kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,

What ails universities?

WORLDWIDE PHENOMENON: ‘Whackademic’ leadership is ruining tertiary institutions

AUSTRALIA is an established education destination for Malaysians.  Education Minister   Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin recently went on  tour of  the education sector Down Under.   

About a quarter of a million foreign students in Australian universities  are testimony  to the state of education in the country.

At about this time last year, an Australian teenager, who stabbed an Indian student to death and sparked a diplomatic row with India, has been jailed for 13 years.

The unnamed 17-year-old admitted to killing  Nitin Garg in a Melbourne park in January 2010. The victim suffered  multiple stab wounds.

This is  not the first of such incidents causing the decline  in the number of Indian students  and forcing the authorities to reassure foreign governments  of the safety of their students. Racism  was cited as the cause leading to massive street protests at  In Whackademia: An Insider’s Account Of The Troubled University (2012), United Kingdom-born Australian academic Richard Hil wrote a “scathing insider exposé” which “lifts the lid on a higher education system that’s corporatised beyond recognition, steeped in bureaucracy, and dominated by marketing and  public relations imperatives rather than intellectual pursuit”.

The author, an honorary associate at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at  University of Sydney, also  wrote Surviving Care: Achieving Justice And Healing For The Forgotten Australians.

His articles have been widely published in The Australian, Australian Universities’ Review and Campus Review.

Hil exposes a world that he claims stands in stark contrast to the slogans and mottos joyously promoted by Australia’s universities.

Raising bold questions that go to the heart of Australian higher education, he  made “an unsentimental call for a re-enlightened higher education sector that’s about more than just revenue, efficiencies, and corporate profile”.

“Despite the shiny rhetoric of excellence, quality,  innovation and creativity, universities face criticism over declining standards, decreased funding, compromised assessment, overburdened academics and never - ending reviews and restructures.”

The Australian university system that  started in the mid-19th century largely excluded the poor  due to expensive fees.

Except for a brief period (1972-1975) under pro-equity and pro-education Whitlam Labor Government, the situation is very much the same today.

An academic at a major Australian university, Dr Gideon Polya, highlighted that the top private schools now disproportionately provide  students for  top Australian universities (the so-called Big Eight) located in the state capital cities and with prestigious medical and law schools.

Australian children  who attend government schools are  largely excluded from  premier universities and  coveted courses such as Law and Medicine.

Universities in Australia are allegedly becoming increasingly dependent on full fee-paying students from overseas,  leading to an education industry (“cash crop education”)  worth A$18 billion per year. This is at the top end of — if not the biggest — revenue generator for the Australian economy.

Hil  pinned down his concerns to the fact that universities are being corporatised and money-driven, and dominated by “market-place academics” and “line managers”  who are calling the shots.   The phenomenon is worldwide.

As Polya noted what has happened to Australian universities — and indeed to Australian society — is mirrored in  higher education institutions in other democratic societies,  in particular Western democracies.

It was observed that in Australia and in the West in general, the corporatising of  tertiary institutions reflects the  same of society as a whole. And for Malaysia, it will not be  much different.

Whether  you agree with Hil or not, it  will not be entirely wrong to say that much of what he  wrote is now evident in many universities internationally, in part due to the practices of “whackademic” leadership.  

This paves the way  for education  to be “whacked” out from one of galaxies of the mind to that of small-mindedness characterised by the culture of bean-counting and micromanagement.

New Straits Times Learning Curve 23 December 2012 

Tags: universiti

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