Monday, 30 November 2009

Pictures of Melbourne University

Recently, I posted this picture from the University of Sydney, affectionately representing that institution's tendency to vague and confusing guidelines. The cloister is quite a pleasant place to wait for further instructions, so we forgive the vagueness.



But as far as cloisters go, I thought Melbourne's was beautiful, when I visited that university a few weeks ago, though a little over-cloistered with the chain:

 

I wondered whether perhaps this massively ornate carpark entrance was just a little OTT:




and whether anyone had informed the university that Professor Florey had died in 1968 and would be not be able to walk that way:



But it takes a powerful marketing department to convince the university that it is a good idea to do this:



This poster on a beautiful sandstone tower in no way makes me want to study an executive arts masters at Melbourne and that is only partly because I could not see how a woman sitting with some empty plastic chairs was going to do that. You can see the ad here, an ad I also find disturbing for "At last, a school that teaches you how to think, not what to think" - what was the Arts faculty doing before?

However, the poorly selected picture (and text) is the least of the problems with sticking marketing posters on lovely old buildings.

The problem with this is what it represents - that marketing a new masters program (a program that on the surface, I should say, sounds like a good idea) has a higher priority for the university than intellectual integrity. This might sound silly, for it is just a building, not a textbook, but symbols are important as we know and this really sends a message - and the wrong one - in my view.

I have a feeling that the recent development in attaching equivalent power to professional managers as to academic governance is a part of this problem - for example recent news about universities giving professional managers unearned professorial titles. Another example at Melbourne was this:



The problem with this is not that professional managers do unimportant work in universities, on the contrary (and I've been one myself, so I hardly want to knock them). But universities are communities of scholars and must be run by them.

Just to be clear - the problem is not confined to Melbourne University by any means.

3 comments:

M-H said...

This is a very interesting post! Did you know that the new VC at Sydney has refused the title of professor (honorary in his case as he wouldn't be entitled to it any other way) and some of the profs are feeling insulted, as as if he doesn't value the title, when in fact I think he's showing that he values it highly. I guess he can't win, really.

Also, there is now no academic in charge of graduate studies under the DVC academic. The office of graduate studies is managed by a managed - no dean or other academic person. Not sure what that means...

Hannah Forsyth said...

I did not know that about the VC MH, that is really cool (of him, not the professors). I don;t think it is a job one CAN win in actually.

I too have been pondering the absent DoGS and am also unsure of what it means...but suspect it might *only* mean something like the job was in a structurally weird place...a bit like a human appendix.?

M-H said...

Most other campuses have DOGS, and they usually meet before the Quality in Postgrad Research conference every 2 years - Masud was at the last one (2008). I wonder who will be going from Sydney next year? The Deans are particularly strong at Sydney; that has made the DOGS position pretty difficult, I think. I found something interesting about the history of this in the archives the other day.

Here's a thought: there is a real shortage of resources (desks, shelving, telephones etc) for pg students in pretty much every faculty. If there was a strong DOGS office there might have been a lever to have got some space - this is what happened at Melbourne, where a research student centre started in 1996 that was open 24/7, with coffee, private bookable rooms for interviewing, etc. I'm not sure if it's still there with the new degree structure at Melb though.

I intend to ask Derek about the DOGS position when I interview him. It used to come under DVC Research, but PhD matters have now been moved to DVC Education.