Sunday, 28 September 2008

On the Free University, Terry Irving in 1971

“What the Martin Report means by saying that everybody recognised the human values associated with education was that it did not know how to protect them successfully in the inevitable marriage of the university and the acquisitive society.” (p. 21)

Just as the university serves the nation, so the “good” teacher serves th university by instructing his students efficiently in those skills whose acquisition the nation has already made a condition of his entry to the university. Some departments and some teachers resist this atmosphere; others accept it, or encourage it by continually complicating the lives of staff and students with regulations and forms. (p.21)

On the mechanisation and bureaucratisation of the university: “The trouble is that, as the university grows, those who administer its physical existence become more identified with the “capital equipment” that with its users. The Librarian comes to regard the books as more important than the students an staff…the administration becomes the “real” university because it is responsible for the buildings and equipment.” (pp. 22-23)

“the Free University is an experiment in freely-developing education, a “counter-community” providing a conscience for the mass university rather than a way to reform it. (p23)

The desire to combine learning with co-operative living. The demand for student control of the learning situation, and the intellectual needs of the new student radicalism, have contributed to more than forty free universities….p.24

…most courses eventuated only when a group of students had shown interest and when a “convenor” (often an undergraduate) could demonstrate [HF: to who?] that the skills at the group’s command (including those of visiting ‘experts’) made study of their subject feasible. (p.25)

despite attempting to produce useable social research in groups: “…for most members of the Free U, discovery is primarily a personal matter, and only secondarily of social importance” (p.26)

The Free University…is not an academy for instruction in doctrinal truth…and it is not the answer to the mass university. (p.27)

Though it did have “reformist origins”, the Free U in 1971 had settled to accept itself for what it was:
“The Free University is a unique academic community in Australia, and we now think of ourselves more as a conscience than a catalyst for the mass university” (p.27)

Notes from Irving, Terry. "The Mass University and the Free University as Utopia." In Counterpoints: Critical Writings on Australian Education, edited by S D'Urso. (Sydney: John Wiley & Sons Australasia, 1971).

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