Friday, July 30, 2010

Threads - death of Jon Cleary, higher education, the Gruen Nation, Will Owen

One of the newspaper sections that I find most interesting is the Sydney Morning Herald's obituary section. I suppose its partly because, as I get older, more people that I have known quite well die. However, I find them interesting too because of my interest in history. 

I see from the Herald that Australian writer Jon Cleary has died at the age of 92. During a very long writing career, Jon Cleary published no less than 55 books. Seven were turned into films, two into TV adaptations. I enjoyed most of his books, including the Scobie Malone detective series.

One of the reason that I liked him is that I found many of his books authentically Australian. He could also tell a pretty good yarn, something that I like. 

In Are the wheels starting to come off in Australian higher education?, I mused about future directions in Australian higher education at a time of great change. One element of that was constant change in Australian universities as they tried to adjust to their ever changing environment.

In passing, I mentioned that I was not quite sure how many reorganisations Sydney University has been through over recent years; I lost count at three. Now I see that a Sydney University draft white paper obtained by the Herald suggests that The University is considering cutting more than 6000 undergraduate places and instead recruiting more postgraduate and international students, in a radical overhaul of its operations. An earlier proposal for the 16 faculties to be reorganised into a college of arts and sciences and five professional schools has apparently been abandoned. Instead, there is a proposal to group the faculties into seven divisions, each presided over by a board whose chairman will be chosen by the vice-chancellor.

I don't want to comment on the reported detail of the proposal. My interest lies in the way the competitive interaction between the various universities is likely to affect future structures and the type of education on offer. This is by no means clear cut. For example, Sydney wants to increase its proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds from the current 7 to more than 12 per cent. However, given the size of the projected cuts in undergraduate numbers, the actual numbers of disadvantaged students may or may not increase.

One of these days I must sit down and draw up a table of university strategies and then look at these in terms of student catchment areas. I think that the results would be interesting in telling us something about what is actually likely to happen on the ground.

On the election campaign, I see from the Australian that the the Gruen Nation on ABC TV attracted 1.6 million viewers. I mention this because, for the benefit of international readers, this is a clever satirical show about advertising and spin. It features a mix of clips and commentary from advertising experts. You can see it on-line (first episode here). However, if you are going to watch, please do so quickly. The episodes appear to be only on line for twelve days.     

  Finally and importantly, Will Owen is transferring Aboriginal Art and Culture: an American Eye to a new blog since his current platform is no longer being supported. The existing blog will remain, but all future posts will be on the new platform.   


Thomas said...

I would be extremely interested in your university catchment idea you mention here.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, Thomas. I will try to do this, although there is a fair bit of effort involved. Maybe if I do it in chunks, starting with Sydney?

Thomas said...

So starting with the most important, eh?

Jokes aside, I would be appreciative of anything that you generated. The whole system within NSW is interesting to me. With the non-Sydney region being so foreign to me, while being a part of the Sydney region, it would be a learning experience for me no matter where you started.

Start with what you're most comfortable with, I would suggest.

Jim Belshaw said...

Okay, Thomas. Will do!