Professor Warren Bebbington

Welcome to my blog: I look forward to hearing from you and reading your comments about our University. I hope this becomes a great melting pot for intellectual ideas, views and debate and I welcome all of your contributions.

It was a pleasure to attend the annual Hughes Bequest Society luncheon at Ayers House. This event is the annual opportunity to thank our bequestors for their support and to celebrate the many gifts and bequests that have been made to the University.

Guest speaker Tom Merrett, a recent graduate who was supported by a scholarship in Chemical Engineering throughout his studies, shared his inspirational story. Tom wrote his honours thesis on the synthesis of novel nanomaterials for applications in energy storage and is currently the Director of Operations and Marketing at Good Super ─ Australia’s first social impact superannuation fund.

Student scholarship recipients Kylie Do and James Hughes spoke about how the support provided by their scholarships has made a marked difference to their lives. James is currently in his third year of a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Mechanical and Aerospace), and is the recipient of the Andy Thomas Scholarship and Kylie is a recent recipient of the Augustus Short Scholarship and in her first year of a double degree, Bachelor of Teaching and Bachelor of Science.

Guests were treated to a performance from two rising stars of the Elder Conservatorium of Music: Jennifer Bird who is currently undertaking her Master of Philosophy and Charles Klein who is studying for a Masters of Oboe Performance.


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Credit: Peter Sigrist

Photo credit: Peter Sigrist

I was honoured to be invited to speak at the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit at the University of California–Berkeley overnight, where I joined the Presidents of Arizona State Michael Crow and of Tufts University Anthony Monaco to speculate on where university teaching is going in the 21st century.

I expressed the view that university education in the coming years will focus increasingly on experiential learning in labs and seminars, while much of the content of lectures will be increasingly available on line for free.

Future university education is not likely to be overly vocational.  The world of work is changing so fast that preparing a student for a single job will be an increasingly short-sighted objective.

I also think it unlikely that the time-honoured curriculum framework of major+electives+general requirements will prove robust.

It is surprising that such a wide-spread model does not receive more scrutiny and debate, especially given how little research has told us about the impact of a major on educational outcomes, or about student behaviour in choosing electives.

Above all, graduates will need the enduring attributes of an independent researcher–generic skills such as problem-solving, analysis, critical writing and the capacity to work in a team–that will allow them to adapt to several types of work, including some not yet imagined.

These attributes are uncodifiable, and best attained on campus from direct interaction with a lecturer, rather than online.

The digital revolution is allowing us to put increasing amounts of the codifiable knowledge online, freeing universities to concentrate on uncodifiable, experiential learning–what happens across the lab bench, round the seminar room, in the Socratic dialogue.

I see this as an affirmation the “Small Group Discovery” model we have been pursuing at Adelaide.

The move towards independent research attributes, attained in seminars, will lead us to reanimate Humboldt’s 19th-century ideal of the research university.


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royal-show-250I attended the Royal Adelaide Show this morning to see first-hand some of our agricultural, animal science and Vet staff and students at work.

I am delighted to see how vibrant and active the agricultural industries still are at the Adelaide Show. In so many cities where the shows began as an agricultural and horticultural exhibitions, the core events have increasingly been overtaken by sideshow alley. But at Wayville, while there is still the fun of rides and showbags, the Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society of South Australia has done a great job of preserving the heritage and original purpose of the show.

I chatted with our sixth-year veterinary students who provide round the clock vet services to the livestock exhibitors, tending to sick cows and goats, and honing their clinical skills. I saw the enthusiasm of our Roseworthy students involved in the led steer competition, gaining skills in showmanship, ring-craft, animal judging and meat production. And our Pig club, where students show their own pigs, but also help take care of all the pigs at the show, cleaning the stalls of or all producers, and making important connections with others involved in the industry.

The knowledge of our grains experts is on show in the Grains Pavilion, with PhD students talking to young people about healthy soils and helping them plant terrariums, as well as talking to prospective students about studying at our Waite campus.

When I see all the activities of the exhibitors, particularly our energetic and enthusiastic staff and students, I’m reassured that the future of our rural industries is in safe hands.


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I welcomed a special guest to campus on Open Day. Jye Woods is trying to set a world record for his lanyard collections, so I was happy to add to that collection when he visited our campus. Jye has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and as a father of a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome and […]

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It was great to join a big team of University staff on the Walk a Mile in My Boots walk on August 5th. It’s a fantastic event and I was delighted to see about 70 members of the University community braving the cold weather with me. Together, we raised just over $1000, which will go […]

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We have signed an MOU with the Australian student accommodation provider, Urbanest, to deliver a new 689 bed student accommodation tower on North Terrace, directly across from our campus. Construction has now begun, and we expect it to be occupied from 2018. The State Government has been pressing for universities to provide more accommodation for […]

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A world of higher learning and opportunities can be found on university campuses; but disadvantaged students often must see it to desire it. When I was 11 years old, I went with a church boys’ club to visit Melbourne University. We raced around the campus, past imposing scientific laboratories and through the historic cloisters. We […]

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After 18 months of heated debate, bold reform of Australia’s higher education funding was deferred until at least 2018 in the nation’s federal budget last week while public consultation takes place. Thus, the pace of policy reform has come near full circle for the Liberal coalition government, elected in 2013 proclaiming there would be no […]

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Combining our various arts and music schools and departments into a single multi-arts academy could mean SA would “lead the nation in creative industries education,” Douglas Gautier told a CEDA arts conference last week. If only achieving national leadership in arts education were that simple. Would the Australian Ballet School produce better dancers if it […]

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I spoke with Stephen Matchett from Campus Morning Mail and ABC yesterday re the value of ATARs. Contrary to some others, I believe that the ATAR is still a very important indicator to measure a student’s readiness for higher education. You can read more of my comments here also listen to my interview with Ali […]

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