT University, Victoria, Australia. Her current research is supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship. Between 2006 and 2016 she held the position of Director International at the University of Adelaide. Contact: joanne.barker@rmit.edu.au

References Anderson, K. (2019) Soft-power advantage is damaged by dumping Endeavour scheme. The Australian, 10 April 2019. Anderson, K. & Barker J. (2019). Vale Endeavour, Long Live the New Endeavour: The End of Australia’s World Leading Commitment to Internationalism and the Opportunity to Reassert Ourselves. Australian Policy and History, 28 May 2019. Retrieved from http://aph.org.au/vale-endeavour/. Australian Government (2017). 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved from https://www.fpwhitepaper.gov.au/

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Australian Government Department of Education and Training (2019). Education and Training Portfolio Budget Statements 2019–20. Retrieved from https://docs.education.gov.au/node/52701 Australian Universities International Directors Forum (AUIDF) (2018). Mobility Survey for 2017, capturing 37 of 40 Australian universities’ contributions. Available internally in participating Australian universities. Birmingham, S. (2018) Guaranteeing essential services – reform and investment for better education opportunities. Media release 8 May 2018. Retrieved from https://www.senatorbirmingham.com.au/guaranteeing-essentialservices-reform-and-investment-for-better-education-opportunities/ Crace, A. (2019) Australia to fund regional student repopulation by axing scholarship scheme. The Pie News, 3 April. Retrieved from https://thepienews. com/news/endeavour-program-cut-in-favour-of-destination-australia/ Dassin, J., Marsh, R., & Mawer, M. (2018). International scholarships in higher education: Pathways to social change. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham Davis, D. & Mackintosh, B. (Eds) (2011). Making a Difference, UNSW Press, Sydney. Nelson, B. (2003) Engaging the world through education: Ministerial Statement on the internationalisation of Australian education and training. Department of Education, Science and Training, Canberra ProFellow website (2018) 8 Essential Fulbright U.S. Student Grant Statistics for the 2018-19 Awards. Retrieved from https://www.profellow.com/tips/8essential-fulbright-u-s-student-grant-statistics-for-the-2018-19-awards/ Tehan, D. (2019) Investing in tomorrow’s leaders. Media release 8 March 2019. Retrieved from https://ministers.education.gov.au/tehan/investing-tomorrowsleaders Whirlpool.net.au blogsite. Retrieved on 6 July 2019 from https://forums. whirlpool.net.au/archive/2775262.

Australian Government (2018). Budget Overview 2018-19. Retrieved from https://www.budget.gov.au/2018-19/additional/budget_overview.pdf

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

The End of Endeavour Joanne Barker

77


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

REVIEWS

Knowledge: tomato is a fruit. Wisdom: you don’t put it in fruit salad Knowledge and Global Power – Making New Sciences in the South, by Fran Collyer, Raewyn Connell, João Maia & Robert Morrell ISBN: 97821925495768 (pb), Monash University Publishing, 217 pp., 2019. Reviewed by Neil Mudford This book stands out from the crowd in a number of ways.

of us to examine our own world and lives. What could be

For one thing, the book is about the world, working lives,

more natural than researchers applying the blowtorch of

working environment and day to day working experience

their research methods to their own world in the same

of its academic authors. Not the immediate particulars

way they would apply it to any other social phenomenon?

of Collyer, Connell, Maia and Morrell, of course, but the

Another unusual feature of the book is that it keeps on

broad sociological and political world that makes up the

turning up new perspectives throughout. It seems to me

current environment for academics and researchers more

that, often, the central points or claims are made in the first

generally. Let us say ‘researchers’ from here on because,

third to a half of a book and are chewed over from various

in my experience, research is done by a broader group of

angles thereafter. Here, though, the authors are going full

people than is covered by the term ‘academic’ though the

steam ahead all the way to the end. Both approaches are

latter do form the core of the broader group.

good; it’s just that it struck me how many ideas there are

The emphasis in the book is firmly on researchers

in this modest length volume. This has made reviewing

working outside the dominant and dominating research

the book more difficult than usual because I am spoilt for

and publishing industries of the global North.The authors

choice in what to discuss here.

canvas areas and issues that many of us have been

The authors focus on three areas in their study – climate

concerned with and critical of – overwork, managerialist

research, gender research and HIV/AIDS research – in

university administration, job and funding insecurities and

three countries of the global South – Brazil, Australia and

so on – but they do it in a systematic and forensic way

South Africa. The fact that, unusually, Australia appears in

that I found highly illuminating. They have laid bare the

the global South arises from the authors using their own

underlying structures with a satisfying clarity.

definition of a ‘Southern tier’, namely, ‘positioned within

You don’t often get to review a book that so closely

the Southern hemisphere, and remote from the global

concerns your own situation and with such an immediate

metropole. Each [country] has been shaped by European

and almost intimate feel to it. This close-up view is

sea-borne colonialism, and has a history of violent

conveyed partly by the way the authors present the

dispossession, institutionalised racism and economic

results of many live interviews they conducted with

dependence. None is a poor country. (p. 177)’. Agreed!

researchers across the world. The quotes they present

The authors do not define ‘global North’ but their

from these interviews are lightly edited with the result

arguments do not seem to require a tight definition for

that the messages come across retaining the sound and

this term. We are left to know who they are talking about.

feel of spoken, rather than written, language. Hesitations

I shall just say ‘North’ and ‘South’ here for brevity.

and on-the-spot rewordings are there, presumably as they

The book has two overarching themes. The first is the

occurred in the interviews. I like it. It produces a fresh

effects on researchers in the South and on world research

flavour in the writing and a sense of immediacy.

and knowledge dissemination arising primarily from the

With this topic being ‘so close to home’, I almost wonder

hegemony of the North’s wealthy and prestigious research

whether I should be declaring a conflict of interest? On

institutions and mighty publishing houses. The authors

further reflection, I think the declaration should be one

find that Southern researchers work under a multitude of

of commonality of interest.There is every reason for each

extra burdens, hurdles and frustrations compared to their

78

Knowledge: tomato is a fruit. Wisdom: you don’t put it in fruit salad Reviewed by Neil Mudford

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

counterparts in the North. The resulting barriers to the

anyway,‘not much’. Interviewees who have been through

influence of Southern researchers on world research are

those ‘not much’ experiences produce some heartfelt

then exacerbated by a host of other factors explored by

responses.The light editing of the interview quotes comes

the authors.

into its own here, particularly when the interviewees get

For those of us with careers in the South this is all

quite blunt about it all. Lately, Southern researchers have

too familiar and a somewhat depressing theme. The

been demanding more influence in collaborative projects

authors don’t offer many solutions to the extra problems

as well as getting on with longitudinal studies that can be

but who can blame them, and I certainly don’t, given

done with fewer resources.

the problems’ multitudinous interwoven complexities. Quality

solutions

can

only

be

formulated

Publishing is a vital element of research endeavour.This

after

is never easy but, as we will see, it is easier for some than

understanding the problems and the authors have made

for others. I will labour this one a bit to illustrate the level

a fine contribution to that end.

of attention the authors give to their topics.

The second overarching theme is more uplifting and,

We all know that most of the world’s ‘prestigious’

in fact, quite exciting and is referred to in the book’s

journals are published in the Northern countries in the

subtitle: ‘Making New Sciences in the South’. The finding

English language. I think that those of us for whom English

here is that the perspectives developed by researchers

is our mother tongue hardly give this predominance of

working in the South, on Southern issues and concerns,

English a second thought – of course we write our papers

are generating an upwelling of fresh and innovative

in English, correspond with the journal’s publisher in

knowledge that contributes to the total of knowledge in a

English, receive the reviewer’s responses in English. We

fundamental and revolutionary way.These new insights do

set about choosing a relevant journal to target for an

more than simply add more of the same to the Northern-

article and set about writing it up.

oriented bodies of knowledge; in some instances, they create new areas of investigation all together.

By contrast, for those whose mother tongue is a language other than English (LOTE), writing at a high

I will illustrate some facets of the book’s first overarching

level in English can be a major challenge. I am pretty sure

theme of global North hegemony by examining a specific

that having passages containing awkward or ambiguous

example or two. Researcher life has its system-wide

phrasing in an article submitted to a highly sought-after

challenges of which all practitioners and AUR readers

journal would put you at a considerable disadvantage.

are aware. The concern of this book is to demonstrate

Consequently, LOTE authors need to have access to fluent

and examine how Northern hegemony greatly amplifies

English writers who can ‘brush up’ their manuscripts.

universal challenges for Southern researchers.

These writers also need at least some familiarity with the

In the area of climate change, for instance, the data fed into the huge climate modelling computer programs must,

field otherwise the product could emerge with newlyminted glitches.These services are not cheap.

by necessity, come from all around the world. Although

This is where the compounding disadvantages of

remote sensing can deliver a great deal of these data, there

researching in the LOTE regions of the South start to kick

remains a need to collect data on the ground. For example,

in. Well-heeled universities in continental Europe, say,

biological population data can only be obtained by

would probably have funds or dedicated staff available

collecting samples, analysing them, monitoring numbers

for this purpose. Additionally, there is probably a high

and so on and this can only be done on the spot, in the

proportion of the population who have a reasonably good

South, over extended periods. Consequently, these data

grasp of English. By contrast, poorer Southern universities

are collected and analysed by Southern researchers.

are unlikely to have access to these resources.

