Australian Educators Recommend the Collegiate Way
23 August 2006 (collegiateway.org) — Many Australian universities have well-established residential college systems, and it’s encouraging to see, from today’s edition of The Australian, that the country’s minister of education appreciates them.
Life on campus the way to goCatherin Armitage, Higher education editor
THE halls of residence are not on Education Minister Julie Bishop’s 2 1/2-hour agenda for her visit to Charles Sturt University at Wagga Wagga, NSW, on Thursday. But perhaps they should be.
Her quest for diversity among Australian universities has most recently brought her to the door of residential colleges. This was thanks to a seminar last Saturday on university futures organised by St John’s College at the University of Queensland, where the minister, a few Queensland vice-chancellors (John Hay of UQ, Ian O’Connor of Griffith, Bill Lovegrove of Southern Queensland) and a group of about 30 senior scholars spent three hours discussing what makes a world-class university system built on diversity.
One paper that struck a chord with the minister was by Donald Markwell, now warden of the University of Melbourne’s Trinity College and soon to be a deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Western Australia. He explored the common characteristics of pre-eminent universities worldwide.
Residential college communities feature in all the finest institutions, the minister says, with their “high degree of individual attention and interaction for students, the sense of intellectual engagement beyond the classroom and the focus on student welfare, character values and extracurricular activities”.
It was also noteworthy to the minister that residential colleges tend to be magnets for philanthropy. So the next day, while opening a new building at St John’s College that replaces one lost to fire last year, Ms Bishop took the opportunity to mention, (“as subtly as I could”, she says) in front of senior church dignitaries including the Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, the “magnificent legacy” bequeathed to universities by the churches in the form of residential colleges.
“I suggested the time had perhaps come for Christian and non-Christian institutions to renew the commitment to establishing residential colleges on campus and to consider expanding them.”
Hard as it is to imagine the churches stumping up a stray million or 10 for new campus colleges, the minister insists she is serious. To the problem that residential colleges can be an expensive way for cash-strapped students to live, she responds that scholarships “would have to play a significant part” in any such expansion.