Trinity College Melbourne Essay Competition 2012

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Yet it encouraged a narrow range of choices, a singular understanding of a university.

This continuity of form can be hard to distinguish amid huge growth in scale. They are now large organisations with standard rules and procedures to deal with complexity.

These new institutions focused overwhelmingly on professional degrees as a first qualification because expanding colonies needed lawyers, doctors and engineers.

Despite gothic-revival stone architecture and solemn ceremonies, the original universities were practical exercises in higher education.

For most students and academics, the university has always primarily been concerned with preparation for the professions.

Gaita, of course, understands well the reality of contemporary campus life: To avoid misunderstanding, I acknowledge without reluctance that vocational and professional courses have always been important to universities. Professional training dominated Australian universities from their earliest expression.These founding institutions were built on the British tradition of operational independence from government.This was embraced in original legislation and has rarely proved a point of controversy.we must preserve the unworldly space in which university teachers are able to reveal to their students what it means, mostly deeply, to devote one’s life to an academic vocation—to live an answer to Callicles.They will then reveal to their students, who will go into the world to live many kinds of lives, a value in their education that nourishes them more deeply than the kind of liberal education that many people praise.1 His deeply felt evocation of the purpose of a university proposed an institution that engages critically with the world, enriching students and their society.The aspiration for an ‘unworldly space’, a community of scholars, is largely defunct.Gaita’s analysis resonated deeply with his original audience, and publication in This rejoinder picks up just one point, offering not a critique of Gaita’s argument but a historical qualification: whatever the sins of a moment that turn students into customers, and a vocation into a profession, the Australian university has proved remarkably consistent over a century and a half.Status hierarchies and peer esteem served to narrow the range of acceptable possibilities. Familiarity renders the alternatives invisible, because we see only what already exists.Once established in our minds, a model of what constitutes a public institution will make any alternative seem inadequate.The model would extend from city to city, modified with experience and expanded as new professions emerged but essentially developing along the original path.When eventually legislators sought to break the mould in the 1940s and create new types of universities, with an explicit focus on research and science and technology, they found the original model was reinforced by regulation and community expectations.


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