07 décembre 2012

Could online courses be the death of the humanities?

The Guardian homeHumanities are at risk, less from the free education market than the free market strategies in education, says Aurélien Mondon.
Let's be clear, access to quality lectures for free is a fantastic achievement, allowing hundreds of thousands to access knowledge for its own sake. But with Tedx, Coursera and others like them taking part in the democratisation of education by removing it from the shackles of consumerism and the market, there is a risk that such developments will be detrimental to the exploration of knowledge in the long term. Carole Cadwalladr recently reported in the Observer that free online access to tertiary courses and lectures was set to revolutionise education. She imagined a United Kingdom where "the 'second-tier' universities … could struggle in the brave new free education market world". What her piece ignored is that these universities are already struggling, not because of the "free education market", but because of the hegemony of free market strategies in education. This is particularly striking in the humanities, an area of study to which only one paragraph was dedicated, but that could be the greatest loser in this recent transformation of the education landscape.
A world where online learning is generalised and ends up replacing other education delivery modes could seriously impact the original purpose of a university. Most of the examples cited by Cadwalladr are from what is often termed the 'hard sciences'. Even in these disciplines, a problem lies in what seems to me the central element of higher education learning: the development of critical abilities and the potential for students to express their own original analytical skills. Assessment marked automatically, where only one answer is correct, does not leave space for human imagination and, by extension, progress. But critical skills are also (or should be) central to assessment in the humanities, from good essay writing to more developed research. Read more...

Posté par pcassuto à 23:03 - - Permalien [#]


04 décembre 2012

The 5-Year Humanities PhD

HomeBy Scott Jaschik. Complaints about doctoral education in the humanities -- it takes too long, it's not leading to jobs, it's disjointed -- are rampant. So too are periodic calls for radical reform.
But Stanford University is encouraging its humanities departments to redesign humanities doctoral programs so that students could finish in five years (down from the current average of seven at the university and much longer elsewhere), and so that the programs prepare students for careers in and out of academe. While the university is not forcing departments to change, it last week gave all humanities departments a request for proposals that offered a trade: departments that give concrete plans to cut time to degree and change the curriculum will be eligible for extra support -- in particular for year-round support for doctoral students (who currently aren't assured of summer support throughout their time as grad students). The plans would need to be measurable, and the support would disappear if plans aren't executed.
While some Stanford faculty members in the humanities have been speaking out about the need to reform humanities programs for some time, and while a few universities elsewhere have experimented with one or two programs, the Stanford initiative could shape up to be the broadest yet to encourage substantial change in humanities Ph.D. education. Read more...

Posté par pcassuto à 21:12 - - Permalien [#]
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27 novembre 2012

Pricing Out the Humanities

HomeHistory professors at the University of Florida think their courses are plenty valuable, but they don't want them to be among the most expensive. And they are organizing to protest a gubernatorial task force's recommendation to charge more for majors without an immediate job payoff -- a recommendation that the historians fear could discourage enrollments.
History professors have organized a petition against one of the more controversial recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education Reform: differential tuition that could be punitive to the humanities. They've garnered more than 1,300 names in a week, including those from places far beyond the Sunshine State. More...

Posté par pcassuto à 02:50 - - Permalien [#]

09 novembre 2012

Strategy for American humanities: blow them up and start again

Click here for THE homepageA declining, out-of-touch discipline and its vocational counterpart must merge to offer a thriving third way, argues Toby Miller. The humanities in the US are finished. They are unpopular with students, politicians and bureaucrats. Students vote through enrolment. The humanities' share of majors stands at 8-12 per cent of the nation's undergraduates. That's less than half the figure in the 1960s and the lowest point since the Second World War, apart from Ronald Reagan's recession.
Between 1970-71 and 2003-04, English majors declined from 7.6 to 3.9 per cent of the national total, other languages and literatures dropped from 2.5 to 1.3 per cent, philosophy and religious studies fell from 0.9 to 0.7 per cent, and history decreased from 18.5 to 10.7 per cent. By contrast, business enrolment increased by 176 per cent and communication studies shot up 616 per cent.
The government's view? President Barack Obama's 2011 State of the Union address called for increased expenditure on mathematics and science. It did not mention the humanities. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided not a cent for humanities research: science received $3 billion (£1.9 billion). The Republican Party has announced its desire to exterminate the National Endowment for the Humanities. And administrators? They cut and cut. More...