Interesting questions then begin to surface. Do the

Then there is the question of differential chances

Southern scientists carry out tasks on behalf of Northern

of having a paper accepted. While journals would no

researchers or work in collaboration with them, or is the

doubt subscribe to the ideal of accepting or rejecting

whole research exercise run by the Southerners? If there

manuscripts based only on intellectual merit and the

is Northern involvement, where does the funding come

applicability of the material to the journal’s subject area,

from – the richer North or the (often) poorer South? If the

the relative advantage of submitting from a well-known,

former, how much influence do the Southern participants

well-established Northern university as against a lesser

have over the planning and trajectory of the project? With

known university far away would seem to be tangible.

the existing power imbalances, explored in depth in this

Interviewees also complain about the relative chances

book, the answer to this last question was, until recently

of getting a publication accepted in the sought-after

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Knowledge: tomato is a fruit. Wisdom: you don’t put it in fruit salad Reviewed by Neil Mudford

79


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

journals when the subject matter involves a topic such as

irrespective of age and sexual orientation in contrast to

the health/morbidity of a population in the global South.

the case in the global North where it is largely confined to

They report that the response is sometimes that such a

the homosexual adult population. A notable achievement

topic is a ‘local’ problem whereas the equivalent issue

here was that researchers and activists were heavily

concerning a Northern population is more likely to be

involved in Brazil’s successful national initiative of the

viewed as an illuminating example of general interest.

1990s to get sufferers free access to drugs and treatment.

An observation by the authors that particularly caught

Gender research is inevitably diverse across the wide

my eye in relation to publishing is that it is common

cultural spectrum of the three countries studied. Being

for Southern researchers to also be activists in their

post-colonial, all three countries have a wide range of

research area or to have come to research from an activist

ethnicities within their populations producing complex

background. It is easy to see how this can be especially

cultural interactions in gender issues. Additionally, the

so in the three fields they examine. The authors then

diverse histories of the growth of gender and feminist

point to the tension that this sets up in LOTE countries

activism and the establishment of these issues as matters

concerning where to aim your publication – towards the

for debate and research have contributed to the state of

Northern prestigious English language journals and enjoy

the field and its directions of enquiry.

the resulting career benefits, or towards local journals

In climate science, the need to model the behaviour

to get your ideas out to people who might benefit from

of the local environment, such as tropical rain forest for

your findings. Of course, combined activism and research

instance, drives researchers on to explore new phenomena

would likely occur in the North but, if it is, the dilemmas

and expand their field out beyond the existing limits.

there are likely less fraught.

The Southern contribution goes beyond contributing

Various responses to this problem are reported. Some

experimental data and software development for earth

publish in both arenas, choosing the journal and language

systems modelling. Southern social scientists are building

based on matters such as the urgency of the local need for

up their examination of the political and behavioural

your results. Others choose to publish ‘cutting edge’ work

response to climate change seeing it as driven by social,

in the Northern press and regular papers and reviews in

psychological and historical factors as well as the results

the local press. A downside to the latter approach is that

from physical climate change modelling.

it reinforces the North/South split in prestige leaving the

All three countries studied are post-colonial countries.

perceived ‘serious work’ with the North and the ‘lighter

Consequently, their populations are a mix of settler and

work’ in the South.

first nations peoples. An exciting and important Southern

An extra twist on this theme is that articles in peer

development in knowledge the authors point to is the

reviewed journals are favoured over books, and chapters

changing attitude and relationship between the two

in books, for building one’s reputation and promotion

groups. Settler inhabitants in the South who are privileged

prospects. This is, of course, the physical sciences model

to have close experience with First Nations peoples are

for publishing and hits the arts and social sciences hard

coming to realise how rich, interesting and enriching first

everywhere. As with just about every other research

nations peoples’ cultures, history and lives are. Also, how

difficulty though, this one adversely affects the South

deeply knowledgeable First Nations peoples are about

more harshly. Moving away from books deprives the

their country.

society around you from access to research results relevant to its needs.

There are, of course, many forces aligned to keep Southern researchers continuing down the standard, well-

Now for the good news – the second theme. Southern

trodden Northern paths. University managements often

researchers are being transformed as they work in their

push the Northern perspective, their concerns being to

environment and experience the contradictions and

advance their university’s ‘world standing’ which ends

tensions between the Northern perspective and the

up translating into fitting into the Northern mind set. The

Southern world in which they live and work.

general Northern dominance in world research is itself a

In the social and medical sciences, the need for solutions

force dragging areas of investigation back into its orbit.

to local problems pushes researchers in new directions.

Nevertheless, novel outbursts of Southern thought are

In the HIV/AIDS research, a major factor in expanding

springing up and beginning to further enrich the world’s

the boundaries of inquiry is that the disease has affected

wealth of knowledge.

populations differently in the South, particularly in Africa where the disease is rife across the whole population,

80

Finally, this publication has a thorough appendix describing the study’s methodologies in great detail.

Knowledge: tomato is a fruit. Wisdom: you don’t put it in fruit salad Reviewed by Neil Mudford

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

In summary, this book is a gem and an eye-opener. I

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Neil Mudford is an Adjunct Senior Fellow with the University

have not really been able to do justice to it. It is tightly

of Queensland and a member of the Australian Universities’

and economically written brimming with so many ideas

Review editorial board. His field of research is hypersonic

that summing it up would require an article (or a book!)

flight, particularly those aspects related to atmospheric entry

of comparable size. Southerners and others – get a copy

of spacecraft and sustained hypersonic flight of aircraft.

and read it!

Per aspera ad astra? High Participation Systems of Higher Education by Brendan Cantwell, Simon Marginson & Anna Smolentseva (Eds) ISBN 978-0-19-882667-7 (hbk), Oxford University Press, 465 pp., 2018. Reviewed by Andrys Onsman The underlying line of thought in Cantwell, Marginson

Equity and three under ‘General’. These last propositions

and Smolentseva’s edited collection of essays and reports

(put first in the book) are the spine of the arguments: that

is that it is a worthwhile ambition for countries to have

HPS enhances equity; that there is no limit to where HPS

the majority of their secondary school completers go on

can go (until universality is reached) and in societies’/

to tertiary education.The question of whether the people

nations’ transition from an agricultural economy, HPS will

in countries where most secondary school completers

grow independently of political and economic structures.

go onto tertiary education are any the happier as a result

The other 14 propositions basically flesh out the theses.

remains unexamined, but there is a sense that because

Simon Marginson kicks off with a typically data-rich

countries with high participation systems of higher

overview that serves not only as an introduction but also

education (HPS hereafter) are better off economically,

as a sort of apologia; a justification of the effort spent

in general the people will be living a better life. High

gathering the chapters into a book. The human element

Participation Systems of Higher Education doesn’t

that underlies the sheer size of the endeavour makes it a

explicitly make a case for or against the idea; that isn’t

very readable introduction. Marginson uses a 1972 paper

the purpose of a volume like this. Its job is to record

by Martin Trow as the stimulus for describing the current

what is and allow the collectors to collect and interpret

situation. The snapshot of things as they are now is given

data within a detailed contextual framework. The authors

context by the comparison to how things were 46 years

do the job convincingly. They rightly point out that

ago: not only in terms of data but also as to what the data

even though the massification of higher education is

mean in a changed context. If we consider how much the

poorly understood and under-examined, it nonetheless

world has changed since the watershed of the internet,

is happening and having (and will continue to have) a

we might expect the changes in higher education to be

significant and uneven impact in global terms.Whether or

significant but the change that has occurred over the

not the massification of higher education is contributing

last five decades is quite staggering. It is also indicative

to global human happiness, it is changing the world and

of the exponential nature of the global development of

we will benefit from knowing how and why, and what

higher education. What the next fifty years will bring is

effect it is likely to have.

unfathomable, but it will be bigger and stranger than what

This volume is divided into two sections. The first consists of the defining characteristics of HPS listed as

happened in the previous fifty. In terms of governance, HPS have three defining

propositions, and the second presents case studies of how

characteristics: they

the propositions are made manifest in various countries.

control, coordination, and accountability mechanisms;

The 17 propositions are grouped under the headings of

their governance tends to involve the management of

Governance, Horizontal Diversity, Vertical Stratification,

horizontal differentiation; and therefore, higher education

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

are

governed

by

multi-level

Per aspera ad astra? Reviewed by Andrys Onsman

81


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

institutions tend to increasingly incorporate forms

likelihood that they will be a force for good in that society.

that have robust internal governance and management

It isn’t readily evident in the chapter about Russia (possibly

capacities. Any system with a multi-level structure has the

because there wasn’t enough data or because historically

benefit of not collapsing when one strand goes awry.

equality was seen as political rather than social) – which is,

The next group of four propositions, under the

I guess, the purpose of the examples.

heading Horizontal Diversity, considers how HPS work as

This volume is about extracting trends from the data

organisms in their socio-political environment. In HPS, the

to see if the framework can be generalised into a useful,

comprehensive, multi-function, multi-discipline research

workable theoretical framework.The case studies consider

university (multiversity) becomes the paradigm for

whether the propositions, or defining characteristics of

higher education. The eighth proposition acknowledges

that framework, are evident in the available data from the

that online providers haven’t developed with any great

nation under the spotlight. Not every proposition will be

coherence or in line with their potential but, in general

evident in every HPS. Most individual case studies focus

terms, greater participation doesn’t mean greater diversity

on a few of the propositions; collectively they address

in the system overall. In fact, (proposition 9) greater

them all. While the analytical reports are interesting as

participation seems to occasion more multiversities

themselves, the also serve to support the theory.

competing while offering increasingly similar educational

Of the individual case studies, I read the report on

opportunities. In ‘neoliberal quasi-markets’, all this will

Australia (written by Simon Marginson) first because this

result in:

is the HPS that I am most familiar with. Marginson’s style

1. Increased vertical differentiation of institutions,

is direct and factual but also a little seductive with some

2. Reduced horizontal differentiation of institutions,

interestingly structured arguments rounded off with a

3. Convergence of their missions through isomorphic

neat turn of phrase. For example, after running through a

imitation, and

quick description of the development of higher education

4. The growth of private higher education institutions

policies in Australia, he says, ‘Yet while boxed and bound

that seek to make money by catering for targeted

by economic framings, it often leaks out from them

niche markets.

