Campus News
Published: 3 December, 2010

Public lecture to focus on the ‘crisis for humanities disciplines’

Professor Graeme Turner from the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland will present a free public lecture looking at “The Humanities and the University in Australia” at the University of Wollongong on Tuesday 7 December.

The public lecture will be held from midday to 1pm in Lecture Room 3 of the Communications Building (Bldg 20). It is being hosted by UOW’s Institute for Social Transformation Research.

Professor Turner will highlight that over the past two decades how we have seen successive governments downgrade the value and importance of higher education in Australia.

The Rudd government may have temporarily arrested the steady decline in the funding environment, but there remains much to be done to keep our higher education system operating at an international standard, he will argue.

Professor Turner will focus on what he sees as a most worrying long-term trend which has been the steady instrumentalisation of higher education – a focus on vocational and professional outcomes as the primary purpose of its teaching programs, and a privileging of industry partnerships in research funding.

He will point out that the controversy over the restructuring of the Gillard government ministry is among the more recent indicators of this trend, as the initial removal of portfolio titles which explicitly mentioned education and research was seen as signalling an alarming narrowing of the presumed function of higher education.

In this kind of context, Professor Turner will argue that the humanities disciplines have been especially disadvantaged.

He believes that many research funding programs and many of the national research strategies exclude the participation of the humanities, and the case for a humanities education is looking increasingly vulnerable as the broader function of education seems no longer to be recognised, let alone advanced, by government.

In his lecture, drawing on many years of working between the university sector, government and other peak organisations dealing with the humanities, Professor Turner will discuss what he describes as a “crisis for the humanities disciplines as they struggle to maintain their distinctive presence in Australian universities today”.

Professor Turner is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Federation Fellow and Director of the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland.

His research has produced 21 books, and his work has been translated into nine languages, but his lecture at UOW will draw upon his experience in dealing with government and the university sector as a representative of the humanities over many years.

In recent years, Professor Turner was the chair of the trial Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) for Humanities and Creative Arts (2009), the chair of the National Collaborative Research Information Strategy Working Group for Humanities and Creative Arts (2008), a member of the ARC ERA Indicators Committee for Humanities and Creative Arts (2008), and the ARC College of Experts for the Humanities and Creative Arts (2002-2004).

As President and, before that, Vice-President, of the Australian Academy of the Humanities (2002-2007), he has represented the humanities on the National Academies Forum, the Australian Research Information Infrastructure Committee, the National Curriculum and Achievement Standards Committee, and many other fora, such as the National Summit on National Research Priorities.

He is one of only two humanities academics to have been appointed as a personal member of the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council since the Council was established during the Hawke government era.

Published: 3 December, 2010

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