Gillard disrespects higher education

Update 11.30am 14/9: ‘Tertiary education’ to be added to Chris Evans’ ministerial title. Who is responsible for postgraduate coursework remains unclear, to me at least.

Update 9.30pm 14/9: The Coalition gets it right, with a shadow minister for education, Christopher Pyne, and a shadow minister for universities and research, Senator Brett Mason. The government has now clarified what Chris Evans will be responsible for postgraduate coursework. He is off to a shambolic start.

University lobby groups aren’t happy that there is no longer a minister for education, the portfolio being split between the minister for schools, early childhood and youth (Peter Garrett), the minister for jobs, skills and workplace relations (Chris Evans) and the minister for innovation, industry and science (Kim Carr).

The disappearance of higher education is most striking. I thought Evans might be the minister, but on Saturday afternoon I could not confirm it from the published list of new ministers. Gillard clarified the matter on Insiders on Sunday morning.

The atmospherics of this are really bad. John Dawkins is the Great Satan of traditional knowledge-for-its-own sake academics, but his policy documents always had a nod to the humanities and there was no significant steering of the system away from generalist degrees. Whatever he thought about arts academics or academics in general, he respected their self-conception as being about more than the service of the economy or whatever other goals the government of the day had.

By contrast Gillard as minister did not even bother with lip service support of the arts. Continue reading “Gillard disrespects higher education”