catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Australia's mediocre Vice-Chancellors, part 2

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A couple of weeks ago La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor Michael Osborne was complaining about an:

increasing disposition to link university education directly to employment and to the needs of the workforce — in other words, to envisage universities essentially as passport offices for jobs.

Last weekend The Age reported that rather than using the university as a passport office to a job, Professor Osborne used his university for a job leading to a passport office. According to the paper, Osborne had visited 22 overseas cities in 2003 and 14 in 2004. All the negative publicity flowing from a front-page story in the paper of Melbourne academic choice led to Osborne’s resignation yesterday.

Of course, all this overseas travel wasn’t the real reason Osborne had to go. But in the culture of universities (and they are similar to politics in this regard) not being especially good at your job is not, in itself, reason for you to be replaced. That would have too many implications for other people. Instead, not being especially good at your job leads to people searching for other reasons why you should be replaced – such as highlighting overseas travel that is easily portrayed as junketeering. Pinching your PA’s bottom is much more dangerous to your career than weak research, bad teaching, or sloppy administration. If you avoid this kind of scandal, you can under-perform for years.

The last word should go to Stephen Duckett, who left La Trobe acrimoniously in October:

He criticised La Trobe’s smaller regional campuses, saying that at Mildura, the university subsidised each student by $10,000 a year.

“Collectively, these campuses have fewer students than are enrolled at my daughter’s primary school and have only a marginally better research output,” he said.

“The university has been described as a doughnut with a strong periphery, strong faculties but with a hole in the centre,” he said. “I am surprised at the lack of intellectual rigour in the planning and decision-making processes of the university.” Indeed.

Written by Admin

December 17, 2005 at 11:07 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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