QUT farewells the "old" humanities?

I’ve always been perplexed, and annoyed, by the tone of much of the conservative criticism of university education in the humanities and social sciences (I deliberately omit the words “logic” and “argument”). Either pundits, pollies and culture warriors extrapolate from some personal or anecdotal experience of a few isolated sociology departments from the 70s and early 80s and imagine an Althusserian circle of hell trapping innocent young minds in the cold dead hands of French structural-Marxism, or completely forget that teaching Australian literature and history was a radical thing to do in the 1960s, and one which many of their forebears opposed.

There never, also, seems to be any recognition that teaching history, “great books” or classics is something that the feared (and largely imaginary) academic left generally support, and that the evisceration of the teaching of these disciplines which are loudly trumpeted as essential to our nation has in fact been the work of managerialism and quasi-market funding mechanisms.

The story of redundancies and the failure to replace history, religion and classics staff at UQ, for instance, is a narrative not of insurgent postmodern hordes, but of the Vice-Chancellor’s creaming departmental budgets for “strategic initiatives”, and the creation of accounting models which allocate funding based on bums in lecture theatres rather than the intrinsic value of subjects and disciplines while seemingly always facilitating a proliferation of Pro-Vice Chancellors and a modicum of marketing staff.

The actuality of the situation is very starkly in view in moves announced by the Vice-Chancellor of QUT last week to close the School of Humanities and Human Services, where I was employed from 2000 to 2004.

Professor Coaldrake said the school was losing between $200,000 and $400,000 a year, which was unsustainable. He said the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Human Services had high attrition rates and poorer employment outcomes than other QUT courses.

Professor Coaldrake said QUT’s strength in humanities was its Creative Industries faculty at Kelvin Grove, which was internationally competitive.

“For us, that is the new humanities,” he said.

Peter Coaldrake, in another Courier-Mail report which doesn’t appear to be online, today defended his decision with reference to Julie Bishop’s diversity agenda in higher education. If students wanted to choose a liberal arts degree, he suggested, they could go to UQ or Griffith. It’s ironic that this “downsizing” comes at a time when Melbourne Uni is leading the way in re-valuing the humanities and a generalist undergraduate education.

It’s also ironic that QUT only began teaching humanities and social science in the early 1990s at the time that the amalgamation with BCAE took place. Under the Dawkins agenda, universities which originally had or had evolved from specialist roles (BCAE as a teacher education institution, QIT as a technological and technical college) felt that they had to replicate the classic model of a university.

QUT shifted away from this direction in the early years of this decade, when the Faculty of Arts was abolished, and replaced with the Faculty of Creative Industries. At one stage it was envisaged that many humanities and social science staff would transfer to the new Faculty, but decisions were taken by its Foundation Dean, John Hartley, which meant that this didn’t occur. Only cultural studies and literature staff moved across, and the Arts degree was left in a sort of limbo, existing outside any Faculty structures. Nevertheless, as I recall, promises were made that if research performance could be intensified and student numbers held, and the degree redesigned to be a “vocational” Arts degree in line with QUT’s branding, the School would survive.

Although there’d been announcements about a proposed restructuring, no one knew until last week that the degree intake this year would be the last, and that staff would be made redundant. It’s anticipated about 20 academic staff will go. My understanding from the information I’ve seen is that QUT will no longer teach political science, political economy, sociology, international studies, or ethics.

Some remnants of the School will be collapsed into other Faculties – languages (insofar as they’re relevant to business), and possibly geography and history to allow education students to have disciplinary grounding sufficient to teach SOSE and senior subjects. Some of the human services staff will transfer to the Faculty of Health, where a new social work degree is envisaged (strangely, here, the “duplication” argument doesn’t arise…).

I don’t want to cast any aspersions on Creative Industries – where I know and continue to work on research with a number of excellent academic staff, and whose degrees are very worthwhile. What I lament is the legacy of the original decision which sought to separate out CI from a broader Arts education. There’s no doubt, for instance, that media and journalism students could benefit greatly from instruction in sociology, politics and history. I just don’t think that the dichotomisation of “new” and “old” humanities responds to anything other than corporate branding, managerialism and academic politics at the top echelons of the University.

While Coaldrake can argue that students have options in Brisbane other than QUT for an arts education (he could have also mentioned ACU, a University where I also teach), this is quite misleading. It ignores the value of the research done by academic staff at QUT, which will now largely be lost to the academy and the community as people take redundancies. It also ignores the specialisations that do exist within the degree – for instance in electoral behaviour, social theory, sociology of religion, South Pacific studies, applied ethics, and a number of other areas where other Brisbane universities have less of a concentration of expertise and sparse or no subject offerings.

The cold calculation of numbers, OPs, and attrition rates demonstrates what University management actually prizes – performativity as Jean-Francois Lyotard termed it, and marketability, and vocational outcomes. Universities are prone to a logic of management fads and counting the dollars from clients. What can have a dollar value assigned to it is good, and what cannot so easily is “old”. QUT has just given an honorary degree to UQ Vice-Chancellor John Hay, who’s dismissed those who want universities to retain vibrant research and teaching programmes in disciplines such as philosophy and classics as sentimentalists.

While education ministers, culture warriors and pundits constantly proclaim the need for education to transcend vocational calculations, the hard reality is that the only notion of social value that university managements subscribe to is incredibly narrow indeed. Australian higher education has just taken yet another step towards intellectual aridity and impoverishment.

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109 comments on “QUT farewells the "old" humanities?
  1. philip travers says:

    Well,I am very dry on this subject too.But I do seem to recall Aboriginals in the Northern Territory got a lot out of classical plays in their locations.Maybe your good self should try video and aridity and recite some classic stuff in those terrains.Before cane toads and the unimaginative turn into the ants you could find in a arid Anthill.Standing next to such ant hills with classic and looking at camels and their mouths,maybe you will revive the ancient art of telling a much to difficult story by making it even more complex,but rich in the tapestry that the words and meanings are worth struggling deeply with.Lead by example.

  2. Megan says:

    Well I guess John Howard would be very pleased indeed to hear about it. This is the kind of education we can do without in the future. No asking questions about where we are all going and no musing about Truth and Beauty along the Miracle Mile, or in shopping malls and petrol stations. Supreme revenge from all those grim faced students of bean counting courses and boring little revisionist men from the media commentariat who were jealous of all the fun we used to have arguing about poetry or doing ‘happenings’ in Drama like climbing up trees for exams. More bean counting courses please!

    But there has been a trend for people to increasingly choose higher education courses that offer jobs at the end of it in the last 10 or more years. Although I notice a lot of Law graduates complaining of not being able to get work lately. Granted there does seem to be a steady demand for creative writing courses at QUT as that is not under threat, but then maybe that is related to people who just want to become rich and famous in this celebrity-obsessed world, want to hear their own voices rather than listen to anyone else’s and are willing to pay for courses such as these. Of course not everyone studying creative writing would be like that, but the current robust commercial viability of the course seems to suggest a fair few of the former.

    I guess the increasingly exorbitant HECS debt is one of the reasons behind the new pragmatism although I found my BA course one of the cheapest uni courses around. And it taught me how to think and how to write brilliant (though utterly useless) raves in blogs like this one (hem hem) and how to put up with a boring god-awful job while I figure out a means of escape. The trouble is, in the future people will wonder what the meaning of their inexorably hard working lives are and will find no answer amidst the dusty piles of past university assignments cluttering up their garages or the old books lined up in their shelves – that’s right beancounters sell them whereas I have kept all my English literature books because I still enjoy reading them. Expect more suicides, social dislocation, increased crime and generally more soulless consumerism and even more mass-media focus on damaged celebrity dollies as the damage wreaks its poison slowly over a generation or two and we descend into a new Dark Age….

  3. Lefty E says:

    Well said Mark. QUT was a leader in applied ethics – which may understandably be surplus to requirements after the Howard decade.

    Me, Ive always wondered what the exact point of a Commerce degree was. Unless you’re going to be an accountant, isnt it better to just go out there as a rugged individualist and entrepreneur away?

    Surely you could read the ‘classics’ of marketing on your own?

  4. The conservative press, and, in particular, the Australian, have several times run the line that ‘postmodernism is evil’. These articles tend to equate ‘postmodernism’ with some kind of ‘anything goes’ relativism when it comes to logic and intellectual rigour. After demolishing this strawman, they cite a few French names as examples of these offences, attempt to link this to alleged declining education standards, and consider the case closed.

    Obviously, this manouevre is political. Arts and humanties faculties are more likely to produce material that undermines conservative governments than say, a mathematics or business faculty.

    The brute instrumentalisation of schooling, and it’s reduction to mere ‘vocational training’, will inevitably lead to the neglect of canonical texts. The emphasis will always be on students doing enough to get them over the next academic hurdle, rather than actually learning anything much.

  5. Kev says:

    It’s just a continuation of the theme of the last 15-20 years: education is for a job, therefore the only qualifications worth having are those that equate to a job (preferably highly paid and enviable).

    The concept of studying something in a discipline that doesn’t relate to a hands-on job is portrayed not as a means of self-improvement, or facilitating a better understanding of the world and its inhabitants. It’s a frill, a piece of useless add-on that might even lead one to ask questions – perhaps difficult ones. And we wouldn’t want that, would we?

  6. Jennifer Gearing says:

    Thanks for posting about this Mark. You’re certainly much more coherent about it than I’m capable of right now. I’m still trying to graduate from incoherent rage, at this point. Though I will say Lefty E is right about QUT’s applied ethics program being a really good one.

    I have issues enough with QUT framing journalism as a “creative industry” and what that says about journalism, but honestly, old humanities indeed. I feel kind of bad for the next person who tries to tell me universities are overrun with socialism.

    I mean, it’s the Department of Education Science AND Training for a reason. That reason would be that education and training aren’t the same thing. People seem to have an issue with this idea. Though I am awaiting the government’s creation of a new phrase.

    All of that said, I’ve never been more glad that I did two disciplinary majors as well as one of the QUT required and fandangled ‘professional majors’, so that finding somewhere else to do Honours upon graduation won’t result in quite so much “Uh, what?”

