Friday, August 12, 2011

The story of higher education in New England 1 - introduction

In discussion with Greg on Charles Sturt University to open in Tamworth?, I realised that some of the things I write about New England's universities probably don't make a lot of sense in isolation.

To set the scene for the discussion that follows, this photo shows graduation at the Newcastle University College in March 1957 or 1958.

From left to right you have Sir Earle Page as Chancellor of the University of New England, Dr. Wallace Wurth, Chancellor, University of New South Wales (standing), then I think that on the far right in the front row is Robert Madgwick, then VC at UNE.

Why are there UNE people present? Well, at the time the photo was taken, Arts students at Newcastle University College were supervised from the University of New England in the same type of relationship that the New England University College had had with Sydney University. Indeed, this supervision was one of the two critical conditions under which New England gained its autonomy. The other was the introduction of external studies at UNE.

At the time, Newcastle was a college of the University of Technology in Sydney, now the University of NSW. However, the University of Technology did not teach arts. For that reason, the introduction of arts at NUC required support from another university. As had happened earlier with Sydney and NEUC and for the same reasons, the relationship between UNE and NUC was a sometimes troubled one.

Now the point of this little story is that this link between UNE and Newcastle is little known. Indeed, the whole history of higher education in New England is little known, fragmented. This affects the way that people judge stuff that I write, for while I write from a broader New England perspective, they look at the picture in terms of individual institutions or, sometimes, the higher education sector as a whole. The broad New England perspective is absent.

I have a further problem in that my own allegiances and family connections to UNE are well known. I write a lot about UNE because it is important to me. Just to take a very small example, at the NUC March 1959 graduation my father presented the Arts candidates!

Does this mean that I am UNE biased? At one level it does, but when I write from a broader New England perspective whether historical or policy I try to be balanced.

Does the absence of a broader New England perspective, of the entire historical background, matter? I would argue that it does. But then, I am clearly biased! 

Thinking about this, I have decided that I really need to consolidate my writing on New England higher education, adding some new material to fill gaps. I have now written hundreds of posts across blogs connected in some way with higher education. You will find a partial list here. In addition, there are the specifically New England posts.

Given my time constraints, I am going to focus on material already prepared. All I want to achieve is to provide information and analysis that people can use to make their own judgements.       

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