The second half of the nineteenth century saw the emergence of universal primary education in the Australian colonies, though it largely excluded the Indigenous people marginalised by the settler-states. After federation in 1901 the construction of secondary education was slowed during the first world war and the depression of the 1930s. It was not until the 1950s, after another world war, that state systems of universal secondary education were consolidated and students began to complete school in large numbers. After that, the pace of educational development quickened, and the next two decades saw the rapid growth of undergraduate higher education. Student numbers tripled in the 1960s, and by 1975, 15% of 19 year olds were enrolled in higher education (Marginson, 1997, pp 1-45). This included a total of 16,965 students enrolled in higher degrees, most of whom were research students destined for academic posts, and 36,827 postgraduates altogether.
Enrolment growth slowed for a decade but from the late 1980s onwards, participation in higher education again increased rapidly, extending also up the age structure and taking in second and higher degrees. Domestic student load at doctoral level doubled between 1990 and 1994 (DETYA 2000) and vocational coursework enrolments followed, partly driven by the growth in fee-paying international students. By the end of the 1990s, one in four 19 year olds were enrolled in higher education, another 20% were expected to enter later, and there was a new mass sector: postgraduate education. The postgraduate student population had grown to one fifth of the student body in higher education and was equal in size to the whole student body, at all course levels, at the end of the 1960s.
In 2000, Australian universities enrolled 93,216 higher degree students, three fifths of whom were in coursework Masters programs. There were 142,423 postgraduate students in total, once graduate level Diploma and Certificate students were included. There were 28,632 doctoral students, including 663 in coursework doctorates, and 9,408 in research Masters (DETYA 2001). Just as the size of postgraduate training has expanded so has the purpose. Both the research and coursework programs prepare graduates for a broad range of occupations. The coursework strand is explicitly focused on professional work. The research strand provides implicit vocational preparation via mental training in imagination and reflection, analysis, disciplined inquiry and project organisation; and in the labour markets, research credentials signify advanced intellectual preparation. At the same time the research strand continues to provide advanced research training and knowledge generation in particular fields, and in some cases, is still the gateway to an academic career.
More than half of all postgraduates are enrolled in the social sciences. In terms of units of student load--net equivalent full-time students--in 2000 there were 51,249 social science postgraduates, 55.1% of all postgraduate load in Australian universities (93,053). There were 10,500 in research degrees in the social sciences, 35.3% of research degree student load (29,764). Of research students granted Australian Postgraduate Awards in 1995, 22.6% were pursuing social science projects. (1) In 1998, 19.5% of all university research expenditure was in the social sciences (DETYA 2001). Postgraduate training in the social sciences plays a major role in Australian university research, and an even larger role in advanced vocational preparation.
The social sciences
The social sciences include a broad sweep of academic disciplines and discipline clusters: all produce academic knowledges; many are concerned with professional training. They include Psychology and Counselling, Sociology, Anthropology, Linguistics, Demography, Geography, History, Political Science and Public Policy, Education, Law, Economics, Accounting, Management, Marketing and other Business Studies, Communications, Librarianship and Information Sciences, aspects of Public Health and Health Sciences, Social Work and Welfare. More than one social science is involved in fields such as Women's Studies, Indigenous Studies and Australian Studies; and the social sciences are central to the immense volume of research, analysis and training focused on globalisation.
The social sciences intersect with the natural sciences at one end and the humanities at the other. Disciplines such as Psychology and Geography are ambiguous and might be defined as natural sciences; others such as Political Science, History, Cultural Studies and Linguistics can be seen as either social sciences or humanities. Nevertheless, the social sciences share two features. First, all are interested in social relationships. Second, however variant in theories, concepts and modes of thought, all social sciences compile (and apply) empirical data to advance understanding, and for ends such as better professional practice.
These features distinguish the social sciences from the natural sciences, which are preoccupied with the natural rather than social world; and from those humanities that do not share the requirement for observation and evidence. Nevertheless, another distinguishing feature of the social sciences is their openness to other fields (though this openness varies between and within the individual social sciences). Like all academic fields, the social sciences are grounded in philosophy and/or mathematics, though these foundational influences are more implicit than explicit; and this creates various potentials for cross-overs and synergies with non-social science fields. For example social sciences such as Economics, Demography, Sociology, Psychology, and via Psychology and Education draw on quantitative methods from the natural sciences. Sensibilities fashioned in the humanities also play a part, particularly in the more `humanistic' disciplines: consider the recent effects of Cultural Studies in Women's Studies, Anthropology and History (Jolly and Jamieson; Nile); Political Science; even in Public Health (Manderson) and Education (Kenway).
