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Privileged knowledge, privileged access: early universities in Australia

Privileged knowledge, privileged access: early universities in Australia Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to show that Australia’s first two universities were connected to class status. It challenges the idea that these universities extended the “educational franchise” at their outset, by interrogating the characteristics of the student population in comparison with the characteristics of the population in the colonies. It looks at the curricula within the university system to show it is always “interested”, never neutral – it may be unique to the social, cultural, political and economic location of each university, but ultimately it benefits those who hold power in these locations. Design/methodology/approach– This research involves empirical analysis of characteristics of university students in Australia in the 1850s, including country of birth, religion, age, previous education and fathers’ occupation, as well as population demographics from the censuses that took place in the colonies of NSW and Victoria at that time. It also involves an analysis of the sociology of knowledge in nineteenth century Australian universities in light of this empirical data. Findings– Socio-political influences on the establishment of the first universities in Australia highlight the power of conferring legitimacy to particular areas of knowledge and to whom this knowledge was made available. Research limitations/implications– The research is limited to using the student data for the first three years of enrolment because in order to make comparisons between the student population and the population of the colonies, the student data needed to be from a time as close to the population census as possible. The Sydney census was in 1851, so student data from the University of Sydney was 1852-1854. The Melbourne census was in 1854, so student data from the University of Melbourne was 1855-1857. Originality/value– Australian historiography suggests that early universities in Australia were open to all, regardless of background. This paper challenges this orthodoxy through empirical findings and theoretical analysis. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png History of Education Review Emerald Publishing

Privileged knowledge, privileged access: early universities in Australia

History of Education Review , Volume 45 (1): 15 – Jun 6, 2016

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
ISSN
0819-8691
DOI
10.1108/HER-04-2014-0028
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to show that Australia’s first two universities were connected to class status. It challenges the idea that these universities extended the “educational franchise” at their outset, by interrogating the characteristics of the student population in comparison with the characteristics of the population in the colonies. It looks at the curricula within the university system to show it is always “interested”, never neutral – it may be unique to the social, cultural, political and economic location of each university, but ultimately it benefits those who hold power in these locations. Design/methodology/approach– This research involves empirical analysis of characteristics of university students in Australia in the 1850s, including country of birth, religion, age, previous education and fathers’ occupation, as well as population demographics from the censuses that took place in the colonies of NSW and Victoria at that time. It also involves an analysis of the sociology of knowledge in nineteenth century Australian universities in light of this empirical data. Findings– Socio-political influences on the establishment of the first universities in Australia highlight the power of conferring legitimacy to particular areas of knowledge and to whom this knowledge was made available. Research limitations/implications– The research is limited to using the student data for the first three years of enrolment because in order to make comparisons between the student population and the population of the colonies, the student data needed to be from a time as close to the population census as possible. The Sydney census was in 1851, so student data from the University of Sydney was 1852-1854. The Melbourne census was in 1854, so student data from the University of Melbourne was 1855-1857. Originality/value– Australian historiography suggests that early universities in Australia were open to all, regardless of background. This paper challenges this orthodoxy through empirical findings and theoretical analysis.

Journal

History of Education ReviewEmerald Publishing

Published: Jun 6, 2016

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