With higher education in the spotlight and legislation now before the Parliament, the Whitlam Institute has released the latest paper in its Perspectives series. It offers a bold and personal account of how universities have ‘fallen from grace’ and a call to reclaim their higher purpose.
Professor Sharon Bell, an academic leader with extensive leadership experience in the Australian higher education sector and currently Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Strategy and Planning) at Western Sydney University, sounds an alarm for universities that are missing opportunities to ‘help address those great challenges of our time and tie the higher education sector to an urgent national and global endeavour’.
Bell seeks to ‘name, document and analyse this moment’ for universities, and define the factors endangering their contribution to the public good. She considers the influence of neoliberalism on university policy and funding, the growing and anomalous presence of education in the gig economy, and the commodification of education, which catastrophically shifts the teaching relationship.
The paper calls for a change in the narrative about universities ‘from short-term (budget cycle) cost and student debt to inter-generational investment, and to shift from an under-valued to a highly-valued contributor to the public good.’