Well I had high hopes of blogging every day while I was down here, but that hasn’t happened, partly because i’ve been too busy and partly because I’ve not had great access to wifi ( i spent 40 quid accessing my emails on my phone last week!).
I have had a great time, and I’ve met 6 people from four universities (Sydney, Newcastle, UNSW and RMIT) so far. I haven’t got time to give a detailed report, but I thought I’d post a few observations on Australian HE so far.
One striking thing is the scale. So far the universities I’ve looked at are big. The UNSW campus is physically imposing (on a hill), and Newcastle’s is a big campus. Some of the buildings I’ve seen at RMIT are architecturally bold and sydney was very pretty (and apparently home to the largest library in the southern hemisphere, australians seem to like their random claims to fame).
Also both UNSW and Newcastle were very keen to show me their centres for aboriginal studies. Newcastle had the Wollotuka Institute and UNSW had Nura Gili which had a collaboration spaces designed according to aboriginal principles, which apparently include a clear line of sight, so there were glass internal walls (i didn’t get to see this as i was in a hurry to my next meeting!).
This focus on the importance of design was taken up with my visit to RMIT where I saw a really fantastic building with heaps (!!) of student learning spaces. Every room had windows facing outside, which sounds unremarkable, until I saw a lecture theatre with windows showing people walking past, who could see what was going on inside (should they want to), which was definitely quite weird (but shouldn’t be really). Also the lecture theatre was full.
Openness was a big recurring theme, and the building I’m checking out tomorrow has a massive glass wall enabling the local community to see every room, and the research that is taking place there.
At RMIT the public, including primary and secondary school children are invited in and come and play around with the cool stuff, which sounds like a great way of making university accessible and appealing to non-traditional entrants.
My last observation so far picks up on this. I have learnt quite a lot so far about the kinds of programmes that they have here to widen participation (often called student equity). I’ve heard about some really interesting programmes. Having just had our Foundation Year Network I’m starting to think that the diversity we have in provision in the UK is only the tip of the iceberg, there’s some really interesting stuff going on here, and I hope to come back to learn more one day!
I’m here in Melbourne for a couple more days before heading on to Canberra and then I have a holiday! I’ve been working a lot harder than I’d anticipated, but that ‘work’ has been meeting interesting people, and hearing about so much stuff that i think I will be months digesting it when I get back.
Apologies if I’ve made any errors or omissions, i’m still pretty frazzled!