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Philip Morrissey, Lauren Bliss, Giles Fielke, Leo Seward and Simon Cooper
‘Our working conditions are your learning conditions’
So says the NTEU. And if the task of the university is to prepare us for a life of insecurity in a neoliberal society, then this certainly rings true. While universities’ expensive marketing campaigns work hard to emphasise tradition, knowledge, creativity and ‘higher values’, the reality is very different, as all areas of the sector are subjected to ‘creative disruption’ via a highly paid cadre of corporate managers.
The public image of the university and what it actually does are increasingly divergent. These differences were evident in the University of Melbourne’s recent Business Improvement Plan (BIP) process, where staff and students were asked to ‘believe’ in an institution in the process of culling more than 500 staff, while many more were being co-opted into the ‘creative destruction’ of their own, and their colleagues’, positions.
Such processes are not confined to the University of Melbourne. The ‘corporatisation’ of the university, under way for many years now, marks a structural transformation that affects staff and students and goes to the heart of what a university is meant to be. Current plans to ‘disrupt’ the university sector further, via Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘innovation agenda’, for example, represent another stage in this process, perhaps marking a point of no return for the university as a public institution.
This discussion, hosted by Arena Publications, features contributors to the People’s Tribunal, an independent forum established in response to the BIP, alongside longstanding critics of university corporatisation. The discussion explores the implications of the BIP for university workers and students, and asks what the significance of these latest attempts to ‘innovate’ the university might mean for its future, as well as for the society in which it is embedded.