Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Higher Ed round-up

Neville Gruzman, an adjunct professor of architecture at the University of NSW, has a letter in today’s Australian Higher Ed* decrying physical conditions and staff-student ratios in his state’s architecture faculties – presumably including his own.

A (brave) whistleblower? No sirree. Gruzman devotes the last third of his letter to pinning the source of the extra dollars (that architecture faculties so urgently need) onto the students “who have the privilege to get such . . . a good university education”.

Clearly, logic – in contrast to unconscious, searing irony – is not Gruzman’s strong point. And a passing glance at the average commercial-size building development (sic) being erected in Melbourne these days does not suggest of plethora of only semi-competent architects. On the contrary, the complete absence of originality in design, and the (related) blanket use of the cheap tilt-slab as the building’s structure amply shows no architects at all were required for the project. Unless, that is, you count pressing the photocopier button to capture the plans of the tenth-previous tilt-slab monstrosity for yet another re-use.

In summary then, perhaps adjunct professor Neville Gruzman can better devote his future campaigns to architecture students designing international departure lounges at the nation’s airports. However tilt-slab-shoddy the (architect’s plans-overridden) result may be, they’ll still get to (briefly) experience “their” handiwork first-hand – and not be around long enough to complain about it, either.

Another piece of Higher Ed news caused me a “Q” flashback to the mid-90’s, when I was a full-time academic working much longer hours than this frail and whinging creature#. (How cushy is the Uni of Wollongong law faculty in 2003 that it is only regularly crashing computers that makes its lecturers need to work back until 11pm, and only then some nights, at that!). Although I should admit that the rampant “Q” jingoism of that period was more a matter of light relief for me at the time (i.e. intra-collegial snickering, rather than a time-consuming chore), I am surprised that capital-Q Quality hasn’t yet faded into the deep dark institutional archives – it always did smack of someone’s MBA project gone wrong (i.e. taken seriously).

The proof that "Quality" is still alive at universities is not in, of course, Neville Gruzman’s implicit protestation that Australia still has a shortage of unemployed architecture graduates with $90k HECS debts (apparently their current, modest $30k HECS debts unadvantageously show up the decrepit classrooms they trained in). Rather, the proof is here, in the promotions news section#:

Good on you, Marie Carroll – going from being a pro vice-chancellor at one uni, to running a “quality assurance initiative” at another, four km’s down the road. Lest unkind souls whisper that it’s a demotion, I point out – in your defence – that the very word “initiative” suggests that you will be able to milk a few more years yet out of the ageing nanny goat called Quality.

Finally in the Higher Ed department comes this bit of mathematical ineptitude from my favourite Melbourne Uni whipping-boy, Andrew Norton#. He writes:

The Age last weekend reported on a Monash University full-fee law student, whose ENTER score of 98.75 wasn't enough to get him a HECS place in that course. Can anyone seriously say being in the top 1.25 per cent of Victorian results is not an achievement?

Well, firstly, I can, Andrew. My Year 12 English result was the (equal) top mark in Victoria, and the only “achievement” it has brought me is the misguided sense to trade in a secure blue-collar job, all for a few years at university followed by a few temporary jobs, punctuated by years of living on $200 a week.

Less personally, Andrew Norton’s maths are up shit creek, and to a laughable degree. I’m pretty sure that any Year 12 student could inform him that ENTER scores are not on a scale of one to one hundred, and thus that 98.75 isn’t quite as shit hot a score as it may seem. My own mathematical limitations, and the fact the uni entrance scoring system worked differently in my day prevent me saying too much more, but I am fairly confident in saying that, if you got an ENTER score of 30 or below, then it’s probably just you (and maybe Andrew Norton too, if he foolishly chose the all-maths program for his Year 12 efforts).

* “Building to breakdown” The Australian 30 July 2003 (no URL).

# URL valid to ~ 5 August 2003 only.

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