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Collegial governance in postwar Australian universities

Joel Barnes (Australian Centre for Public History, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia)

History of Education Review

ISSN: 0819-8691

Article publication date: 4 May 2020

Issue publication date: 1 December 2020




The purpose of this paper is to outline the structures of collegial governance in Australian universities between 1945 and the “Dawkins reforms” of the late 1980s. It describes the historical contours of collegial governance in practice, the changes it underwent, and the structural limits within which it was able to operate.


The analysis is based upon the writings of academics and university administrators from the period, with more fine-grained exemplification provided by archival and other evidence from Faculties of Arts and their equivalents in newer universities.


Elements of hierarchy and lateral organisation coexisted in the pre-Dawkins university in ways not generally made explicit in the existing literature. This mixture was sustained by ideals about academic freedom.

Research limitations/implications

By historicising “collegiality” the research problematises polemical uses of the term, either for or against. It also seeks to clarify the distinctiveness of contemporary structures—especially for those with no first-hand experience of the pre-Dawkins university—by demonstrating historical difference without resort to nostalgia.


“Collegiality” is a common concept in education and organisation studies, as well as in critiques of the contemporary corporate university. However, the concept has received little sustained historical investigation. A clearer history of collegial governance is valuable both in its own right and as a conceptually clarifying resource for contemporary analyses of collegiality and managerialism.



This paper is part of the Institutions of the Humanities Discovery project led by Lesley Johnson and funded by the Australian Research Council (ID: DP170103252). The paper was presented to the History of Knowledge Group (now the Centre for the History of Knowledge) at Lund University, Sweden, in September 2019, and at the ANZHES conference, Port Macquarie, in November 2019. My thanks to the two anonymous reviewers for History of Education Review, Lesley Johnson, Hannah Forsyth and Neville Buch for feedback on earlier versions of the paper, to Johan Östling for organising the seminar at Lund, and to Karolina Enquist Källgren and Isak Hammar for thoughtful formal responses on that occasion.


Barnes, J. (2020), "Collegial governance in postwar Australian universities", History of Education Review, Vol. 49 No. 2, pp. 149-164.



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