Posté par pcassuto à 21:52 - - Permalien [#]
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27 octobre 2012

International Forum on The Humanities Research at the Dawn of ERA and Horizons 2020

Maison des sciences de l'homme en BretagneDecember 6 2012: British Academy, 10 Carlton House Terrace, London 
International Forum on The Humanities Research at the Dawn of ERA and Horizons 2020 

This international forum brings together representatives of universities, research institutions, research managers, evaluation and ranking agencies, funders and key actors from the disciplines themselves to discuss the key issues affected humanities research within the context of the European Research Area. It will look at how funding, evaluation and cooperation patterns affect the place of humanities and social sciences research in the coming years, and especially in the light of Horizons 2020.
Programme: 
the current version of the programme is now consultable online.
Inscription :
inscription en ligne.
This event is organised by the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme de Bretagne, for information, please contact Prof Geoffrey Williams or Dr Ioana Galleron [williams|galleron]@evalhum.eu.
Programme - Humanities Research at the dawn of ERA and Horizons 2020
-Draft Programme-

London, 6th December 2012
I. Opening session

10h00 Welcome speech, Professor Nigel Vincent FBA, Vice President, Research and Higher Education, British Academy and Professor Emeritus of General & Romance Linguistics, The University of Manchester
10h10 Impacts of ERA on the Humanities and Social Sciences: wishes, tools... and foreseen problems, Dr. Ioana Galleron and Professor Geoffrey Williams
10h30The HSS within ERA: Europe's rationale, Philippe Keraudren, Deputy Head of Unit, European Commission, DG Research
II. Evaluation and internationalisation of careers and research

11h45 Assessing HSS research units from an international point of view, Gero Federkeil, CHE,Ranking
12h05 Assessing HSS research units from an international point of view, Professor Bruce Brown, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of Brighton and Chair of Main Panel D (arts and humanities) Research Excellence Framework
III. Financial incentives within ERA

14h The French point of view: Agence National de Recherche, Professor Pascal ARNAUD, Director Department SSH, Agence Nationale de la Recherche, Membre de l'Institut Universitaire de France
14h15 The British point of view: Arts and Humanities Research Council, Professor Mark Llewellyn, director of Research, and University of Strathclyde, UK
14h30 Private funders: Approached
IV. The actor's point of view

15h20 UK, Europe and ERA, Professor. Keith Brown, Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, University of Manchester
15h35 Research universities and ERA, Professor H. W. van den Doel, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, University of Leiden
V. Summing up

16h10The future of humanities research in a wider European Research Area, Reporters, panel members.

Posté par pcassuto à 23:27 - - Permalien [#]