In their applications, the social sciences are equally polygamous. It is impossible to imagine government and law, finance and business, health and education without the social sciences. They are at the heart of economies; they are at the core of policy and the construction of national identity; they connect science and technology to their many uses; they are deployed whenever a larger problem or change is on the agenda. Global warming and transition to sustainable agriculture, famine and AIDS, the spread of world trade, plural cultural encounters in a global communications system, moves to global governance: all call up attributes formed in the social sciences. The social sciences produce much of the knowledge animating public administration, business and cultural life. They have immense influence on ways of seeing, thinking and doing in professional and managerial work; and that influence is exercised over the longer term. The training now being acquired by young graduates and by mid-career professionals will shape the social world and the forms of internationalisation twenty and thirty years ahead. And because postgraduate research training in the social sciences also reproduces the academic infrastructure, contemporary academic conditions have investment effects two and even three generations hence.
Located in the nitty-gritty of the social world, the social sciences are less glamorous than the natural sciences and the humanities: perhaps there is less sense of pure imagination, or startling original discovery, or human drama, in fields like Demography or Accounting, or even Anthropology or Sociology. Yet the social location of the social sciences is the source of their extraordinary fecundity and breadth of application. These fields of knowledge have emerged to enable us to get to grips with the world. Above all, the social sciences are engaged. These are not disciplines for an ivory tower. They are insufficiently `pure': too fond of getting their hands dirty, too broadly curious, too prone to borrow ideas and too accommodating of others, too interfering in other's business.
This external engagement works in both directions. The social sciences are externally sensitive and responsive, alive to a range of influences from outside the academy (an `outer-in' form of engagement). They are also externally formative, in that when joined to government, business and professional work, the social sciences make many contributions and have a broad range of practical effects (this is an `inner-out' form of engagement). Thus the social sciences, and their social environment, continuously colonise each other.
External engagement thereby brings with it an endemic tension which is inherent in the mission of the social sciences. On one hand, the social sciences are committed to applied research and the fashioning of vocational attributes. On the other hand, they are sites of critical reflection and knowledge qua knowledge. The two constantly affect each other, so that pure research arises from practical social problems, and professional training is imbued with the spirit of critical reconstruction. At the same time, this is also a tension between the external obligation of the social sciences and their inner academic identities, between their outer-directedness and their inner-directedness. The social sciences are involved with and responsive to the world. They also sustain independent academic identities, grounded in university cultures and international research and scholarship. Without these academic identities, the social sciences could not maintain sharp, coherent postgraduate programs.
While this tension varies between different social science fields, it is inevitable in all fields. It is a necessary tension. If it is resolved too far in one direction or the other, the contribution of the social sciences is diminished. If they become solely scholastic, so that external engagement is lost and the discipline as an end in itself becomes the only end, they lose their purchase, their relevance. If they become solely instrumentally driven, they lose the independent capacity for criticism, reflection, and social and individual reconstruction. They can no longer operate at the international cutting edge, at the level of excellence, where their research potential and their formative effects on students are maximised.
Given that the social sciences have a profound social effect, society and government have a profound interest in Australia's long-term social science capacity and quality. This is an important policy issue. Consider the role of the social sciences in economic, social and cultural innovation and national positioning. The social sciences are crucial in the translation of scientific discovery into commercial applications, and in building networks linking science and technology with business and government; in shaping understandings of the global environment and the skills for working within it; and in securing consent for change. In fact in relation to personnel requirements in the emerging knowledge economy, it is the social sciences--not the natural sciences or the engineering/technology cluster--that are growing faster and play the much larger part in cross-border (international) education.
The social sciences do not have to argue for their inclusion in the global knowledge economy: they are already there. For national policy, the question is the extent to which policies on innovation in science and technology are dovetailed effectively with three other sets of policies, all of which take in the social sciences: policies on business investment, policies on social and cultural innovation, and policies on long-term intellectual capacity.
This first part of this article outlines the diverse fields of knowledge and training in the social sciences, introducing also the field-specific contributions to this volume. The article situates the social sciences in their external settings and plots the `outer-in' and `inner-out' dynamics. The next section maps postgraduate education and training in the social sciences, describing the patterns of growth and the distribution of postgraduate enrolments between fields and levels of course, and the role of fee-based programs. The following section discusses current issues and problems affecting postgraduate training in the social sciences in Australian universities today, including resources, staffing, course structures, supervision and teaching issues, field boundaries, and problems of identity, orientation and uneven development. Many of these matters are discussed in more detail in the field-specific articles that follow. This first article examines the issues in overview. Inevitably, the generalisations that are made here hold better for some fields than for others.
