Monday, May 14, 2007

What happened to education? ... Howard did

Howard, like much of what he has accomplished in the past decade, has altered the times to suit him. One was the idea that people couldn't just buy their way ahead of others into uni and disrupting what he likely saw as dangerously lefty places by forcing them down the purely commercial route. Heaven forbid they teach people how to think and educate them beyond the immediacy of what was needed to economically function like modern day e-mill workers.

This is snipped from today's Crikey (by Margaret Thornton, president of the Association of the Public University and professor of law)

Over the last 25 years, spending on university operating grants dropped from approximately 90% to 38%. The rate of contraction was most rapid since the Howard Government came into office in 1996. How paradoxical it is that money should be taken away with the left hand only to have some of it returned with the right -- as though it were an act of benevolence!

We cannot ignore the damage that has already been done to higher education because of the contraction in funding. The sector has not only been impoverished but the very idea of education as a public good has been turned upside down.

As a result of the budget cuts, universities were forced to become market players and sell the only product they had on offer -- education. As a result, students became customers, concerned more about credentialism and the ability to secure a high-paying job in order to repay their mounting education debts rather than the quality of the education itself. Full-fee courses are now offered to both domestic and international students. From 2008, the cap on the amount institutions can charge will be lifted.

In another example of reversion to the values of the 19th century, the ability to pay rather than academic excellence has once again become the criterion for admission. The egalitarian idea of free tertiary education, introduced by Gough Whitlam just over 30 years ago, now seems like a mirage.

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