Developing a pedagogical culture in the Social Sciences

HEA Social Sciences Annual Conference - Teaching research methods: Developing a pedagogical culture in the Social Sciences
Date: 23 May 2013 - 24 May 2013
Start Time: 01:00 pm
Location/venue: Crowne Plaza Hotel, St. Nicholas Place, Princes Dock, Pier Head, Liverpool, L3 1QW
The theme for this year's HEA Social Sciences conference builds on the work of the Social Sciences cluster teaching and learning summit, held in June 2012, and develops further the themes for the teaching and learning projects we will be funding through our strategic project. For further details see: http://bit.ly/QaBLK9.
By providing a space in which to communicate insights and examples from practice, the conference will provide an environment in which both challenges can be discussed and possible solutions shared. The HEA’s Social Science Cluster seeks to promote cross-disciplinary working between colleagues in the following disciplines: Accounting; Anthropology; Business and Management Studies; Development Studies; Economics; Education; Finance; Hospitality and Tourism; Sport Science and Leisure Studies; Law; Marketing; Politics and International Studies; and, Sociology.
We welcome contributions (for formats see guidance notes in the related documents section of this webpage) from all the cluster disciples around one of the following areas: 
  • Embedding research methods into the curriculum
    One of the issues raised at our teaching and learning summit (see http://bit.ly/Vf1WDR) was whether research methods are best taught as ‘standalone’ modules or integrated into a subject-focused module. We invite contributions that explore either/both of these approaches. In particular we would welcome contributions that include an evaluation of the effectiveness of these approaches. 
  • Communicating quantitative methods
    In his presentation to the summit John MacInnes (http://bit.ly/O8mTJ5) reminded us of the potential for quantitative methods to ‘to shock, inspire and challenge complacency’ but he also stated that ‘this will require some creative innovation in how we teach them’.  We invite contributions that outline approaches to teaching quantitative methods that seek to communicate to students, in imaginative and innovative ways, not only how they can use quantitative methods, but why they might want to do so.
  •  Teaching mixed methods
    In his presentation to the summit Martyn Hammersley (http://bit.ly/O8mTJ5) highlighted how methodological divisions among social researchers can ‘extend beyond differences in view about how to pursue research to disagreement about its goal and value’. In his discussion paper Martyn addresses further some of the issues teachers face if they attempt to bridge these methodological divisions. We invite contributions that provide examples of practice that seek to engage students in a plurality of approaches to research methods. In particular we would be interested in projects that combine quantitative and qualitative approaches. 
  • Assessment for learning in research methods
    Assessment is recognised to be an essential element of the learning process. What is assessed and how it is assessed influences students’ engagement with the curriculum and the opportunities for them to receive feedback on their learning. We invite contributions that identify good practice in the assessment of research methods learning.
  •  The use of open educational resources (OER) in research methods teaching
    The proliferation of OER that can be used in research methods teaching and learning has meant that teachers now have access to a wide variety of resources that they can integrate into their module delivery. Often, however, OER are used to provide an ‘off the shelf’ solution to resource provision and the additional potential offered through the re-versioning and subsequent sharing of OER is not realised. We invite contributions that discuss good practice in integrating OER into research methods teaching and/or the re-versioning and sharing of research methods OER. 
  • Developing a pedagogical culture
    In his presentation to the summit Mark Garner (http://bit.ly/O8mTJ5) highlighted the need to develop a pedagogical culture within the teaching of research methods - ‘the capacity to do research does not automatically translate into the capacity to teach research… pedagogical expertise needs to be specifically developed’.  We invite contributions that discuss examples of good practice in developing such a culture within and between institutions. In particular we would welcome examples of the use of peer-support groups and mentoring both through face-to-face contact and social networking. 
  • Researching for ‘work’ and at ‘work’
    Programmes of study in many Social Science disciplines require students to engage in some form of placement or work-based learning.  Often students are required to conduct some form of project work as part of this element of their learning, and whilst this project work can involve using research-related skills, links to research methods teaching are sometimes left implicit. Furthermore, whilst the benefits of placement/work-based learning in terms of developing students’ employability skills are recognised, the benefits of academic input into developing workplace practice are less often articulated.

We invite contributions that discuss projects that incorporate research methods teaching with work-based or placement learning projects and which seek to demonstrate the benefits of this type of learning for students and/or a level of knowledge exchange between educators and employers/placement providers.
The guidance document for submissions is now available from the related documents section of this webpage.
Conference costs and details for booking will be available shortly from this webpage. 
The call will close at 12.00 noon on Friday 4 January 2013

The HEA’s mission is to use our expertise and resources to support the higher education community in order to enhance the quality and impact of learning and teaching. We do this by recognising and rewarding excellent teaching, bringing together people and resources to research and share best practice, and by helping to influence, shape and implement policy.
Contact email: For queries, not bookings: HEA Social Sciences.

