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Servants of three masters

Summary:
Universities are the servants of three masters: the state governments that provide the statutory basis, the federal government which provides most of the funding for research and domestic students and the international market.* The Australian public are not among those to whom the universities see themselves as owing a duty* These multiple allegiances create great opportunities for the managers of the university to pursue their own interests, playing off the various masters against each other* It all goes bad when the international market fails All of this can be seen at work with the refusal of the University of Melbourne to enter into an agreement with the NTEU, saying that its statutory obligations (presumably to the state government) prohibit any element of joint management.

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Universities are the servants of three masters: the state governments that provide the statutory basis, the federal government which provides most of the funding for research and domestic students and the international market.
* The Australian public are not among those to whom the universities see themselves as owing a duty
* These multiple allegiances create great opportunities for the managers of the university to pursue their own interests, playing off the various masters against each other
* It all goes bad when the international market fails

All of this can be seen at work with the refusal of the University of Melbourne to enter into an agreement with the NTEU, saying that its statutory obligations (presumably to the state government) prohibit any element of joint management.

The need for action results from the collapse of the international market, and the refusal of the third master (the Morrison government) to accept its obligation to educate Australians. Instead, they offered a “rescue” package, consisting of a promise not to impose even further cuts this year, if domestic enrolments fell.

John Quiggin
He is an Australian economist, a Professor and an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland, and a former member of the Board of the Climate Change Authority of the Australian Government.

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