Aspiring to ‘World Class’ Universities in Australia: A Global Trend with Intended and Unintended Consequences

  • Lesley Vidovich
  • Jan Currie
Part of the Higher Education Dynamics book series (HEDY, volume 42)


This chapter analyses some of these strategies used to improve Australia’s research excellence and its international collaboration. It also looks at two universities that have altered their undergraduate teaching towards liberal arts degrees in a bid to create the ‘Harvards’ of the South. Some of these strategies have generated positive structural changes and others have had unintended consequences. As universities have become more integrated into the global knowledge economy, the working conditions of academics have altered substantially with greater competition and pressures to be more corporate, more accountable and more international. The chapter builds upon the benchmark Carnegie International Survey of the academic profession across 14 countries that Altbach (The international academic profession: portraits of fourteen countries. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Princeton, 1996) described and notes the changes that have occurred in Australia since the mid-1990s to reshape the higher education landscape and the impact it has had on academics’ working conditions.


International Student World Class Research Assessment Journal Ranking Research Assessment Exercise 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Academic World Ranking of Universities [AWRU]. Ranking produced by Shanghai Jiao Tong Institute of Higher Education. Accessed 18 Dec 2011.
  2. Altbach, P. G. (1994). Problems and possibilities: The American academic profession. In P. G. Altbach, R. O. Berdahl, & P. J. Gumport (Eds.), Higher education in American Society (pp. 225–248). New York: Prometheus Books.Google Scholar
  3. Altbach, P. G. (Ed.). (1996). The international academic profession: Portraits of fourteen countries. Princeton: Carnegie Foundation.Google Scholar
  4. Altbach, P. G. (2005). Academic challenges: The American professoriate in comparative perspective. In A. Welch (Ed.), The professors: Profile of a profession (pp. 147–165). Dordrecht: Kluwer Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Altbach, P. G. (2006, Winter). The dilemmas of ranking. International Higher Education: Reflections on Policy and Practice, No. 42, p. 3.Google Scholar
  6. Altbach, P. G. (2011, November 16). Top-flight institutions extending their brand to recruit best and brightest. The Australian Higher Education Supplement, p. 25.Google Scholar
  7. Altbach, P. G., Reisberg, L., & Rumbley, L. (2009). Trends in global higher education: Tracking an academic revolution. A report prepared for the UNESCO 2009 world conference on higher education. Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  8. Attwood, R. (2009, December). Redrawing ranking rules for clarity, reliability and sense. Times Higher Education, p. 10.Google Scholar
  9. Australian Government. (2009). Transforming Australia’s higher education system. Canberra: AGPS.Google Scholar
  10. Baty, P. (2007, June 1). Research wrecked by ‘bean counters’. The Times Higher Education Supplement.Google Scholar
  11. Birnbaum, R. (2006, November 1). No world class university left behind. Paper presented at the international forum, 2006 annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education. Anaheim: ASHE.Google Scholar
  12. Boston, J. (2004, May 21). The future of the performance-based research fund. Issues and options. Paper prepared for the Royal Society Forum: Evaluating the Assessment Framework.Google Scholar
  13. Bradley, D. (2008). Review of Australian higher education. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.Google Scholar
  14. Carr, K. (2009, July 15). New era in research will cut the red tape. The Australian Higher Education Supplement, p. 36.Google Scholar
  15. Clarke, M. (2005). Quality assessment lessons from Australia and New Zealand. Higher Education in Europe, 30(2), 183–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Coates, H., Goedegebuure, L., van der Lee, J., & Meek, L. (2008). The Australian academic profession in 2007: A first analysis of the survey results. Melbourne/Armidale: Australian Council for Education Research and Centre for Higher Education Management and Policy, University of New England. http// Accessed 11 Dec 2011.Google Scholar
  17. Cooper, S., & Poletti, A. (2011). The new ERA journal ranking: The consequences of Australia’s fraught encounter with ‘quality’. Australian Universities Review, 53(1), 57–65.Google Scholar
  18. Currie, J. (2005). Privatization and commercialization: Two globalizing practices affecting Australian universities. In A. Arimoto, F. Huang, & K. Yokoyama (Eds.), Globalization and higher education (pp. 23–38). Hiroshima: Research Institute for Higher Education, Hiroshima University.Google Scholar
  19. Currie, J. (2008). Critique of research assessments. International Education Journal, 9(1), 3–14.Google Scholar