Posté par pcassuto à 23:08 - - Permalien [#]

Exploring narratives of learning and teaching

Storyville: Exploring narratives of learning and teaching, the 2nd annual HEA Arts and Humanities conference, 2013
Date: 29 May 2013 - 30 May 2013
Location/venue: Thistle Brighton, King's Road, Brighton, England, BN1 2GS
The Higher Education Academy’s second annual learning and teaching Arts and Humanities conference, ‘Storyville: Exploring narratives of learning and teaching’ will take place on 29 – 30 May 2013 in Brighton.
Stories

At the heart of the Arts and Humanities disciplines sit stories – stories which create and recreate worlds, distant and present, stories which inspire and engage, stories which grow imaginations and expand what is thinkable.
Stories are everywhere, and our second annual conference seeks to explore the intersections between narrative and learning and teaching by considering:
    the narratives of how we teach – our stories as educators;
    the narratives of how our students learn – travelogues from the student journey;
    the narratives we teach – our subjects and (inter)disciplinarity;
    the narratives we teach by – pedagogies and methodologies, academic identities, research-based teaching and teaching-based research;
    the narratives we teach within – policy, dominant media narratives, student expectations informed by Key Information Sets and the National Student Survey;
    the narratives we (co-)create – the impact of the Arts and Humanities, the experience and memories of our students, students as partners.
Creating, telling, sharing

As stories have the power to ‘reveal meaning without committing the error of defining it’ (Hannah Arendt) we welcome papers and workshop proposals on any aspect of teaching and learning in the Arts and Humanities within the broad theme of ‘narratives of learning and teaching’. Suggested forms, ‘genres’ and themes include:
    Choose your own adventure: Making students partners in learning and teaching;
    Short stories (and tall tales?): Tweeting your teaching; social presence through social media;
    Epic adventures: Gamifying learning and teaching;
    Westerns: Living on the frontiers of learning; conflicts and change;
    Cross-genre works: Negotiating disciplinary boundaries;
    Experimental forms: Designing learning experiences and curricula; the use of digital technologies;
    Archives, houses and museums: Telling the stories of public history;
    Anthologies: Working with student diversity;
    Prizes: Assessing creatively/creative assessment;
    Literary devices: Using metaphors and imagery in HE.
Who should attend?

Higher education teaching staff, Programme Leaders and Faculty Deans in Archaeology, Classics, Area Studies, Art and Design, Cinematics and Photography, Dance, Drama and Music, English, History, Journalism, Languages, Linguistics, Media and Communications, Philosophical and Religious Studies. We particularly welcome early career lecturers, and Graduate Teaching Assistants.

Posté par pcassuto à 21:29 - - Permalien [#]

01 octobre 2012

Humanities in the Digital Age

HomeBy Alan Liu and William G. Thomas III. Since the 2008 Great Recession, American higher education has experienced a new round of uncertainties and reductions -- especially, but not only, in public institutions. British academics refer to the current season of top-down austerity as "the cuts," but in the U.S., we might speak of lingchi, "death by a thousand cuts." Faculty lines slashed, programs eliminated, course seats lowered, graduate student aid reduced, the decentralized U.S. higher education system has struggled to maintain quality across the disciplines. Humanities programs, in particular, have appeared threatened.
Yet, in this same time we are in the first phase of a digital revolution in higher education. Much of the teaching and learning apparatus has moved online. Computational technologies and methodologies have transformed research practices in every discipline, leading to exciting discoveries and tools. New interdisciplinary initiatives, exploiting the digital, such as bioinformatics, human cognition, and digital humanities, are bringing faculty members together in ways never before attempted.
For the humanities, the threat of diminished resources has appeared hand-in-glove with the digital turn. The recent events at the University of Virginia demonstrate just how influential the digital paradigm has become, but also how unevenly applied its pressures can be. The university's board members seemed to be swayed by the model of massive open online courses (MOOCs) under development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, among other institutions, most of the key instances of which have been in the STEM fields. Meanwhile, some board members proposed to eliminate classics and German to save money in the face of the university's massive structural budget deficit. They apparently did not realize how many students actually take these subjects (a lot) or that the subjects have been required in state codes chartering the university.