in uncontrolled ways. For despite the policy rhetoric,

That certainly is the case in Australia. I’m less convinced

Australian higher education is more that the living clone of

about its inevitability in, say, the Netherlands where a

an abstract neoliberal formula’ (p. 269). Marginson makes

lingering ideal of humanism competes with government-

the point that although Australia began with its six states

controlled socialism in an environment that tries to

sharing power and responsibility for (higher) education,

accommodate cultural (historical and modern) diversity.

over the last fifty or so years, the federal government has

The three propositions clustered under the heading Vertical

Stratification

support

the

argument

taken control. At the same time, and possibly related to it,

that

universities and vocational education colleges subsumed

universities in HPS tend to target either the elite or

other higher education providers such as colleges of

the masses. There is a whiff of institutional rather than

advanced education. Marginson points out that although

social self-interest here: it is marketing by exclusion

successive Australian governments have exponentially

to make higher education institutions more attractive,

increased access, funding has, at best been uneven. For a

and therefore more financially autonomous as well as

brief period in the 1970s, higher education was free but

educationally authoritative. It is irrefutable that the

even with the notion of students making co-payments

best universities attract the best students and the best

(mainly accessing through loans to be repaid when

students create the best universities. Analogically at least,

the student has a job), access still increased. Marginson

the University of Melbourne is to universities what John

puts it down to aspiration: the notion that people need

West is to salmon. But, they posit, as the gap between the

degrees for good jobs. The Government seems to agree,

artisanal universities and demand-absorbing universities

and higher education institutions tend to feature graduate

increases, an aspirational middle layer of institution tends

employment figures in their rhetoric.

to form in the space between.

At the same time, deregulation has seen a massive

The last four propositions are to do with Equity, beginning

increase in full fee-paying students from overseas, and the

with the proposition that as HPS expand, social inclusion

employment prospects created by your degree will have an

will be enhanced. It’s an interesting idea that seems to me

impact on decisions about where to study. Abstracted or

to be based on the notion that the greater the proportion

not, the economics of neoliberalism seem to be functioning

of more highly-educated people in a society, the greater the

well in Oz. Universities operate in a competitive market for

82

Per aspera ad astra? Reviewed by Andrys Onsman

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

finite resources. Marginson posits that the contemporary

in the socio-educational architecture. Most impressively,

corporate university operates under three levels of

Marginson lays his ideological cards on the table and then

governance: national, state and institutional. While I agree

uses the data to exemplify his reasoning.

that it is the case, the middle level of state-based governance

The other country chapter that sparked my interest

varies widely. The only university in Tasmania has a very

was the one on Finland, and not only because our glorious

different relationship with the Tasmanian Government to

editor has ties to Suomi. The first surprise was finding out

that of any of the six universities that are based in Victoria

that Finland is about the same size as Germany but has just

with theirs, not least because the University in Tasmania is

7 per cent of its population: much the same as the land

considered to be a regional university. It would make an

area and population relativities of Australia and the USA.

interesting project to see how the University and the State

The second surprise was that higher education in Finland

have exploited and supported each other.

is free to all EU students. Third was the extent to which

Marginson points out that the proposition that in

universities played a part in nation-building, bearing in

an HPS, universities become more corporate is well

mind that Finland has been an independent nation for a

and truly evident in Australia. At the same time, they

little over a century – a similar time span to that of Australia.

have also responded to funding provisos by becoming

Another similarity between the two is the skyrocketing of

‘multiversities’, universities that (try to) do everything

enrolment numbers from the 1970s onwards.

for everyone – or at least anyone who can pay the fees.

One striking difference is that, according to Valimaa &

Pragmatically, the bigger the range of options, the wider

Muhonen, education in Finland – and higher education in

the market for what you’re selling becomes. Few if any

particular – is understood to be a public service and civil

universities preclude any of the three big markets:

right rather than a consumer good, citing the free tuition

secondary school graduates, mature age students and

and high government funding levels as evidence. But the

international students. There is some difference in how

advent of internationalisation hasn’t halted at the country’s

they go about attracting students from each pool, but

borders and the citizens are now debating whether their

every university in Australia relies on getting a good mix.

subsidisation of other European Union and asylum seekers

Corporate universities are managed as much as they are

from outside of Europe is entirely fair or reasonable. Is

led. On the other hand, as Marginson points out,Australian

Finland being de-nationalised by paying for others to

universities are unequal in terms of research, with the

study within their borders – especially if they don’t leave

Group of Eight bloc of research-intensive universities

after graduating? It isn’t too difficult to see many of the

outperforming all others in terms of attracting funding

conflicting ideologies that are challenging the Union

and producing internationally significant output, and the

today writ large in Finland. Perhaps the notion of seeing

system is geared to maintaining that status. It’s the elite v

education as a public service designed for nation building

mass intake proposition made plainly evident.

is a thing of the past, now that the nation has been built.

Marginson argues that, in that, the HPS of Australia

Overall, this is an excellent book. The snapshots of

is approaching the Australian societal structure. The

the countries are used to test as well as exemplify the

country’s five national sporting codes – Australian

hypotheses, and they are of interest in their own right.

Rules Football, Association Football, Cricket, Netball and

I can well imagine that in ten years’ time, the higher

National Rugby League – have competitions that do not

education world will have changed again, and the defining

have promotion and relegation, but poorly performing

characteristics or propositions outlined in this book will

teams get extra funding to increase their chance of

provide a solid framework for investigating the changes.

success the following season. Some years ago, I gave a

What books like this should be about: frameworks that

paper at the OECD conference on this topic and pointed

outlast the now. Every university should have at least one

out that just like the major sports teams, universities

copy somewhere in its library, but it will also be incredibly

pay top dollar for star researchers, thereby perpetuating

useful for anyone interested in understanding how higher

their elite status and limiting the opportunities of the

education systems around the world are evolving.

lower ranked, less established universities. No matter how good the coaches are, they still need good players to

Andrys Onsman is Adjunct Associate Professor at the Sir

execute their vision, which is where the rich owners and

Zelman Cowen School of Music, Monash University, Victoria,

membership dollars come into play. This chapter is top-

Australia. He is author of Experimentation in Improvised

notch in its analysis and doesn’t shy away from the fact

Jazz – Chasing Ideas (Routledge, 2019) with Rob Burke.

that other, less obvious factors also play a significant role

Contact: onsman@hotmail.com

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Per aspera ad astra? Reviewed by Andrys Onsman

83


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

An insider’s account of wages campaigns for women Winning for Women: A Personal Story by Iola Mathews ISBN (pb): 978-1-925835-15-1, Monash University Publishing, Clayton, 301 pp., 2019. Reviewed by Kate White Winning for Women tells the story of Iola Mathews’ career

Iola became a leading ACTU advocate for women

as a journalist working with The Age, then with the Public

workers during the ‘Accord’ with the Hawke-Keating

Service Board, followed by a tumultuous decade (1984-

governments. She won landmark cases on parental leave

1994) working as an advocate at the Australian Council

and wage justice for child care and clerical workers.

of Trade Unions (ACTU). Parallel to this career trajectory

The book outlines how during the Hawke-Keating

was her political activism as a founding member and

governments, the ACTU pushed for increased child care

supporter of the Women’s Electoral Lobby. Intertwined

through the various Accord negotiations, and the number

with this account of her career is the juggling of family

of places trebled. The federal government introduced a

and of her husband’s career as a federal and then state

30 per cent tax rebate on child care fees, later increased

Labor parliamentarian.

to 50 per cent. However, getting employers involved in

Iola is acutely aware that she was part of second wave

providing child care could be a challenge; for example,

feminism and the first generation of women who wanted

when the new Parliament House was being constructed

to have a career and a family. She is candid about the

there was no provision for a child care centre.

personal cost of trying to organise her career, support her husband, and fulfil parental responsibilities.

Winning for Women has a good account of Jenny Acton’s campaign for equal pay for nurses and the

The book provides an excellent insider account of the

1986 protracted nurses strike in Victoria, and of the

groundwork that she and other ACTU advocates provided

campaign to get minimum award wages and conditions

for important reforms that improved the working lives of

for outworkers in the clothing industry. In July 1989, Iola

Australian women.These included the Sex Discrimination

represented the ACTU in the parental leave test case in

Bill 1984, which gave effect to Australia’s obligations

the Industrial Relations Commission. The book describes

under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms

in detail the union campaign for parental leave and the

of Discrimination against Women and the Affirmative

opposition from employers.The decision handed down in

Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women)

July 1990 later gave one year’s unpaid leave for men up to

Act, enacted in 1986. The proposed Affirmative Action

the child’s first birthday, shared with the mother’s leave;

legislation was controversial. Iola was a member of the

one week of unpaid leave for fathers at the birth; part-time

government and union Working Party on Affirmative

work up to two years, by agreement with the employer,

Action and offers a good insider perspective on the

with pro rata benefits; and adopting parents to have three

discussions that ensued and opposition from conservative

weeks at the time of placement and the balance of the

lobby groups. Once the legislation had been enacted she

52 weeks taken by either parent. She then went on to

wrote a booklet entitled Affirmative Action for Women:

produce a booklet and leaflet to explain the new parental

A Negotiating Document which was sent to all unions

leave provisions to union officials and their members. Iola

and included a list of the first companies to be covered.

also led the test cases for the ACTU for wage justice for

One of her key roles in the ACTU was responsibility for

child care and clerical workers.

the newspaper Women at Work and this became a vehicle

A chapter on women and work today reviews the

for explaining proposed major reforms for women. One

gains for working women since the mid-1990s. While the

gets the sense that her skills as a journalist enabled her

gender pay gap remains, it notes a generational shift in

to effectively communicate the impact of legislation and

attitudes to parenting and work, with younger men and

policies to union officials and rank and file.

women seeking flexible work options and sharing family

84

An insider’s account of wages campaigns for women Reviewed by Kate White

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

responsibilities. It offers the following observation:

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

book carefully documents the campaigns for pay equity,

Forty years ago we were fighting for women’s right to be in the paid workforce. We won that battle, but absorbed the male model of success of getting to the top and working long hours. We need to challenge that model. We need to attach much more importance to the needs of the family and children and to the nurturing and caring attitudes that have traditionally been associated with women (p. 270).

parental leave, child care, and superannuation.