  7. Paulus says:

    Well I guess John Howard would be very pleased indeed to hear about it.

    It’s interesting that, in response to a piece by Mark condemning the [false] RWDB characterisation of the humanities as being entirely run by po-mo Marxists, we get commenters regurgitating the [equally false] accusation that the right is engaged in some mighty plot to annihilate the arts.

    Fact is, the decline of the academic arts is due to universities’ “corporate branding, managerialism and academic politics”, as Mark says, which cannot honestly be blamed on right or left per se.

    If you disagree, answer this: do you really think things will improve under an ALP government?

    On the specifics of QUT, while I take Mark’s points about the research specialisations that will be lost, I do however wonder whether it is entirely justified for every uni, no matter how small, to have an arts faculty.

    Surely (in an ideal world) wouldn’t you try to concentrate your historians and political scientists and so on into a small number of large, really well resourced, departments in the sandstone universities — departments that might then build a world reputation?

  8. Mark says:

    Jen, you can at least testify to the soundness of sociology teaching at QUT! Good luck finding an honours programme, and feel free to email me if I can be of any help.

    Paulus, I suspect things are way too far gone and managerialism too far entrenched to improve more than marginally under an ALP government. However, federal policy (including policy initiated by the ALP under Hawke and Keating) has very much paved the way for the managerialisation of universities in Australia.

    As to QUT, it’s not a small university – around 30 000 students, I think. Most of the figures Coaldrake cites are open to challenge. The attrition rate for BAs generally is high at universities where the OP is relatively low as many students will select the course with a view to upgrading to another degree after a year. To make an accurate comparison vis-a-vis Griffith or UQ, you’d need to disaggregate the attrition stats, and also consider data regarding student satisfaction at the end of the degree.

    I’m not as close to the situation as I was when I was working there, but I’d certainly heard that numbers improved after the degree redesign (which was pretty ill thought out – cf. Jen’s comments about “professional majors”), and the OP for entry went up last year.

    The “deficit” Coaldrake is talking about is an artefact, really. You could save that much either by removing redundant Pro-Vice Chancellor types and their attendant bureaucracies and redirecting money to teaching, or by adjusting the artificially low EFTSU allocated to Arts teaching at QUT (about half that at UQ). In other words, QUT made a conscious choice to squeeze humanities and social science through allocating a derisory sum from the block grant to arts students which is much lower than at comparable universities. It’s a quasi-market loaded against the School.

    As far as I know, the research performance of the School had improved greatly over the past few years, with the new research centre attracting much external funding. That was one of the hurdles that the School had to jump to survive, but it seems the course has been altered at the end of the race.

    Surely (in an ideal world) wouldn’t you try to concentrate your historians and political scientists and so on into a small number of large, really well resourced, departments in the sandstone universities — departments that might then build a world reputation?

    Maybe so. But there are a few researchers in QUT Arts who are well known internationally, and many who are doing solid and valuable research and younger researchers whose potential might now not be realised. There’s also often more scope, as I’ve been arguing, for interesting areas to be explored outside the grant driven research intensive universities, and in any case, in the US system, liberal arts is taught everywhere even when it’s not a research focus.

  9. Mark says:

    Additionally, Paulus, the funding situation for Arts Schools is hardly much better at UQ and Griffith, if not as dire as at QUT.

    The ARC focussed research model embodied in the RQF encourages universities to poach “star” researchers from each other, discourages early career researchers, and slants much research money towards projects which can attract an industry partner. I’m by no means opposed to the latter, but there is very little leeway in the system as redesigned under Nelson and Bishop for pure research to take place or for those who are for whatever reason not already within the ARC charmed circle to benefit from funding. Most of us end up as teaching machines. Again, workloads in sandstone universities can be just as skewed and just as intensive.

  10. Paulus says:

    You could save that much either by removing redundant Pro-Vice Chancellor types and their attendant bureaucracies and redirecting money to teaching.

    Ain’t that the truth. The cancerous growth of uni central bureaucracies at the expense of teaching is a lament heard far and wide. (In partial mitigation, much of it has been forced on them by the requirements of the Fed government, but still …)

    You know, at Adelaide Uni there’s a lovely group photo of the entire central admin staff of the uni, taken about 60 or 80 years ago. It consists of: the Registrar, and 2 or 3 clerks. That’s it. How times have changed.

    BTW One of the commenters on that article you linked to made me smile:

    When will this madness end? Will QUT offer a degree in pornography if they think employment outcomes will be good and the attrition rates low?

    Where do I enrol? 😉

  11. Paulus says:

    Help! Trapped in moderation, no doubt for my reference to ‘pron’!

  12. Jennifer Gearing says:

    Thanks for the support, Mark. I may take you up on the offer when I’m feeling somewhat less defeatist about the whole affair. And of course, I can attest to the quality of sociology at QUT. I’ve got friends who moved from QUT to UQ for their cultural studies program, and they’ve got less complimentary things to say about UQ’s sociology program.

    I can also attest to the fact that the response to this will only get bigger, given the decision was only made public to students today, in the direct sense. Honestly, I feel bad for students who have longer than this semester to go (which is where I’m at), because for all the talk of letting currently enrolled students finish, I don’t think it’s implausible to suspect that their learning opportunities will diminish in the coming few years as academic staff start securing employment elsewhere.

    There’s also something to be said for the fact that QUT’s the only university with a campus on the northside of Brisbane (and no, I don’t count KG as Northside), and this announcement in conjunction with a lot of talk going on here about Carseldine Campus going the way of Kedron Park (there has been some information coming out of the Police that they’re in discussions about buying the campus) suggests that access to higher education for those on the Northside is going to substantially diminish (though given what I’ve heard of Coaldrake’s attitude to Northside and its socio-economic demographics, I’m hardly surprised, unfortunately) – though it’s hardly abundant to begin with, given both UQ and Griffith’s concentration on Southside.

    Paulus, I’m curious as to how the comment you’ve quoted suggests a right-wing plot, it merely suggests that the right’s hardly going to mourn these steps in the destruction of something they’ve claimed is overrun with po-mo Marxists (which I must admit is a term I always find fascinating, conceptually).

    This week on campus is going to be interesting, certainly.

  13. Mark says:

    Well, I’m one of those students, Jen, still plugging away at my PhD. And I’ve received two emails today – one from my supervisor and one from the director of postgrad studies (neither of whom knew much more than they’d heard at the meeting last week). Nothing at all from the university as such.

    The axe fell very quickly indeed.

    I anticipate the NTEU will be strongly challenging this decision, and I hope to be able to have more to say about that when the response becomes clear.

    I’ve got friends who moved from QUT to UQ for their cultural studies program, and they’ve got less complimentary things to say about UQ’s sociology program.

    I’ve taught at all three, so I don’t want to make comparisons. But I would say that QUT’s sociology major, having been designed when sociology was introduced in 1995 rather than growing without too much rhyme or reason over decades, was well thought out and offered a coherent programme. It became much more difficult to teach when tutorials were basically abolished, and prerequisites with them, when the search for money became desparate.

    When I was an undergrad at UQ in the late 80s and early 90s, you had 12 tutes a semester with a maximum class size of 10 to 12.

    There’s also something to be said for the fact that QUT’s the only university with a campus on the northside of Brisbane (and no, I don’t count KG as Northside), and this announcement in conjunction with a lot of talk going on here about Carseldine Campus going the way of Kedron Park (there has been some information coming out of the Police that they’re in discussions about buying the campus) suggests that access to higher education for those on the Northside is going to substantially diminish (though given what I’ve heard of Coaldrake’s attitude to Northside and its socio-economic demographics, I’m hardly surprised, unfortunately) – though it’s hardly abundant to begin with, given both UQ and Griffith’s concentration on Southside.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there’s a real estate windfall on the horizon. As you say, QUT has form.

    ACU is on the northside and has an Arts degree. Good offerings in sociology!

    http://www.acu.edu.au/acu_national/our_campuses/brisbane

  14. Jennifer Gearing says:

    Well, the e-mail that went out this afternoon (at 4pm, mind) looks like it only went out to Undergrad and Honours students. Though that came from the Northern Campuses Director, and reading it again pretty much just covers what was said at Friday’s meeting, and basically confirms that the School itself decided to let students know after stuff had been reported in the Courier-Mail. So yeah, it’s rather telling that Coaldrake was willing to talk to the press before he thought about students being told.

  15. harry clarke says:

    Its a tragedy. And for once I agree almost entirely with your post Mark. Its hard to imagine any university calling itself a university without a designated arts school. The idea of arts being subsumed in a ‘Creative Industries’ grouping to me sounds appalling and testimony to the idiocy of the university bureaucrats. ‘Internationally competitive ‘ – what a disasterous joke of a VC QUT seems to have.

    John Dawkins really has changed the culture. When I was an undergraduate in the 1960s no student (or faculty member) would have dared argue the case for universities as ‘degree factories’ which serve industry alone. Universities were intended to be places of learning. It was a bit of a cliche but it was right.

    This type of view sounds idealistic and out-of-place these days. But cross-subsidies that cover essential parts of a university that may have meagre revenue shortfalls are commonsense. $200,000-$400,000 is nothing in a university of the scale of QUT – it could probably be funded by the VC and his lackeys flying economy class. I am not joking.

    It also sounds dumb policy to me. QUT has real reputational problems without embarking in this seemingly suicidial act of distinguishing itself as a non-university.

    Of course higher education in Australia loses out overall with this type of move. It is sad.

  16. professor rat says:

    Universities often feature unusual architecture so why not rent space out to paintballers? Liberal party politicians could then clean off the paint.
    I’m greatly in favour of far more courses on Post-Modernism and Marxism but they do have to be paid for in some way. Thats my way.

    Alternatively they could hold chocolate tastings or something.

