Ideas and identities: representations of Australian public universities

Westerhuis, Diane Solomon (2006) Ideas and identities: representations of Australian public universities. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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This thesis is a critical and discursive analysis of Australian public universities from a normative perspective, based on a commitment to values of social justice and equality. I argue that ideas of universities in Australia have changed over time; that there were two major shifts of ideas since the liberal ideas that were apparent with the foundation of Australia's first university. Different ideas dominated in the 1970s when ideas of universities are described as egalitarian and democratic, but these ideas of universities changed again with reconstruction of Australian public universities in 1988. In the last two decades Australian public universities have been based on ideas that have produced different institutions, described as neoliberal, marketised and, in effect, privatised. These neoliberal ideas privilege the economic over the social. I argue for a preferred model of equal rights based on citizenship and merit, which includes free access to a higher education in a public university. The data that are analysed are policy texts, speeches and university mission statements that are representations of identity and agency. This is a critical analysis in which themes and concepts are identified in discourse that represents universities at different times, for example in the speech for the founding of the University of Sydney by Wentworth in 1849, or a speech by Whitlam in 1972 which describes the ideas of universities as free and access based on ability. However, representations in contemporary mission statements and policy texts illustrate that the identities of Australian public universities have shifted. Findings include themes in texts of transformed relations, actors and communities, and mechanisms and strategies that illustrate changed practices, such as commercialisation, internationalisation and, most significantly, privatisation of Australian public universities. Australian public, not-for-profit universities have become more commercial than their predecessors, undertaking different activities, more governed yet in contradiction more flexible and shape-shifting. Specific neoliberal characteristics and strategies are now evident in their discourse and in practices. These neoliberal characteristics and strategies cross domains and operate at different levels, and in combination they achieve the hegemonic neoliberal project of the state. The consequences are that these neoliberal ideas have reshaped Australian universities. Australian universities have become altered commercial and international actors in disparate networks and different market relationships. Reflexive Australian universities are very successful in these markets, and take on a marketised, private identity. The mechanisms of this are in place, but the effects are still to be proclaimed. There will, in the future, be no Australian public universities. A normative alternative is offered.

Item ID: 1179
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Critical and discursive analysis, Australian public universities, Normative perspective, Values of social justice and equality, Ideas of universities, 1970s, Egalitarian, Democratic, Reconstruction of Australian public universities in 1988, Neoliberal, Marketised, Commercialisation, Internationalisation, Privatisation, Preferred model of equal rights based on citizenship and merit, Policy texts, Speeches, University mission statements
Date Deposited: 08 Nov 2006
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1605 Policy and Administration > 160510 Public Policy @ 0%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1605 Policy and Administration > 160512 Social Policy @ 0%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160809 Sociology of Education @ 0%
22 PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES > 2202 History and Philosophy of Specific Fields > 220202 History and Philosophy of Education @ 0%
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