The world won’t end tomorrow. But sadly, it might feel like it has for some young Australians who haven’t got the ATAR scores they hoped for.
There’s a lot of hype at this time of year as the uni entry scores trickle through. Kids really feel like it all hinges on this, like everything that’s ever going to happen will either be kick-started this week or not.
Relax, kids. As Paul Murray reminded his audience on his excellent Sky News show last night, the world just doesn’t work that way. Murray himself scored just 42 per cent back in the day. He joked about it, saying “a lot of people will say ‘well, that proves the dunce that he continues to be to this day’.”
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Think back to your favourite school teacher. What do you remember them for? Things that spring to mind might include love of their subject, enthusiasm for teaching it, an approachable personality and the stuff they taught you about life.
It pays to remember that today, before we judge next year’s new university recruits too harshly.
According to the Undergraduate Applications, Offers and Acceptances 2012 report, this year’s crop of uni recruits is the biggest group yet of Year 12 applicants who received “50.00 or less” ATAR band to be offered a university place. Among them are 532 education students.
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What is it about sandstone that brings out the worst in 19-year-old future bankers, lawyers and captains of industry? Is it the architecture? Perhaps gothic gables bring out gothic tendencies.
With the exception of a slightly awkward-looking Tony Abbott (you can take the boy out of John’s…), the reaction to the latest revelations about the piglets inhabiting St John’s College at the University of Sydney, has been total condemnation. The rest of us understand, without having to have it explained to us, that what’s been going on there is bad.
But no one has been able to pin down the root cause of this particularly ugly brand of born-to-rule misogyny. Sure, the college administration has been woefully inadequate in dealing with the escalating PR disaster, and it seems equally unable, or unwilling, to rein in the young men who appear to have staged a coup.
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Humanity is facing a crisis of moral leadership - men and women of character who can choose wisely and well in the difficulties, dilemmas and complexity of contemporary business and government.
One of the biggest risks we face today is an assumption that because people share or subscribe to our corporate values, that they in fact share our moral perspective. Enron, LIBOR, AWB, unanswered questions at Note Printers Australia, and any number of examples would indicate immediately that is not the case.
The public travails of St John’s College and its students throw into stark relief the need to ask questions of potential employees to gain an insight about their moral outlook. It would be foolish of any organisation to assume that academic prowess equates with sound character.
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In the forest of reforms that boost Australia’s economic efficiency, one of the biggest and lowest-hanging pieces of fruit remains unpicked: emancipation of higher education from the shackles of bureaucracy.
Australia’s universities are bloated with superfluous staff that thwart lecturers’ ability to teach and suck up funds that would be better spent on research. They are riddled with inefficiencies and perverse incentives that hobble their ability to produce rounded, competent graduates.
Take the University of Western Sydney, Australia’s largest, with a headcount of 2,487 staff in March this year. The university employed around 1,100 staff in the Vice Chancellor’s Office, the Division of Corporate Strategy and Services and the Division of Academic and Research (which undertakes no academic research).
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Over the past week tensions between fostering diverse opinions while respecting the reproductive rights of women were brought to the fore by a decision of the University of Sydney Union (USU) to approve the creation of a “pro-life” club.
LifeChoice purports to “promote the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, through reasonable and informed discussion on the issues of abortion and euthanasia in Australian society.”
It is the first clause in its mandate that has attracted the ire of numerous feminist groups and collectives on campus calling for the group to be disaffiliated from the USU. Members of LifeChoice have responded that any such an attempt would be a threat to free speech and the diversity that underpins the USU.
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Most people would agree that free speech is worth protecting, even if it leads to despicable Neanderthals standing before a microphone.
I think it preposterous, then, that there have been moves to shut down a recently established pro-life society at the University of Sydney. The existence of LifeChoice Sydney, a secular and non-partisan organisation aiming to promote discussion of abortion and euthanasia, is under threat just a week after it was approved by the University of Sydney Union.
Pro-choice advocates have labelled the society “non-inclusive”, “extremist” and a threat to the safety of women on campus. They have mooted an amendment to the Union’s constitution that prohibits the establishment of any society that is pro-life. They have even proposed that the Union representatives who approved the society be “censured”.
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I graduated last Friday afternoon. Big ceremony in a great big new hall. Donned robes sporting my faculty’s blood-orange sash. And I got a little excited putting on one of those square hats.
Too excited. I chucked my hat up in the air a tad over-enthusiastically and smacked the guy behind me in the head trying to catch it. Whoops.
I’m sure Yahoo! shareholders are feeling the same way as that guy. The company’s new CEO, Scott Thompson, has resigned after it was exposed that he hadn’t attained a computer science degree at Stone Hill College as he had claimed. UPDATE 5:20pm: The Wall Street Journal is also reporting Mr Thompson was diagnosed with thyroid cancer before he resigned.
