Friday, May 25, 2012

Changing face of Australian universities

In the past week I saw two articles highlighting changes in Australian universities. The Weekend Australian ran a piece Mass education changes face of universities by Julie Hare.
[There is also a video summary but it lacks some of the important statistics and graphs in the article.]

While the total population of Australia has increased by a factor of less than than three since the 1960's the university student population has increased by a factor of 26!
But, increasingly, graduates work in areas unrelated to their studies. Only half of law graduates will work as lawyers. Just 2 per cent of teaching graduates in NSW each year are directly offered a position in the state school system. About 4750 students are enrolled in journalism schools, but with 100 entry-level positions in mainstream media, many will struggle to get off the starting block. 
Corkindale says: "Does the community, including school-leavers and their parents, need to be made more aware that going to study at a university for a lot of students is, it seems, for 'education's sake', not training for a particular job, profession or career?" 
And should universities and government be more upfront about career prospects, particularly in narrow vocational fields? Or is it a case of caveat emptor?

This illustrates to me that degrees such as Arts and Science should be more valued. You might as well do something interesting and which will develop basic thinking, writing, and analytical skills.

The Sydney Morning Herald published Lonely students play varsity blues by Adele Horin, which points out how isolated and relationally disengaged many students are.
For science, this highlights to me the importance of running tutorials which force students to work together in small groups and the value of student clubs such as the legendary student physics club PAIN at UQ.

1 comment:

  1. Ross, thanks for the Legen... wait for it... dary post and for the PAIN mention!

    That's why there are Error Bars!
    Last week was making Stirling engines...something we learnt from your second year course...

    from Kyle and Ann, current and past PAIN presidents

    We're still studying at university because we want to. It's definitely challenging (thanks Ross!) and an end goal is somewhat nonexistent, but I can't imagine doing anything else.
    I highly value the closeness of the cohort - it certainly further brightens our studies.

    Worthy of a mention would be the Parnell Tea Room (Physics Learning Centre?) where (first year) students can socialise with the older students and can discuss their studies with each other outside of lecture/tutorial.