Monday, 11 June 2007

Coming Up Roses?

Readers of this blog will have noticed that it has been a while since I last made an entry. There is no element of sloth on my part, it is simply that life has been topsy turvy this past three weeks.

I have been caught up in the debacle that is UNSW Asia. That is to say, my wife and I relocated to Singapore in September last year so that I could join the new university that UNSW Asia promised to be.

I say 'promised' because this was exactly as it transpired and we were not alone in our decision. Close on 100 academic and professional staff and 150 students were similarly beguiled by the vision of being part of something new in Singapore, supported by the credibility of a leading Australian university, UNSW.

It is now clear that the incoming Vice Chancellor of UNSW did not share this vision. Just three months into our first semester he arrived from Sydney with the news that he was closing the place down - so much for the credibility of UNSW, especially in Asia and for many decades to come.

My last day in the office is in late July but already there are other staff who have received their notice and left.

Having bought a condominium here and obtained Singaporean PR status we have a few months breathing space, unlike others who are left paying large rents, supporting families and facing the prospect of no employment in the forseeable future.

Our first choice is to remain here and for me to secure alternative employment. My life is very focussed on this at the moment. Second choice would be a location elsewhere else overseas (Middle East perhaps?). Failing all else we will aim for Australia.

The UNSW Asia fiasco is big news both here and in Australia. The pull-out was undertaken with indecent haste. Yes, UNSW was losing money in the venture but this is often the case in the first couple of years when one establishes a new business. What they clearly did not factor in nor understand, was the financial impact of the loss of international students from Asia for the years to come. This is already happening with China warning students about studying overseas.

The big question remains. Why, when they clearly had reservations about the Singapore venture mid 2006, did they still recruit staff and make promises to students? At best it is a "head in the sand" attitude. At worst it is living a lie and as usual it is the innocent who suffer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is impossible to understand what has happened (and continues to happen) in regard to UNSW Asia without some knowledge of the turbulent history of UNSW during the past 10 years, and the virtual absence of effective governance of Universities in Australia generally, despite many (half hearted) attempts at reform over recent years.

The website at provides some interesting background to UNSW generally.