I have been attending my last deans conference. As usual, the two things that amaze me are:
- How many innovative, different models exist for business schools and universities around the world; and
- How similar Australian universities are and how they appear to be constrained by government policy that prevents differentiation and innovation.
For example, I heard about the small private university in Turkey that takes top students from around the country and trains them to be the next generation of leaders for their country. The fees are high – but 40% of students get full scholarships including living stipends to ensure that if you are academically good enough then you will be able to afford the best quality education. Is it elitist? Of course. But it is also equitable. The requirement for entry is talent, not wealth. It is also the antithesis of Australia’s one-size-fits-all approach to tertiary education.
That is just one example. I heard about teaching-focused schools that highlight teaching excellence rather than research. I also heard about exceptional research institutions. I heard about business schools that require all faculty to have spent time (in years) practicing their trade in industry. I heard about institutions with explicit dual track approaches recognising exceptional researchers and exceptional teachers for their equally important contributions.
It was all rather eye-opening.
Unfortunately, unlike universities in many countries, Australian higher education has become a homogenised product where diversity appears to be actively discouraged by government policies. This is bad for the universities, the academics and the students.