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One of the best things about life is that everyone takes a different path. Obvious necessities aside, like food, health and general education, the world is and should be our own oyster; full of twists, turns, relationships, travel and experiences.
The news that university placements in NSW and ACT have gone up so much in the 15 per cent in three years will be music to some people’s ears. Everyone has the right to further their education and become the person they want to be.
But university is not for everybody.
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Would knowing an academic has shares in a mining company affect how much trust you place in their comments on climate change? How about if the academic sat on the board? Or owned the company? All of these are potential conflicts of interest and all might influence how much weight the media and the public place on that expert’s opinion.
Yet sadly, as a new study just published in the Medical Journal of Australia shows, actually getting hold of this information about academics at universities around Australia is often not a simple process.
The survey of Australian universities by Simon Chapman and his colleagues showed that of the 25 institutions who responded, none required their academics to state their conflicts of interest on their website profile. Perhaps more importantly, although the researchers found public comment policies for 21 universities, “none required that staff declare potential conflict of interests to media when making a public comment”.
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Far from being useless precursors to a life of burger flipping, Arts degrees actually provide students with a range of important life skills. From skulling beers to rolling joints, from discussing both Noam Chomsky and Nim Chimpsky to being able to read several layers of meaning into Dr Seuss.
During an Arts degree you may develop highly sophisticated techniques to pass subjects while attending minimal lectures; you may hone your hacky sack skills. By the time you graduate (10 years later) you may have mastered cunning linguistics or the discourse of ethnocentrism.
Of course, you might actually learn something. Like a language or how to help someone with a mental health disorder or how to better understand politics or people. That most basic Arts course, Philosophy 101, teaches logic and logical fallacies – skills sorely lacking in the general population.
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Right now, there are thousands of brand new PhD candidates entering universities around the country. Many of them will be highly anxious, knowing that they have a long, difficult journey ahead of them which, statistically speaking, they have less than a 75 per cent chance of completing successfully.
Emma Jane last year described doing a PhD as “childbirth for the brain”. And, while I liked her sentiment, I don’t agree that the whole process really has to be so “mind-meltingly, stomach-churningly, sleep-deprivingly difficult”.
Just as there are many things expecting or labouring mothers can do to make childbirth easier and more bearable – epidurals, controlled breathing exercises, gym balls, warm baths, happy gas, umm… taint massage – there are some simple rules Doctoral students should follow in order to deliver their baby without recourse to forceps or an episiotomy.
Dear readers, please do not run away or close the window because I’m an Arts student: I have something important to say.
Over the past five years I have enjoyed a successful “career” (for wont of a better word) studying at four different universities and I now find myself in the early stages of a Doctorate.
There are many observations I could make about universities (my wife removes sharp objects from the room when anyone mentions VSU) but the issue most worrying me at the moment relates to the Group of Eight’s attitude towards funding and student contributions.
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People often say that writing a PhD is like giving birth to a baby. Having given both these projects a whirl in recent years, I’ve decided that some parts of the analogy are more apt than others.
Like making a new human, enrolling in a Doctor of Philosophy program often seems like a good idea at the time. It is frequently accompanied by thoughts such as “how hard can it be?”
The answer in both cases, of course, is “mind-meltingly, stomach-churningly, sleep-deprivingly difficult”. In fact, I wonder if any sane person would ever knowingly embark on PhD study or biological reproduction if they were fully cognizant of the hard labour that was actually involved.
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It is a fixture of university lore that during all his 11 years as Prime Minister, John Howard never once set foot on the campus of ANU, just a few kilometers down the road from The Lodge in Canberra.
Certainly he never visited what is now Australia’s leading university anytime after 2001 when Ian Chubb became vice-chancellor, a job the 67-year-old relinquished on Friday.
Chubb, a rough-hewn figure credited with the most astute brain in higher education management, turned ANU into a major research hub where PhDs were earned in greater numbers than elsewhere and youngsters came from all around Australia, and the globe, to study.
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At a California university right now, you’ll find find one poor soul standing at a kitchen bench, peeling a ton of onions.
Well it may not be onions; it could just as easily be root vegetables, a cheap cut of meat and probably a whole lot of curry paste.
But whatever it is, it must be enough to feed 400 hungry mouths as part of a new university co-op- initiative that gets students cooking, cleaning and generally sharing the load, in exchange for cheaper weekly rent.
And the whole idea fills me with dread.
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“Gap” is an unlikely sort of word to describe the year you spend as seventeen or eighteen-year-old school-leaver “figuring yourself out”.
