Daily Archives: August 16, 2011

Pragmatism and ‘fundamentalism’ on the funding of the humanities

While clearing out my office earlier this month I found lots of old media clippings. Compared to the early 2000s, the higher ed debate now seems less ideological. I’m not sure exactly why, though the NTEU‘s lower profile in policy debate is probably part of it, along with the arrival of a Labor government, which attracts less heated opposition than a Coalition government.

But sometimes the old style of debate re-appears, as it did in this swipe at me in today’s Age for being a ‘market fundamentalist’, written by University of Melbourne English professor Ken Gelder.

He was responding to this article, which was a pragmatic analysis of higher education funding politics, based on a presentation I gave to a seminar on the public funding of the humanities and social sciences.

My argument was that given Australia’s political and economic arrangements the chances of significant increases in public funding for the humanities and social science were low. Smaller university English classes aren’t likely to win out as a spending priority against the many other pressing political demands. Labor and Liberal governments have behaved in quite similar ways on higher education funding, because whatever their ideological differences they face the same political imperatives. Read more »