Raewyn Connell, University of Sydney 
When neoliberal policies in Australia began to bite in the sphere of higher education, towards the end of the 1980s, a common reaction among university staff was astonishment and then dismay. To see staff of other universities as opponents rather than colleagues, or to prove the economic value of courses never designed to be sold, seemed bizarre if not mad requirements, and morally offensive too.
Today we can see how the policies brought in by John Dawkins and his advisors, and deepened ever since, made sense in neoliberal terms. Universities were redefined as competitive firms, rather than branches of a shared higher education enterprise. Deliberative planning was quickly replaced by struggle for advantage, and a scramble for amalgamations produced our current odd collection of universities.
Numbers in higher education were increased, without a major increase in central state funding, by commodifying access: fees were re-introduced, and step by step increased. Federal government funding as a proportion of the higher education budget collapsed, from around 90% to under 50%. The national university system, in the 1970s remarkably uniform in quality and resources, became self-consciously unequal. The emergence of the “Group of Eight”  crystallized the new stratification, as positional advantage was leveraged.
Higher education was increasingly seen by government as an export service industry in which Australia could find comparative advantage, the cultural equivalent of iron ore. High fees for overseas students monetised this idea, replacing an earlier regime where Australian universities offered modest development aid to South-east Asia for free. De-regulation is currently being deepened to include domestic students. [More...]
Eighty-seven people were killed and at least 150 injured in two explosions that struck Aleppo University in Northern Syria this past Tuesday. Most of the casualties are students and civilians, many of whom had sought refuge from the violence of the civil war and were living in university dorms. The explosions occur in the midst of an ongoing, year old conflict between forces loyal to the Ba’ath Party and rebels. While it remains unclear what caused the explosion, students on campus are alleging that the government targeted the public university, in retaliation to peaceful protests on the campus last week.
For more photos and accounts of the explosion, look here.
For the Youtube video taken right when the second explosion occurred, look here.
image courtesy of reuters