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Go8 on university research « Previous | |Next »
November 26, 2008

The Go8 group of universities want to concentrate research investment in their hands and so shift away from an egalitarian model to an elite model of research funding. Their argument is intensified global competition requires Australia to provide more resources to proven performers, most of whom work within the Go8. This would enable Australia to remain competitive in research, since if Australia does not have world class -research intensive universities, it won't be able to participate fully int he international research system.

And so we have the dynamics of globalization working themselves out in higher education. As Rupert Murdoch observed in his Boyer Lectures education is now a global currency. So what would happen to the rest of the universities on the Go8 model? The bottom tier ones can become community colleges where 2 year degrees are in vocational training, and they act as a pathway into the undergraduate universities as a second tier, with a Group of 8 university concentrating on research and postgraduate work at the top tier.

This model, which is the Californian system of a community college network with its three distinct tiers, has been suggested by Glyn Davis, and it is an argument for a division between teaching and research institutions.

It looks appealing but, as things stand now, it would probably relegate universities in regional areas to a second -class status of teaching only universities, since all the Go8 universities are in the capital cities. The implication is that the Go8 model would nourish a handful of historically privileged universities.

Another body of universities--- the Innovative Research Universities Australia representing James Cook, Flinders, Griffith, La Trobe, Murdoch and Newcastle universities ---make another point out. Since the Go8 universities already attract 74 per cent of competitive grants, so the deliberate concentration of research funding in a selected few institutions based on past performance will weaken competition, restrict diversity, inhibit the emergence of new fields of research and stifle innovation.

Thirdly, what happens to the non-aligned universities---- Charles Darwin, Central Queensland, Southern Queensland, Sunshine Coast, Southern Cross, Deakin, Victoria, Ballarat, Swinburne, Western Sydney, Edith Cowan, New England and Canberra universities, as well as the Catholic University, who had 23 per cent of Australian doctoral students last year?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:38 AM | | Comments (12)


There is a storm brewing. The response by those living in regional and rural Australia would be that they needed to be served by a real university, just like the metropolitan areas. They would not be fobbed off with anything second rate such as community colleges.

the traditional debates in the higher education sector have been around uniformity versus differentiation, research funding versus teaching, TAFE versus higher education, multi function institutions versus single purpose ones, or the international standing of the G8 .

Yet a knowledge economy requires investment in human capital and this needs to be broadly based rather than concentrated in supporting two or three "world-class" universities. An innovative economy depends on research links in partnership with industry, the public sector and other end-users to deal with problems in different regions.

I cannot see making the problem re agriculture needing to become more sustainable in a warmer world, or restoring biodiversity to degraded wetlands in the Riverland or Coorong in SA, being solved by a team at Sydney university working with researchers at Stanford and Harvard in the US. It is more a regional problem that requires lots of local knowledge re farming practices and ecological systems and the weighing of different options based on local knowledge and a understanding of the natural and social history of the region.

Nor could it be done by researchers in one university --eg., The University of Adelaide. It requires a team of researchers across different institutions since it is complex multidimensional problem that cannot be solved by a high tech fix.

I know how regional people would feel, Nan. After all it is grossly unfair that Sydney people who want to study a degree in wine-making should have to move to Wagga Wagga or Geelong.

Why can't we have every course taught everywhere?

This plays into a parallel debate over teaching vs research academic careers, and how much of both academics are currently expected to do. At the moment, it's a lot of both.

If unis are divvied up into the proposed tiers academic careers will be significantly shaped by the choices they make in their early careers.

Given the higher value currently placed on research, teaching unis would inevitably end up struggling for funds.

On the other hand, such a system could more effectively stream students into their areas of strength and/or interests.

The biggest problem as I see it is the uneven distribution of influence the sandstone unis would be likely to have, which would allow them to monopolise research priorities. It doesn't seem to be the best way to dismantle the Dawkins reforms.

I suppose most have read the little sketch in the philosophy blog--- ""--- "For the Common Good"? Am just back from it, after earlier watching the dwarfish New York Bloomberg education head bureaucrat on ABC's press club luncheon, held in the studied absence of Gullard.

The palpable frustration of a couple of the journos, particularly the one from the "Canberra Times", might have been amusing had the issue not been quite so serious.
Sufficent to say by the end, this writer felt like he had been returned to secondary school for a second reading of Dickens' "Hard Times".
The yank guy sounded for all the world identical to Gradgrind and we even had a true Bounderby in the form of Christian Kerr who is becoming really, a brutalist Murdoch hack.

was that Joel Klein and his Children First program? Did he speak on how to transform the troubled public school system to achieve rising student performance, increase more and better choices for students, making schools safer, and giving educators additional autonomy whilst making them accountable for progress?

Does he try to aim at improving education outcomes by making schools more accountable for their teaching methods by using a business surveillance, performance and development model based on measurable data to drive improvement? Does this model mean the following scenario:

Schools that earn As and Bs on their Progress Reports will be eligible for financial rewards, and will be expected serve as demonstration sites for other schools, unless they perform poorly in the Quality Review Score. Schools that receive an overall grade of D or F will be subject to school improvement measures and target setting and, if no progress is made over time, possible leadership change, restructuring, or closure. The same is true for schools receiving a C for three years in a row.....Schools marked for closure are usually phased out over several years, not accepting new students but allowing enrolled students to continue while phasing out the grades under them.

Is this is what is being advocated for Australia in the guise of Rudd's education revolution?

Let her rip; and then when it is realized the currency is educated people not papers no one read, cut the finding to the research universities and increase it to the teaching universities.

That's the one, Nan!
We don't restore some sort of funding parity according to need, we just shut down the ones who can't "get it"
as to wangling the right results on paper, regardless of if the kids are actually learning or not.
I understand it.
What I CANT understand is, why is Gillard supporting it!
I know.
I'll wake up and it will all turn out to have just been a bad dream.

In his op ed in The Age Kenneth Davidson says that:

Jim McMorrow, who has spent a lifetime in education, including being a senior NSW bureaucrat, produced a report in August pointing out the funding inequities between the two systems. He found government schools, which educate 60 per cent of students, would need an extra $2.5 billion to restore the funding balance to where it was in 1996.

Under the unequal system set up under John Howard, government schools' share of funding declined from 43 per cent to 35 per cent and is forecast to fall to 34 per cent by 2011.

I cannot see how you can raise the standards of poorer schools without increased funding.

I don't understand why Australia would take advice on education from another country which has demonstrably worse outcomes than ours across the board.

There's some suggestion that Klein's figures are rubbery, his scheme has been implemented in one region, not a whole country, and you're talking about a system which has seriously undermined public education for so long that nobody expects it to work - unlike Australia where we still value public education.

I remember when Richard Florida wrote the Creative Class and made a fortune giving upbeat presentations about bohemians and bicycles to infatuated city planners everywhere. Klein appears to be having the same effect on our Julia.

I guess that the public school, the working class and early school leavers issue is a tough one for the ALP committed to social justice. Throwing money at it isn't going to work. The school culture has to change--be reformed---and the states are not really interested.

But they don't know what to do--hence they hunt around for ideas. The policy culture in the ALP is pretty poor even though eduction is at the heart of the Rudd agenda. What they talk in terms of is computers, getting the best teachers and improving the quality of teaching and administration.

Schools do need to have their performance measured against others of a similar social-economic status so they can be assessed.