The Good Old School. "A Short History of the University of Melbourne" by Stuart Macintyre and R. J. W. Selleck and "The Shop: The University of Melbourne" by R. J. W. Selleck. [review]
R.J.W. Selleck’s "The Shop" - along with his "Short History", co-authored with Stuart Macintyre - is welcome evidence that this once insular institution is developing the capacity for self-analysis that it needs if it is to attain the 'world class' status it craves. Although both are presented as sesquicentenary publications, neither is the kind of sanitised history usually brought forth at anniversaries. Selleck and Macintyre understand the subtlety of official records: as Selleck puts it, 'minutes [of meetings] contain what the majority wants them to contain.' Their sympathy towards the dilemmas facing administrators, and their lucid advocacy of effective leadership, give real depth to their analysis of educational policies. The "Short History" is an especially valuable contribution to the current debates. Selleck has a Swiftian way with corporate doublespeak. There was a time, not long ago, when retribution fell hard on anyone taking such an independent line. "The Shop" is an unexpected delight: lively, thought-provoking, and frequently laugh-aloud funny, it ranges across the history of the 'learned professions' and interrogates the whole 'idea of a university'. They’ll be choking on their tea down at the Melbourne Club. For everyone else, Selleck offers an opportunity to reflect on educational institutions and how their workings affect the rest of society.