#ualberta is being asked to “transform” itself according to advice given by the NOUS group, which has “restructured” many Australian universities.
Important discussion/vote tomorrow at #ualberta GFC [General Faculties Council]. The University community should be paying attention to what has been happening in OZ as a result of the radical government defunding that has driven the “restructuring” of Australian universities.
This thread offers perspective from a few Australian commentators starting with philosopher Patrick Stokes, in the Australian New Daily.
As Stokes reminds us, public universities are supposed to be “engines of cultural, economic and moral progress” contributing to democracy. That’s why the #ualberta slogan is “uplifting the whole people.”
Universities include professional schools but are not to be reduced to vocational schools in which students are made “job-ready.” That would keep them from fulfilling their obligations to democracy.
But as Simon Cooper, Federation University, writes, universities have made the mistake of defining themselves in relation to “market-derived markers of value” rather than their social and educative roles.
Where this happens, Cooper writes, universities become defined as “largely another R&D division” for government, With universities run according to “audit culture” rather than “participatory democracy.”
Postsecondary systems of this kind treat knowledge as a commodity for which they charge, and (Cooper writes) “exploit students as customers, trash staff collegiality and morale, and show little independence from state or corporate power.”
Then, when universities hit a financial crisis, they are compelled to “shed programs, courses and staff that insufficiently mesh with the corporate world view—those deemed ‘inefficient’ or lacking capacity to generate significant income.” (That’s Cooper again.)
“Many of these cuts,” Cooper notes, “will likely come from humanities, and social and pure sciences.” Management consultants will also pressure universities “to move online” without any consideration for how this “fundamentally alters teaching, scholarship and research.”
Where universities make these mistakes, they will help produce new social inequities, especially around the “mode” of course “delivery.” There will, for example, be “online teaching for the less privileged, face-to-face for the elites.”
There will also be a rise in the number of university instructors who are precariously employed. The National Tertiary Education Union (AUS equivalent of @CAUT_ACPPU) claims “just over one third of people at universities have secure, ongoing work.”
One third! That’s disastrous. Faculty are a university’s lifeblood.
Canada is already on its way to such a dire situation. Right now, as a result of systemic, decades-long government underfunding, about 40% to 50% of the instruction at any given Canadian university is taught by instructors on temporary contracts.
That’s unfair to everyone — not just to the people in those precarious positions, who aren’t properly compensated and aren’t supported as researchers, but to everyone who needs the university, starting with students.
Australian universities are at a crisis point because radical government defunding has made them depend on international students — and now with #covid19, those students are not coming.
In yesterday’s news from @guardian
Universities Australia: “21,000 full-time equivalent jobs poised to be cut from the university sector.” The NTEU (the Australian equivalent of @CAUT) says the reality will be around “30,000 academic, managerial and support staff.”
Think of all the staff we’ve *already* lost at #ualberta in the last year due to government budget cuts — As well as the staff, including faculty, who will not now be hired.
Now start imagining all the unfortunate developments to come if we follow Australian universities in the choices they have made to deal with government budget cuts.
Just one example — hot off the presses: The Australian government will permit universities to jack up tuition for Arts degrees.
As Stokes notes, this “does not, in fact, signal that humanities are a bad investment — they aren’t.” Instead, Arts degrees will return to being what they once were:
Degrees that only the social elite could afford —
Degrees that positioned only them for career success.
That will turn back clock on what “modern” university was supposed to achieve: As the great “democratic educator” (Raymond Williams) it was supposed to play key role in driving social *equality.*
Jacking up tuition on Arts degrees is also senseless (as Peter Van Onselen notes)
as Arts degrees cost universities relatively little
And Arts degrees tend to subsidize STEM degrees
How does any university system get to the point where they’ll charge more for Arts degrees? Bonnell suggests Universities Australia (equivalent of Universities Canada) “effectively lobbied” for decreasing government funding —
as long as they could charge students higher fees (tuition).
This is the long tail of governments agreeing to charge tuition, period — a decision that itself already ceded serious ground in relation to the idea of the university as a public good.
This should matter to us in Canada because in Australia we’re seeing a preview of where such surrenders lead. How do we keep the kind of thing that the Australians have allowed to happen from happening here too?
What universities need, Cooper notes, is “more robust articulations of why universities matter.” We need to be talking about universities in terms of their “academic value,” rather than in terms of the values of the marketplace.
