2 April 2012

AGAINST THE DEGREE FACTORY !

Dear friends,

I wanted to draw your attention to something happening at the University of Sydney at the moment, but which reflects a much broader tendency in this and other 'developed' countries to neo-liberalise education and put institutions of education under market-capitalist models.

The Vice Chancellor of USyd, Michael Spence, along with the managerial illuminati of the University have decided to fire 340 university employees, which translates as roughly 10% of academics across the Uni and $28 million cuts in staff salaries at large, to help fund a 'reinvigoration' of the University's infrastructure and IT facilities to the tune of $385 million. Spence et al. indicate (un-ironically) that these 'prudent measures' are to ensure that USyd maintain surplus after a drop in - the enormous revenue they procure from - international enrollments in 2010-11 put a dent in their nevertheless expansive wallet.

Funnily, Matthew Thompson of The Conversation reveals: 'Third only to the University of NSW and the Australian National University, the University of Sydney last year notched up an operating surplus of $113.7 million, with over half a billion dollars in revenue coming from student fees and charges, student contributions, and Commonwealth contributions in lieu of students paying upfront fees.' On top of this, the University increased enrollments this year by 17.5% thanks to recent changes in government policy.

All in all, this translates as more students, larger lectures and tutorials, and fewer staff (particularly in those departments that Spence and his ilk believe aren't 'pulling their weight', like Biology, English, Vet Science, Anthropology, etc.). As a consequence, there is less time and money for research in these departments, with staff stretched to their limit by the resulting increase in teaching and administrative duties; it's not hard to imagine what this will eventually mean for the disciplines whose work is not attractive to big business sponsors or research institutes. Ancient Greek, anyone?

This prompts one to ask when the role of a University became primarily to operate at financial profit ... ? And when their role stopped being to really educate, to be a space of research and mutual enrichment through learning ? One can only speculate but it does seem that if these measures are rolled out, it will be a mere sleight of hand for the University to withdraw budgetary support of those researches not deemed 'financially viable' - all in the pursuit of ever-newer IT facilities and ever-more self-reflective architectural facades.

One day someone will ask, pointing at the shiny University buildings : "What's inside there ?"
And that day someone will respond : "Well, there used to be teachers and students, there were classes on all sorts of different things - almost anything you can think of - and they had to discuss, write essays, take exams and make experiments about what they were learning; people could meet and speak and wonder about the world and try to discover things about life. But I'm really not quite sure what happens in there these days... the people coming out all seem to have the same look in their eyes, the same piece of paper in their hands, the same debt in their pockets. And I'm not sure where they think they're going with that..."

There is a protest against the cuts happening this Wednesday 4 April 2012 at 1pm on Eastern Avenue of the University of Sydney (Main Entrance on City Road).

Anyone who believes in education should come along, this is not just about USyd, but reflects a much larger shift in the global education landscape that we must reject. Please feel free to circulate this email.

Sincerely and with best wishes,

Eleanor


[This was an email I sent out on 2 April 2012. For more info on the proposed changes at USyd see my post from 22 November 2011:
http://raddestrightnow.blogspot.com.au/2011/11/message-from-vice-chancellor-2012.html]

EDIT: Reply received from Jack Jeweller:

the life of the mind is not pigeon holeable , you can't cram it into a square box , in the same way you can't quantify the work of an academic with TQM statistical analysis, it isn't a matter for competitive professionals, who look over there shoulder in anticipation of who will usurp them and steal their post. It involves people who share the flesh of oranges, smoke cigarettes (if they want to), read books other than the books they are researching. Academics need to engage with one another without a master/slave dynamic, but rather a friendly and encouraging culture that serves to collectively educate future generations not increase managerial renumeration.

Here, here !

2 Comments:

Anonymous Ryan said...

And the saddest thing about the trend you describe is it's part of a culture where knowledge only has instrumental, rather than intrinsic, value. Nearly every discussion I have with someone about university ends with this question: "And what will that get you?"

It seems knowledge only has value if it can be exchanged in the labour market for money. Thanks, modernity.

23 April, 2012 01:52  
Anonymous wordpress training said...

That is main thing about it. Public education is become just distraction for them. Today education is change it's main aspects. Mostly it is being a business.

07 June, 2012 12:35  

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