The purpose of this paper is to consider the national and international political-economic environment in which Australian university research grew. It considers the…
The purpose of this paper is to consider the national and international political-economic environment in which Australian university research grew. It considers the implications of the growing significance of knowledge to the government and capital, looking past institutional developments to also historicise the systems that fed and were fed by the universities.
The paper is based on the extensive archival research in the National Archives of Australia and the Australian War Memorial on the formation and funding of a wide range of research programmes in the immediate post-war period after the Second World War. These include the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the NHMRC, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Australian Pacific Territories Research Council, the Commonwealth Office of Education, the Universities Commission and the Murray review. This research was conducted under the Margaret George Award for emerging scholars for a project entitled “Knowledge, Nation and Democracy in Post-War Australia”.
After the Second World War, the Australian Government invested heavily in research: funding that continued to expand in subsequent decades. In the USA, similar government expenditure affected the trajectory of capitalist democracy for the remainder of the twentieth century, leading to a “military-industrial complex”. The outcome in Australia looked quite different, though still connected to the structure and character of Australian political economics.
The discussion of the spectacular growth of universities after the Second World War ordinarily rests on the growth in enrolments. This paper draws on a very large literature review as well as primary research to offer new insights into the connections between research and post-war political and economic development, which also explain university growth.
When James Conant visited Australia in 1951 he unwittingly entered an existing, lengthy debate about the value of university‐based knowledge in Australia. The Second World…
When James Conant visited Australia in 1951 he unwittingly entered an existing, lengthy debate about the value of university‐based knowledge in Australia. The Second World War, with its significant reliance on academic expertise, had suggested that if knowledge could win wars, the labour of academic staff could be considered to normally have social and economic value to the nation. In 1951 Conant had no way of foreseeing that steps made, in this light, at Federal level during and after the war, would culminate in the 1957 Review of Universities in Australia, chaired by Sir Keith Murray, and the injection of a large amount of funding into the university system. Conant’s confidential report to the Carnegie Corporation does show that he saw the system in desperate need of funding, which wasa reality that everyone agreed upon.1 The long debate included options for university funding and the potential change to the character of universities if the community, rather than the cloister, was to determine the purpose and character of knowledge. Conant’s report reflects this debate, centring (as many other participants did as well) on the value universities would gain if they were more obviously useful and relevant to industry and if their reputation was less stained by elitism and arrogance. Conant could not gather sufficient data in his visit to identify the nuances of this long discussion nor could he see the depth and spread of its influence over the decade or so preceding his visit. As a result, his particular agenda seems to obscure the perception of the threat that change provoked to some of the traditional values associated with academic work. To consider the debate and the character of academic work in the university scene that Conant fleetingly visited, we need to look back just a few years to another, but very different, visitor to the Australian system.
The purpose of this paper is to explore the origins of tensions between the benefits (such as technologies and skills) and the substance of knowledge (often described as…
The purpose of this paper is to explore the origins of tensions between the benefits (such as technologies and skills) and the substance of knowledge (often described as “pure inquiry”) in Australian universities. There are advantages to considering this debate in Australia, since its universities were tightly connected to scholarly networks in the British Empire. After the Second World War, those ties were loosened, enabling influences from American research and technological universities, augmented by a growing connection between universities, government economic strategy and the procedures of industry. This paper thus traces some of routes by which arguments travelled and the ways they were articulated in post‐war Australia.
Ideas do not travel on their own. In this paper, the author takes a biographical approach to the question of contrasting attitudes to university knowledge in the post‐war period, comparing the international scholarly and professional networks of two British scientists who travelled to Australia – contemporaries in age and education – both influencing Australian higher education policy in diametrically opposing ways.
This research demonstrates that the growing connection with economic goals in Australian universities after the Second World War was in part a result of the new international and cross‐sectoral networks in which some scholars now operated.
Australian historiography suggests that shifts in the emphases of post‐war universities were primarily the consequence of government policy. This paper demonstrates that the debates that shaped Australia's modern university system were also conducted among an international network of scholars.
The points I want to make about Conant in the rest of this commentary will not be devoted to the Carnegie philanthropy and its objectives, nor to the acuity of Conant’s…
The points I want to make about Conant in the rest of this commentary will not be devoted to the Carnegie philanthropy and its objectives, nor to the acuity of Conant’s observations on Australia or New Zealand. Those matters are best left to scholars from Australia or New Zealand like Craig Campbell. I do, however, want to offer some explanation for why Conant was so concerned with the secondary school in his Australian and New Zealand adventures, and to put that interest in the context of his own slight but meaningful encounter with public secondary education in the US, both prior to and after visiting Australia and New Zealand. Again, hubris seems to have played a role. Conant discoursed on secondary education as if he had an extended background on the topic. The truth was, however, that he had little experience in a high school, and no experience in a public high school.