  17. michael says:

    QUT gave John Hay an honorary degree? Says it all really

  18. Cliff says:

    Well, I guess I was one of the last of a species to graduate from University. I studied what I did because I was interested in it. In third year I studied “Being, Consciousness, Existence” instead of “Cases in Public Policy”. I guess that makes me some sort of idiot committing career suicide in advance… but at least I made friends who I could talk philosophy with, rather than celebrity gossip and profit margins. That means much more to me than a big salary with stock options. I guess I should commit myself for that kinda talk.

  19. Mark fingers the problem perfectly in his first two paragraphs:

    …completely forget that teaching Australian literature and history was a radical thing to do in the 1960s, and one which many of their forebears opposed.

    There never, also, seems to be any recognition that teaching history, “great booksâ€? or classics is something that the feared (and largely imaginary) academic left generally support, and that the evisceration of the teaching of these disciplines which are loudly trumpeted as essential to our nation has in fact been the work of managerialism and quasi-market funding mechanisms.

    I’ve never seen a really good counter-attack against the usual sort of reactionary university-Left bashing. For instance, when the next Alan Jones story about the next absurd PhD grant comes up, lefty academics should hit the airwaves:

    Jones: And now we have Token Lefty to discuss the crazy grant to study surfing that the University of Western Sydney is giving out. So Token, isn’t this grant a stupid idea?

    Lefty: (bored voice) Oh, I don’t know. Probably.

    Jones: What? You agree?

    Lefty: Probably. You know, my (relative/mentor/inspiration) fought like the devil to make sure Australian history gets taught in Australian Unis but that’s all getting squeezed out.

    Jones: By stupid courses about surfing?

    Lefty: (airily) Surfing, Commerce, that sort of thing. (firmly) Alan, I think it’s really important that all students learn about Australian history and culture, but the people running the Uni obviously don’t agree with me. Did you know that QUT won’t be teaching Australian history any more?

  20. Uncle Milton says:

    Of course it’s terrible that QUT is cutting its Arts faculty, but universities are expensive places to run and difficult decisions have to be made. There is one – and only one- source of money to get universities properly resourced, and that is student fees, meaning fees that are a lot higher than they are now.

    That is a solution that most people who have contributed to this thread would resist, I would think.

    Of course, you can argue that the government should fund all universities to the necessary extent, just as it did in the good old days of Harry’s youth, but there is a problem with that solution – it just aint gunna happen.

    Cutting out bureaucratic fat from universities is a good idea in itself but won’t save much money in the scheme of things.

    But even well resourced universities have to make decisions about what programs they will offer. Not even the super rich US universities offer everything.

  21. nasking says:

    There never, also, seems to be any recognition that teaching history, “great booksâ€? or classics is something that the feared (and largely imaginary) academic left generally support, and that the evisceration of the teaching of these disciplines which are loudly trumpeted as essential to our nation has in fact been the work of managerialism and quasi-market funding mechanisms.

    So true…i get quite a laugh out of Howard & friends snuffling on about History & the Classics when they bed w/ the Master of ‘low brow’. History demonstrates that gradually Empires dissolve under their own hedonistic, multi-cultural, Machiavellian weight…& Fascist Corporate States eventually get their butts kicked.

    Do they really want History taught?…do they really think they can control educators, select the movements & events & characters to be focused on, & limit discussion & debate?…sure, temporarily…but it’s really just a Union busting & privatisation compulsion? User pays, cheap & nasty…unless YOU’RE THE CHOSEN ONES.

    and teaching our youth to yell out:

    SHOW ME THE MONEY!

    My Uni is now the INTERNET.

    Better not write any more insightful poems tho…people might think I’m blue & preparing to hang myself…sigh. Aren’t the mainstream media a caring, compassionate Conservative bunch?

    Good topic Mark. Needed saying. Luv yer work Megan.

    Tho Empires don’t necessarily transform into ‘Dark ages’ full of nasty Monks & religious wars. We’re just told they do…:) – self-fulfilling prophecies are often fed to the starving.

  22. I agree with Uncle Milton. After a decade plus of hearing complaints about ‘managerialism’ I’m yet to work out what it means beyond the fact that in any organisation demands for money exceed its supply and somebody has to make decisions as to how it is allocated. In my view universities have been too inclined to accept the status quo, whatever it is, rather than focusing on areas of relative strength (or trying to create such areas). This is not to say that every judgment is the right one, and I know little about the detail of QUT, but there is no shortage of humanities/social science departments or graduates in Australia so this is an obvious place to start when looking for areas that have more resources than is warranted.

  23. Kim says:

    Here’s a primer on managerialism from Coaldrake in yesterday’s Courier-Mail:

    “This might sound philistine but we are seeking to meet the market.â€?

  24. Kim says:

    To expand, Andrew, you’ve just demonstrated the principles in your own comment.

    any organisation demands for money exceed its supply and somebody has to make decisions as to how it is allocated.

    The question is who makes those decisions and on what principles the decisions are made.

    there is no shortage of humanities/social science departments or graduates in Australia so this is an obvious place to start when looking for areas that have more resources than is warranted.

    So all courses should be taught exclusively because there is demand in the labour market for their graduates?

    Uncle Milton wrote:

    Cutting out bureaucratic fat from universities is a good idea in itself but won’t save much money in the scheme of things.

    Harry Clarke wrote:

    But cross-subsidies that cover essential parts of a university that may have meagre revenue shortfalls are commonsense. $200,000-$400,000 is nothing in a university of the scale of QUT – it could probably be funded by the VC and his lackeys flying economy class. I am not joking.

    Harry’s got the right end of the stick here.

  25. Uncle Milton says:

    “it could probably be funded by the VC and his lackeys flying economy class. I am not joking”

    Very unlikely. Let’s say we’re talking about trips to the UK. $1500 economy class, $5000 business class, $9000 first class. (My guess is that the VC flies first class and the Pro, Deputy and all other prefixed VC’s fly business.) To save say $300K they’s have to make one trip per week.

    Anyway, excessive costs are not the problem at universities. Academics are very poorly paid. An associate professor makes as much as a public servant with five years working experience.

    Lack of revenue is the problem.

  26. Kim says:

    Well, even if that’s so, how many Pro-Vice Chancellors do Universities really need?

  27. Kim says:

    And they’re not poorly paid. Axe a few and you’d have your 400 grand very quickly. It’s a matter of priorities.

    QUT, I’m told, has the highest ratio of administrative and managerial staff to academic staff of any Australian university.

  28. Uncle Milton says:

    “Well, even if that’s so, how many Pro-Vice Chancellors do Universities really need?”

    Don’t know. It’s hard to find benchmarks, because each university is different in its own special way.

    The answer almost certainly is: less than they’ve got now. But it would be hard to prove. You can be sure that they are all very busy. Whether they are busy doing useful things is another question.

  29. Kim says:

    That’s the thing, isn’t it? For staff at the coalface of teaching and research, there are endless performance indicators and constant reminders that their fate is in their own hands in trying to reach goals set by the university, but for the managerial aristocracy?

  30. harry clarke says:

    The comments of Milton and Andrew make me depressed. Neither of you can see any difference between a university and a supermarket even though a university is providing public goods and students are in no way informed consumers.

    You are basing university structures and unit offerings purely on demand on the assumption that such demand is informed.

    Come and do my unit on public policy. I’ll teach you about market failure and why market-driven incentives don’t always bliss anyone out.

    Your thinking will leave us with universities where we don’t study english or history but where we vocationally train ‘sports management’ and marketing students in areas where academics have no expertise. Its phoney, its fake, its anything but a sensible market impulse and it won’t yield creative and intelligent members of the workforce. It certainly won’t yield intelligent citizens.

    The difficulty is that you are ideologically bound-up in the entreneurial values of the vandals who run things in the modern Australian university. These are the John Dawkins of 2007 – never mind if we get it right – lets just make a big splash!

  31. leftist sock puppet says:

    Mark, this is terrible news. Soon to be followed by a ‘rationalisation’ of humanities subjects at other universities, who have been laying the groundwork for some time. You know, not knocking off the faculty as such, but creating courses like ‘ARTS100, ARTS200, ARTS300 and diminishing specialties.

    Vive la Humanite!!

  32. leftist sock puppet says:

    But really, you should have finished your PhD by now …

  33. rosie says:

    A quick comment from a 2006 QUT Journalism graduate (and first-time commenter). I would have loved to have done more subjects of the kind Mark mentioned – sociology, politics and history – during my degree. In fact I remember longingly looking at the HHB courses when choosing my subjects each year.

    I know this is going to sound like a terrible excuse, but the main thing that stopped me from doing more of them was that they were largely based at Carseldine, and I lived on the southside. Thinking of spending hours (and dollars) extra each day on buses, going out to a campus where none of my friends were studying, kind of put me off the idea of doing a major in politics.

    I ended up doing two humanities subjects, German 3 and Intro to Sociology (both taught at Gardens Point) and a “political communication” subject in the CI faculty that I enjoyed a lot. There is certainly a lot of humanities theory that gets taught in creative industries. But still I wish we had learnt a bit MORE. When I started doing honours it occured to me that some more classes on social and cultural theory would have really helped me out, more than learning over and over again how to make a webpage (something I knew before I started uni) and the ridiculous primary-school grammar and maths that first year journalism lectures often include.

    It almost made me wish I had gone to UQ, where journalism students seem to be constantly complaining that they learn too much theory and don’t get enough practical opportunities. I suppose no university can be everything to everyone, though. And I did get a job at the end of it, for my dream employer no less, where I do tend to spend more time working on HTML and correcting inappropriate apostrophe use than arguing about subcultural theory or alternative models of journalism.

  34. Uncle Milton says:

    Harry, you’ve completely misunderstood my posts.

    I’m all in favour of english and history being taught and researched in our universities, and deplore the existence of sports management and other pseudo disciplines.

    Of course, it’s all a matter of where you draw the line. There are old style academics who deplore the existence of engineering, architecture and veterinary science faculties in universities.

    My main point was that, like it or not, disciplines like english and history will have a secure existence only when universities are financially secure. That means, in reality, much more money has to come from student fees. Until that day arrives, english and history and other dsiciplines with a high level of intellectual content, but a low level of student demand, will be extremely vulnerable.