Winning for Women is a compelling account of the gains

Dr Kate White is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Federation

This is an informative and engaging book and younger workers are encouraged to read it to appreciate that the working rights they now enjoy have been hard won by the commitment and tenacity of parliamentarians and of ACTU advocates such as Iola.

for women, mostly achieved under Labor governments

University Australia, Victoria. Her latest book (with Pat

with cooperation from the union movement. While there

O’Connor) is Gendered Success in Higher Education: global

is still more to be achieved to enable young men and

perspectives (Palgrave: Basingstoke), 2017.

women to balance work and family responsibilities, the

Contact: kate.white@federation.edu.au

Dumb and dumber Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (And how to fix it) by Thomas ChamorroPremuzic ISBN-10: 1633696324; ISBN-13: 978-1633696327, Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, 214 pp., 2019. Reviewed by Kate White

As a gender researcher, the title of this book was

empathy and transformational leadership. It identifies

appealing, especially the hint of how to fix incompetent

expertise, intelligence and curiosity as universal qualities

men becoming leaders. But more on that later. Thomas

that make men and women effective as leaders. And yet

Chamorro-Premuzic is a professor of business psychology

when discussing what good leaders look like, Thomas

at University College London and at Columbia University,

Chamorro-Premuzic notes that four major aspects of

an associate at Harvard’s Entrepreneurial Finance Lab, and

cultural differences in work-related behaviour, including

chief talent scientist at ManpowerGroup.

leadership – dominance, spontaneity, individualism, status

The book is designed to help the reader identify the

– do not favour women as leaders.

key qualities that cause people to become incompetent

Two of the later chapters on evaluating the central

leaders and conversely, to become good leaders. What

elements of leadership potential and the effectiveness

the author describes as the bad leadership epidemic is

of coaching and development interventions designed

caused, he argues, by our inability to distinguish between

to improve leaders’ performance, do not have an overt

confidence and competence. We choose leaders by how

gender dimension.

confident they appear, not how confident or competent

By the final chapter, the promise of how to fix so many

they are and thus ‘not only end up choosing more men

incompetent men as leaders seems to have evaporated.

to lead us but ultimately choose more incompetent men’

Rather, we are told that organisations need to take steps

(p. 33). The consequences of choosing narcissistic and

to improve both the performance of their leaders and

charismatic leaders and the impact on the quality of

to increase the representation of women in leadership.

leadership are also explored.

They also need to take the focus away from displays of

The book claims that women have an advantage

over-confidence, narcissism, psychopathy and charisma as

in leadership because they have greater emotional

signs of leadership potential. Paying more attention to EQ

intelligence (EQ) than men, and have more self-control,

would enhance ‘the quality of leaders and the number of

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Dumb and dumber Reviewed by Kate White

85


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

female leaders, increasing the overall levels of personal

and beliefs drive decisions’ and ‘consider the presence of

effectiveness,

more female directors a liability’ (p. 179).

self-awareness,

and

transformational

leadership in organisations’ (p. 172).

So, is it market forces that determine the quality of

The author acknowledges that putting more women

leadership of companies and continue to display a

into leadership does not necessarily improve the

preference for over-confident, narcissistic, psychopathic

quality of leadership. Rather, he argues that putting

and charismatic male leaders? The book suggests this is

more talented leaders into leadership roles will increase

the case.The message is clear. Until investors change their

the representation of women. In other words, when

appetite for such leadership, women will struggle to fit

organisations are effective and successful they may attract

in to this alienating masculinist leadership culture. More

effective leaders, including women.

worryingly, if the lessons from higher education have any

What seems to be lacking in the book is a comprehensive

relevance, talented younger women will increasingly find

analysis of the role of organisational culture in continuing

leadership careers unattractive and focus their ambitions

to promote incompetent men as leaders and at the same

elsewhere.

time making it difficult for women to move in to and

What the publisher describes as a timely and

succeed in leadership roles. It cites research indicating

provocative book will be of interest to both leadership

that although adding more women to boards of US

researchers and practitioners.

companies did not change the firm’s performance ‘it led to a decrease in the firms’ stock valuation’ (p. 176), which

Dr Kate White is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Federation

suggests investors ‘are unlikely to change their beliefs,

University Australia.

Working people into misery Lab Rats – Why Modern Work Makes People Miserable by Dan Lyons ISBN 978-1-78649-393-4 (pbk.), London: Atlantic Books, 259 pp., 2019. Reviewed by Thomas Klikauer

Many people work, and many people are unhappy at

resource management (HRM) makes sure that employees

work. With rafts of examples and scientific studies, Dan

understand,

Lyons explains current work regimes. Lyons takes a critical look at the most advanced forms of contemporary management practices. His book extends deep into Silicon Valley reaching many well-known corporations including Apple, Uber, Amazon. Lyons says, ‘for the last two years, I have made it my mission to speak to as many people as I can to better understand the modern workplace…[where] at least some of the unhappiness at work comes from’ (p. 2). In some cases, workers’ despair occurs when they are ‘being herded into silly workshops

‘to keep your job, you must play along. You must deliver a performance and convince management that you are flexible, adaptable, and open to change, the kind of engaged, dynamic worker who meets the needs of the new economy. Basically, the company is conducting a large-scale experiment in organisational behaviour. They’d like to test out some theories on you. So, you all go into the box, and you are poked and prodded with various stimuli to see how you respond. Your office has become a psychological laboratory, run by a bunch of quacks. You’re not a duck. You are a lab rat’ (p. 9).

where people are fed a bunch of touchy-feely nonsense about self-improvement and transformation’ (p. 2). Many

This quote signifies the core of Lyon’s book Lab

of these modern workplaces have ‘HR people used to be

Rats. Essentially, the author discusses the application of

glorified office managers, but now they get MBAs and

behaviourism’s rat-equals-human approach to workers.

are called Chief People Officers’ (p. 3). Modern human

Unlike the rat that gets a food pill when performing well

86

Working people into misery Reviewed by Thomas Klikauer

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

and an electro shock when not performing well, modern

workers are also manipulated at a much more highly-

employees receive intrinsic and extrinsic rewards when

developed level.Today, management relies on the hideous

performing well.They get punished through demotion and

means of behaviourism (Lemov, 2006). Management sees

dismissal when not doing well. In Skinner’s behaviourist

‘employees as lab rats’ (p. 24). The rat gets a food pill

lab, it was the man in a white lab coat who tormented rats.

when jumping, the child gets chocolate when cleaning

At work, it is the line or HR manager who decides what

up, the school pupil gets brownie points, the student gets

doing well actually means.

a degree, and the worker gets a bonus. Rats, students, and

Whether lab or workplace, the principle is the same.

workers fulfil their task in expectation of a bonus and a

The rat is made to become a responding organism. The

reward. They do any task demanded of them as longs as

worker is made to respond to HRM stimuli called KPIs

it is linked to a reward. This is the dehumanising insanity

(key performance indicators). Workers are deliberately

of Skinner furnishing the manipulative powers of two

exposed to dehumanisation. This happens to those who

devious systems: schooling and work. From rat to child to

used to be identified as human beings. Now they are

employee, we do meaningless work for a reward. We do

merely human resources. Perhaps the first step towards

this for most of our schooling and then for the next forty

dehumanisation is the step into employment: getting

years of work.

a plastic ID badge with a number on it. This starts

Motivated – perhaps manipulated – like this, it is not

the process that converts human beings into human

at all surprising to find that ‘workers who say they are

resources (HRM, 2011). At times, these modern human

satisfied with their jobs dropped from 61.1% in 1987 to

resources are punished for no reason at all or for reasons

50.8% in 2016 …it’s very unlikely that job satisfaction will

not linked to their performance. This is what happened

ever return to 1980s levels’ (p. 24). In addition, there are

to Dan Lyons. He was ‘laid off as Newsweek’s technology

other consequences of treating human beings as human

editor…without warning. One Friday morning in June my

resources or lab rats. A 2014 survey found that ‘27% of

editor called and told me I was done. That was it. I got

respondents said they had been bullied at work and

no severance package’ (p. 15). Managerialism’s Orwellian

another 37% said they had witnessed it happening to a

Newspeak used throughout the world of work is furnished

co-worker…in 2017…one in five [workers]…faced verbal

with sophisticated corporate social responsibility. It tells

abuse, threats, humiliation, or unwanted sexual advances

workers you are our most important asset. The deception

– on a monthly basis’ (p. 26). At times, one wonders if this

is maintained until you are fired.

happens despite of or because of HRM, corporate social

Textbook HRM used to teach that being fired – camouflaged as ‘we let you go’, ‘we set you free’, ‘seek

responsibility, and business ethics. One

corporation

with

sophisticated

HRM

and

other opportunities’, etc.– and high turnovers are bad.