Posté par pcassuto à 22:41 - - Permalien [#]

10 septembre 2012

Sciences sociales, le déclin français

Par Michel Wieviorka, administrateur de la Fondation Maison des sciences de l'homme et directeur d'études à l'Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales. En matière de sciences humaines et sociales (SHS), les universités britanniques, ou du moins certaines d'entre elles, les plus orientées sur la recherche, sont en position de force dès qu'il s'agit de financement européen de la recherche.
Cela a pu être constaté, une fois de plus, à l'issue des travaux d'un panel de l'European Research Council (ERC, le Conseil européen pour la recherche) que j'ai présidé, en juin. Ce panel devait répartir quelque 40 millions d'euros entre des candidats venus du monde entier à l'issue d'un processus de sélection exigeant. Sur les 27 dossiers retenus parmi près de 300, 16, soit environ 60%, seront traités au sein d'établissements d'enseignement et de recherche britanniques, dont une majorité à Londres. Les candidats pouvaient venir de toute l'Europe, et parfois au-delà, et ont fait le choix de ces établissements pour les accueillir.
Plus largement, de 2007 à 2011, les universités britanniques ont bénéficié de près du tiers des 460 bourses octroyées en SHS par l'ERC. Trois universités anglaises, dont deux londoniennes, accueillent à elles seules autant de boursiers ERC que l'ensemble des institutions françaises. D'autres données, sur la longue durée, pourraient nuancer ce constat, mais ne démentent pas que le Royaume-Uni se trouve en position dominante. Quelles raisons avancer?
Le Royaume-Uni offre aux lauréats de bourses ERC de bonnes conditions de travail et d'existence. L'accueil scientifique mais aussi humain, la capacité de bénéficier d'infrastructures efficaces et réactives, l'environnement intellectuel, la qualité des étudiants que le chercheur rencontrera sont à l'évidence décisifs. Un chercheur qui pose sa bourse dans un établissement universitaire lui apporte, en contrepartie, des ressources non négligeables, 20% des moyens qui lui sont alloués revenant à l'institution d'accueil.
Tout cela participe d'un modèle de recherche dominé par la concurrence et le marché. Le Royaume-Uni a fait depuis une bonne vingtaine d'années le choix d'ouvrir son marché du travail universitaire aux étrangers, nombreux à occuper des postes en SHS, ou à bénéficier de bourses de thèses ou de post-doc, sans parler des étudiants, qui proviennent du monde entier. La recherche non financée est de moins en moins possible, la compétition est féroce, et les chercheurs pour survivre doivent drainer des fonds, dont une partie significative servira à financer leur propre salaire, y compris s'ils sont en poste.
C'est à ce prix que le modèle britannique est efficace, plus capable d'attirer une certaine excellence, celle qui se fait reconnaître au niveau international, que d'élever le niveau général de la recherche nationale. International, donc, ouvert et dynamique, il est aussi dur, marchand et élitiste.
L'ERC, qui dispose de budgets considérables, a-t-il tort de promouvoir une excellence qui risque en réalité de correspondre à un modèle universitaire unique, le britannique? Les ressources qu'il alloue ne vont presque jamais vers des universités d'Europe centrale ou du sud de l'Europe, et peu vers la France (bien que notre pays soit mieux loti que l'Allemagne, l'Italie ou l'Espagne). Suite de l'article...
Με Michel Wieviorka, διευθυντής του Fondation Maison des επιστήμες του ανθρώπου και διευθυντής σπουδών στην Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. Όσον αφορά τις κοινωνικές και ανθρωπιστικές επιστήμες (SSH), βρετανικά πανεπιστήμια, ή τουλάχιστον κάποια τους, τόσο περισσότερο προσανατολισμένο προς την έρευνα, είναι σε ισχυρή θέση, όταν πρόκειται για τη χρηματοδότηση της ευρωπαϊκής έρευνας.
Έχει βρεθεί, για άλλη μια φορά, μετά το έργο της ομάδας του Ευρωπαϊκού Συμβουλίου Έρευνας (ΕΣΕ, το Ευρωπαϊκό Συμβούλιο Έρευνας), η οποία προήδρευσα τον Ιούνιο
. Περισσότερα...