    Look at the best universities overseas (which means the United States). They have mathematics departments and philosophy departments (etc) that have more faculty members than students. They are extremely cross subsidised. But they exist, safely and securely, because a great university should have a great mathematics department and a great philosphy department. But they couldn’t be cross subsidised if there was no money to cross subsidise them in the first place.

    But, even with all that, it is still the case that universities have to make choices. Do you think it would be a good idea if your Vice Chancellor said “LaTrobe University should have a medicine faculty because all great universities have a medicine faculty”? I don’t think you would. Do you think it would be a good idea even if La Trobe had the money to establish one?

    Harry, presumably you teach your students about opportunity cost. This is what it’s about.

  35. Mark says:

    I know this is going to sound like a terrible excuse, but the main thing that stopped me from doing more of them was that they were largely based at Carseldine, and I lived on the southside. Thinking of spending hours (and dollars) extra each day on buses, going out to a campus where none of my friends were studying, kind of put me off the idea of doing a major in politics.

    Rosie, the uni used to run a free shuttle bus that took about 15 mins to get from KG to CA – no doubt taking it away contributed to the marginalisation of the campus and the arts offerings.

    My main point was that, like it or not, disciplines like english and history will have a secure existence only when universities are financially secure. That means, in reality, much more money has to come from student fees. Until that day arrives, english and history and other dsiciplines with a high level of intellectual content, but a low level of student demand, will be extremely vulnerable.

    Uncle Milton, I doubt that increased funding generally would lead many universities (and obviously not QUT) to allocate more to the Arts schools and faculties. I think the choice has already been made that they have to sink or swim according to various measures of demand, and in some cases the measures are very far from being transparent or fair.

  36. Jennifer Gearing says:

    Uncle Milton, Whilst there’s certainly an argument for the idea of the financial security of universities having a major impact on traditional humanities disciplines, I rather find your question about medicine to obscure something important that I think distinguishes humanities from a more specialised faculty like medicine. I’m much more interested in the notion that it’s not just about ‘what great universities have’ but something that goes to the core of what universities are about, in terms of the place of a broad role for humanities within higher education. The department structures in the United States and their place for humanities/liberal arts disciplines isn’t just about cross-subsidisation and finances, but about the fact that the very nature of higher education in the United States contains at least a reasonably broad liberal arts requirement as a component at the undergraduate level. We tend to make the jump to specialisation earlier here in Oz, which I don’t think can be completely discounted as a contributor to the lesser position of traditional humanities in this environment.

    rosie, that’s something I’ve heard a lot from KG and GP-based students, actually. I’m actually someone who considered a few CI subjects as part of my Arts degree, but the prospect of going to KG is a massive mark in the ‘cons’ column. Then again, I know a lot of education double-degree students who have finished their Arts component and gone to KG for their education component and find the new campus a rather unpleasant shock (initially) for them. I mean, I’m admitting a considerable bias here, but I think there’s something interesting to be said for the difference between Carseldine’s campus environment to that of KG or GP in terms of what that means for interaction between staff and students and the ability for on-campus support staff to specialise in areas relevant to students’ subject areas. But that’s a whole other set of arguments altogether.

    What can be said, particularly re: the relationship between CI subjects and Humanities subjects is that iirc, they did actually co-exist, prior to this whole establishment of CI as a separate entity, so issues like yours as a contribution to the perceived lack of interest in humanities can be seen largely as a product of prior decisions anyway (For anyone who may know – Mark, I’m looking at you – was this whole CI thing driven by Coaldrake also?)

    I was talking to some of the staff on campus today, and someone pointed out that other faculties, and even QTAC, have long been suggesting to lower-OP students who wish to do other degrees to enroll in the Arts degree as a stepping stone to what they wish to do (incidentally, there’s perhaps an argument to be made that this process functions as a sort of quasi liberal arts requirement as a way of provided other faculties with students with perhaps a sounder general knowledge base). It’s a time-honoured tradition, really. So there’s an interesting question as to what will happen to that sort of pathway for prospective students outside the school. Not to mention the notion of what basing university success on entrance scores (in the way Coaldrake has) says about how he views student capacities, and what that says about Coaldrake’s greater commitments to equity, for all the official organisational rhetoric and policy.

  37. Uncle Milton says:

    If you are right, Mark, then Australian universities really are being run by supermarket managers.

    But I’m not sure that they are, at least not everywhere. The new Melbourne undergraduate model is a move in the other direction. If you want to study sports management, don’t apply there. If you want to study physics or history or life sciences, do apply there.

    I don’t know much about QUT. I seem to recall that a few years ago it started a program in “rugby studies”. (I think I read that in the Oz Higher Education Supplement.) If so, then that alone disqualifies QUT as a serious university, in my opinion. Others may see it differently.

    A similar (yet opposite) situation has occurred at RMITU, where they are cutting back on the mathematics department, but the social environmental discourse studies programs seem to be going from strength to strength, presumably because of student demand. For my part, I think that when a university that has a technical charter, as RMIT has, or had, and its starts cutting back on its maths department, it has lost its way.

  38. Lefty E says:

    Oh the humanities!

  39. Mark says:

    I mean, I’m admitting a considerable bias here, but I think there’s something interesting to be said for the difference between Carseldine’s campus environment to that of KG or GP in terms of what that means for interaction between staff and students and the ability for on-campus support staff to specialise in areas relevant to students’ subject areas. But that’s a whole other set of arguments altogether.

    Well, yes, Jen, I’ve personally found that I’ve enjoyed teaching at smaller campuses such as CA, Griffith Logan and UQ Ipswich because they’ve got a much stronger community feel – and often more motivated students precisely because they come from “non-traditional” backgrounds (which sometimes means lower OPs too).

    What can be said, particularly re: the relationship between CI subjects and Humanities subjects is that iirc, they did actually co-exist, prior to this whole establishment of CI as a separate entity, so issues like yours as a contribution to the perceived lack of interest in humanities can be seen largely as a product of prior decisions anyway (For anyone who may know – Mark, I’m looking at you – was this whole CI thing driven by Coaldrake also?)

    Yes – note the history in the post.

    I don’t know much about QUT. I seem to recall that a few years ago it started a program in “rugby studiesâ€?.

    I understand that the centre was established because of a private sector grant, Uncle Milton.

  40. mick says:

    Wow, this is rough news. Axing a School for a 400k deficit, please. I’ve heard of small departments being in trouble running up a similar size deficit, but a whole school. That is something that can be fixed by some careful strategic thinking. Hell, a couple of ARC large grants and that budget hole disapears overnight.

  41. Megan says:

    ‘Lefty: (airily) Surfing, Commerce, that sort of thing. (firmly) Alan, I think it’s really important that all students learn about Australian history and culture, but the people running the Uni obviously don’t agree with me. Did you know that QUT won’t be teaching Australian history any more?’

    David Jackmanson – What???!!! No Australian history any more? However will Howard and co. get across his ‘three cheers’ view of white Australian history? Oh I know. By teaching it in schools, before the students learn the fine art of questioning the documents they are given to ‘study’ and where they also get to learn useless facts like who was the first prime minister of Australia. Obviously teaching History in university would be too dangerous and we might have too many people learning about the Stolen Generations (like I did when studying Aboriginal History at uni and it was a total shock) and all that kind of left-wing stuff and nonsense.

  42. John Greenfield says:

    Quite frankly I find the idea of Dawkins Universities having Arts faculties to be preposterous. Get a load of this airhead Arts graduate of University Technology of Sydney (formerly the Institute of Technology).

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/selfinterest-doesnt-have-to-be-the-final-frontier/2007/04/18/1176696913340.html

  43. Published by Mark on 23 April 2007 at 10:57 pm

    While education ministers, culture warriors and pundits constantly proclaim the need for education to transcend vocational calculations, the hard reality is that the only notion of social value that university managements subscribe to is incredibly narrow indeed.

    Its too late to save the humanities in the tertiary institutions. Contemporary arts is a mish-mash of post-modernist philosophy and identity politics ideology, all bound up with political correctness codes. Beyond intellectual redemption.

    Humanities lecturers have no one but themselves to blame for their fall from grace. Humanities used to be considered a classy sort of thing to do, learn a little French, drop a few Latin tags and be able to talk knowlegeably about ancitent and modern history. Humanities dons were typed as absent-minded other-worldy gentlmen treated with affectionate indulgence by members of the public.

    That changed post-seventies when the lunatics took over the assylum.

    Contemporary humanities students are now treated as a joke by most citizens, both on and off campus. The term wanker is interchangeable.

    No doubt the study of contemporary arts in humanities is being replaced by crudely philistine commecial vocational subjects. But the notion of apolitical professionalism disappeared some time ago from the trendier humanities. So the imposition of managerialism is no great harm. And it does not seem to be too bad a trade for the taxpayer, since there is at least a prospect of HECS debt repayment.

    The Cultural Right is correct to focus on the basic 3R’s for the populus and the traditional canon for the elite. And the secondary state schools are coming to the party, trashing the fashionable and treasuring the traditional. The Australian reports the state ALP governments are becoming born-again traditionalists:

    THE catch-all subject Studies of Society and Environment will be dropped in the nation’s high schools and replaced by the traditional disciplines of history, geography and economics under a schools action plan to be released by the states and territories today.

    Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, who will release the report today, said the report advocated a return to traditional disciplines to ensure a well-rounded education.

    “It reflects our belief that there are key disciplines that are best taught within the school curriculum,” Mr Bracks said.

    This re-conservatism is all part of what Tom Wolfe christened “The Great Re-Learning“. I suggested the same conservative tendency was observable in Australia, expressed as “The Decline of the Wets“.

    I tell you the Culture War is turning into a rout.

  44. Mark says:

    Its too late to save the humanities in the tertiary institutions. Contemporary arts is a mish-mash of post-modernist philosophy and identity politics ideology, all bound up with political correctness codes. Beyond intellectual redemption.

    Hmmm.

