Friday, 23 September 2011

New College of the Humanities - Déjà Vu from Down Under

An Antipodean comrade writes....

I have had a look at bits and pieces about the NCH on the net, and the parallels with Bond University being founded on its Gold Coast campus in the late-1980s multiply. The sales pitch was pretty much the same: the public universities are not performing so 'we at Bond' will show them how it is done. The aggressive and dismissive demeanour and the OTT public pronouncements of the first Vice-Chancellor were distinctly unhelpful, and quite unnecessary from a PR view of view. Brash arrogance. Bond proclaimed itself the Harvard of the southern hemisphere which would attract all the best students, so it is unsurprising that many academics were antangonised – and the combination the Alan Bond (and especially his financial links with Chile) and a private university was too much for many. The fees were also pretty steep: $1500 per course was a lot of money in those days (the School of Science, whose fees were event higher, attracted so few undergraduate students that it became the Research School of Science). There were also 1st year core courses at Bond. Does all this start to ring a bell?

There were differences. Bond University had its own campus in the suburb of Robina whereas NCH wants to tap into existing infrastructure in London, and I'm alarmed that no agreements are in place. Getting the Bond campus ready in time for the commencement of teaching in March or April 1989 was a nightmare, because of an unusually wet summer -- which underlines the necessity of having the teaching spaces at the ready beforehand – something that could really unsettle NCH unless it gets its shit together. At Bond there was no professoriate-in-absentia: everyone lived locally, or in the vicinity, and fronted to work each day. But the lack of fee-paying students and a misreading of the market and the mood out there resulted in hard times ahead for Bond. I am largely indifferent to NCH, but I'm definitely dubious about its feasability and sustainability. Bond University also started as an 'awfully big adventure' but a basic premise – that Australians would recognise quality and be prepared to pay for it – was unfounded. The place never lived up to its own hype and, from distant observation, I doubt whether NCH will either. It all sounds so familiar to me.

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