From Ross Gittins at The Herald:
In an ideal world we’d be investing more in our universities, but our world is far from ideal. And so are our unis. They’re inefficient bureaucracies, with bloated administrations and over-paid vice chancellors….
It’s true our unis are obsessed by research, but any innovation this leads is almost accidental. The research the unis care about is papers published in prestigious foreign journals, which they see as the path to what they’re really striving for: a higher ranking on the various international league tables of universities….
The unsatisfactory state of our unis is partly the product of our federal politicians’ – Labor and Coalition – decades-long project to quietly and progressively privatise our universities via the backdoor.
Like so much misconceived micro-economic reform, this project hasn’t worked well. Put a decades-long squeeze on unis’ government funding and what happens? The unis intensify their obsess with research status-seeking and do it by exploiting their market power over students – while building ever larger bureaucracies.
There are some excellent teachers in universities, but they’re the exception. The unis pretend to value good teachers – and award tin medals to prove it – but, in truth, there are no promotions for being a good teacher.
Students are seen as a necessary evil, needed because the public thinks teaching their kids is the main reason for continuing to feed academics….
Universities are gaming the system, maximizing fee revenue by focusing on international rankings while lowering entrance requirements for students.
There is too much emphasis on a ‘prestigious’ university education and not enough on its practical application. Many students would benefit more from studying at technical institutes (many now rebranded as technical or polytechnic universities), technical colleges, TAFE or technikons which offer a balance between practical experience and theoretical studies. This includes not only engineering but architecture, nursing, finance, IT, education, and many other disciplines.