With a passion for acting and for teaching English grammar, Dr Julia Miller at the University of Adelaide in the School of Education set about creating an online resource for international students. Dr Miller says of her current work, “I’m developing a website at the moment, called ‘English for Uni’, which will be particularly helpful for international students”.

‘Ms Parrot’ is a fictitious character, played by Dr Miller herself, who helps solve language mysteries in a video story on the website. “This website has various activities and the first adventure is about the articles used in the English language system: ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’. Those words are really difficult if your first language isn’t English… Another area of the English language that many international students have difficulty with is prepositions, such as ‘on’, ‘in’ or ‘at’. The passive voice and the conditional are other grammar items that can also be confusing, ” Dr Miller explains. The learning activities are based on research Dr Miller has conducted over the years.

Language isn’t the only thing Dr Miller is passionate about. Acting was, and still is, a great love of hers. Whilst studying at Cambridge University, ‘back home’ in the UK, Dr Miller was pipped at the post by none other than Oscar award winning actress, Tilda Swinton, for the lead role in a university play. “I was disappointed that I didn’t get that part; I was cast for a smaller role. Tilda was just another student back then, but later on of course she became a world famous actress,” Dr Miller recalls, adding regretfully, “Now I wish that I had accepted the smaller role!”

Dr Miller is loves language and focuses on the challenges of English for international students. At the University of Adelaide she gives lectures and workshops to assist the understanding of correct English grammar. She recognises that language is constantly changing and evolving and would even like some emoticons to become standard punctuation marks.

Learning a second language is also important for English speaking students, according to Dr Miller, “I think it’s enriching for anybody to learn another language. It’s good for brain development, and it can help you with your first language too.”

At the moment, Julia Miller is working with AusAID sponsored students at the University of Adelaide in an intensive five-week program, which introduces the International students to academic life at the university. These students come from developing countries and are sponsored by the Australian government. “The program is mutually enriching for scholarship holders and lecturers alike,’ says Dr Miller. Dr Miller comments on how rewarding this program is to teach, and how many skills these high-flying students bring with them. Dr Miller comments on the intensive workshop run over the summer at the University, “So that helps a definite group, I’d love to see it expand to the whole of the university” Ms Miller says.

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Being an election year, and in the wake of the Gonski Review, education will be hot on the political agenda during 2013. Higher education will very likely enter the debate also. A major focus of the Government has been, after all, to have forty percent of 25-34 year olds attain at least a bachelor’s degree, ultimately revealing the perception that higher education is an invaluable social and economic good. Given such a view, one must ask why do these politicians view higher education in such a way? Indeed, more generally, what exactly are politicians’ attitudes towards higher education?

Dr Anthony Potts, Senior Lecturer at the School of Education at The University of Adelaide, seeks to answer such questions.

Surprisingly, understanding the attitude’s of those that debate/enact policies and allocate funding for higher education is only now an emerging field in Australia, but with a longer history in Europe and internationally. As a contributor to this research, Potts has studied the perceptions of politicians in the UK, the US and Australia, asking questions such as ‘what do politicians actually want from universities?’, ‘what role do politicians believe universities should have?’, and ‘what influences or governs these perceptions?’. Understanding these attitudes can potentially give us an insight into what our leaders believe and why they behave the way they do concerning higher education.

There are a range of views and factors that affect such perceptions. Interestingly, having children enrolled in higher educational programs is a major factor, with their experiences taken to reflect the state of their institution and possibly even the system as a whole, the personal experiences of politicians is another. Constituents’ attitudes towards students can also govern perceptions of local representatives, either positively (e.g. due to increased student populations bolstering economic activity) or negatively (e.g. due to student accommodation pushing up rent values).

Perhaps unbelievable to some cynical academics, Potts characterises many of the politicians he has interviewed as very sophisticated and intelligent people. He has come across politicians whom have a very clear idea of what it is they want from higher education. For instance, there is the example of a Latino-American politician from Arizona who wants to solve immigration issues through higher education; another politician from Arizona wanted to create a technology hub akin to Silicon Valley. In the UK, he finds that there is a very strong perception shared amongst politicians that education is the primary driving force behind social mobility.

Despite this diversity, Potts finds that the consensus seems to be that a sense of utility is paramount to the politicians interviewed – academic and critical faculties are still encouraged, but structural strength and economic growth (and the employability of graduates) is taken to be vital. This is perhaps good news for impending graduates!

Provided that education is such an integral aspect of our social and political lives, it is baffling that research into the perceptions of politicians towards it is only now an emerging field. Through it we can begin to understand why politicians think and act like they do in regards to higher education. Particularly in Australia, it offers the potential for us to gain an understanding of Government policy and why it wants so many of us to have parchments we can hang over our mantle pieces.