performance management surely is Amazon. ‘One

This is yesterday’s news.The brave new world of work is

“Amabot” (as Amazon office workers call themselves)

different. Some companies do ‘not see high turnover as a

who had been put on a “performance improvement

problem.They are proud of it.They considered it a badge

plan” (a first step toward getting fired) sent a note to his

of honour. It demonstrated that the company had a “high

colleagues and then leapt off the building in a suicide

performance culture” where only the best of the best

attempt’ (p. 31). The very same thing was done to Stefan

could survive. Weirder still, when they fired someone

Grimm at London’s Imperial College (Parr 2014). These

they called it graduation’ (p. 17). This is managerial

two cases are no means isolated incidents.There is a long

Newspeak. In many ways, those ‘modern workplaces

list of workplaces where workers are threatened, treated

were actually worse than the old companies they were

like disposables, and are spied on:

replacing. They are digital sweatshops, akin to the brutal textile mills and garment factories from more than a century ago’ (p. 18). The exploitative fundamentals of capitalism have not changed. Management still controls workers. Thanks to IT – and perhaps artificial intelligence (AI) in the future – management can control workers with more sophisticated means. Today, ‘workers are surveyed and surveilled, monitored and measured’ (p. 19). Unlike

‘At the top of the list was Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who is worth $140 billion, the largest fortune (in absolute terms, not adjusted for inflation) ever accumulated…his fortune has been built on the backs of warehouse workers who toil away in abominable conditions under huge amounts of stress, sometimes earning so little that they qualify for food stamps. In 2018, when Bezos went to Berlin to receive an award, hundreds of his own German workers showed up to protest. “We have an Amazon boss who wants to Americanise work relationships and take us back to

Blake’s 19th century Satanic Mills (1804), 21st century vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Working people into misery Reviewed by Thomas Klikauer

87


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

the nineteenth century,” a union boss told Reuters. Second on the list was Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, whose company employs “secret police” also known as the “rat-catching team,” to spy on workers…’ (p. 32).

dismissal. In a deregulated labour market with deliberately

Things are no different at Facebook (p. 35) and Tesla

straight. Fear –whether of pain or losing a job– does strange

(p. 37). Perhaps this has been so ever since ‘Taylor…the

things to decision making. Fear overtakes our brains and

shameless fraud’ (p. 52) invented what he mislabelled

makes it impossible to concentrate on anything but saving

Scientific Management. Today, those who relentlessly

our skin’ (p. 75). What saving your skin means has been

push Taylorism and other instruments of control – usually

outlined by Holocaust survivor Jean Améry (1980). Améry

disguised as efficiency – are called MBA graduates.Without

has described what it means to be possessed by fear and

much of a scientific underpinning, MBA graduates thrive

how it determines what one does. On an incomparable

on pure managerial power (Stewart 2009; Magretta 2012).

milder note, Dan Lyons writes:

In recent years, ‘the MBA has become the most popular master’s degree in the United States, with universities churning out 185,000 of them each year’ (p. 53). Some administer companies and corporations while others become management consultants. ‘Former management consultant Matthew Stewart recalls his first job interview in which he was tested on his ability to bullshit: “The purpose of the exercise was to see how easily I could talk about a subject about which I knew almost nothing on the basis of facts that were almost entirely fictional. It was, I realised in retrospect, an excellent introduction to management consulting.” Like Frederick Taylor at the beginning of the 20th century, today’s management consultants still get paid a lot of money but don’t actually produce anything. An old joke goes that a management consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time – then keeps your watch’ (p. 53).

weakened trade unions, employees are increasingly open to managerial punishment. Like the rat, they live in fear. Therefore, ‘people who are scared basically can’t think

‘if you’re living in fear of losing your job, then all of your decisions and actions are geared to preserving your job rather than taking risks…but that’s actually the exact wrong thing to do. In a time of uncertainty, taking risks and trying new things would actually be in your best interest…but that’s difficult when you’re afraid of losing your job…for a lot of people, the workplace really does feel like a Skinner box, where you wander around like a rat in one of B. F. Skinner’s cages trying to figure out how to get rewards and how to avoid punishment…it’s like you’re in a box, and you have no control over what’s happening to you… it’s controlled by experimenters outside. You learn to associate certain places in that box with good and bad things…fearful rats can only think about one thing – how to get out of the box and stop getting shocked’ (p. 76). Inside managerial regimes, fear is not the only thing

These are the apologists and ideological demagogues

that makes workers unhappy. There is also ‘money…

of management, corporations, and capitalism. Over time,

change, and dehumanisation’ (p. 83). A recent example of

Taylor and his entourage of faith-fools, believers, and

installing fear is IBM. At IBM,‘CEO, Ginni Rometty, earned

management consultants changed work in manufacturing

$33 million in 2016...for the past few years Rometty

forever. In post-manufacturing industries like office work,

has been busy slashing jobs, especially targeting older

the knowledge industry, and the service industry,Taylorism

workers…from 2012 to 2017, when IBM was firing all

is slowly taking a backseat. In OECD countries, the days of

those American workers, the company was turning hefty

Taylor’s pig iron carrier Schmidt are all but over. The key

profits and in fact generated $92 billion in cash’ (p. 85).

to understanding work in the knowledge industry is B.

Making $92 billion while paying a CEO $33 million is a

F. Skinner’s behaviourism (Chomsky 1959). Consequently,

good deal for capital. It is not such a great deal for workers.

nearly all management textbooks, textbooks on HRM,

Overall, job insecurity comes along with falling wages

textbooks on organisational behaviour, and most definitely

(USA) and wage stagnation (UK).Today,‘income inequality

every textbook on organisational psychology, contain

in the US has reached a level not seen since 1929…real

the obligatory chapter on behaviourism. Albeit, these

wages (adjusted for inflation) have been flat or down for

are often disguised as reward management, motivational

decades. Millennials earn 20% less than their parents did

theory, behaviour modification, etc. In short, managers

at the same stage of their lives,’ (p. 91). Neoliberalism will

are trained to carry out the program of Skinner.Therefore,

make sure that this will continue until something gives

everyone at work is treated like a rat to be rewarded for

way (Hanauer 2014).

achieving a managerially set task.

Because of decades of following neoliberalism’s

Not surprisingly,‘work is becoming more and more like

ideology of weakening trade unions, ‘the middle class

a Skinner box’ (p. 75). Skinner’s rat was punished with

itself is shrinking – from 61% of Americans in 1971 to 50%

electric shocks. Today’s workers are punished through

in 2015’ (p. 91). This will continue with neoliberalism’s

88

Working people into misery Reviewed by Thomas Klikauer

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

little helpers (e.g. Trump, etc.) at the helm. Instead of

Still, management and even business schools (like mine)

hallucinations like the infamous trickle-down effect

fancy the open plan office. Open plan offices squeeze

(Aghion & Bolton 1997), we see the very opposite.

more workers into a given space.

Under neoliberalism, ‘companies vacuumed up 6% of the economy that used to go to workers’ (p. 94). As neoliberalism marched in, labour crumbled under its ideology and political onslaught (Thatcher, Reagan, etc.). Dan Lyons tells it straight when emphasising that ‘the labour movement was the institution most responsible for working- and middle-class prosperity’ (p. 97). The moment when trade unions as a protective institution were destroyed and reduced in their capacity, middle-class prosperity started to end. Worse is to come. It comes with that has been labelled the gig-economy. Lyons says ‘the problem is that the jobs people lost had provided [workers] with health insurance and some kind of retirement plan. Gig work pays almost nothing and provides no benefits. Apps like Uber might feel like magic for consumers, but the gig economy is not so magical for the people trying to make a living in it. Nevertheless, gig-economy jobs represented 34% of the U.S. economy in 2017 and will hit 43% by 2020… the gig-economy model is coming for white-collar workers, too. Gig-economy lawyers get hired on shortterm contracts or by the project’ (p. 99).

The same principle is used in factory farming. As for the open plan office, ‘countless studies show that these nightmarish hellholes called open offices destroy productivity and make people miserable. Yet companies keep inflicting them on us, coyly pretending that the goal is to foster collaboration, when really it is to squeeze pennies out of overhead by packing more people into fewer square feet of floor space. The open plan arrangement isn’t just unpleasant. Researchers say open offices can make people stressed out and physically sick. Open offices might even be harming our brains…workers in noisy open offices had elevated levels of epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, after only three hours of exposure’ (p. 130). Much of this often comes along with the endless treadmill of restructuring and ‘the trauma of organisational change’ (p. 140). Constant restructuring is something like a job creation program and legitimising tool for management. In any case, organisational change has severe negatives for workers because ‘living with constant change [is] taking a tremendous toll on workers. More than half of the HR people surveyed said their workers were stressed out and

Back at the Amazon warehouse, gig-economy means, for

burned out’ (p. 141).

example, that ‘in Ohio, seven hundred Amazon workers

Perhaps one of the worst outcomes of modern-day

are so poorly paid that they are receiving food stamps…

management and HRM is the dehumanisation of workers

[Amazon boss] Bezos is not just frugal, or cheap, or a

who are made to feel like ‘mechanical puppets’ (p. 145).

tightwad. He runs what many have called modern-day

Others say they are reduced to be ‘talking robots’ (p. 146).

sweatshops, where human beings are pushed beyond

The expected automation of industry – the Internet of

their limits in ways that make Frederick Taylor and his

Things or Industry 4.0 – is already spreading into HRM

stopwatch seem like Mother Teresa’ (p. 102). Like Amazon,

itself.

many have adopted the dehumanising HRM ideology of ‘we’re a team, not a family’ (p. 107). Good-bye paternalism. Like being a bad member of team, this means you can be fired at any time. At the receiving end, a worker said that working in such a workplace is ‘the most hostile environment I’ve ever been in’ (p. 111). Things are similar at Uber where its ‘chief technical officer compared working at Uber to the way diamonds are formed, by being “compressed with heat and pressure

‘Hoping to save money, companies now automate every aspect of their organisation, from sales and marketing to customer support. They are even automating HR…send out your résumé when you’re job hunting, and it may be screened by a software program, not a human being. To get to an interview with a human, you first need to impress the software...a program called VMock uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to scan your résumé and tell you how to make it better’ (p. 147).

for thousands of years.Those who can actually survive and

Once you get the job, it does not get any better. At

thrive from it come out as diamonds.” Good grief. No one

work ‘electronic performance monitoring systems track

in their right mind believes this is a healthy way to run a

punctuality, break time, idle time – pretty much everything

company’ (p. 116). As if management, behaviourism, and

you do at work’ (p. 152). Worse still is that corporate

HRM has not done enough damage. Occasionally, HRM

management spies on workers directly. ‘Facebook

even teams up with interior design. This makes things

employs a team of secret police, known internally as rat-

even worse. The outcome of such an office design is the

catchers, who hunt down workers suspected of leaking

so-called open plan office. Open plan offices have many

confidential information… if anyone steps out of line,

negatives like lower productivity and higher absenteeism.

they’ll squash you like a bug… Apple reportedly plants

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Working people into misery Reviewed by Thomas Klikauer

89


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

moles throughout the organisation to spy on workers

they are a minority. Only a few companies are part of

– employees call them the Apple Gestapo’. Google and

the social enterprise movement. They remain marginal.

