Governing universities for the knowledge society
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2018 Dr. Damian Barry
Australia’s higher education system, and its public universities, have been subject to significant external and internal challenges and changes over the past half century or more. Changes in the external environment for higher education are seen in the rapid expansion in access (“massification”), the growth and infiltration off information and communications technologies (primarily the creation of the internet) and globalisation, to name a few. At the same time, the concept of national higher education systems has emerged across the western world creating a new aspect to the consideration of higher education. The combination of changes and trends have irreversibly changed the role and operations of universities. A key governance change has been the introduction of the New Public Management (NPM) paradigm that implemented a new approach by governments to the governance, development and delivery of public services (including higher education) and pushing the provision of those services towards a more market-based and networked approach. The external environmental changes have moved higher education from the societal and economic periphery to now being the centre of a workforce, social and economic development engine and a more market-oriented education service provider. During this period, higher education in Australia has completed a regulation and funding transition from being mainly state based, to now being substantially a national government funded, driven and regulated activity. Despite these significant changes the governance arrangements of Australia’s public universities have remained substantially unchanged. It is contended that higher education in Australia has reached a point where the current approaches to governance are no longer fit for purpose. Much of the research on higher education governance has focussed on issues relating to the loss of power and engagement of academe; the impact of the market-oriented approach on academic work; power within universities; values and culture. It has been summarised as the rise of managerialism. However, very little research has addressed the fundamentals of the governance arrangements. The research has assumed the structures remain relatively unchanged and has not questioned their current utility or efficacy. In this Thesis I seek to address that gap in the research. Using a mixed methods approach combining a detailed literature review, conceptual analysis and interviews with Australia’s higher education leaders, I identify the key challenges facing the governance of Australia’s higher education system and public universities, and then develop a set of proposals to transition the current approaches to a more fit for purpose approach.
Keywordsgovernance; higher education; universities; Australia
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