Sunday, May 18, 2003

University of Melbourne in such parlous financial situation that it keeps re-dipping a teabag-sized factlette

The crisis in higher education funding is no better illustrated by tracing the repeated re-used comparison of the University of Virginia’s funding per student to that of the University of Melbourne.

We have it in today’s Age – in a seemingly timely, post-Budget plea to the Senate’s erstwhile majority. At first I thought that it was strange that Alan Gilbert’s piece was in the “News”, not the “Opinion” section (at least of the online version), but then I remembered that there is probably stricter requirements for novelty of content in the latter than in the former, so Alan’s well-trodden words had to get kicked upstairs, as they say.

In case you need some proof of Alan’s thrift (at least when it comed to making impassioned pleas for things that matter); here is the University of Virginia being wheeled out by him in May 2002, and by his titular boss in February 2003.

The otherwise obscure University of Virginia, BTW, owes its seeming permanent residence in Alan’s frontal lobe due to its being precisely one-half of the American partners of Universitas Global, a troubled joint venture online varsity in which the University of Melbourne is the key financal stakeholder. My guess that the particular reason Alan eats, dream and sweats the University of Virginia, is that it had the economy (/prudence, /foresight; call it what you want) to pledge only $A2 million to the embryonic joint venture, while his own institution, obviously confident that it held a winning royal flush in its hands, staked a huge $20 million.

So my guess is that there’s plenty more times that the University of Virginia teabag is good for wringing, yet. Even after it has been so much-dipped that it fails to so much as colour the water, those who drinketh of the resulting brew will surely be made happier, at least, by the spectacle of Alan’s thrift. (Meanwhile, in staff tea rooms on the other side of the world at the University of Virginia, the academics throw two (!) fresh teabags into their mugs every time – but such abhorrent waste is the price you pay for trying to keep up with the Joneses; eh Alan?)

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