Work Forsyth Carillon
by Hannah Forsyth, PhD Student and Online Educational Designer on Jul 22, 2009
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Professor Baron Eric Ashby was an academic botanist, scholar of higher education and university administrator during a period of massive change in higher education worldwide from the 1940s to the ...
Professor Baron Eric Ashby was an academic botanist, scholar of higher education and university administrator during a period of massive change in higher education worldwide from the 1940s to the 1970s. Despite remnants of traditionalism in both his career and his written work on the role of academics in society, Ashby had an instrumental role in change. In Australia, Ashby was advisor to the Chifley government on the allocation of intellectual resources during the war and was a sought-after commentator on the role of higher education nationally. He later held Vice-Chancellor positions at Queen’s University and Cambridge.
This paper will explore the work of Eric Ashby, especially his approach and priorities for academic work in Australia. This will be contextualised in developments that led to the 1957 Murray report, which irrevocably transformed the Australian system.
In common with the chair of that review, Keith Murray, Ashby saw academia as a vocation, the university as a sort of secular-ecclesiastical community and positioned the academic in a similar heroic position as that which the literary author enjoyed since the 16th Century. Ashby’s assertion of a particular (and traditional) construction of academic work, this paper will argue, was designed to attract public funding, but resist public control. The implications and resilience of Ashby and Murray’s image of traditional academia in a changing environment will be discussed, especially as they relate to principles of academic freedom as universities moved into a new relationship with government and society.
This paper is a part of a postgraduate work in progress entitled The Ownership of Knowledge in Higher Education in Australia. The struggle for survival of the figure of the traditional academic in the post-Murray period (tentatively, for now) suggests a moment where the ownership of knowledge starts to be transferred out of academics’ hands.
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