Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Australia approaching academia anaemia -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

SHANE MCLEOD: Australia could be starved of academics, with claims our boffins are overworked and

A study by Melbourne University reveals a quarter of the country's senior academics will retire
over the next five years.

It predicts those currently rising through the ranks may not number enough to replace them.

The report says more needs to be done to encourage the professors of the future.

Rachael Brown reports.

RACHAEL BROWN: Australia's best and brightest academics are tipped to throw away their books for
the private sector or international competition.

A study on staffing issues facing the higher education sector has heard from 20 Australian
universities and compared our system to others around the world.

The report predicts the country will lose 5,000 academics over the next decade.

LYNN MEEK: About 50 per cent of the academic profession is due to retire.

RACHAEL BROWN: Professor Lynn Meek directs the LH Martin Institute for Higher Education at
Melbourne University and co-authored the study.

He says there are a number of factors to blame for the pending exodus.

LYNN MEEK: Of course the demographic one is people are reaching retirement ages and that's true not
only for Australia but for all OECD countries so we're going to be competing with other countries
for the younger academics.

RACHAEL BROWN: And I understand the profession's stresses have been compounded by increased student
to staff ratios?

LYNN MEEK: Yes; over say the last 15 years there's an increase of the staff student ratio from
around 13 to 22. At the same time, funding to Australian universities has actually fallen in real
terms between 1996 and 2004.

RACHAEL BROWN: Professor Meek says while local academics are paid as well as or better than their
international counterparts, their salaries still fall well short of those in the private sector.

A panel of Australian and international vice-chancellors are meeting in Melbourne today to discuss
the looming academia crisis.

Sandra Harding, the vice chancellor of James Cooke University in Queensland, is one of the
attendees. She says Australia's UK based approach to growing academics makes it harder for people.

SANDRA HARDING: I don't know that we work well enough on the professional socialisation of
academics. I think the system in the US does that much better than we do quite frankly.

RACHAEL BROWN: Are there any particular leaves that could be taken out of the books of say Asia, or
Europe or the Americas?

SANDRA HARDING: Oh absolutely. In the United States the training of academics is much more
systematic. People are trained as cohorts. They do course work, research. They'll do some teaching
assistance, some research assistance as well, participate in conferences.

In Australia producing academics is really a process of splendid isolation.

RACHAEL BROWN: William Cummings is the professor of international education at George Washington
University in the US. He says it has its own problems

WILLIAM CUMMINGS: It's a term that we don't use in the United States but it's the same effect -
casualisation of the academic labour force. It's even more extreme in the United States than
Australia at this point with about half of our faculty being on a fixed term contract.

RACHAEL BROWN: What are some of the things that America has been looking at to help solve the

WILLIAM CUMMINGS: You're fortunate in Australia. You have a, more of a national system so at least
you have the arena for considering policy issues. I wouldn't say that in the United States we have
that same good fortune.

Despite the fact that there's been this casualisation in the United States, we're not facing the
same significant proportion of the profession approaching and electing retirement. So in terms of
the overall size of the workforce we're not probably facing as big of a crisis.

SHANE MCLEOD: George Washington University's Professor William Cummings, ending that report by
Rachael Brown.