    You were one of the people I was thinking of when I wrote this:

    Either pundits, pollies and culture warriors extrapolate from some personal or anecdotal experience of a few isolated sociology departments from the 70s and early 80s and imagine an Althusserian circle of hell trapping innocent young minds in the cold dead hands of French structural-Marxism, or completely forget that teaching Australian literature and history was a radical thing to do in the 1960s, and one which many of their forebears opposed.

    Do you actually know anything about what’s taught and researched in contemporary arts faculties, or is your opinion solely based on endlessly intertextual columns by the Windschuttles, Bolts, McGuinnesses, Sheehans, and Pearsons of the world?

    The Cultural Right is correct to focus on the basic 3R’s for the populus and the traditional canon for the elite.

    Righteo, then. Back to the Nineteenth Century.

    Where do you imagine this “canon” will be taught in the absence of arts faculties in universities?

    In the discipline of English, for instance, the prime mover in the abolition of the traditional curriculum of language studies – ie Old Icelandic, Old English, etc., was budget cuts and managerialism, not any supposed postmodernism. And if we’re talking about the classical canon, refer above to what I wrote about classics as a university discipline.

  45. John Greenfield says:

    Jack

    Oh there is no doubt the Left has well and truly lost the culture wars they stupidly started. The biggest victims have been the Labor Parties and the lower classes.

    The neocons will not accept victory graciously however. I’ve said it once and I will say it again. The neocons are only warming up. We ain’t seen nothing yet.

    One broomstick operation that cannot come quickly enough is the sweeping out of all those wretched Cultural/Gender/Communications/Media Studies types from the universities down to Centrelink where they belong.

    What a disaster THAT experiment was.

  46. Kim says:

    Yawn.

    You forgot to use the word “luvvies”.

    Do any of you culture warriors actually read the posts you comment on?

    One broomstick operation that cannot come quickly enough is the sweeping out of all those wretched Cultural/Gender/Communications/Media Studies types from the universities down to Centrelink where they belong.

    Aside from the fact that you’re purveying your endlessly repeated political piffle at the expense of 20 people who are actually facing redundancy, you might have noticed that the areas of study you mentioned are those which are well funded within QUT’s Faculty of Creative Industries and that what is disappearing are the traditional humanities and social science disciplines.

  47. Mark on 24 April 2007 at 10:58 pm

    Righteo, then. Back to the Nineteenth Century.

    I wish! I would not trade Darwin, Weber and Marshall for all the social theorists published in the past generation. Contemporary social theory is actually a kind of epistemological entropy, negating knowledge.

    Mark says:

    Where do you imagine this “canonâ€? will be taught in the absence of arts faculties in universities?

    Muggeridge, when surveying the wreckage of MI5 after the Burgess-McLean spy scandal, concluded that reform was impossible. The only solution was total reconstruction: “clear out the current occupants, fumigate the premises and start again.” If this sounds uncomfortably like a purge then I suppose “the long marchers through the insitutions” are only getting their dues.

    Stov used the principle of diminishing returns – reduce the total quantity, increase the average quality – to predict that the introduction of university fees would kill off the sillier parts of Arts. Death by a thousand staff cuts:

    Radiation-leaks and outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease can be stopped. The disaster in Arts is far more important than those things, but it is not obvious that it can be stopped at all.

    …it would probably begin with the re-introduction (imperative anyway) of fees, for Arts students at least. This would greatly improve the quality of students, and at the same time greatly reduce their numbers. The way would then be open for similarly reducing the numbers, and improving the quality of Arts staff.

    On its own, of course, this would only serve to cut our losses.

    But if even a quarter of the money which is at present wasted on Arts were to be diverted to scientific faculties, there would be great positive gains as well: gains to the nation, as well as to knowledge.

    I expect that wealthy benefactors or remnants of the medieval Church will pick up some of the slack. There are plenty of private enthusiasts out there on the web, eager to share genuine knowledge to those who want to learn. Humane Arts will become what philosophy was to Hume: a civilizing hobby.

    At some stage down the track, once the Great Re-Learning has been sunk in at the primary and secondary level, we can look into state funding of tertiary Humanities once again.

    Then no doubt, the same sorry cycle or reformation, revolution and reaction will start again.

  48. Kim says:

    Thanks, Jack, for confirming that your information is based on an article in Quadrant published in 1985.

  49. Bilko says:

    This is a worrying development, i guess it’ll become fairly typical as unis scramble to lower standards, raise fees, and oblitorate ‘learning for the sake of it’ in favour of ‘how to do make lotsa money’.

    Agree with Paulus and Kim that this restructure business favours the bureaucracy and middle-upper management at the expense of academic staff, and lets not forget the outsourced consultants, despite unis having more than enough expertise to do just about anything – even give an Althusserian critique of university restructures and their reverence for the cult of management.

    Which reminds me. I reckon a lot of postmodern thinking is bollocks too, but i’d rather read Lacan’s pseudo-science than wingnut bullshit in the Australian.

  50. Jennifer Gearing says:

    Radiation-leaks and outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease can be stopped. The disaster in Arts is far more important than those things, but it is not obvious that it can be stopped at all.

    Of course. Because destroying ideas one doesn’t like and endlessly pretending that Nineteenth Century theories can completely explain the world and all that exists within it that did not exist at the time those theories were penned is totally more important than shit that directly kills people and other living beings.

    Thanks, Jack. You’ve completely cured me of the obvious intellectual brainwashing of QUT Humanities. Now I have my priorities right, I can go back to talking about just how great it is that all of the knowledge of the world is summed up in stuff old white dudes talked about a couple of hundred years ago.

  51. Excuse my ignorance, but what does a Pro-Vice-Chancellor actually do – as opposed to a Dean, or a Head of Department? Just curious, that’s all.

  52. Nabakov says:

    If you stick around Jennifer, you’ll soon get used to our Jack.

    He’s basically a goodhearted soul and I think actually fairly acute about some geo-political issues but he does so much like to play the cranky old gentleman contratrian talking truth to power.

    However he’s not old, his idea of truth in many cases is as filmy and flimsy as the ‘cultural wets’ pomo excesses he loves to rail against and there is no actual ‘power’ there that he thinks he’s talking truth to. But we all have our faults. I for one often drink white wine with meat, give guests misleading parking directions and play Chic and the BeeGees loudly when drunk.

    However, Jack does have the instincts of a gentleman and is sometimes prepared to admit he sometimes gets it wrong, which is bloody rare for an aggressively intellectual male in the blogosphere. Just a shame he has no sense of humour or online social graces.

    Also he has no fucking idea whatsoever about how to deftly patronise and so marginalise his online sparring partners.

  53. Nabakov says:

    but what does a Pro-Vice-Chancellor actually do

    Why, the same thing a Vice-President or Deputy Secretary for Administrative Affairs does.
    Whatever that is.

  54. John Greenfield says:

    Kim

    at the expense of 20 people who are actually facing redundancy

    While we empathisize with anybody facing redundancy, on the substantive issues we are debating here, your contribution amounts to no more than argumentum ad misericordiam.

  55. A Gnome Named Grimble Grumble says:

    “your contribution amounts to no more than argumentum ad misericordiam.”

    I used to play the misericordiam! No, wait; I play the accordion. But still, it produces misery, so that counts for something, yes?

  56. Kim says:

    I don’t see that at all – we’re talking about the real impacts on real people’s lives of managerialism.

  57. John Greenfield says:

    Kim

    Organizations have hired and fired since about the Neolithic Revolution. Under a system influenced by so-called “managerial” ideas, at least people can be hired. Ignoring the insights of “managerialism” achieves little more than us putting the pedal to the floor on the road to serfdom.

    You are not seriously suggesting that universities should apply some discipline to their spending taxpayer’s money, are you?

  58. Kim says:

    Well, there’s no doubt that universities can hire people, John! The point here, as you’d know if you’d read the thread and the post, is that the university in question set artificial targets for the Arts staff which they could not meet because no matter whether they succeeded in attaining the number of students required to enrol in subjects, the amount allocated by the university would still produce a “deficit”. This has got nothing to do with “applying discipline to … spending taxpayers’ money” (and in any case only 40% of university funding comes from the federal govt) and everything to do with choices that university managers have made about what disciplines will be attractive to the “market” and fit with their “brand”. End of story. If you think it’s perfectly fine that areas of study like Australian and South Pacific history and Applied Ethics should disappear from campuses, that’s fine, but at least be honest enough to admit what’s going on.

  59. John Greenfield says:

    Kim

    The truth is, Australia is only large enough for about ten universities. Far too many of these Dawkins Universities are spread too widely and shallowly.

  60. Kim says:

    Well, all I’ll say is that I hope Fred Hilmer at UNSW with his beancounter’s mentality (check out his fascinating tale of how frustrated he was by not getting accurate assessments of costs at Fairfax and how he viewed “content” as the basis of a business model) doesn’t decide that history isn’t “meeting the market”.

  61. mick says:

    nabs and scepticlawyer – in defence of the pro-voce chancellors, I had the impression at UQ that most of them did a hell of a lot more than the vice-chancellor, especially the research pro-vice.

  62. Nabakov on 25 April 2007 at 3:25 am

    Also he has no fucking idea whatsoever about how to deftly patronise and so marginalise his online sparring partners.

    Oh, so thats what you have been trying so hard to do all this time! Poor fellow, no wonder you sound so cranky. You have my deepest sympathy.

  63. John Greenfield says:

    Well even the Oz has slammed this ‘philistinism!’

  64. John Greenfield says:

    Mind you, QUT is a university of Technology, so I think it makes perfect sense to boot out the humanities and social sciences.

  65. Uncle Milton says:

    “Mind you, QUT is a university of Technology, so I think it makes perfect sense to boot out the humanities and social sciences.”

    The best universities of technology in the United States (MIT, Caltech, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech) all have excellent humanities and social sciences.

    MIT’s ecomomics department has been the best in the world for 50 years.

  66. John Greenfield says:

    Uncle Milton

    When QUT starts attracting even the least able of MIT’s incoming class and starts charging $40,000 per annum for a degree then you might have a point.