Posté par pcassuto à 23:51 - - Permalien [#]

05 septembre 2012

The value of the Humanities and Social Sciences

http://www.nteu.org.au/themes/nteu/public/images/ui/standard_header_h1.pngIn accounting for the cuts to the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe University Professor John Dewar’s recent contribution to The Conversation (28August) contains at least four important errors of fact and one debateable interpretation.
Incorrect subject to student ratios

First, Professor Dewar suggests that La Trobe University needs to streamline its courses in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences because, “currently we offer one course for every seven students”. This figure should rather be one subject for fourteen full-time equivalent students enrolled in the Faculty.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has continually asked management at La Trobe to correct their calculation of the number of subjects offered to students each year. Initially, management arrived at a figure of 916 subjects, by double-counting subjects offered to both second and third year students. Conceding this point, management has since revised the calculation down to 718. However, this figure of 718 is still far higher than the actual number of units annually taught, as it includes “reading subjects” that do not involve lectures and tutorials and which rarely receive enrolments at all, and it also over-counts subjects in the Languages by triple and quadruple by counting those units offered to language students at different levels and years. There are, for example, sixty-six too many subjects listed for the Asian Languages with even more counting errors for the European Languages.
Following careful analysis of the listed subjects, the NTEU estimates that the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences actually currently teaches around 500 subjects per year. This generates a very different subject-student ratio to the Vice-Chancellor’s. The Vice-Chancellor refers to 916 subjects against a 2010 enrolment of 7,163 equivalent full-time students, which is one subject for every 7.8 students. When this is adjusted to reflect the subjects that are actually being taught in 2012 – approx 500 – we get a figure of one subject for 14.3 full-time equivalent students (which is an average of 114 per class, since students do 8 subjects per year). It is also worth noting that this subject-count includes low-enrolments subjects like some of the language units, as well as the subjects offered to the regions.
Subject offerings compared to those of our competitors

Second, Professor Dewar suggests that the number of subjects offered by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences is more than three times the equivalent ratio for our local competitors.
The NTEU has requested details about the source of this information and has been advised that subject numbers of local competing institutions was determined by consulting the websites of other universities and through emails from other institutions, of which requests for copies have been refused. However, given that we actually offer around 500 subjects (and not 913, as La Trobe University initially claimed), it is not clear that there is, in fact, a significant difference between our subject offerings and those of our competitors, especially when we consider that La Trobe needs to offer subjects on five separate regional campuses.
Moreover, many of these subjects also comprise offerings for fifteen “niche” degrees (including, for example, Bachelor of International Relations, Bachelor of International Development, Bachelor of Journalism etc.), which means that La Trobe University cannot simply discontinue units in its Bachelor of Arts. Assuming, then, that subjects cannot be dramatically reduced, what impact will the severe reduction of 41 full-time equivalent academic staff have on the workload of remaining academic staff in the Faculty who are already overworked? How will academic staff be able to continue their research alongside teaching? These are questions that the University has continually been unable or unwilling to answer, which is why it currently faces Fair Work Australia in a dispute with the NTEU over unacceptable consultation processes and provision of insufficient information about workload impacts, as required by the Collective agreement.
Understated redundancy figures

Third, Professor Dewar states that the University “intend[s], reluctantly, to make 37 staff redundant in the faculty, down from an initially proposed 50”. Again, this is simply incorrect. 41 full-time equivalent staff will be made redundant, 37 of which are to go before the end of 2012, with 4 to be phased out over the next three years.
Student enrolments are increasing not decreasing