Then again, it’s an appropriate euphemism for the black spots you may experience after a series of large nights spent hamming it up in exotic locations with a bunch of strangers, very little money and no real idea of what you’re doing.
Or a good description of the waning savings and slightly stunted career-path progression you may notice when comparing yourself to friends who’ve opted to stay at home, when you return.
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The past few weeks have given us a mediocre campaign at best and left the electorate cynical. Can there be any other outcome when all both sides can come up with is an exchange of slogans, attention grabbing stunts and petty bickering.
Making sure they say what they believe to be safe and popular while avoiding the risks associated with delving deep into the important issues. Yes, student elections at ANU are all about shallow populism.
Wait… did you think I was talking about another election?
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The memory should be vivid for many Arts graduates. Sitting in the graduation ceremony, the words of an otherwise inspiring commencement address waft overhead as the mind focuses uncontrollably on an uncertain future. Seated in uncomfortable lecture theatre seats (you won’t miss those, you think) you wait for a certificate cementing your “qualifications”, in the broadest sense of the word.
The guest speaker waxes lyrical about personal journeys, eventually tying their tale into the “unique” position bestowed upon graduates of this (insert institution name) university, and of a duty we inherit to uphold and develop explorations into society and culture. The speaker resolves that in doing so we become model citizens, helping our fellow man realise the importance of life beyond economic measures of success and happiness.
As an early-20s undergraduate with student debt, little corporate experience (pretty sure I walked into an office reception once) working a part-time bar job and only ‘soft skills’ to my name, I was certainly looking forward to economic measures of happiness.
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This is a message to the 80, 000 or so high school graduates who will later today log onto the UAC site and find out whether or not they received a place at an Australian university for 2010.
Whatever happens don’t panic. Especially if you have spent the entire Christmas break avoiding the questions of (well meaning) relatives asking what you want to do with the rest of your life.
It is absolutely 100 per cent OK if you (a) you don’t want to go to university or (b)fall into the 30, 000 or so people who will miss out on a place this year.
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Each year during Orientation week at Sydney University, boys from St Paul’s invite women from the all-female colleges to their bar, the Salisbury, for the “Tight and White” party.
The night pretty much does what it says on the tin. The tighter and whiter the clothes the better. Especially when the girls are soaked in water on arrival, their clothes now transparent and sticking to their bodies.
And even more so when they lie down on the bar while men drink shots of spirits off their bodies, off their bare stomachs, breasts and thighs.
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On the table, a hundred cups and saucers (arranged neatly, ten by ten). The university has pegged its hopes on this meeting, emailed the entire student body three times, plastered the campus with large, full-colour posters asking – begging – students to attend.
The meeting is an attempt on the part of administration to give students direct input into proposed campus redevelopments. The idea: have a cup of tea with members of the university’s Strategy and Space Planning department, air your grievances, and put forward your vision for a better campus. As they tell us repeatedly, desperately, “We’re listening.”
I count three students. (Hannah and I don’t count – we’re student journos. We have to be here). Anne, who’s in her fifties, is a mature-entry student who volunteers at the library. Gunter is an ageing hippy who’s been drifting in and out of campus for the past thirty years. The final ‘student’, Angus, doesn’t even attend the university.
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The Coalition will not support the Rudd Government’s planned changes to youth allowance while they retrospectively punish students who took a gap year based on advice last year from Government agencies. It’s that simple.
Young people, who on the advice of guidance counsellors, Centrelink and teachers have opted to take a twelve month gap year, working to earn enough money to qualify for independent youth allowance under the current rules with plans to study next year, will have the rug pulled from under them because of the Government’s changes.
The Government’s own figures show there are about 26,000 of them.
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In a world of escalating costs of living, ever-rising unemployment and fluctuating economies, one group stands to be hit harder than any other.
Unlike other groups, this one will not be publicised by media, found protesting or walking off the job, or be seen throwing in the towel any time soon. Instead, far from it, university students around Australia and indeed the world will continue to front classrooms every day, opening their minds to the knowledge and pathways available to secure a sustainable future free from debt and money woes.
But, just how hard is it to attend university and what financial impact can students expect to be facing both through their studies and at the completion of the educational yellow brick road as they begin their dream career?
There are currently some 700,000 university students in Australia, which I would estimate represents 145,478 cases of Chlamydia, 49,678 one-night stands and 4,567,099 packets of instant noodles consumed in the last calender year.
We have institutions aplenty (39 at last count) which are excellent at pumping out graduates who have gained little beyond a vague understanding of post-structuralism and an impressive repertoire of drinking games involving Sambucca.
But Julia Gillard thinks we need even more university students: 300,000 more to be precise. All part of the Education Minister‘s plans to give the higher education system a bit of a face lift.
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