Amazon encourage employees to snitch on co-workers.

In short, what Lyons calls social enterprise companies

Amazon even provides a software tool to make snitching

is on the first timeline and what David Wallace-Wells

easier.‘Workday, a Silicon Valley software maker, delivers a

calls Uninhabitable Earth (2019) moves on the second

similar snitching tool as part of its bundle of HR programs,

timeline. But they also have something in common. Both

used by more than two thousand companies’ (p. 154).

sit on the upper deck of a London bus. Both can see afar.

Armed with AI based computer software, HR managers

Unfortunately, those sitting at the steering wheel are

‘might know more about you than you know yourself’ (p.

downstairs and they do not seem to see what is coming.

157). But it isn’t all doom and gloom. On the other side of

Thomas Klikauer is a Senior Lecturer at the Sydney Graduate

what has been reported above are companies that are

School of Management, Western Sydney University, NSW,

‘great place to work’ (p. 171). These are, for example,

Australia. His latest book Managing People in Organisations

Cisco, SAS, REI, Nordstrom, Goldman Sachs, Marriott,

(Palgrave-Macmillan) was published in 2018.

and Four Seasons. They have ‘two things [in common]:

Contact: t.klikauer@westernsydney.edu.au

they are all incredibly successful, and they treat their employees exceptionally well’ (p. 171). Finally, there is also a small outfit called Kapor Capital (p. 200). Besides being an ethical investor, Kapor Capital reflects more what two CEOs – Ricardo Semler (www.ted.com, 2014) and Ray Anderson (www.ted.com, 2009) – have practised. Kapor is deliberately located away from Silicon Valley rejecting what happens there. Kapor is set against the fact that ‘…fewer women work in Silicon Valley today than in the 1980s’ (p. 205). Kapor is part of the ‘social enterprise movement’ (p. 217). This movement is convinced that ‘capitalism isn’t collapsing – but it is evolving’ (p. 223). The book closes by saying ‘to be sure, these people remain in the minority, but they’re out there. They’re starting new companies. They’re building a new kind of capitalism’ (p. 233). One can only hope that they will succeed. Overall, it appears that there are two timelines running against one another. On the first timeline, there are good-to-work-for companies outlined in the final parts of this insightful book. On the other hand, is an ever faster running trajectory. Most recently and most clearly, the

References Aghion, P. & Bolton, P. (1997). A theory of trickle-down growth and development, Review of Economic Studies, 64(2):151-172. Améry, J. (1980). At the mind’s limits: contemplations by a survivor on Auschwitz and its realities, New York: Schocken Books. Blake, W. (1804). Jerusalem – The emanation of the giant Albion (edited with an introduction and notes by Morton D. Paley), London & Princeton: William Blake Trust/Princeton University Press (1991). Chomsky, N. (1959). A review of BF Skinner’s Verbal Behavior, Language, 35(1):26-58. Hanauer, N. (2014). Beware Fellow Plutocrats, the Pitchforks Are Coming (https://www.ted.com, New York: TED, Auguast 2014, accessed: 25th February 2019). HRM (2011). Human Resources – social engineering in the 20th century. Retrieved from (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rnJEdDNDsI). Lemov, R. (2006). World as Laboratory – Experiments with Mice, Mazes and Men, New York, Hill and Wang. Magretta, J. (2012). What Management Is: How it works and why it’s everyone’s business, London: Profile. Parr, C. (2014). Imperial College professor Stefan Grimm ‘was given grant income target’, Times Higher Education, 3rd Dec.

second timeline has been outlined by a Swedish teenager

Stewart, M. (2009). The management myth: why the experts keep getting it wrong, New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

named Greta Thunberg (www.youtube.com, 13 February

Wallace-Wells, D. (2019). Uninhabitable Earth, New York: Tim Duggan Books.

2019). It is the looming environmental catastrophe. Like Lyons’ book, some people realise what is coming, but

90

Working people into misery Reviewed by Thomas Klikauer

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Back to basics The Good University: What Universities Actually Do and Why It’s Time for Radical Change by Raewyn Connell ISBN Paperback: 9781786995407. London, UK, Zed Books, 240 pp., 2019. Reviewed by Natasha Abrahams The Good University, by the formidable Professor

standardised course designs. Connell also elevates the

Raewyn Connell, is a sharp analysis of universities as

role of students in the university: their interactions

an industry. Crucially, The Good University identifies

with teachers are viewed as creating something new

opportunities for change, while maintaining that

and valuable for both parties, rather than the teacher

change can only be achieved by decisive action. To

bestowing their knowledge upon a previously ignorant

make the case for a rethink of what universities could

student. Chapter three makes visible the oft-ignored

and should be, Connell delves into the global business

professional staff who are essential to the university’s

of university education, digging out confronting truths

functioning. Again, Connell speaks to the values held by

about who benefits from this system, and who is left out

professional staff, noting that they often take pride in

or oppressed.

their labour as enabling a public good.

While this book takes a global perspective, Connell

It is in chapters five and six that Connell tears down

engages throughout with issues that have recently hit

the sandstone walls, plainly stating that universities

headlines in Australian higher education media. Freedom

create social inequalities. The pursuit of ‘excellence’

of speech, academic freedom, and academic integrity

by universities is attacked as elevating the university

are considered, with Connell situating these as ongoing

and its inhabitants above those who are excluded. With

and nuanced problems. Connell begins by centring the

excellence being a sacred cow of universities, from this

workers as the driving force of the university. The first

point it is difficult to see how Connell will assemble her

chapter delves into the sociology of science, detailing

arguments into a vision of a good university. Chapter

the messy ways in which research is conducted. Drawing

six, which dissects neoliberalism in universities, was

on contemporary lived experience of researchers as

particularly enjoyable – not to mention timely, given

well as prominent scientists of the past, Connell divides

current Department of Education reviews which probe at

the process of research into stages, arguing that this

the meaning of higher education. Connell happily points

process produces research only as a result of the social

to perverse expenditure encouraged by neoliberalism,

organisation of knowledge. Truth-seeking is carefully

lampooning the sums spent on re-branding, marketing,

defined as conducting research in truthful ways, rather

gaming league tables, and auditing performance (before

than creating truth as an output of research. Connell

reminding the reader that this is a serious issue).

warns that this pursuit is threatened by the institution of

Re-imagined by a different author, The Good University

the university, a point which is returned to in the later

might have opened with the chapter on neoliberal

chapter on neoliberalism. Truth-seeking is singled out by

universities, given that neoliberalism is regarded by

Connell as a special value, particular to the university,

many progressives as the basis for the sector’s woes. The

which is incompatible with corporatisation.

path taken by Connell in her critique of the university

The Good University retains the marriage of research

system instead emphasises the long history of universities

and teaching within universities, addressing both issues

as mechanisms for producing inequality. There is no

separately and together throughout its chapters. As such,

nostalgia for a golden age of universities, as Connell

chapter two discusses teaching within the university,

argues that colonialism and globalisation were designed

presenting this as a revered role (rather than as a

into the system centuries ago. It may feel like The Good

distraction from research, as many academics see it). In

University is a timely book, however, part of Connell’s

Connell’s view, teaching requires freedom and creativity,

argument is that current problems have existed since the

which is constrained by current use of textbooks and

system was founded.

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

Back to basics Reviewed by Natasha Abrahams

91


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Chapter seven reviews alternatives to universities,

The Good University will be of interest to those

presenting diverse examples from around the world.These

with an interest in education policy and to those who

non-traditional institutions are presented as democratic,

work or study in or adjacent to universities. It makes

accessible, and often Indigenous or local. Inspiring as

for pleasant reading for researchers and professional

these projects might be, Connell points out that all have

staff, as the work of providing education is revered

been short-lived as they struggled with resourcing (she

and the university structures viewed as a constraint to

does not go so far as to critique these projects’ demands

creativity. I imagine that The Good University would be

for volunteer labour, and whose perspectives may be

less pleasant reading for decision-makers, who Connell

marginalised as a result). This reminder brings us into the

squarely takes aim at for importing corporate values to

final chapter, in which the ‘good university’ is revealed.

what should be a public asset.