    I wonder how many QUT students would know even how to spell ‘integration by parts?’

  67. Uncle Milton says:

    “I wonder how many QUT students would know even how to spell ‘integration by parts?’”

    John, I don’t know.

    But since, as you say, it is a university of technology, hopefully more than a few not only can spell it, but do it.

    However, as the great universities of technology have come to realise, to be a good engineer or scientist you need to have some breadth to your education. Engineers with no breadth are doomed to be mere technicians. Since their technical technical skills will probably be out of date, or forgotten, by the time they are 30, their long term career prospects will be very limited. Engineers with broad skills (even if it is just an MBA) do much better.

    But a broad education must not just be broad, it must be an education. The study of post modern creative arts is not an education. It is a way of passing the time. The study of humanities and social sciences is an education.

    And, Mark, the fact that rugby studies at QUT was privately financed (no doubt by some rich rugger buggar from Nudgee) doesn’t make it any better.

  68. John Greenfield says:

    Uncle Milton

    I don’t necessarily disagree with you. But remember our Technology Universities are not out of the top drawer. They are rebranded Colleges of Advanced Education, whereas the G8 universities are universities in the proper sense. The engineering degrees at Sydney, Melbourne, UNSW, etc. are more highly regarded than the Dawkins offering.

    I also agree very strongly with you re the Culture Studies garbage. I just had a quick sqizz at QUT’s website. I think there is a very strong case for all those hands-on practical courses like fashion design and audio-visual production. There is absolutely no need for undergraduate journalism degrees!

  69. Cat says:

    Well, dang. I graduated with an arts degree from QUT last year (doubled with a science one, which I’m focusing my career around currently). I found the geography program run by Iraphne Childs and Peter Hastings to be absolutely top-notch, and my only disappointment with that degree is that I have to state “Society and Change” as my major rather than “Geography”.

    I took a number of the introductory-level arts units to flesh things out while there – Intro to Sociology, Intro to History, plus a few social work, research methods, and ethics units and found myself rarely disappointed – although, to counter the praise for the Ethics program in this thread, the unit “Ethics, Technology and the Environment” was appallingly poorly taught and almost entirely bereft of meaningful content the year I took it. No-one needs to spend 6 weeks on Garrett Hardin’s ‘Tragedy of the Commons’. No-one, damnit!

    I can only hope that the geography component at least survives by moving in with the School of Natural Resources at Gardens Point. I really feel that large chunks of what I learned at Carseldine should be mandatory for students of environmental sciences, as the science curriculum does suffer somewhat in its neglect of the human and cultural side of environmental management. That neglect is necessary to an extent just because there’s *so much* science to teach, but approaching environmental issues from other than a pure-science viewpoint is vital.

  70. Antonio says:

    The even more concerning story here is the seemingly terminal decline of humanities research in Queensland.

    The Arts faculty is a complete disgrace at UQ due to years of incompetence, budget mismanagement, poor marketing, rock-bottom staff morale and poor quality generalist courses. If Coaldrake thinks that Queensland school-leavers should go to UQ to do Arts then he is sadly mistaken. The only thing an Arts degree from UQ seems to be good for is to “badge” with another degree for appearance sake. I have heard a similarly depressing story from Griffith.

    After installing pro-vice chancellors some years ago, I have seen no marked improvement at UQ to either teaching quality, resource quality or strategic initiatives over that time. Thankfully, VC John Hay is retiring at the end of year. It is a pity that he will claim credit for the IMB etc when these projects in actual fact fell in his lap thanks to Peter Beattie. One can only hope that someone with real vision is appointed at the end of the year to replace Hay.

    A really serious student of the humanities should go interstate to ANU, Sydney, Melbourne, Monash or La Trobe. Better yet, do undergrad in OZ then go overseas to a university that respects humanities scholarship. Many aspiring Australian humanities scholars really underestimate just how poorly PhDs from Australian universities are beginning to be judged in international forums. I know award-winning PhD students in the Arts faculty at UQ who have been appointed over 5 different supervisors over the life of their candidature. For the good of your career, GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN!

  71. Tom Davies says:

    Sound like they’d do better getting rid of CI: http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/notesarchive.php?id=1887

  72. Uncle Milton says:

    “But remember our Technology Universities are not out of the top drawer.”

    Some of RMIT’s engineering programs were the best in the country, or close to it. Maybe they still are.

    The same could be said, though to a lesser extent, about UTS.

    And, even if out universities of technology aren’t the best, that doesn’t lessen the need for their technology graduates to have some humanities in their education.

  73. Mark says:

    There are a lot of things QUT teaches which couldn’t be subsumed under the rubric of “technology” – ie law, economics, public health, etc, etc. To some degree it’s a legacy of the main predecessor institution’s history as a tech college, but it was also chosen in 1989 to signal that QUT would concentrate on applied as opposed to pure research. But, that has very much been the leitmotif of humanities and social science research at QUT as well.

    Cat’s point is very well made – when you sunder any area of study from the social and cultural world in which it’s embedded, students are the losers as they are being taught only from a “technicist” perspective. That’s a real tragedy.

    I’m also inclined to think Antonio is right on the state and future of humanities research in Queensland.

  74. John Greenfield says:

    Mark

    I agree with you and Cat. But what I think is even more need of repair is the lack or rigor is most social science today, with the exception of economics (which is not the same as “commerce). The humanities-side of science is far easier to graze on later than vice versa.

    The number of people with only humanities-based educations who are totally useless when an issue requires mathematics or statistics seems to be growing. Try finding a journo who does not sound like a complete dill whenever they are presented with maths and statstics.

  75. John Greenfield says:

    And what on earth is going on at UQ? Somebody told me it was closing its Pure Maths department!!?? WTF? How can a place call itself a university without Mathematics, Classics, or Religious Studies?

  76. I tend to agree with Andrew Norton – all management has to make decisions about where to allocate $ and in most cases, $ are scarce. In the private sector it might be a choice between allocating $ to shareholders as dividends or holding it back for expansion or infrastructure. In the “public” sector basically you have the options to reduce costs or increase income. [there are refinements but thats it simply].

    But aside from the argument that it’s better to cut Humanities at UQ or better to cut less lawns or to turn off the lights or to abolish sports subsidies and facilities I’m not convinced the VC knows his costings.

    On the back of the envelope $200,000 – $400,000 a year is about the cost of 4 salaries on costs(super etc) of $65,000 or 3 X $85,000. So I can’t see where 20 redundancies are coming from.

    Anyway costing is only partly a science and a large part art. All costing can be subject to – “on the other hand” arguments.

    Has the VC provided marginal, average, fixed and variable costs? How are overheads allocated? Who exactly is cross subsidising humanities? Everyone? Some? Business Studies?

    uncle milton – you have to excuse harry c – he’s from Latrobe where it is entirely possible that an (ex) VCs travel budget could exceed $400,000.

  77. Laura says:

    FX, that’s putting it very mildly.

  78. glen says:

    “Many aspiring Australian humanities scholars really underestimate just how poorly PhDs from Australian universities are beginning to be judged in international forums.”

    This is assuming that the Australian PhD in question is completely unknown in ‘international forums’ not only post-PhD but during the candidature. I am not sure what ‘international forums’ you are talking about precisely, but I have made an exceptionally strong showing at various moments in the ‘international forums’ relevant for my work. I think any PhD student who does not go out of their way to at least make themselves known online, if not in person, is a complete peanut. This is an obvious requirement nowadays to existing within the global neoliberal university system.

    What I find disturbing is the model of pedagogy being assumed in many comments in this thread. The best students hardly learn a thing from academics, because the best academics teach and inspire them to learn for themselves. Course content is a launching pad for learning. I figured this out about halfway through my undergrad degree. Since then I have certainly learnt many times more during my PhD than I did during my undergraduate degree and that was all self-directed learning. I am a freak because I actually enjoy it, but I can’t understand how it can be otherwise. Actually, it is comical when I am asked (at ‘international forums’) about how popular a certain body of thought must be at my university as I am obviously up to speed about it, but then I tell people that it is not popular at all and they look all puzzled.

    Part of the reason why I took such an aggressive line towards teaching myself, particularly during my PhD, is because I realised that post-graduate education in Australia on the whole turned out PhD’s of lesser accomplishment than the US and UK models. So I agree in part with you about this point. (I figured this out when a now ex-partner went to the US and now to the UK to do a MA and now PhD.) I am not doing a PhD to become a doctor, ie as evidence of mere ‘training’. ‘Training’ be damned! I am doing research and writing it up to compete against the rest of the world. To be competitive means have the capacity to be competitive and this is not provided by a piece of paper but by one’s capacity to compete.

  79. Antonio says:

    Glen,

    I am talking about international conferences and forums. Just how far behind Australian universities are, I have learnt from going overseas, presenting papers, attending intensive seminars and actually interacting with international colleagues and friends in the field.

    In my area (Asian Studies), Australian universities are generally seen as a joke with few Australian scholars possessing the relevant language skills (ie. academic French, German and Japanese as a necessity plus local languages)and methodological training to undertake higher work in the field. It really is so bad that my advice for people that really want to study Asia in an academic context is to leave the region (ie. Oceania) and enrol in a German, Austrian, Dutch, Scandinavian or Japanese university.

    I know of only one world class Australian scholar in the field of Eastern religious studies (scil. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam) and less than five in the field of “asian” history. In my experience, the really top notch humanities scholars usually come from mainland Europe or Japan and end up at a well known Dutch, German, Schandinavian, Japanese or US university.

    Frankly Glen, unlike in the time of Menzies during the establishment of ANU, no great scholars in the humanities are chomping at the bit to set up “down under”. The effects of this pedagogical lacunae will be fully felt in around 10-20 years time when the increasing investment our non-European neighbours in the region are starting to make in the region begins to pay off. As the brain drain continues and population growth stalls, we really will become the intellectual outhouse of Oceania.

