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Monday, 16 April 2007

Glyn Davis, vice-chancellor of prestigious Melbourne University, "has denied a radical plan to model itself on American institutions has been forced by a lack of commonwealth funding", reports The Sydney Morning Herald, in breaking news. The story is originally from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC) 7.30 Report program, which I watched with interest tonight, via Australian Associated Press (AAP). The Age also covered the story.

Davis is a very cool operator and handles the media with great aplomb.

Despite the above denial, however, he made it very clear that the government does not provide enough funding.

Asked if the future for Australian universities featured elite institutions and impoverished universities with little middle ground, Prof Davis replied: "As opposed to the current situation where impoverished is the starting point for us all".

He couldn't be more clear. The meaning is quite obvious to anyone who has followed trends in the tertiary education sector in Australia in recent years.

He also referred to "the Australian electorate" which had "repeatedly shown that it didn't value the university system enough to push for it to be better funded", thus distributing the blame widely.

Nevertheless, he was able to include several nods to the federal government. His praise for the HECS scheme, for a start, stood out, although AAP did not quote him in it. He also spoke of engendering "diversity" in tertiary education in Australia through the new education plan. "Diversity" is a particular favourite of the current education minister, Julie Bishop.

He had good words for students, also, when he spoke of the millions of dollars earmarked for over 8,000 scholarships. This is called "equity" in the jargon of the sector.

All round, he managed to sell the package well, being inclusive on several fronts at once. A sterling effort.

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