Despite dissecting the current university system, and

Connell’s vision for a good university is entirely

presenting cheerful alternatives, it is not clear at this point

sensible. By articulating both the good and bad aspects

what the final chapter will contain.

of the university system, she has arrived at a solution

The final chapter begins to set out the foundations of

of salvaging the heart of the university while excising

a good university by articulating five values, which would

the aspects which perpetuate inequalities.This is at once

not be out of place in university marketing collateral. As

encouraging and depressing.A practical vision feels more

it turns out, Connell’s vision of a good university is not so

achievable, it is not completely alien to the university

radical, instead embodying what many think a university

system that we already have. However, in Australia, where

should be. Connell imagines three ‘good universities’, at

universities are increasingly reliant on revenue from

ten, fifty, and two hundred years from now. This section

full-fee paying students, and for-profit private providers

is a highlight of the book, drawing on the lessons of

seem to be multiplying as an alternative to the public

the preceding pages to arrive at the three colourful,

university, we are only moving further away from the

speculative visions. We are then swiftly brought back to

idea of a university as a publicly owned asset that exists

reality as Connell articulates that while there are many

to benefit society.

people who would support a good university system, these people and organisations need to work together

Natasha Abrahams is president of the Council of Australian

if there is to be any hope of change. The final pages are

Postgraduate Associations (CAPA).

thus a call to action for university workers (especially

Contact: president@capa.edu.au

unionists), students, and the public in general to reclaim universities as collectively owned by society.

92

Back to basics Reviewed by Natasha Abrahams

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

STEM – Education for the global economy Miseducating for the Global Economy: How Corporate Power Damages Education and Subverts Students’ Futures by Gerald Coles ISBN: 978-1-58367-690-5, paperback New York: Monthly Review Press, 256 pp., 2018. Reviewed by Thomas Klikauer Science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) are

cannot be achieved within the economic system …’ (p.

skills our students and we are all supposed to have to

14) as currently exists. In other words, school reform and

succeed in the global economy. This has been the mantra

even reforming universities cannot be achieved when

for quite some time. Gerald Coles’ Miseducating for the

the framework in which both exist demands something

Global Economy takes a critical look at what we are told

completely different from the ideas many school

by people who hardly ever enter a classroom but are

reformers have. Apart from the economic parameter

called educational experts or educational policy makers,

set by capitalism, there is also politics. In the USA, for

and politicians, the corporate media, and state officials.

example, ‘55.2% [is for the military] compared to 6.2%

They are the ones carrying out the managerialism and

of the federal budget [that is allocated] for education’ (p.

neoliberalism project. Among them are school principals

23). This is politics explained in numbers. The military is

who are managers rather than educators. These are

important – education is not. Because of capitalism and

principals more interest in their CV than in children, as a

politics,‘…our economy is at war with many forms of life

teacher said to me recently. And then there are right-wing

on earth, including human life’ (p. 25).

think tanks, CEOs, businesspeople, and rafts of capitalism’s little helpers.

A sign of our Madness and Civilisation (Foucault) is the fact that ‘investment in male baldness research exceeds

Coles starts by saying that universities as well as

research funding for finding a malaria vaccine’ (p. 26). Bald

schooling ‘….can serve as an ideological device to deflect

men have money – dying children in our Planet of Slums

understanding’ (p. 9). STEM can be such a device. Focusing

(Mike Davis, vimeo.com/226707526) do not. This is what

on a narrow range of STEM subjects can indeed deflect

drives capitalism, and this is what is wrong.To keep it that

understanding from what became known as‘manufactured

way, many schools and universities train – not necessarily

landscapes’ (p. 12), for example. Manufactured landscapes

educate – students into a narrow band of subjects (like

explains the ravaging character of rampant capitalism and

STEM). This ensures that students are ‘working on’ not

its environmental devastation.This is also shown in David

[having] an understanding of the global economy’ (p.

Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth (Wallace-Wells,

28). Some might say one can train a dog to function but

2019). Gerald Coles’ book is critical of STEM.The purpose

one hardly ever sees an educated dog. What schools and

of his book, Coles says, is this:

universities do is training. Both institutions train students

‘I will argue that corporations are leading criticism of schools for doing exactly what schools have always done and continue to do well: that is, provide a portion of Americans with the educational abilities to obtain work in the upper-level occupations of the economy, and in a multi-tiered educational system, providing an array of lesser abilities to other students, who will meet the stratified labour needs that constitute the vast portion of the stratified economy’ (p. 13)

to function in a global economy. It is training ‘for and not about the global economy’ (p. 30). What capitalism needs are functioning automatons – human automata just like in the 1920 play R.U.R. by the Czech writer, Karel Čapek. It needs functional robot-like creatures, that get up when a $10 plastic radio plays silly music, brush their teeth, have breakfast, go to work, consume, come home, watch TV and die.

Perhaps the key to Coles’ book is the following

It is training and in the case of higher education, it is

statement, ‘consequently, those working for reforms for

‘education for idiot savants’ (p. 37). These idiot savants

schools and students must face the fact that these reforms

and other ‘students must not think about facts like those

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

STEM – Education for the global economy Reviewed by Thomas Klikauer

93


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

in 2016, when the anti-poverty organisation Oxfam

extraction➞landfill. Converting linearity into circularity

reported that the richest 1% of adults in the global

without a wince makes one a professor at MIT –

economy owned 48% of the planet’s wealth’ (p. 37). By

labouring children are conveniently swept under the

2018, these numbers had only become worse and so did

proverbial carpet – a bitter joke.

our environmental vandalism.

For MIT authors, school students, and for university

In any case, STEM students ready for work in the

students ‘absent, however, is any education about the

global economy ‘must not think about how and why the

extent of harsh work, low income, poverty, illnesses,

earth’s resources are used, about, for example: ‘the 12%

meagre education, early mortality, and similar bitter

of the world’s population that lives in North America

conditions borne by a vast proportion of humanity’ (p.

and Western Europe [and] accounts for 60% of private

65). Instead, we are told we need a STEM education to

consumption spending, while the one-third living in South

get a job. And this is even though STEM jobs ‘make up

Asia and sub-Saharan Africa amounts for only 3.2%’ (p. 39).

only a small fraction of total US employment’ (p. 67).

This is only the latest outcome of globalisation or what

Furthermore, ‘for every two students with…a STEM

used to be called imperialism that started with ‘Globalism

degree, only one is hired into a STEM job’ (p. 70).

1.0…in 1492’ followed by ‘Globalism 2.0 extending from

Whether these are STEM jobs or not, the prospects

around 1800 to 2000’ and finally arriving at ‘Globalism 3.0

look bleak. For many these are increasingly lower

[that] emerged at the end of the twentieth century’ (p. 48).

paid jobs. Coles says, ‘in the 1965 song, “Subterranean

Not to forget that in ‘the Spanish conquest... 1494–1508,

Homesick Blues”, Bob Dylan sang that a worker’s reward

over three million people perished from war, slavery, and

after achieving twenty years of schooling would be

the mines’ (p. 49).

a promotion to the day shift’ (p. 74). Increasingly, ‘the

What we now call the global economy originally meant

college degree is becoming the new high school diploma:

that ‘approximately 11 million Africans who were forcibly

the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive

transported for slavery, with at least two million dying

one, for getting even the lowest-level job’ (p. 75). Under

during transport’ (p. 49). This is the unseen historical

neoliberalism’s ideology of free choice this means no

truth of what we are meant to embrace: globalisation. To

choice at all as ‘students commonly have “little choice but

camouflage this and many other mass killings – like the

to take out loans” to finance their degree’ (p. 77).

100 million tobacco deaths of the 20th century (Benson

With the rise of the precariat things are set to get

& Kirsch’s Capitalism and the Politics of Resignation)

worse. In ‘the mid-1950s [there still were] good-paying

– ‘educational policy runs away from this history’ (p. 51).

manufacturing jobs [as] 35% of that sector was unionised,

Almost all modern textbooks on management and human

whereas by 2016 union density had fallen to 10.7%’ (p. 79)

resource management do exactly that.They never mention

and wages are stagnant at best. There is a link between

the ‘dark satanic mills of England [and] the contemporary

high union density and high wages and low union density

clothing mills in Bangladesh’ (p. 53).

and low wages. Even the otherwise staunchly neoliberal

In many cases, what is sold to us as the global labour

International Monetary Fund had to admit as much

market ‘needs workers with little or no schooling’ (p. 53).

(Jaumotte & Osorio Buitron, (2015). Meanwhile low-paid

In ‘Ghana, Niger, Peru, and Tanzania, boys and girls, some as

jobs are spreading. In computing, it looks even bleaker for

young as eight, work twelve- to twenty-four-hour shifts to

STEM graduates.‘In 2011, at a time when US colleges were

mine the minerals’ (p. 59) that go into our flashy iPhones,

graduating 50% more computer science majors than were

Apple-watches, stylish laptops. As e-waste, these products

able to find a job in IT, guest workers filled one-third to

end up in landfill sites in Ghana and elsewhere.

one-half of new job openings’ (p. 81).

There, children extract valuable minerals in toxic

Worse still is the rise of‘crowdwork … processed through

smog. ‘For many millions of children throughout the

professional online market-place businesses... these...

world, the notion of ‘education for the global economy

crowdworkers tend to be well educated… but work… at

is a bitter joke’ (p. 61). Meanwhile a book like those of

a competitive, rock-bottom price’ (p. 82). Those employed

an esteemed MIT professor – Balancing Green (Sheffi,

by Amazon, for example, experience a similar downward

2018)– never mentions those children at the start and

trend in wages and working conditions. ‘Amazon.com’s

at the end of a linear process. This process starts with

workers are low-paid, overworked and unhappy’ (p. 86).

Extraction and ends with Landfill. In the book, this

Just like many others in the precariat, they too experience

linearity is euphemistically called ‘the circular economy’

the ‘fissured work’ (p. 87) of low job security, bad working

(p. 213). It does not show circularity but a linear process:

conditions, low wages, long hours, etc.