    But hey, let’s keep teaching courses on “international relations” in the asia-pacific region with lecturers who cannot speak an asian language. Or why not do courses on “international business” in asia with tutors who have no idea about the difference in culture, custom and nuance in Indonesia compared to Thailand?! Yep, that’s education for the REAL world.

    I guess at least Aussies can tell good dunny jokes.

    [/rant]

  80. Mark says:

    This is an obvious requirement nowadays to existing within the global neoliberal university system.

    Gosh, glen, if only I’d known such wonders awaited when I embarked on a phd!

    O brave new world that has such people in’t!

    What I find disturbing is the model of pedagogy being assumed in many comments in this thread. The best students hardly learn a thing from academics, because the best academics teach and inspire them to learn for themselves. Course content is a launching pad for learning.

    No, I don’t think any comment here has made a presumption contrary to what you suggest. You need to have the course content to start with. I spent a lot of time in my interminable Arts degree (I got good for a few years and completed a couple of degrees in three years, but have now reveted to type with my phd) pursuing my own lines of inquiry – but that required some very basic material things like a good research library (an extreme rarity – and wait for the quite nice collection at Carseldine to end up in second hand book shops) and also people who could stimulate my interests and give them shape. If there’s no course content there to start off, then… Your comment, as written, (though it’s probably not your intention) is not too far from Jack Strocchi’s absurd claim that if things aren’t taught, people will just seek them out via TEH UNIVERSITY OF THE INTERTUBES or something. I’d have thought as a student of material culture, you’d have known better.

  81. Mark says:

    The number of people with only humanities-based educations who are totally useless when an issue requires mathematics or statistics seems to be growing. Try finding a journo who does not sound like a complete dill whenever they are presented with maths and statstics.

    John, yes, you’re right about journos on the whole.

    But QUT (and UQ) requires all sociology majors to do research methods. UQ, in particular, has a heavy focus on stats, quantitative work and methods.

  82. Nick Osbaldiston says:

    Hi Mark,

    Current PhD student here and I was slightly despondent to hear the news last Friday to say the very least. Makes me wonder if I chose the right place to complete the PhD. But alas, the people here are the ones I want to work with.

    It’s interesting that Coaldrake thinks that the new humanities belongs in the CI’s. I have worked for the public service 2 years straight before jumping onto the postgrad bandwagon. Not many times in my position did I see CI graduates with an ability to process social policy problems on the same level as say a Sociologist. I never once devalued my social science degree nor did my employer. The fact is I was offered two graduate positions with the AG and Dept of Human Services before returning back to QUT. Interestingly enough, this was with just the B Soc Sci which the interviewers had alot to ask about.

    So Coaldrake maybe incorrect in assuming that graduate destinations are predetermined to go nowhere in humanities. Ask him to take an analysis per capita and by ratio of the number of business grads who get nowhere with the basic Bach of Bus?

  83. John Greenfield says:

    Mark

    When I talk about “humanities,” I exclude Sociology (which I tend to think of as “Social Science”). I don’t know anything about QUT and UQ, but definitely from what you write on LP it is quite clear that you have an impressive grasp of quant/stats thinking and how and when to best apply that thinking in sociological/political contexts. If you got that from UQ and/or QUT that is encouraging.

    Now, many would argue (with good cause) that economics can overdose on maths/stats, but I cannot understand how anybody could feel confident entering debates in sociology, political science, anthropology, etc. without a good grasp of maths/stats. So much argument relies on the authority of data; data that, like words, can be employed disingenuously, rhetorically, etc.

    Not one edition of the Oz’s Higher Education liftout is printed without me pulling my hair out over the ignorance of quant displayed by the journos and feature writers. There are a few issues I have found that Australian journos invariably betray no quant understanding: education; health; industrial relations.

    Sure, you don’t need to be integrating functions of several variables in complex space, but at least an average first year level course in each of maths and stats ,must be essential, no?

  84. Jennifer Gearing says:

    John, you keep either displaying a severe lack of comprehension (which makes your insinuations about my ability to spell especially hilarious) or the willful hijacking of the issue to have a good old whinge about something else.

    Just in case you weren’t paying attention, journalism is in Coaldrake’s “new humanities”. The “old humanities” under threat here *includes* social science. So all of your distinctions just rather betray that you’re using the post as an excuse to spout a whinge.

    Incidentally, QUT political science majors also have to do research methods.

  85. Mtislav says:

    Just jumping into the debate from nowhere, I’m a QUT post-grad Humanities student awefully ashamed of my university’s moto, because I specifically aspire to never make it in “the real worldâ€?.

    Let us consider, how does “the real worldâ€? work, and why are Humanities at QUT not relevant to this “real worldâ€??

    It seems to me that “the real worldâ€? works by:

    • Knowing how to manipulate statistics and the media for any given political end.
    • Knowing how to ruthlessly impose your will on your organisational subordinates (whom you are theoretically facilitating).
    • Being committed to short term institutional reforms that promote your own career advancement at the long term expense of the entire institution.
    • Running educational institutions with out any interest in the humanising value of education for its own sake.

    The “real worldâ€? is pragmatic, image conscious, ego-centric and ruthless. It has no intrinsic values, is totally driven by short term financial “realityâ€? and is inherently manipulative. In short, “the real worldâ€? is a power-centric charade where transparent truth, values, long term commitment to what is good, and people, just don’t exist. “The real worldâ€? is actually the virtual world of corporate image projection and blindly pragmatic de-humanising bureaucratic power. We now see why the Humanities have no place in QUT’s “real worldâ€?.

    But is “the real worldâ€? the real world?

    Do values, intrinsic educational aims, humanity and dignity in the work place not actually exist, as “the real worldâ€? supposes? To the contrary, the real real world (outside of power politics that is) cannot function at all without humanity. For, surprisingly enough, the real real world is made up of people. Not only that, but people who typically trust each other, care about the inherent value of their work, and find meaning primarily from intrinsically valuable relationships with other human beings and the contemplation of beauty.

    Universities grew out of the cathedral schools of the 11th century; they have a theological birth and typically maintained a strongly independent intellectual culture as a community of scholars. And ever since the 12th century, aspects of what we now call The Humanities, and genuinely scholarly concerns (rather than vocational and marketing concerns) have formed the humanising heart and the intellectual practise of the Western university tradition. Take that human heart and that scholarly culture away, and whatever you have left, its not a university, and its not relevant to real, human and scholarly reality.

    So which reality and what world do we want?

  86. Kim says:

    Well said, Mtislav!

  87. Adrien says:

    Contemporary arts is a mish-mash of post-modernist philosophy and identity politics ideology, all bound up with political correctness codes. Beyond intellectual redemption.

    I’m sorry Mark but as someone who has been involved in the art scene (in Brizvegas then Melbourne) for a while I have to say that although this remark is a generalisation there’s truth in it. There are a lot of people whose ‘work’ displays no imagination but a lot of quasi-political rhetoric about questioning notions of historical truth or investigating ideas about identity etc. They seem to recieve funding purely on that basis.

  88. Mark says:

    Adrian, you have me confused with someone else. I didn’t say that, and certainly don’t think it.

  89. Jennifer Gearing says:

    Mark, I don’t believe Adrien was attributing the comment to you, but pseudo-apologising to you (I assume as the author of the OP) for agreeing with Jack’s remark.

    Incidentally, Adriens comment about being from the “art scene” suggests he’s slightly confused as to what’s being discussed. He’s free to clarify of course, that’s just the impression I’m getting.

  90. Adrien says:

    Mark I’m sorry my intention wasn’t to attribute that remark to you. You can be forgiven for thinking that. Also I wasn’t pseudo-apologising. I was saying: I sympathize with your position, but…
    >
    I was trying to make the point that critics of the ‘mish-mash of postmodern ideology’ have a point. I used the art scene as an example because I’ve seen how postmodern jargon has been used in ‘the real world’ to obtain patronage for the unworthy. ‘Postmodernism’ at its most useless, irrellevant and destructive is in evidence in the art scene. This discourse originates in the general humanities.
    >
    I could, as a graduate of GU Humanities school which used ‘post-modernism’ in a reasonably constructive manner, discuss the ‘worthiness’ or otherwise of work in the humanites which boils down to exercises in obfuscation. However I’ve long since abandoned writers who substitute paragraph long sentences sans punctuation for the expression of actual thought. As such I’m not aware of the latest post-post struturalist and I didn’t want to enter into an argument with an advocate of same. If I want to entertainment myself with pointless rhetoric I’ll go over to Graeme Bird’s place.
    >
    I just think that critics of the humanities have a point that advocates of the humanities must produce a considered response to.
    >
    I also the think that many of the cultural warriors of the right are just as worthless as the School of Obfuscationary Quasi-political Nonsense. Opaque rhetoric isn’t their sin but out and out lying is. Incidentally those who criticize arts types for their lack of mathematical prowess might wish to take a look at the comparable lack of prowess in written communication generally observable in science/maths types. Diff’rent strokes to move the world and all that.

  91. Mtislav says:

    Adrien, who do you think is going to fight ‘bad postmodernism’? Is it going to be engineers, MBA graduates, health departments … or serious humanities scholars? Princeton University’s Prof Harry Frankfurt’s wonderful essay “On Bullshit” comes out of a philosophy faculty. I know the staff at Carseldine and I have found no mere word playing irrationalists amongst them (OK, I’m not so sure about our ethics courses), and my thesis concerns Plato and truth. We have some excellent history scholars, some very able sociologists (some of whom are Cambridge educated Classics scholars and very able Continental philosophy scholars), and some outstanding people in the history and politics of our region. They are not just playing games with words. Indeed, the sociology courses that our education and journalist people on other campuses may no longer be able to do, critique the corporatization of education, journalism and State/Federal government. I can see why our VC doesn’t appreciate what they have to offer and would like to rationalise costs and divert funds to more vocationally efficient ends.

  92. Adrien says:

    Well Mtislav I don’t disagree. I’m simply making the point that critics of the humanities don’t just boil down to economic rationalist philistinism or reactionary fervour.
    >
    Doubtless these have some kind of influence. The devaluation of generalist degrees also has something to do with the get a degree and get out approach to tertiary education. I don’t think the humanities is pointless I spent years pursuing a degree in them. But I don’t think the champions of obfuscation help. Quite the contrary. Some of my thoughts on the subject can be found here if you’re interested.