The conclusion presents three recommendations from the collaborative Academy of Social Sciences of Australia (ASSA) project underlying the volume, on postgraduate course structures, the enhancement of postdoctoral work, and Indigenous postgraduate education.
Fields of the social sciences
Figure 1.1 uses one possible set of methods for classifying the social sciences. It tracks their variations according to:
* whether they are specifically vocational, preparing students for a particular profession; generically vocational, preparing students for a group of related occupations; or have no explicit vocational applications (which is not to say that they are irrelevant to work);
* whether they constitute a single, bounded academic discipline; and if they are multi-disciplinary, the degree to which they are bounded as a field; and
* whether they tend to be more inner-directed--their identity is determined more by their self-reproducing internal academic cultures than by their external links and applications--or they tend to be more outer-directed.
Group 1 consists of recently developed academic fields which draw on the methods of a number of academic disciplines. They have developed identifiable academic traditions but--with the partial exception of Women's Studies--they reproduce themselves from the primary academic disciplines in Groups 2 and 3. The fields in Group 1 are both outer-directed and inner-directed. They originated in cultural politics often external to the university, but have gathered an internal academic momentum, particularly Women's Studies which is as much directed at theoretical conversations as the concerns of movement politics. In all three cases, their position within universities is contested. These fields have no particular vocational links to a profession or occupation, but the ideas and sensibilities associated with them are likely to affect the work of their graduates. In this volume Group 1 is represented in Bourke and Bourke on Indigenous Studies, and Nile on Australian Studies.
Group 2 consists of more traditional social sciences constituted by single academic disciplines, akin to most humanities and natural sciences in that they have no explicit vocational applications, but whose methods, concepts and theories affect many fields of work, have entered into the more vocationally-explicit fields of knowledge, and have formative effects in the lives of individuals and in public cultures. The group include History, Political Science and Public Policy, Sociology, Demography and Anthropology. Some have limited explicit vocational applications: for example History enables local history writing; Political Science enables electoral analysis. In this volume Group 2 is represented by Jolly and Jamieson on Anthropology, while Nile discusses Australian Studies from Group 1, in terms of its relations with History from Group 2.
Group 3 is Economics and Psychology. These are bounded academic disciplines, and like most of Group 2 their origins lie in the nineteenth century. Also like the fields in Group 2 they are more inner-directed than outer-directed, except that Economics and Psychology also constitute an explicitly vocational profession which in Psychology is subject to formal registration procedures. In each field, both research graduates and graduates from postgraduate coursework programs are widely employed in public and private sectors. Both also enter vocational training in other fields--for example Psychology is part of Social Work programs and as Educational Psychology and Organisational Psychology has roles in Education and in Business and Management--while the knowledges and ways of thinking associated with these fields are also widely influential. Both are included in this volume: Lodewijks on Economics and Trinder on Psychology.
Group 4 consists of fields which constitute a bounded profession, while drawing on more than one academic discipline in the formation of the field. On the whole these fields, despite identifiable academic traditions, especially in Law, are more outer-directed than inner-directed. Their coherence derives from their role in constituting a profession, not from a discrete academic culture. Scholarship and research are largely (though not entirely) directed to applications in professional practice and government. Law draws on History, Political Science, Philosophy via Jurisprudence, and Business Studies; Education draws on Psychology, Sociology, Linguistics, Cultural Studies, Policy Studies and other fields. Group 4 is represented by Manderson on Law and Kenway on Education.
Group 5 consists of fields which are vocational in temper but do not form singular professions like the fields in Group 4. They constitute professional training for a range of roles and occupations. The Group includes Public Health, Business and Management, and Communications. In their present form these fields are relatively new, though Business and Management Studies have antecedents in Commerce, Economics and Administration. The fields in Group 5 are bounded not by academic cultures or by professional structures but by common roles or sites of interest: entrepreneurship and management in all sectors, public health programs, communications systems. There are many research applications, mostly practical in intent. As with Group 4, some postgraduate research projects lack specific links to work but nevertheless constitute significant additions to knowledge. Group 5 is represented by Manderson on Public Health, and Palmer on Business and Management.
Inner and outer directedness
The bounded academic disciplines in Groups 2 and 3 are relatively effective at reproducing themselves in the university context, provided that the condition of the university context is sound. They have strong academic `inner' identities, grounded in global scholarly traditions and networks. While their research traditions encompass diversity, it is manifest within established limits. There is normally a large pool of potential academic recruits (though not all universities are able to recruit). The labour market is structured by differences between universities in prestige and in resources, in salaries and conditions of work.
In contrast, the fields in Groups 1 and 5, part-determined as they are from outside the academy, have less academic coherence and are less readily reproduced. There is not the same world-wide body of practitioners to call on. Especially in Group 5, research projects are mostly …