94

STEM – Education for the global economy Reviewed by Thomas Klikauer

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

While future employees are told to select STEM subjects

teaching videos ‘quickly run through climate change’ (p.

at school and university, these educational institutions

136) – never to be called the dangerous sounding global

experience ever-declining levels of state support. At the

warming. On ‘Latin America [for example], Khan Academy

same time, corporations experience ‘corporate welfare’ (p.

videos mention that it [was] ruled by military strongmen…

95) largely through subsidies and lower taxes. Furnished

Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez’ (p. 136). Forgotten

with low corporate taxes, oil producer Chevron supports

is that ‘Chavez was elected in 1998 and re-elected in 2000,

‘STEM education programs…to arm students today with

2006, and 2012’ (p. 137). Instead of highlighting Castro

the critical skills they need to succeed in the jobs of

and Chavez, what is not mentioned on Khan videos are the

tomorrow [but when] its hydraulic fracturing explosion…

ruthless and torturous mass-murdering dictators of South

caused a fire lasting four days….Chevron offered each

American either put in place or supported by the USA

nearby residents a coupon for a free large pizza and a two-

for decades. Unmentioned is also the fact that ‘the 2002

litre drink’ (p. 97). Meanwhile Chevron’s profits in 2013

US-supported coup d’état [sought] to overthrow’ Chavez

were $21.42 billion’ (p. 98) which is the staggering and

(p. 137). It is a historical whitewash of globalisation, no

unimaginable sum of: $21,420,000,000.

longer called by its real name: imperialism.

Similarly, ExxonMobil also ‘funds STEM education’ (p.

Not surprisingly,‘the US economy has no need for a well-

101). At the same time, ‘ExxonMobil funnelled nearly

educated populace’ (p. 155) and its politics has no use for

$16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of 43

them either. Just as Donald Trump said ‘I love the poorly

advocacy organisations that seek to confuse the public on

uneducated’. Bad education makes sure that there are

global warming science’ (p. 103). By the same token,‘Intel is

enough poorly educated people around to vote for Trump.

sponsoring school STEM expos’ (p. 109) while being fined a

Next to no education system follows Finland – PISA’s

‘federal penalty of $143,000 [for] failing to report accurate

number one educational system (see www.oecd.org/pisa).

emissions for thirty years… in 2014 full revenue [of Intel]

Instead of Finland-style education with well-educated and

was $53.7 billion’ (p. 109) – the microscopic penalty (sic!)

well-paid teachers, one finds that ‘teachers in Georgia with

of a meagre $143,000 hardly registered on the corporate

10 years of experience and a graduate degree make less

balance sheet of $53,700,000,000 – a bitter joke.

than a flight attendant in the state’ (p. 161).

Apart from a little and well-choreographed outrage,

Such teachers work in deliberately underfunded

most of the criminal and unethical behaviour of

schools inside a society that makes corporations pay less

corporations is successfully camouflaged. This is done

and less tax. In ‘California…Google, Intel, Wells Fargo paid

by the self-appointed moral guardian of business,

just 1.6% of their profits in state taxes’ (p. 169). ‘Between

namely business ethics – a tautology, some would say.

2008 and 2012, 288 major corporations paid an effective

The ideological powers of business ethics disguise the

federal income tax rate of just 19.4%’ (p. 171). This is

unsavoury realities of corporations and global capitalism

called ‘corporate citizenship’ – a bitter joke. Meanwhile

eliminating contradictions and stabilising domination. To

Walmart with a ‘net worth of $130 billion in 2016’ (p.

sustain corporations and capitalism rather than earth as

176) employs an ‘army of lawyers and consultants who

a living space, business ethics has even invented eager

systematically challenge property tax arrangements’ (p.

helpers like corporate social responsibility and corporate

177). In 2012, ‘Citigroup spent $6 million on lobbying…

citizenship.These helpers mirror and stabilise capitalism’s

thereby avoiding paying about $11.5 billion in taxes’

social order. Meanwhile, ‘education is guided by a

(p. 181). Its lobbying paid off handsomely – a beautiful

correspondence principle… in which the organisation,

return on investment. Meanwhile Bill Gates’ Microsoft has

content, and values taught in schools reflect and

‘a small office in Puerto Rico…saving the company $4.5

reinforce the social order… Nazism yields Nazi schools,

billion in taxes over three years’ (p. 182).The list goes on.

Communism communist schools, apartheid schools, capitalism capitalist schools, etc.’ (p. 212).

In ‘fighting back’ (p. 817), Coles suggests the ‘New York Times Learning Network’ (p. 204, https://www.nytimes.

What we see in schools, colleges, and universities is a

com/section/learning) and Rethinking Globalisation:

form of ‘compulsory mis-education’ (p. 122) supported by

Teaching for Justice in an Unjust World (Bigelow, 2002).

institutions like the Khan Academy which ‘by 2017 had

Beyond that, the overall conclusion is ‘the corporate

nearly 57 million users’ (p. 134) – equivalent to the entire

answer is simple:

population of Italy. The Khan Academy is supported by ‘major fund raisers of George W. Bush [and] the rightwing Bradley Foundation’ (p. 135). Khan Academy’s vol. 61, no. 2, 2019

• just provide enough funds to maintain the educational system that currently serves the economy well;

STEM – Education for the global economy Reviewed by Thomas Klikauer

95


A

U

S

T

R

A

L

I

A

N

U

N

I

V

• ensure that taxpayers fund most of the schooling serving businesses; • do not fully fund schooling for those poor or marginally poor American youth whose futures will it well with the present and future jobs that will be predominant in the economy, namely, fast food, simple services, basic health care, low-skilled factory work; • maximise profit by not contributing more to the public good than is absolutely necessary for business needs; and • pay workers as little as possible, maintaining that the work and wages are commensurate with their educational level and skills’ (p. 189). Essentially, this is the program of Hayek’s neoliberalism followed by politicians and the corporate elite for decades. As a result, education is threatened, schools are privatised, universities are run by managerialism

E

R

S

I

T

I

E

S

R

E

V

I

E

W

Thomas Klikauer teaches MBAs at the Sydney Graduate School of Management, Western Sydney University, NSW, Australia. Contact: t.klikauer@westernsydney.edu.au

References Aspromourgos, T. (2012). The managerialist university: an economic interpretation. Australian Universities’ Review, 54(2), 44-49. Benson, P. & Kirsch, S. (2010). Capitalism and the Politics of Resignation. Current Anthropology, 51(4), 459-486. Bigelow, B. (Ed.). (2002). Rethinking Globalization: Teaching for Justice in an Unjust World. Milwaukee: Rethinking Schools Press. Jaumotte, F. & Osorio Buitron, C. (2015). Power from the People, Washington: IMF. Retrieved from https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2015/03/pdf/ jaumotte.pdf). Lyons, D. (2019). Lab Rats – Why Modern Work Makes People Miserable. London: Atlantic Books.

(Aspromourgos, 2012), global poverty is rising, wages

Sheffi, Y. (2018). Balancing Green: When to Embrace Sustainability in a Business (and When Not To). MIT Press.

are stagnant, life expectancy in the USA is declining,

Wallace-Wells, D. (2019). Uninhabitable Earth, New York: Tim Duggan Books.

our natural environment is about to be destroyed rather comprehensively, and the 6th mass extinction is coming. Overall, Gerald Coles’ assessment of current education results in a rather grim picture with a Nietzsche like twist: there is no way out unless we alter the entire system. In other words, there is no way that school reform, in itself, can succeed if the adjacent capitalist system isn’t changed as well. As we commemorated the 100th anniversary of Rosa Luxemburg’s murder (15 January 2019), we also remember what she stood for. Luxemburg said, there is no socialism without democracy and there is no democracy without socialism. Perhaps the same applies to education – there is no socialism without education and there is no education without socialism. Instead of education, we get STEM. It is designed for narrowly trained Lab Rats (Lyons, 2019) that join the rat race of the global economy without ever realising that even when you win the rat race, you are still a rat.

96

STEM – Education for the global economy Reviewed by Thomas Klikauer

vol. 61, no. 2, 2019


nteu.memberadvantage.com.au/travel Save when booking your holiday this summer. Discover the exclusive offers available through your NEW benefits website. Including:

Discounted hotel accommodation in over 70, 000 locations worldwide

Specially negotiated travel insurance premiums for NTEU members

Exclusive corporate rates and excess on popular car hire brands

For more information, email info@memberadvantage.com.au or call 1300 853 352. Terms and conditions apply.

Since 1958, the Australian Universitiesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Review has been encouraging debate and discussion about issues in higher education and its contribution to Australian public life.

Want to receive your own copy of Australian Universitiesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Review (AUR)? AUR is published by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) twice a year. NTEU members are entitled to a free subscription. However, this subscription is on an opt-in basis, so you need to let us know. If you are an NTEU member and would like to receive your own copy of AUR, send us an email at aur@nteu.org.au. Subscription rates for non-members are available at www.aur.org.au. If you would like to become an NTEU member, contact the local Branch office at your institution, or join online at www.nteu.org.au/join.

www.aur.org.au


When it comes to that big question “What do you make”, most banks give you eight little boxes on a form. As a tertiary educator, how can you possibly fit everything you contribute to your community into that tiny space? At Bank First, we believe what you really make goes well beyond a dollar figure. So while you’re investing in others, we’re here to invest in you. Visit bankfirst.com.au and find out how we can do more for you.

Profile for NTEU

AUR 61 02  

Australian Universities' Review, vol. 61, no. 2

AUR 61 02  

Australian Universities' Review, vol. 61, no. 2

Profile for nteu
Advertisement