The Future of University: Professor Raewyn Connell promotes change in the system

Image Source: USNews

By Meika Bottrill | @meikabottrill

According to Australian sociologist and professor, Raewyn Connell, universities are in dire need of change.

On May 31 2019, in a large lecture hall at the University of South Australia’s City West campus, Professor Raewyn Connell delved into her book The Good University to create conversations regarding the future of universities.

“We have to shift the perception to find hope in the university scene and formulate principles of the kind of university we want.”

Professor Connell claimed that a good university should be democratic, engaged, truthful, creative and sustainable.

In order to implement these models, a university system must be cooperative, not competitive.

“We can’t think of universities as individual… instead, they need to be cooperative and depend on each other,” Professor Connell said.

She also suggests that universities need to be public in purpose and in funding by abolishing fees and shifting away from our addiction to revenue.

“If we need to teach in a shed, we should teach in a shed,” she said.

Australia is a competitive country in terms of higher education, with a phenomenal and advanced international education sector.

However, as assignments pour in at the end of the semester, it can become challenging to comprehend what universities actually do.

Students pour thousands and thousands of dollars into our university degrees each year and yet are they truly aware of where this money is going?

“If we truly believe education is a tool for bringing prosperity and equality to our world, we must make it as accessible as possible,” UNSW Vice-Chancellor, Ian Jacobs said at the AFR Higher Education Summit.

The United States and the United Kingdom are the homes of Oxford, Cambridge and  Stanford, the top-ranked universities in the world.

These universities bring in some of the most intelligent students in the world which forces them to rely on strong levels of funding.

If we consider the idea that universities who make the most money may be the most successful, we approach the problem of a skewed dissemination of information.

Research conducted by these students may not be diverse or varied and therefore affects our global knowledge.

However, Connell’s suggestion of cooperation between universities may encourage diversity within our international education.

The South Australian education department is already taking big steps to attract students from varied backgrounds to higher education studies.

Extra ATAR points are allocated to stage two SACE students who are from rural or regional backgrounds to help assist them in applying for university courses.

With the introduction of internships or placements, universities are moving to more hands-on learning environments and providing students with experience they can use in their chosen industries.

Additionally, research conducted by The University of Western Australia identifies that social interaction in university is a key aspect of student satisfaction on campus.

However, as universities are rapidly endeavouring to blend learning approaches with digital technology to make higher education available to a wider demographic, it becomes difficult for online learning to remain interactive and social.

Large universities can sometimes make students feel like a little fish in a big pond, however, tutorial classrooms are getting smaller to promote this kind of social interaction.

Enhancing our university sector should be in the best interest of our public, as education is fundamental in improving the wellbeing and structure of our future.

“It is not rocket science; it can be done and it is important to be done,” Professor Connell said.

Professor Raewyn Connell’s book The Good University is available for purchase here.

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