But what has happened instead? According to Bonnell (Queensland), Australia witnessed the “spectacular failure of nearly all Australian vice-chancellors to defend public higher education in face of . . . stringent public funding cuts, in 2014-15.”
See his article “Democratisation or management and corporate capture? Theses on the governance crisis of Australia’s semi-privatised public universities” (AUR 58 02)
Bonnell: “failure to defend public higher education against radical marketisation and deregulation [resulted] in astronomical debt…for students.” Universities that go down this path abandon “public good commitments…for revenue maximisation at expense of students.”
It is a tragic irony: Even as university administrators have accepted increasingly rich compensation packages they’ve become weaker and weaker at defending our public universities as public goods.
There are exceptions. On Australian National Radio in May, Margaret Gardner, Vice-Chancellor of Monash University, frankly declared (twice) “government has been cutting us for years,” noting that this has made universities dependent on international students,
But such declarations are rare, and even in that interview it was the radio host, @geraldinedoogue, not @gardmarm who asked, isn’t a university education a public good, not a commodity?
As university leaders have retreated from defending universities and the education they offer students as public goods, they’ve set us up for a strange paradox, Bonnell suggests. One government cuts a university’s budget, w/ university leadership failing to fight back.
This compels universities to “semi-privatize.” By 2025, President-Elect Flanagan wants the government portion of our funding to drop to 40%, with the university more reliant on private donors and “revenue generation”:
In agreeing to do this universities make it far more difficult to defend universities as public goods. They also make it difficult for future governments to do so. Instead universities become “competitive actors in a capitalist higher education market.”
That is an expensive project—one that leads to “gratuitous waste” as “universities compete … for funding, both public and private,” with “million-dollar marketing and promotion budgets.” jacobinmag.com/2020/04/austra
cf. #ualberta Advancement budgets under Samarasekera
In 2017, for example, the [Australian] higher education sector spent $622 million on “marketing and promotion” chasing international student markets and private donor funds — and in so doing they threatened research independence and academic freedom.
Bonnell (U Queensland) ties these developments to rise of “managerial elites in universities” which “have essentially ceased to be accountable to internal constituencies of staff and students, as indicated by … weakening of … internal governance.”
Universities are supposed to be run by the faculty. But as Bonnell (U Queensland) notes faculty governance has been so eroded that university leaders believe they can withhold information from university’s governing bodies — including Boards.
It appears that @BFlanaganUofA‘s “UofA Tomorrow” plan may shrink #ualberta “managerial caste.” As Benjamin Ginsberg (Johns Hopkins) showed years ago in The Fall of the Faculty (2011), this caste tends to grow its own numbers at huge cost to universities.
But getting rid of “deanlets” and “deanlings” will not in and of itself change managerial *culture* — and w/o that change we’ll have continuation of what NOUS survey for University of Queensland identified as problem: managerial culture that remains “feudal.”
Money spent on management consultants to “restructure” #ualberta won’t fix that —
Not without commitment to true collegial governance in which faculty are treated as a university’s brain trust.
The fact that management consultants are seen as the “fix” is itself a sign of the problem — the erosion of university culture in which universities were run by the same people who were actually doing the teaching and research.
Once you have universities run by professional administrators no longer connected to teaching and research, we can witness the kind of thing we see in a document prepared by #ualberta leadership for the meeting of the General Faculties Council on Monday —
That document presents faculty as a “risk” in relation to Fall 2020 “online” instruction — see screenshot.
I wonder where Canadian university administrators get such Thoughts.
How are faculty to trust a university leadership that characterizes faculty in that way?
It sure doesn’t help when university leadership spends the university’s money hiring management consultants who reflect a negative view of faculty back at them.
As for the money, how much money will be spent on management consultants to bring about this “transformation”?
We know the Kenney government intends to spend a whopping $3 million on advice from McKinsey & Co.
But how much does #ualberta intend to spend on NOUS or Alex Usher or any other management consultant to achieve “UofA for Tomorrow”?
The Australian reports that in 2013, in the state of Victoria alone, consultancies including NOUS were paid a whopping $17 million “as universities struggle[d] to absorb massive . . . government funding cuts.”
Unless Canadian universities do better than Australian universities in defending universities as public goods, only one party will win for sure in what is about to unfold in Alberta: management consultants.