Academics from across Australia and New Zealand are descending on Brisbane for the next two days to discuss how to challenge the increasing corporatisation of universities, which is drastically reducing the quality of research and academic life. Challenging the Privatised University is being co-hosted by Friends of the Earth, the Ngara Institute, the NTEU, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the National Alliance for Public Universities and aims to support the revitalisation of the public and intellectual importance of Universities.
Jeannie Rea, president of the NTEU and one of the conference plenary speakers said “as government funding has declined, universities have become more reliant on student tuition fees and corporate funding sources, leading to compromises in quality and standards and setting universities on the path from acting for the public good to institutions that serve private interests.”
Raewyn Connell, Professor Emerita at the University of Sydney and a plenary speaker at the conference, said: “Universities can be tremendous resources: sources of knowledge, imagination, skill and inspiration. Right now, they are being turned into over-controlled businesses working for privileged interests. That’s damaging for students, for staff, for knowledge, for society. It doesn’t have to happen – we know better ways of doing higher education! What we need is new ways to put the better ideas into practice.”
Challenging the Privatised University will bring together academics, students and civil society organisations to examine the impacts of privatisation and, importantly, to begin the process of reclaiming public good universities.
Associate Professor Dr Kristen Lyons, from the University of Queensland’s School of Social Science and one of the conference organisers, said “this conference is different – it is not only about exposing the problems associated with privatised universities – but also about organising and acting so as to rebuild a critical, healthy and vibrant educational system.”
Challenging the Privatised University is attracting a number of prominent speakers and panel members, such as Richard Hil, who has just published his latest book – Selling Students Short – and Professor Margaret Thornton from the ANU School of Law who has written extensively on the impacts of privatising universities.
“The response to this conference has been incredible. It really feels as though the time has come not only to examine the real effects of privatisation on universities but to begin the process of changing universities – and who better to do it than those who work and study there,” Ms Lyons concluded.
Challenging the Privatised University will be highly participatory, with those attending having the opportunity to determine the issues they want to discuss and work on.
Further details, including speakers, program and registration details can be found on the conference website.