Vanity Ethnography (it really is all about me)

I owe this title to someone called Mary Maynard as she talked about the value of ethnography but the importance of it not being about vanity in her article Feminism and the Possibilities of a Postmodern Research PracticeTo be clear, I haven’t read the article, it was cited today by Barbara who did a great session on qualitative analysis. Maynard came up in relation to the question about putting a summary of yourself into your thesis to provide context. The key is to do it in a way that doesn’t make you seem vain and doesn’t detract from the analysis in the research. So, I thought it might be worth giving this a go. A couple of reasons, I think it might help me understand a little better where I’m going and also to remind me about where I’ve come from. So here goes:

In 1997 I was a very low administration officer in the Australian Public Service sitting in on a meeting on industry policy. A comment was made in relation to an upcoming skills gap for industry due to the changing nature of work requirements (more computers, less tractors) along the lines of, “Don’t worry about the skills gap, universities will fix that.”. I remember thinking back then, “How would universities fix it?” “How would they know about it if industry is even unsure about what skills will be needed?” and lastly “University is about testing ideas and critically thinking about the world you live in, how does that fix a skills gap?”. Of course, I had a major in English and Drama in my Bachelor of Arts so clearly I was not planning on using my university degree to fill a skills gap, but clearly the experts in the room back in 1997 believed other graduates would.

This thesis (well will be!) explores the juxtaposition between Federal policy intent for higher education, business expectations and commodification. Showing how these three aspects of higher education align and how they differ is in response to the 1997 me wondering if universities were about providing inputs to production (filling the skills gap) or if they are something else.


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