Finally, Professor Dewar states that the staff redundancies will be drawn from areas where student enrolments have been “at a record-low for a number of years”. Quite frankly, anyone who has looked at the enrolment figures in the official May 2012 budget will find this claim hard to swallow. The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences reached its 2012 yearly enrolment target by the first semester census date, exceeding its target at the Bundoora campus by 11%. Although it is true that 2011 enrolments were down on expectations, 2011 was an exception and not the norm. In 2012, enrolments were up across the faculty at the start of the year, in English, Sociology, Politics, and many other areas.
And this is precisely why academic staff in the Faculty are finding the deep level of the proposed cuts difficult to accept. In a context where programs are, in general, retaining or increasing their student load, History will lose 43% of its staff, Sociology will shed 37% and many other areas will lose around 30% of their staff. It is an exaggeration, at the very least, to say, as Professor Dewar puts it, that students are voting “with their feet” for a smaller Humanities and Social Sciences faculty. Indeed, quite the opposite is happening. Not only were enrolments up at the start of 2012, student survey results captured on the MyUni website (myuniversity.gov.au) provides an overall satisfaction rate of 86.7% for the generic category of humanities including history and geography, an 88.8% rate for language and literature, and a 92.7% overall satisfaction rate for political science. Interestingly, these satisfaction ratings are significantly higher than those at the University of Melbourne.
Will the university support research?

In addition to these four errors of fact, Professor Dewar’s article contains a debateable presentation of La Trobe’s commitment to research. Professor Dewar states that the University intends “to continue the university’s fine reputation” in research in the humanities. He is certainly correct that La Trobe has an enviable reputation in this area, not only in relation to Excellence in Research Australia measures but also in its contributions to public debate. Indeed, Professor Dewar could have gone still further to acknowledge that research in Arts at La Trobe was ranked in the top 25 in the world in 2006 by the Times Higher Education Supplement. Unfortunately, it is hard to resolve the University’s stated commitment to such research with the increasing workload in teaching and administration that is expected to follow from such deep cuts to staffing levels. How will the remaining academic staff have time to pursue their research under such conditions?
An inadequate federal funding model

In closing, the question must be raised as to why Professor Dewar included these errors of fact. If his presentation of inefficiency in the Humanities and Social Sciences is inaccurate, what are the University’s real reasons for cuts of this magnitude? And here we come to the crux of the matter. The real reasons are a complex combination of factors that lie in tension with each other, and that, in part, originate in external funding models and external evaluatory pressures. These include: 1. A desire to increase La Trobe’s research rankings; 2. A federal system of research funding that favours the sciences and the applied social sciences; 3. A federal base funding model that provides a fixed amount per student-type that is nowhere near enough to cover the real cost of a student’s education; 4. A new deregulated federal system where caps to student numbers are removed, increasing competition among tertiary providers and thereby making it difficult for universities to predict their enrolment numbers from year to year.
These complex factors coalesce to produce the unfortunate situation in which Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences faculties across the country are called on to increase their cross-subsidisation of more costly areas of the University such as Science, in an environment where yearly fluctuations in enrolments in an uncapped market now forces universities to orient themselves toward flexible staff provision. Sadly, at La Trobe University this now entails a decrease in full-time continuing staff in the Humanities and Social Sciences with an associated, anticipated increase in casual staff.
Regrettably, as is clear by the 2012 La Trobe University budget, management have made a strategic decision to sacrifice the quality of teaching and research in the Humanities and Social Sciences, so as to cover the higher costs of degrees in other areas.  Ironically, in so doing, management may well be undermining its ability to continue to use Humanities and Social Sciences as a source of revenue. In conclusion, and having corrected the errors of fact in Professor Dewar’s contribution to The Conversation, we ask La Trobe not to push through cuts of this magnitude to the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, for the sake of the quality of teaching and research, and to ensure the future of the University as a whole.

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