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Dr Anthony PottsGlancing over Dr Anthony Potts‘ qualifications, which seem to span across the horizon, one gains a strong sense that this is indeed one highly educated individual. Holding two doctoral degrees and with former professional appointments at Liverpool Hope University and Newman University College, UK, plus time as a visiting scholar at Cambridge University’s Wolfson College, he is indisputably ‘book smart’. At the same time, he is equally ‘life smart’. His experiences outside the academy have also provided fascinating and often surprising lessons. It is this cocktail of what he has learnt inside and outside the classroom which inspires his passion for all things concerning education, from conducting classes to researching.

Prior to his academic pursuits, Anthony worked in a plant nursery in rural New South Wales. He then veered in another direction and enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts majoring in history at the University of New England (UNE). Upon graduating, he then acquired a Diploma and Master of Education, and subsequently earned a Diploma of Tertiary Education, all at UNE. After having the opportunity to translate his new skills into practice as a classroom teacher, Anthony returned to a world of theory to earn his PhD at the University of Technology, Sydney, and a Dr. Sc. of Ped at Belgium’s Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. During and after his studies, his research and professional tenures have taken him across the UK, Europe and the United States. Both figuratively and literally, Anthony has travelled a long way since his days in the plant nursery.

Amidst all of this, practical, hands-on experience has been as central as theoretical experience. Be it as a gardener or a classroom teacher – or even as the co-owner of a swimming pool retailing company – the insights acquired from such experiences compliment and contribute to his wisdom as an educator and a researcher. For instance, during his time in the ‘swimming pool business’, he observed educative value in professional conference and product presentations.

This is not to mention the many anecdotes which he has acquired from his journeys, academic or otherwise, many involving politicians interviewed for his research on their attitudes towards education. Experiences which have stuck with him in his research are both the frank revelation from one politician that generally such interviews rank lowly on his list of priorities and also the warmth and generosity of many of those many others who made the time for such interviews. Experiences such as these have inspired his open attitude towards those that seek to learn from him.

His journey finds him now residing and working at the School of Education at the University of Adelaide, where he has been for the past three years. Though having positive experiences at other universities, he describes the University of Adelaide as one of the “best places” he has worked. He appreciates the history, traditions and vibrancy of the University and, most importantly, holds a high view of its students.

The University of Adelaide has acquired someone with vast experience, both inside and outside academia, which is of great benefit to our future educators. Read more about Anthony’s research now.

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The Premier of South Australia, the Honourable Jay Weatherill MP, and the University of Adelaide have launched a new scholarship for an outstanding Indian teacher. The Ashok Khurana scholarship was launched today at the Australian High Commission in New Delhi. University of Adelaide Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Academic) Professor Pascale Quester says the Ashok Khurana […]

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The third annual School of Education Mentor Teachers Awards Evening was held on Tuesday 25th October 2012 at Rumours Cafe, University of Adelaide. Mentor Teachers share their expertise and skills with our students to help them become the teachers of tomorrow. Their contribution is invaluable to the future of Education in this state. This event […]

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Two University of Adelaide staff have been recognised for their teaching expertise with prestigious $10,000 Citation Awards announced by the Federal Government. Dr Westphalen, a lecturer in the School of Education, received a Citation for “vibrant and compassionate approaches to teaching and learning which inspire students’ enthusiasm and passion for the profession of teaching”. Federal […]

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Two Singapore secondary school teachers who won scholarships to study at the University of Adelaide have been awarded the top prize for outstanding academic achievement at the University’s recent Singapore graduation ceremony. Theresa Lai and Alvin Tan have both graduated with a Masters of Educational Studies from Ngee Ann-Adelaide Education Centre, earning nine High Distinctions […]

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  Congratulations to Susan Shannon, Rick Atkinson, Natalya Boujenko, and Matthew Stubbs who were recently awarded the 2012 Executive Dean’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching!

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Streets of Cusco

“The grade 6 class at Pumamarca school experienced their first Italian lesson, which was enjoyed by the students. Some exciting science practical experiments have also happened outdoors, testing air pressure using a bike pump and a water bottle! Great fun! ” “Spanish lessons for the Adelaide University team have commenced during the second week, which […]

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Pumamarca Kids

“The bright colours of the school are unmistakeable from a distance, and are a cheerful welcome. As the front gate was opened to us, it was humbling and overwhelming to walk through a path the children had created for us, hearing the words ‘Bienvenutos, los amigos’.” University of Adelaide Education student Anna Henwood describes her […]

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