The Conversation is an Australian website that seeks to synthesize academic and journalistic inquiry in order to provide very thoughtful commentary of Australian and international issues. Its mission statement includes the following principles: to inform public debate with knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence; to unlock the knowledge of researchers and academics to provide the public with clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems; to create an open site for people around the world to share best practices and collaborate on developing smart, sustainable solutions; to provide a fact-based and editorially independent forum, free of commercial or political bias; and to support and to foster academic freedom to conduct research, teach, write and publish.
With the current Australian government committed to the deregulation of higher education fees, the editors of The Conversation are taking a taking a fresh look at the place of universities in Australia through a new series titled “What Are Universities For?”
The first article in the series concerns the students—who is attending Australian universities and how the student profile has changed and is likely to change further over the next quarter century. The article looks at the increased demand for higher education and the general growth in enrollment, the increase in international students attending Australian universities, the gender imbalance among students at those universities that has become more pronounced over the last three decades, the underrepresentation of students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the underrepresentation of indigenous students, the linguistic and religious diversity of university students, and the percentages of students who are working full- and part-time while pursuing their studies.
This series should be of interest for reasons beyond just curiosity. In focusing on issues that American universities share with their Australian counterparts, it should help to throw into sharper relief how globalization is impacting higher education. But, because of the differences in the histories of the two systems of higher education, the political interests that have framed the discussion of issues in higher education, and the cultural considerations that have made some resolutions of those issues more palatable than others, adopting an Australian perspective may stimulate some fresh insights on how to grapple with our own challenges.
The initial article in the series, written by Nick Parr, is available at: https://theconversation.com/who-goes-to-university-the-changing-profile-of-our-students-40373