Town and gown in the bush: contemporary regional universities and transforming communities [Editorial]

Simpson, Jenny and Danaher, Geoff and Danaher, Patrick Alan ORCID: (2006) Town and gown in the bush: contemporary regional universities and transforming communities [Editorial]. International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning, 2 (2).

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This special theme issue of the International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning is entitled ''Town and Gown' in the Bush: Contemporary Regional Universities and Transforming Communities' and provides a forum for multiple engagements with the relationships (or lack thereof) between contemporary regional universities and their communities, whether in Australia or in other countries.

Many of the world's most prestigious universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge, Heidelberg and Yale, are located in regional settings. Indeed in some cases, such as Utrecht, the regional town has developed around the university. Certainly, owing to the concentration of academics and students within a relatively underpopulated location, the atmosphere within a regional university town seems to be quite distinctive.

Such an atmosphere has not always been mutually fruitful, and there is a long history of distrust between the university and the town of which it is ostensibly a part. In the case of Oxford, tensions between townspeople, who resented the university's growing arrogance and authority, and students boiled over on 10 February 1354, the Feast of Scholastica: 'The countrymen advanced crying...'Smyt fast, give gude knocks'....Such Scholars as they found...they killed or maimed, or grievously wounded....Our mother the University of Oxon, which had but two days before many sons is now almost forsaken and left forlorn' (Anthony Wood, History and Antiquities of the University of Oxford, 1674; cited in Drake 1991, p.3). The battle led to 62 students being killed and the rest being driven from the town.

In the case of Australia, most of the longstanding traditional universities were constructed within metropolitan centres and capital cities. One exception is the University of New England in Armidale. Indeed, up until the 1980s, higher education institutions in most country areas were limited to Technical and Further Education (TAFE) colleges and colleges of advanced education (CAEs). The reforms by John Dawkins, the then Federal Minister for Employment, Education and Training, to higher education in that decade saw these CAEs attain the status of universities, a change that enabled them to award postgraduate degrees and be recognised for research. Colloquially known as 'gumnut universities', these regional campuses have faced ongoing challenges in recruiting and retaining students and academics, building a competitive research profile and finding a secure niche within the Australian higher education field on the one hand and within the often culturally diverse and geographically dispersed regional communities from which they draw their allegiance on the other.

While several discourses can be discerned in these relationships, commentators on regional universities and communities commonly invoke at least two distinct narratives:

 Regional universities, like their communities, are marginalised and under threat, and their best chance for survival lies in working together to create alternative opportunities and futures.
 Regional universities, like their metropolitan counterparts, must increasingly adopt free market ideologies and practices whereby regional communities will be sidelined unless they can compete with national and international clients in accessing services from 'their' universities.

In interrogating, contesting and reconstructing these discourses, the authors of the articles in this issue address three key questions currently confronting regional universities and their communities:

 What are the identities and the missions of contemporary regional universities?
 How are those identities and missions manifested in the universities' negotiated relationships with their communities, only some of which might also be regional?
 What are the implications of those relationships for the likely future sustainability and survival of both regional universities and communities?

In seeking to address these questions, the issue is also directed at re-examining the concept of 'transformations' in regional communities in the early 21st century. Transformations, understood as permanent and substantial changes and improvements, are crucial for the ongoing development of individuals and groups. Yet often these transformations occur in spite of, not because of, the planned interventions of institutions. So it is vital, now more than ever before, to understand the drivers, influences and potential outcomes of and on genuinely meaningful and productive transformations in regional communities. Within that quest for understanding, a process of evaluating the roles and responsibilities of regional universities and communities with regard to themselves and to one another is a worthwhile endeavour.

At this point we need to offer an important explanatory note. The articles that comprise this volume were largely composed in 2004. Owing to various constraints publication has been delayed until 2006. Despite this delay, we believe that the approaches outlined and issues canvassed within the articles offer an enriching understanding of the relationships between town and gown within regional settings.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Authors retain copyright.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Education (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Education (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Date Deposited: 24 Mar 2010 03:14
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2013 23:42
Uncontrolled Keywords: regional universities; youth theatre
Fields of Research (2008): 16 Studies in Human Society > 1608 Sociology > 160804 Rural Sociology
13 Education > 1301 Education Systems > 130103 Higher Education
Fields of Research (2020): 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4410 Sociology > 441003 Rural sociology
39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390303 Higher education
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9304 School/Institution > 930402 School/Institution Community and Environment

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