It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine….)

The forces ripping global capitalism apart have made their way to our doorstep in more ways than one. Just check your superannuation balance. And no doubt by now you’ve heard the news that the University has taken a severe hit in its recurrent budget, due to a steep decline in investment returns. These funds were fueling the infrastructure build currently underway on campus and allowing us to do so without having to borrow on the open market. Now they’ve dried up, as they have for just about every other institution out there aside from Sydney real estate agents. The University has decided  that it is better to focus on reducing our expenditure now and over the next three years,  rather than just hoping things will get better, or (for now) halting the infrastructure build (given our desperate needs in this area). And so a 6% ‘savings’ target has been imposed on Faculties for each year 2009-2001, along with a 9% target for the centre. What this means practically is being worked out as I write and will be discussed with Chairs at the next SEC meeting. I’ll let you know what the implications are very soon for 2009 and beyond.  We need to try and find a way of making these savings without undermining our success, which has been significant in recent years and put us in a much better situation to manage these difficult times than otherwise might be. Some will come from managing how we roll out the recent positions we’ve advertised or are in the process of filling, and being prudent about future positions. Other savings will have to come from trimming our travel and research support budgets (alas), as well as continuing to manage our part-time teaching budgets extremely carefully. I think the biggest challenge will be trying to manage the workload implications of all of this. We can’t allow our workloads to balloon and thus undermine our research capacity and morale, but nor can we simply hope it all goes away. So we’ll need to look hard at our curricula planning for 2010-11 in particular, and that will mean thinking very hard about what is sustainable and what is not. Once again, I’ll be talking to chairs and as many of you as I can about this over the next few days and weeks. Meanwhile,  I’d be happy to hear from any of you about ideas or general comments about how best to address these challenges. It won’t be easy, but I am confident we’ll not only survive but prosper in the future. We’ve certainly got the talent and ability to do so in all of you.

Enough doom and gloom. There is still much to celebrate.  My warmest congratulations to Andrew Fitzmaurice (History) and John Grumley (Philosophy) for their success in being promoted to Level D. This is a major achievement and recognition of their outstanding work over the past few years. Congratulations also to Dirk Moses (History), has won the H-Soz-u-Kult Prize in modern history for his German Intellectuals and the Nazi Past, (CUP, 2007).  This is an extraordinarily prestigious award, voted by Germanhistorians, and books considered for the award cover all fields of modern history, so his book has been selected as the single best book in history published in 2007.  (see  And finally, many congratulations to Robert Aldrich (History) who as just been elected as Fellow of the  Australian Academy of Social Sciences, a richly deserved honour.

I am off to China for a few days to talk about multiculturalism and freedom, which should be interesting (!!), in addition to spruiking the wonders of the Faculty of Arts and the importance of the humanities and social sciences for a world in flux….. Glenda Sluga has kindly agreed to hold down the fort in my absence. See you soon.


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