Arena Publications, 2002, 318 pp. ISBN: 0-9598181-6-2 (pbk)
Australian universities are in crisis. That is the premise of all 13 of the contributions to this collection, which forms a special double issue (numbers 17 and 18) of Arena Journal. For the last two decades, and in a similar way to universities in the OK and elsewhere, they have had to contend with tighter budgets for both teaching and research, a rapid expansion in student numbers, with a consequent decline in the staff-student ratio, and increasing casualisation.
The collection is divided into three parts. Part I reprints four articles originally published in Arena (Arena Journal's forebear) in 1988, in the immediate aftermath of the so-called 'Dawkins reforms', which initiated the transformation of Australian universities. Part II contains five chapters offering 'perspectives on the university today', while Part III considers 'the university and global restructuring'. The four pieces in this final part are all written by editors of Arena Journal--including one by each of the editors of this particular collection--but it is not otherwise entirely clear to me what distinguishes them from those in Part II. Clearly, I cannot deal here with every chapter individually. Instead I will pick out some of those sections I found most interesting, before turning to some general criticisms.
In the book's most empirical chapter, Simon Marginson ('Towards a Politics of the Enterprise University') describes how Australian universities' external funding regime or environment has been changed such that they are manoeuvred into 'demanding deregulation for themselves, as a natural incremental development and the only escape from resource scarcity' (p. 117). Thus, between 1977/78 and 1997/98, government spending on teaching and learning in higher education actually fell by 4.6% in real terms, while student 'load' (i.e., numbers) rose by 113%. That is, government spending per student in i987/88 was only 45% what it was two decades earlier.
With less than half of university revenue deriving from taxation revenue (down from 90%) and publicly-funding student places generating little income, universities have been forced to seek finance elsewhere, primarily from international and selected postgraduate students. This has, in turn, affected the type of courses offered and the composition of university staff: 'the new private dollars are largely absorbed by the new Enterprise University functions--marketing, communications, community relations, financial and asset management, executive salaries, alumni stroking, quality assurance) international offices, off-shore activities and the like and in the cost of raising private revenue itself.'...