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This article, albeit that it is written in Hobart about Hobart, sends messages of hope and change north to Launceston. The notion that UTAS is/was going to take over everything at Inveresk set off a chain reaction of silliness – mostly coming from an epicentre at Launceston's Town Hall.
The most refreshing thing to read in this article is that there is a fair chance of change. That is so far a UTAS is concerned. With the change, decision making is more than likely to have an ethical foundation with Prof. Black at the UTAS helm.
Importantly Prof. Black has "drawn a line under the reign of former the former vice chancellor Peter Rathjen."
In accord with all this, Prof. Black is calling for a debate on the university's future direction. This will be, and is being, welcomed by the academic community in Northern Tasmania. Prof. Black offers some hope that this debate will be real, credible and that it will lead to somewhere that is really interesting.
It seems that one can now actually hope for a search for better understandings of what universities can be, and should be, in the 21st Century – even in Tasmania.
What Prof. Black does straight up is acknowledge that UTAS ranks somewhere around 300th in the world. This is something Tasmanians were unlikely to hear up until now. All kinds spokespeople have been out and about shouting from the roof tops that the university is 'punching way above it weight'. This was always a deluded and delusional marketing ploy.
This kind of nonsense was always counterproductive and the penny has now dropped it seems with students measuring up their options internationally. The facts do not always match the rhetoric – and that in the end is rather poor marketing.
This is not to say that UTAS has not in the past, and cannot, and will not, deliver on its promise of quality into the future. It can and will.
Prof. Black's suggestion of a "place based model" for UTAS is a breath of fresh air that hopefully will over time blow away the rancid smell of delusional and baseless opportunism.
Also, the search for a "the right size model", plus ways to achieve excellence, flags a realistic aspiration for quality – and the ability to deliver on it.
In Launceston, students and university staff complained about a 'toxic culture of retribution' and it seems that Prof Black may well be aware of what he walked in to.
In regard to UTAS, Launceston Council has been imagining itself living in some kind of fairyland that was about to have zillions of dollars dropped in from above via Prof. Rathjen's, and by extension and association, Launceston's dumbed down post secondary programs. That thought bubble seems to have been pricked.
Clearly UTAS's new vice chancellor, Prof. Black, is doing a timely reality check and it can only be hoped that Launceston's aldermen can join him and fess-up to their folly. Once they have done so, they might well beg for forgiveness from their constituency.
Aldermen's constituencies are 'browned-off' but the Local Govt. elections are not all that far away. Personal reality checks could well mean that some aldermen could yet find the "need to spend more time with my family" and new players may well enter the field too.
Interesting times ahead!