  93. Anonymous says:

    Mark,

    Thanks for your comments. I have recently taken a faculty position at the University of Queensland in the deeply troubled School of History, Philosophy Religion and Classics and have become increasingly appalled by the mismanagement of that institution. In my School the offerings for second and third year courses are currently being reduced by 50%. I hasten to add that this directive was handed down by the administration without any sort of formal review of the school’s offerings. The official rationale for the cutbacks was that “faculty members require more research timeâ€? and “sometimes having more choice does not benefit studentsâ€?. The paternalism astonishes me! Surely, in a public institution it is at least partly up to the faculty and the students to decide what they want to teach and to be taught. The really ironic thing about all of these restructuring exercises is that they run counter to the one thing that most administrators apparently value: creating productive little workers. Courses in philosophy and history clearly benefit students, not just by enhancing their education, but by teaching critical thinking skills that are valuable in the workplace. I concur with your observation that part of the reason for the cutbacks is that these benefits are difficult to quantify. But that is no excuse for such poor management.

    If meaningless word games and double-speak is to be found anywhere in the university it is among the administrators who adopt poorly considered policy directives. I actually think that what is happening to Arts education in Queensland borders on public scandal. If the general public had an inkling of the way the Arts faculty at UQ is being mismanaged (and I suspect that the same goes for QUT) they wouldn’t stand for it.

    So what are we to do? In my own case, I’m leaving. Thankfully I have job opportunities elsewhere and see no reason to stand for the incompetence that pervades the administration at UQ.

    Generally speaking, I think that both students and the public need to be made more aware of what is happening to higher education in Queensland. If you are a student considering an education at the University of Queensland and you want to be as competitive in the workplace as your rivals graduating from ANU, Melbourne or Sydney Universities then seriously, think twice. If you are a taxpayer funding these institutions, know that your money is being seriously mismanaged by a group of short sighted and down right incompetent administrators.

  94. Mark says:

    Thanks very much for the comment, Anonymous.

  95. Tyro Rex says:

    And what on earth is going on at UQ? Somebody told me it was closing its Pure Maths department!!?? WTF? How can a place call itself a university without Mathematics, Classics, or Religious Studies?

    Classics is definitely on the way out at UQ.

    However apropos to Antonio I wouldn’t say that all of its Arts Faculty is. EMSAH is doing ok — struggling but OK, while HPRC is looking a bit ragged, dead in the water in some areas. My understanding is that EMSAH saw the writing on the wall a few years ago and has made adjustments to suit, and thus making it better off than HPRC which is hitting a wall.

    But even EMSAH enrolments are down except in certain subjects such as … GASP … TV & Popular Culture (part of film and tv curriculum). Suck on that one, right wingers. The market calls it. 😉

  96. Craig says:

    I think there are some definitely alarmist views here that seriously overlook the strengths of the creative industries faculty

    not being funny, but why go to the Queensland university OF TECHNOLOGY if you are after a degree in classics?

    I think it’s great that there is a university taking a “real world” approach, and the creative industries faculty is very impressive

    people with the kneejerk responses about arts degrees “encouraging people to question the status quo” or whatever obviously havent looked to hard at the CI offerings – you are really over-reacting

    anyway the sad fact is arts degrees are notorious for producing unemployed graduates – I’m not saying that means they shouldn’t exist, but I think the approach of QUT is quite refreshing and it is true that there are other great universities here in Qld.

  97. Spiros says:

    “the sad fact is arts degrees are notorious for producing unemployed graduates”

    So it is often said.

    But is there any evidence ?

  98. Mark says:

    Yes, and it disproves the contention.

    These figures for full time employment within five months of graduation from DEST:

    Outcomes for Society & Culture graduates (84%) were better than Management & Commerce (82.0%), Natural & Physical Sciences (77.6%), Information Technology (68.6%) and Creative Arts (64.0%) (ibid) (see also graphs on p.5 above).

  99. Antonio says:

    From my perspective as an evil right wing employer (leaving aside my humanities cap for a moment), humanities graduates generally kick ass. The ability to source information on any topic AND think about it critically is a skill that very few degrees now teach. And guess what, you actually learn how to do these things in an Arts degree! The ability to synthesise large amounts of information into an easily digestible summary form is crucial for business as is an ability to think laterally and problem solve. The ability to think critically is very rare these days as employers are rapidly discovering!

    Tyro Rex,

    I agree with you about the Arts faculty at UQ. EMSAH has been a bit better at keeping things together. Perhaps the fact that the Dean of the Faculty comes from EMSAH has something to do with it. UQ’s HPRC school is such an appalling disgrace that it genuinely makes me feel sick. One day the story of its seemingly inexorable decline will be made public and those responsible will be held to public account. I really feel sorry for the postgraduates whose future careers are imperiled (doomed?) by the inexcusable behaviour and decision-making that has occurred. What a tragic waste of a once fairly good reputation. Grrr.

  100. Craig says:

    well, maybe I should have left that bit out because it wasn’t really my main point

    my main point was about how good the creative industries faculty is, and I think you will find alot of those “creative thinkers” Antonio mentioned will still exist, they will just come from CI instead of humanities

  101. Kim says:

    From the post:

    I don’t want to cast any aspersions on Creative Industries – where I know and continue to work on research with a number of excellent academic staff, and whose degrees are very worthwhile. What I lament is the legacy of the original decision which sought to separate out CI from a broader Arts education. There’s no doubt, for instance, that media and journalism students could benefit greatly from instruction in sociology, politics and history. I just don’t think that the dichotomisation of “newâ€? and “oldâ€? humanities responds to anything other than corporate branding, managerialism and academic politics at the top echelons of the University.

    There’s no reason why it’s an either/or unless you’re Coaldrake.

  102. Craig says:

    just to throw another spanner in

    what about the merit in Universities specialising in what they’re good at?

    I’m certainly not against arts and humanities – not by a very long way, in fact I seriously considered doing it somewhere else (I didnt realise QUT had a humanities faculty actually)

    I just think the debt figures probably indicate QUT is probably not first choice for people who want to do it – I would think the name alone would give a pretty good indication of the focus here

    In the UK and US it’s normal for people to move to a different part of the country to study at the UNi that best suits what they want to do – the focus being more on what they want to study, rather than where they already live, and this has alot to do with the fact that Unis develop reputations in specific fields – my sister moved all the way from London to Warwickshire (near coventry) for Uni and it was the best thing she ever did – she’s having a great time

    what’s so wrong with us doing the same here and letting our Unis develop their strengths further rather than the regional approach of offering everything to everyone? Brisbane has certainly come of age and doesnt need to do this any more

    If QUT was really so much in the red in humanities it probably indicates the numbers arent supporting it – probably because people dont come here for it

    I dont think Coldrake is just doing this on some impulsive whim

    I was just reading the leaflet here (why I decided to post again!): “save humanities” in the refectory and there was all this stuff about “attacking political and critical disciplines that question the status quo etc” – that’s just silly – they dont think a fair whack of politicians have Pol Sci degrees?? They just might have gone to ANU or somewhere

  103. Mark says:

    Coaldrake’s figure of a $400k deficit is an artefact – he’s included the overhead cost of the QUT Northern Campuses Directorate. The actual picture for the School of HHS is a deficit of $0. So, your argument is based on a falsehood.

  104. Dave Bath says:

    The “old humanities” promote leftist (and dripping wet conservative) thinking and therefore must be stomped on (arguments at the Dead Roo here and here).

    I’ll agree the sort of analytical thinking found in BA’s “kicks ass” (with Antonio “the evil right-wing employer”) and that the REAL wasted degrees are the squillions of Business/Commerce/Accounting types who are not trained in anything productive or in thinking likely to promote innovative solutions to our problems).

    Close the commerce departments instead.

  105. Tanya says:

    We live in a time where economic rationalism is placed above the needs of the youth. I have a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Journalism and minor in philosophy and am currently completing a Graduate Diploma of Education. Since I started my academic career in 1998, there has been a common thread about the issues facing youth in today’s society. Yet who will advocate for these youth in the future? More importantly, who will advocate for the care and support of these youth in the same manner that humanities offers. QUT states a new social work degree will be coming into place, and yes, social work is relevant, but heavily founded in sociology and psychology. The concept of “at risk” youth is a catch phrase to these schools of thought, yet fails to make any attempt to understand youth in a deeper way. Simply labeling youth adds further to their alienation in today’s current climate. I hope someone will stand up for these youth who are misunderstood, mistreated and mislead by those professing to know the ways of life. As a student teacher, I am training in a school where old school ways of thinking further alienate those who need guidance. Who will take care of these young people in the future when those who are meant to be caring for them today rob them of their voice?

  106. NewHereDazza says:

    This is sad, but until the market starts to value the broad liberal education once more then it seems difficult to prop up or justify at the expense of the community.

    I predict a classical revival. Employers already are bemoanining graduates who cannot spell, who cannot think critically, who cannot bring together complex thoughts on paper and by mouth.

    The competitive edge will be those graduates who stand out from the rest of the products of modern university sausage factories and have the skills enabled by a by a broad liberal education model.

    It’s not dead yet.

    So writes a thrice uni dropout.

  107. Graham Bell says:

    Everyone:
    If it hasn’t got a Faculty of Arts and a Faculty of Science and if it doesn’t have a few well-funded Chairs devoted to not-for-profit-this-decade classics and pure science …. it’s not a University, it’s a Degree Mill and it should be dealt with in the same way as any other business.

    Craig you said

    the sad fact is arts degrees are notorious for producing unemployed graduates

    That’s not the fault of the universities but of the AUSTRALIAN corporate sector with their ratbag employment practices and their Phrenology Departments pretending to do recruiting. Spiros asked

    But is there any evidence ?

    well yes there is but don’t know who might have collected and collated it. [btw, my own BA with major in Chinese is as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike on Australia]

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