The subversion of Australian universities 

edited by John Biggs and Richard Davis

Wollongong: Fund for Intellectual Dissent, 2002
PO Box U129, Wollongong NSW 2500, Australia

Full e-text available here


The contributors

Contents, preface and contributors in pdf

1. Introduction and overview, by John Biggs & Richard Davis

Australian universities were designed to have a crucial role in a free and democratic society, but today they are no longer able to fulfil their proper function. The chapters in this book elaborate on what universities are for and how they became subverted, with some revealing case histories.

Chapter 1 in html

Chapter 1 in pdf

2. To the limits of acceptability: political control of higher education, by William Bostock

This chapter discusses what universities are, how they came to be, and what their relationship is to the state. There is a range of "academic acceptability" that is often transgressed by those in political control, and that applies in Australia today.

Chapter 2 in html

Chapter 2 in pdf

3. The battle for collegiality in Tasmania: the 1955 Royal Commission and the Orr aftermath, by Richard Davis

The University of Tasmania was under-resourced and over-controlled until the 1950s, when a royal commission ordered changes. The man seen to be responsible for the commission was Professor Sydney Orr, who was summarily dismissed shortly after the commission reported. The issues raised resonate with the problems Australian universities currently face.

Chapter 3 in html

Chapter 3 in pdf

4. 'A climate of fear': from collegiality to corporatisation, by Bob Bessant

This is a history of universities and colleges in Australia, with a focus on changes post-1988. Essentially, universities have been converted into colleges, not vice versa. Case studies of the management styles used by the administrations of Sydney, La Trobe, QUT,and Queensland illustrate the thesis.

Chapter 4 in html

Chapter 4 in pdf

5. Staff tenure, by Robert Solomon

The Orr Case made it obvious that tenure and dismissal rules needed tightening. Tasmanian academics finally got agreement on dismissal procedures compatible with academic tenure that were a model for universities across Australia.

Chapter 5 in html

Chapter 5 in pdf

6. David Rindos versus the University of Western Australia: analogies to the Orr case, by Brian Martin

Rindos, an internationally respected scholar, blew the whistle on his head of department to find the barrier was suddenly raised when he sought tenure. The parallels to the Orr case, nearly 40 years earlier, are noteworthy.

Chapter 6 in html

Chapter 6 in pdf

7. The Ormond affair: a tale of a tale, by Peter Tregear

In 1993, the Master of Ormond College, cleared by the courts of charges relating to alleged incidents of sexual harassment, was nevertheless forced to resign. Such an outcome not only suited the College community, for whom the implied guilt of the Master represented a localised narrative that deflected attention away from more fundamental problems and inequities, it also reflected the seductiveness of a consumerist logic which now characterises much of campus-driven feminist discourse, and Australian university culture more generally.

Chapter 7 in html

Chapter 7 in pdf

8. Unworthy of strong women, by Philippa Martyr

Sexuality is a fundamental part of human existence. So how do you deal with it in higher education, where women students now outnumber men, but most academic staff are male? Hint: hang on to that glass of wine - you may need it ...

Chapter 8 in html

Chapter 8 in pdf

9. The University of Newcastle: prelude to Dawkins, by John Biggs

Australian universities had become too complacent, if not corrupt, by the late 1970s. Nowhere was this more apparent than at the University of Newcastle, where a series of fatal misjudgements by the administration occurred. Dawkins was handed the ideal excuse for his assault on universities.

Chapter 9 (revised version, June 2009) in pdf

Chapter 9 (original version) in html

Chapter 9 (original version) in pdf

10. Corporatisation and intellectual property, by John Biggs

What happens to the idea of intellectual property, and an academic culture, in a corporatised research context? The case of Inez Carrin at Queensland University of Technology provides one answer.

Chapter 10 in html

Chapter 10 in pdf

11. Massey today - and tomorrow? A valedictory lecture by a departing history professor, by Robin Gwynn.

The story of economic rationalism and political interference in New Zealand universities is told by a distinguished historian. Political deceit and a failure to understand the nature of university education undermined teaching and morale at Massey University and brought the author to early retirement. This chapter, his valedictory lecture, brought him a standing ovation.

Chapter 11 in html

Chapter 11 in pdf

12. Corporatised universities: an educational and cultural disaster, by John Biggs

Treating knowledge as a private good has undermined the quality of teaching and learning, distorted research priorities and corrupted leadership. Academics have allowed themselves to be duped by politicians. Yet academic universities can have a role in a globalised economy without becoming competitive knowledge shops.

Chapter 12 in html

Chapter 12 in pdf

An additional but related analysis (in pdf):

The unbalancing of Australian universities, by Richard Davis

This book is located on Brian Martin's website on suppression of dissent

among the documents on education

Go to Brian Martin's website


Last updated 22 June 2009