adh logo

How About Divesting In Universities?

Gary JohnsJune 3, 2024

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak plans to cut one in eight university degrees and divert funds to apprenticeships. This sounds good to me. It raises the question of whether Australia has oversubscribed to university education.

Only a few students can benefit from a university education. The dropout rate is very high because it is beyond the capacity of some students. It should be higher in some courses because the material is atrocious, but alas, these are courses where a pass is assured as long as the student tows the party line. Some of the nonsense taught at university may be avoided if more students attended TAFE or university later in life when they are less susceptible to the obnoxious or unfathomable.

For example, Professor Liza Lim of Sydney University has won an Australian Research Council grant of almost $ 4 million for, wait for it, ‘Multispecies Creativity and Climate Communication’. With these precious funds, she ‘aims to advance the role of the arts as the missing link in global movements of multispecies justice, using innovative musical approaches to communicate the urgency of climate change and lead social change.’

Professor Lim’s research aligns with the National Cultural Policy ‘Revive’ - by providing skills training for ‘First Nations’ researchers, more ‘sustainable career pathways in the arts’, and creating ‘compelling experiences’ to respond to ‘ecological ideas in ways that can provoke social change’. To strangle English into this word salad is a shocker; to award public funds to this ideological claptrap is a disgrace.

While the emergence of trash has long inhabited cultural studies courses, it is now heading for hard science. The ‘Speaking of Science’ webinar held during National Reconciliation Week was presented by a ‘distinguished researcher’ and Indigenous leader, Professor Maree Toombs (Professor of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, the University of New South Wales School of Population Health). Breathlessly, the advertisement for the seminar recounts how the distinguished Professor ‘walked us through an incredibly moving presentation’.

Professor Toombs is a ‘self-prescribed storyteller’. She discussed how ‘unlocking the power of Indigenous co-design and intervention can ultimately lead to transformative outcomes through authentic collaborations.’ Her focus ‘on the holistic concept that underpins Indigenous health and well-being guides her research into suicide prevention and primary healthcare access among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.’ Ok, does she have any proof her methods work to prevent suicide? If not, why fund it?

Professor Sujatha Fernandes, University of Sydney, work ‘explores’ social and labour movements, participatory media and art, global Black cultures, and migrant workers, focusing on the Americas. Her writings are concerned with the ‘stories of those erased by history, multi-racial working class encounter and solidarities, anti-Blackness, neoliberalism and colonial presence.’

A more telling insight into her scholarship is her lecture to first-year students that Hamas’s murder, mass rapes and sexual violence on October 7 were ‘fake news’ and a ‘hoax’ peddled by the media and that Israel had engaged in ‘ethnic cleansing’ propped up by Western governments that had ‘repressed domestic dissent’. What a piece of work!

Similarly, was the criminologist at Melbourne University who, in a lecture, reminded students that there was a rally that morning on campus to support Palestine and oppose Israel. She encouraged them to attend. A complaint by a young Jewish student who was in Israel on October 7 was brushed aside. It was explained to her that she had to be prepared to confront ‘harsh truths’ in criminology. Harsh truths? How about October 7, the day Hamas slaughtered 1200 innocents in Israel’s sovereign territory?

In 2009, Julia Gillard committed the Rudd government to two goals: By 2020, 20 per cent of undergraduate enrolments should be from low socio-economic backgrounds, and by 2025, 40 per cent of all 25-34-year-olds would have a bachelor’s degree. Fortunately, the share of the Australian population who hold a bachelor-level degree has topped out at 32 per cent. It was 8 per cent in 1989. Are we better off? Can anyone get me a builder, plumber, carpenter, or sparky?

There are three possible solutions to over-invested university education: divest, price out the trash (exhibited above), or ensure all lectures are online and let the public decide what is worth paying for.

Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay were right when they named their book Cynical Theories: How Universities Made Everything About Race, Gender and Identity. If TAFE can resist the siren call of cynical theories, then I stand with Rishi.

Gary Johns is chair of Close the Gap Research

ADH logo text
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play
Stay connected
© AUSTRALIAN DIGITAL HOLDINGS 2024Privacy PolicyTerms of Service