Selling Students Short: Why you won't get the university education you deserve

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Hil, Richard
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Ruth's account of her time at a major metropolitan university could be construed as just another bout of whinging from a disgruntled student, borne largely of her personal issues and challenging circumstances. That would be a mistake. Ruth's observations on university life go to the very heart of what such institutions have become over the past 30 years or so. The ideological foundations of higher education, and the work­place relations, practices and organisational systems that define them, have turned universities from public institutions into money-making corporations, sites of mass consumption and industrial training centres suited to the requirements of the neoliberal economy. The elevation of market values ( competition, economic prosperity, modernisation) over collective interest and civic purpose, and the emergence of vocationalism, narrowly constituted curricula, and what Donald Meyers, author of Australian Universities-A Portrait of Decline, refers to as the 'retailer-customer' nexus, have each contributed to what many students consider a less than inspiring educational experience. Some speak of 'functionality' and an absence of 'spark', 'meaning' and 'soul', while others feel they've been duped by all those clever marketing tricks. For some critical observers of higher education, many of today's students are akin to neoliberal zombies-atomised devotees of the global market imbued with all the privileges that come with consumer sovereignty. In this context, the so-called university experience embodies the solipsistic expectation, as declared in Southern Cross University's slogan, that 'It's all about U'. This emphasis on individual gain-or what social commentator Anne Manne refers to as the 'Life of !'-has served to dislodge the idea that university education is about collectivity, cooperation, shared experience, and what Professor Stuart Rees calls 'intellectual promiscuity'-the free, unencumbered, critical exploration of ideas that makes for an engaged, more fulsome and socially relevant educational experience.

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Education Assessment and Evaluation

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