Work Forsyth Carillon

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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 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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  • Picture of Ashby getting off the ship in Sydney
  • Picture of Ashby from Sydney Archives
  • Eric Ashby Portrait from Dictionary National Biography
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  • Work Forsyth Carillon

    1. 1. Leisured inquiry and heroic discovery: Eric Ashby’s descriptions of academic work in Australian universities in the 1940s and 1950s <ul><li>Hannah Forsyth </li></ul><ul><li>University of Sydney </li></ul>
    2. 2. This presentation (1) <ul><li>Eric Ashby’s work </li></ul><ul><li>Work, work, work and the university in Australia in the 40s and 50s </li></ul><ul><li>Academic work according to Ashby </li></ul><ul><li>The resilience of Ashby’s academic </li></ul>
    3. 4. (1938) Photo from University of Sydney Archive
    4. 6. (1973) Photo from University of Sydney Archive
    5. 7. My Sources <ul><li>Ashby’s published work </li></ul><ul><li>Obituaries, ODNB & similar biographical </li></ul><ul><li>Letters to and from Ian Clunies-Ross 1949-1959 </li></ul>
    6. 8. This presentation (2) <ul><li>Eric Ashby’s work </li></ul><ul><li>The university in Australia in the 40s and 50s </li></ul><ul><li>Academic work according to Ashby </li></ul><ul><li>The resilience of Ashby’s academic </li></ul>
    7. 9. Re-thinking the university <ul><li>Liberal education underpins civic responsibility and democratic participation </li></ul><ul><li>Science, technology and graduates that have strategic and economic importance to nation </li></ul><ul><li>Ivory tower versus Service station </li></ul>
    8. 10. Impoverished <ul><li>State governments struggled to fund </li></ul><ul><li>Commonwealth limited funding </li></ul><ul><li>Funding for items of national significance </li></ul><ul><li>Created complicated issues between Federal and State </li></ul><ul><li>Generally future Federal funding expected </li></ul>
    9. 12. Source: Foster, SG, and Margaret M Varghese. The Making of the Australian National University . (St Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 1996). P. 13
    10. 16. Source: Foster, SG, and Margaret M Varghese. The Making of the Australian National University . (St Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 1996). P. 13
    11. 18. Source: Foster, SG, and Margaret M Varghese. The Making of the Australian National University . (St Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 1996). P. 13
    12. 20. work work work?
    13. 21. <ul><li>Free inquiry </li></ul><ul><li>Intellectual honesty </li></ul><ul><li>Trust in rationality </li></ul><ul><li>Communicate results </li></ul><ul><li>Values humanity </li></ul><ul><li>Practices self-discipline </li></ul>Six Virtues of Academic Work (Pelikan 1992 The idea of the University: a re-examination, Ch 5) (Perceptions of the university has implications for academic work and vice-versa)
    14. 22. This presentation (3) <ul><li>Eric Ashby’s work </li></ul><ul><li>The university in Australia in the 40s and 50s </li></ul><ul><li>Academic work according to Ashby </li></ul><ul><li>The resilience of Ashby’s academic </li></ul>
    15. 23. Academic work according to Ashby <ul><li>“It is the vocation of universities to cultivate the intellect so that disinterested thinking can go on” </li></ul><ul><li>“It is a matter of cold fact that most of the discoveries and ideas which have shaped history began as speculations, as disinterested curiosity” </li></ul><ul><li>Eric Ashby, Universities in Australia, 1944, pp.77-8 </li></ul>
    16. 24. The Murray Report <ul><ul><ul><li>Sir Keith Murray, Report of the Committee on Australian Universities </li></ul></ul></ul>“ These men [sic] have no immediate practical aim or profit in view” “ they are simply kn owledge-intoxicated men ” “ love the life of intellectual effort and inquiry for its own sake” “ will devote their lives to it if they possibly can”
    17. 25. <ul><li>Academic authority is based on academic work as a vocation. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Not for profit </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Heavenly” reward, not mean Gain </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intrinsic value of the work </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Morally superior </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No grubby talk of money </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(McSherry, Corynne. Who Owns Academic Work? Battling for Control of Intellectual Property . (Cambridge Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2001). </li></ul></ul>
    18. 26. <ul><li>“ Intellectual revolutions are often the product of leisure, even though they cannot be completed without immense industry.” </li></ul>aristocratic leisure + moral superiority = academic status
    19. 27. Reasons to ask for funding <ul><li>Universities train people for the professions </li></ul><ul><li>Universities contribute knowledge to the economy </li></ul><ul><li>Universities contribute to technological progress </li></ul><ul><li>Universities help us understand more about this strange post-war world </li></ul>
    20. 28. Ashby’s reason to ask for funding <ul><li>“Today our universities are the trustees of Australian intellectual life; despite their weakness, despite their unworthiness of this high office” </li></ul>
    21. 29. Dissuading meddling <ul><li>1970, Ashby describes his task: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Something like 85 per cent of he cost of running our autonomous universities comes from public funds. Alarmists in the British academic world fear government control and cry: 'Hands off the universities!' I do not share this alarm, for universities have always depended upon patrons to finance them, and over a stretch of seven centuries they have learnt how to dissuade their patrons - princes, bishops, tycoons, alumni - from meddling in their affairs.” </li></ul></ul>
    22. 30. Dissuading Meddling <ul><li>In the 1940s in Australia, he was working to “dissuade the patrons” of Australian universities from interfering, while giving them reasons to offer increased patronage </li></ul>
    23. 31. Secure funding, prevent control <ul><li>Ashby’s version of Academic work is: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A high calling </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intrinsically rewarding </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fulfils the sacred duty of protecting intellectual life </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Does not care about money </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Therefore, Government should fund them, but can never purchase them </li></ul>
    24. 32. This presentation (4) <ul><li>Eric Ashby’s work </li></ul><ul><li>The university in Australia in the 40s and 50s </li></ul><ul><li>Academic work according to Ashby </li></ul><ul><li>The resilience of Ashby’s academic </li></ul>
    25. 33. “Give us the money and be done with it” (To RC Mills, 1946) Politely invited Vice-Chancellors whether they would make available scientists to the war (1942) In the eternal dispute between the concepts of ‘ivory tower’ and ‘service station’, universities were forced to make some concessions. (Submission to Murray Review 1957)
    26. 34. Funding contingent on service “ The universities will have to give the Committee a full measure of trust if, in the end, they are to gain for themselves the facilities which they feel that they need and to play the part which the country expects of them.” (Murray, 1957)
    27. 35. Eight years later…. “ It is no longer a wry jest: universities are now, in considerable part, public utilities or instrumentalities. They are being increasingly supported by governments from public funds because they carry out public functions, as hospitals and public transport systems do.” (PH Partridge, ANU, 1965)
    28. 36. academic work (Orr) Master-Servant
    29. 37. Undermined the separation of academic work (and knowledge) from other kinds Starts to undermine the authority and status of academic work
    30. 38. melodramatic?
    31. 39. <ul><li>Academic authority constructed as </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Separation from Gain </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Separation from The World </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Knowledge having no immediate utility </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The status of leisured inquiry </li></ul></ul>
    32. 40. Academic work = purchasable

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