Tuesday, July 15, 2003


Universities finding the right price-bracket

Semi-retired magnetohydrodynamics-boffin, and RMIT Chancellor, Dennis Gibson has just mastered the economics of aspirational retailing – a store (or lately now, a university) that offers plain old quality and value for money is at risk of being perceived as cheap and nasty. Therefore, in order for RMIT to belong to the post-Nelson brave new world of elite universities – and not, it seems, for any other reason – RMIT will have to put its fees up.

Dennis Gibson, I salute your style of thinking. Ignore the fundamentals; and concentrate on marketing position, position, position. “RMIT – almost as expensive as the University of Melbourne; and we have a tens-of-millions loss on our books too, for which our Vice-Chancellor is yet to be held to account for, either”. And the pessimists have lately been saying that our universities have been engaged in a race to the bottom!

In other university news, there is this multi-faceted US fiasco. (Make sure you check out the comments, too). My take on it – the less universities ask/expect of their students (and asking that students read ONE book over the summer, and then running a two hour casual seminar, come September, about their responses to the book is as de minimis as you can get), the more polarities and extremities that will be bred.

In other words, University-Lite is a dystopia precisely because everyone feels compelled, and is able, to chip in. And if you think I’m being elitist here (i) you obviously haven’t read the above-linked story, and (ii) (since you haven’t and presumably won’t) anyone who criticises a book on the basis of its writer’s religion is a fascist, a person who can’t be intellectually engaged with at any level. And mediocrity breeds such fascists.

A final piece of university news comes via Jason McCullough. It’s a nice cautionary tale about this decade’s version of the up-herself high school prom queen – an archetype now refashioned, of course, into a have-it-all, brains’n’beauty princess whose just desserts, fittingly enough, happen to be delivered exactingly through her own hand.

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