Monash University

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Federal power & universities: what about state sovereignty? : an analysis of the influences on the process of change in state/federal governing responsibilities for universities

posted on 2017-02-28, 01:22 authored by Shears, Suzanne
Following the Federation of Australia, the States were responsible for universities within their jurisdiction. However through political development, the Commonwealth has come to administer and largely control this sector. This thesis, Federal Power & Universities: What about State Sovereignty?, focuses on this historical development and illuminates how major changes have occurred in state/federal responsibilities governing universities from World War II (WWII) to the Dawkins Reforms. The research contributes to the already substantial body of literature in the field by examining, in a new way, the range of mechanisms that shaped the process and policies involved in this development. Through an historical documentary analysis, the study utilises an enabling concept labelled 'shifts', that was developed in this research, to investigate instances in which there was significant change to Commonwealth convention, direction and ideology with respect to its university policy. Three shifts are identified and investigated in this thesis. The first shift is the WWII/Mills shift, which began during WWII and culminated with acceptance of the 1950 Commonwealth Mills Committee recommendations concerning university needs. The second shift is the creation of the Australian Universities Commission in 1959; and final shift is the Dawkins Reforms of the late 1980s. Literature within the field accepts that the development of governmental responsibilities for universities was influenced by the operation of mechanisms from within the sector as well as from the broader domains of state/federal relations. This research demonstrates how mechanisms from both domains acted within each shift to effect the development of governmental responsibilities for universities. Consideration is given to how these influences operated and how they relate to each other, as well as to the way in which they shaped the process and policies involved in the shifts. A substantial amount of research in the past in this field has focused prominently on identifying the results of change. In contrast, this work centres on capturing how mechanisms operated in the process of change, during key periods, in the development of governmental responsibilities for universities. Researchers, policy-makers and university leaders could find this research useful in guiding their own work on effective strategies and policies for university development and relations with government. In their decisions, both researchers and practitioners should accord greater recognition to the role of the individual as well as the influence of State desire for increased federal involvement in the university sector. Furthermore, a deeper understanding of the way in which mechanisms operate together to actuate change could also be useful for researchers and professional practitioners in any arena involving state/federal relations and policy development.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Alan Lindsay

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Monash University. Faculty of Education. Education


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Education

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