Glyn Davis explains how engaging with communities can protect universities from government

Gyn Davies sets out grim fates for universities, which could be ransacked, like 16th century monasteries, by ministers upset by their independence and resentful of their resources. “In Britain and Australia higher education ministers have not held back – universities are labelled as inefficient, with overpaid vice-chancellors and overly generous wages and conditions for staff in a time of austerity. These institutions seem ripe for ‘efficiency dividends’, ” he says.

And if Tudor-esque terminators don’t get them, online packagers of knowledge-product might, the University of Melbourne vice chancellor warned in a London speech last week.

But those with Henrician horrors should relax. Professor Davis suggests universities need not argue alone on their enemies terms by defending research, justifying salaries, demonstrating the value for public and student money they provide. Universities can also go further by implementing engagement; “creating meaningful links between a university and its many constituencies, and communicating the fact that this is what we do.”  It’s certainly what UniMelb wants to be seen as doing, hosting an international conference on universities engaging with their communities last month, (CMM September 29)

“When we engage, we encourage local forces to defend the value of universities whenever politicians stoke resentment. We make clear the campus offers more than qualifications …– the university is, in a real sense, part of the community,” Professor Davis told his London audience.


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