Trinity College Melbourne Essay Competition 2012

The first institutions drew on prevailing British views of the university and the needs of their colonial settings.In the following decades this original model, now well established and perceived as successful, influenced all subsequent developments.

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The aspiration for an ‘unworldly space’, a community of scholars, is largely defunct.

Gaita’s analysis resonated deeply with his original audience, and publication in This rejoinder picks up just one point, offering not a critique of Gaita’s argument but a historical qualification: whatever the sins of a moment that turn students into customers, and a vocation into a profession, the Australian university has proved remarkably consistent over a century and a half.

Yet it encouraged a narrow range of choices, a singular understanding of a university.

This continuity of form can be hard to distinguish amid huge growth in scale. They are now large organisations with standard rules and procedures to deal with complexity.

These new institutions focused overwhelmingly on professional degrees as a first qualification because expanding colonies needed lawyers, doctors and engineers.

Despite gothic-revival stone architecture and solemn ceremonies, the original universities were practical exercises in higher education.

The Australian idea of a university, developed in the 1850s, remains the dominant approach.

The influence of founders Why have Australian universities retained so many founding characteristics?

Status hierarchies and peer esteem served to narrow the range of acceptable possibilities. Familiarity renders the alternatives invisible, because we see only what already exists.

Once established in our minds, a model of what constitutes a public institution will make any alternative seem inadequate.


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