Dawkins Revolution

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The Dawkins Revolution[1] was a series of Australian tertiary education reforms instituted by the then Labor Education Minister (1987–91) John Dawkins.

The reforms were proposed in Higher education: a policy discussion paper ('the green paper') which was published in December 1987[2] and announced in Higher education: a policy statement ('the white paper') published in July 1988.[3]

Aims and outcomes[edit]

The reforms were aimed at enhancing the "quality, diversity and equity of access" to education while improving the "international competitiveness" of Australian universities,[4] as well as a solution for the perceived brain drain. These reforms included the introduction of income contingent loans for tuition costs through the HECS, the conversion of all Colleges of Advanced Education (CAEs) into universities, and a series of provisions for universities to provide plans, profiles, statistics etc. to justify courses and research. As a result, undergraduate student numbers increased dramatically as universities were given economies of scale. There were also many mergers between universities and CAEs, with some successful (University of Queensland Gatton Campus), and others not so (the University of New England and the then Northern Rivers CAE which subsequently split acrimoniously to become Southern Cross University), and others didn't proceed (Australian National University and the Canberra CAE, now the University of Canberra).


There has been extensive criticism of the Dawkins reforms, which have been described as the application of neo-liberal ideology to universities.[5] Critics regard the Dawkins reforms as an attempt to reduce public funding of universities, 'commercialise' university education, and expose research to 'subjective' market pressures.[6][7]

The reforms have led to a culture of "corporate managerialism" in universities,[8] and have been related to a rise in bullying tactics among university management,[9] a decline in the freedom of academic speech and inquiry, and a loss of academic collegiality.[10]

Among the Dawkins reforms is the encouragement of the use of various metrics to assess and rate research output. These measures have been subjected to intense criticism. For example, the pressure placed on academics to seek external research grants, and be rated on their ability to do so, has been criticised on the basis that different fields of research require different levels of funding, and external grants may not even be necessary.[11] University managements are accused of shifting the responsibility for acquiring funding onto academics. Academics are also critical of allegedly objective ratings of the "quality" of research output, often determined by looking at the "impact factor" of journals in which they publish (the 'impact factor' is the ratio of papers cited from a journal to papers published in that journal) - considered an inappropriate measure of research quality, as the impact factor of a journal is not necessarily related to the relevance of that journal to a given field.[12]

Other critics, especially those among the Group of Eight, saw these reforms as "dumbing down" higher education, as college diploma students became university graduates overnight.[13] The traditional universities were forced to compete for research funds with the newly designated and amalgamated universities, although they still continue to dominate competitive research funding.[14]


  1. ^ "HIGHER EDUCATION FUNDING ACT 1988". Austlii.edu.au. 2005-01-01. Retrieved 2010-08-27.
  2. ^ "Higher education : a policy discussion paper | National Library of Australia". Catalogue.nla.gov.au. Retrieved 2010-08-27.
  3. ^ "Higher education : a policy statement | National Library of Australia". Catalogue.nla.gov.au. Retrieved 2010-08-27.
  4. ^ "HIGHER EDUCATION FUNDING ACT 1988 - SECT 2A Objects of Act". Austlii.edu.au. Retrieved 2010-08-27.
  5. ^ 2006, Arran Gare, "The neo-liberal assault on Australian universities and the future of democracy: the philosophical failure of a nation." Concrescence: the Australasian Journal of Process Thought, Vol.17(1) pages 20-30.
  6. ^ 1997, Jim Wellsmore, "Markets in higher education: the balance between public and private investment." Journal of Australian Political Economy, Vol.40 pages 44-60.
  7. ^ 2007, Gavan Butler, "Higher Education: it's evolution and present trend." Journal of Australian Political Economy, Vol.60 pages 28-53.
  8. ^ 1995, Bob Bessant, "Corporate management and its penetration of university administration and government." Australian Universities Review, Vol.1 pages 59-62.
  9. ^ Margaret Thornton (2004) "Corrosive Leadership (Or Bullying by Another Name): A Corollary of the Corporatised Academy?", Australian Journal of Labour Law, Vol.17(2)
  10. ^ Malcolm Saunders, "The Madness And Malady Of Managerialism", Quadrant March 2006
  11. ^ 2008, Jeffrey Goldsworthy, "Research grant mania." Australian Universities Review, Vol.50(2) pages 17-24.
  12. ^ Harm K. Schutte & Jan G. Svec. (2007) Reaction of Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica on the Current Trend of Impact Factor Measures, Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, Vol.59 p.281-285
  13. ^ Rodney Nillsen, "Don't Do What Australia Has Done", Quadrant November 2004
  14. ^ "Dawkins and the labor tradition: Instrumentalism and centralism in federal ALP higher education policy 1942-88 1". Australian Journal of Political Science. 1988-12-04.