  20. Currie, J., & Vidovich, L. (2009). The changing nature of academic work. In M. Tight, J. Huisman, K. H. Mok, & C. C. Morphew (Eds.), International handbook of higher education (pp. 441–452). New York: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  21. Currie, J., DeAngelis, R., De Boer, H., Huisman, J., & Lacotte, C. (2003). Globalizing practices and university responses: European and Anglo-American differences. Westport: Praeger.Google Scholar
  22. Cutler, T. (2008). Venturous Australia: Building strength in innovation. Melbourne: Cutler & Company.Google Scholar
  23. De Wit, H. (2009, December 10). Internationalisation, teaching and learning and strategic partnerships. Keynote address at Internationalising Learning and Teaching in Academic Settings Conference, Sydney University, Sydney.Google Scholar
  24. Gallagher, M. (2011, December). Academic staffing trends in Go8 and other Australian universities, 2000–2010. Turner: The Group of Eight.Google Scholar
  25. Harley, S. (2003). Research selectivity and female academics in UK universities: From gentleman’s club and barrack yard to smart macho? Gender and Education, 15(4), 377–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Marginson, S. (2006). Rankings ripe for misleading. The Australian, 6, 26–27.Google Scholar
  27. Marginson, S. (2007). Global position and position taking: The case of Australia. Journal of Studies in International Education, 11(1), 5–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Marginson, S. (2008). We’re mining the creative thread. The Australian, 30, 33.Google Scholar
  29. Marginson, S., & Considine, M. (2000). The enterprise university: Power, governance and reinvention in Australia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Martin, B. (2011). ERA: Adverse consequences. Australian Universities Review, 53(2), 99–102.Google Scholar
  31. Mulcahy, D. (2008). The educated person: Towards a new paradigm for liberal education. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.Google Scholar
  32. O’Meley, S. (2011). ERA rankings gone but not forgotten in the contest over fair academic workloads at La Trobe. NTEU Advocate, 18(2), 29.Google Scholar
  33. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD]. (2008). Tertiary education for a Knowledge Society. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  34. Owen, G. (2011, March 2). After the flood: Disaster capitalism and the symbolic restructuring of intellectual space. Culture and Organization, 17, 123–137.Google Scholar
  35. Rizvi, F., & Lingard, B. (2010). Globalizing education policy. London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  36. Rowbotham, J. (2011a, November 9). Research impact hard to quantify. The Australian Higher Education Supplement, pp. 23, 25.Google Scholar
  37. Rowbotham, J. (2011b, August 3). Staff vent their fears to NTEU. The Australian Higher Education Supplement, p. 4.Google Scholar
  38. Schumpeter. (2011, December 10). University challenge: Slim down, focus and embrace technology: American universities need to be more businesslike. The Economist, p. 67.Google Scholar
  39. Times Higher Education Supplement. World university rankings. Reported every year in October. Accessed 11 Jan 2012.
  40. Trow, M. (1996). Trust, markets and accountability in higher education: A comparative perspective. Research & Occasional Paper Series No. CSHE.1.96 of the Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California, Berkeley, CA. Accessed 20 Mar 2011.
  41. Vidovich, L. (2012). ‘Transforming Australia’s higher education system’: New accountability policies for a global knowledge era? In H. Schuetze, W. Bruneau, & G. Grosjean (Eds.), University governance and reform: Policy, fads and experience in international perspective (pp. 241–256). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  42. Vidovich, L. (2013). Balancing quality and equity in higher education policy agendas: Global–local tensions. In P. Axelrod, R. D. Trilokekar, T. Shanahan, & R. Wellen (Eds.), Policy formation in post-secondary education: Issues and prospects in turbulent times. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Welch, A. (2000, March). Internationalising Australian universities in a time of global crisis. Presented at Waseda International Symposium, Tokyo.Google Scholar
  44. Wildavsky, B. (2010). The great brain race: How global universities are reshaping the world. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Williams, G. (1998). Misleading, unscientific, and unjust: The United Kingdom’s research assessment exercise. British Medical Journal, 316(4), 1079–1082.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Yang, R., Vidovich, L., & Currie, J. (2007). University accountability practices in mainland china and Hong Kong: A comparative analysis. Asian Journal of University Education, 2(1), 1–21.Google Scholar
  47. Young, S., Peetz, D., & Marais, M. (2011). The impact of journal ranking fetishism on Australian policy-related research. Australian Universities Review, 53(2), 77–87.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of EducationUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.School of EducationMurdoch UniversityCrawleyAustralia

Personalised recommendations