Listening to the wisdom of others

The title for this post was not what I originally intended. Last night I was at dinner with Linda and Michael and I told them the title I wanted and they questioned my motivations. From this gentle and very kind questioning I listened and understood what they were saying. (Or alternatively I’ve overlaid my own meaning and all they were really saying was it was a shit title and I should rethink.)

A thesis journey is all bout listening to the wisdom of others. Whether it’s the literature you read, the supervisor advice, the person at the random dinner party who knows more about your topic than you do, the web sites, the news articles and so on. The issue is when to take on the wisdom or not. All wisdom should be listened to, but some of it should then be ignored. This is my biggest failure over the last three years. I have not ignored enough. I have catered too much to others and as such have lost my way. I have also heard amazing ideas and directions which I’ve needed to get me where I am today, which is back on track. It’s an odd balance I’m trying to strike.

One group I listened to enough and not too much was the 3 MT folks. I do their process, but I don’t go to their sessions on what to say and how to act. I am selective about the wisdom I adopt. As such, this was the product this year. From this experience I have been able to modify my research question in such a way that I now feel comfortable with my ideas. I have a theoretical framework to support my data collection and I feel vaguely on top of what I’m trying to achieve. The rest of this post is about that process so unless you’re particularly keen I would stop reading now. I just wanted to record my wisdom so I can listen to it a bit and appreciate how the wisdom of others is present in this place I have reached. For all of you, I say thank you. Please don’t become concerned if I don’t adopt your wisdom, it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped listening.

Research Question (as at 10 November 2017):

How exploring changes in incentives and stated objectives since 1988 to today can articulate the meaning of university education to Australia.

Legend: red=verbs; purple=limiters; green=variables

Verbs = selected to align with the narrative analysis process (Czarniawska 2014) to be applied where the Hernadi triad of explication, explanation and exploration are used. As well as the process of articulation where there is recognition of construction of meaning by the researcher through a process of abduction.

Limiters = my question examines a set phenomena, it does not seek to understand what is but what the change has been. This is because much of existing literature addresses what is, but there is a lack clarity of the change itself. The difference is assumed in the literature, whereas it is possible the situation of today has always been, we have simply forgotten. 1988 was the beginning of massification of university education (Trow 2010) in Australia and taking it through to today is because changes are occurring in legislation to make university education universal.

Variables = incentives are outlined by the existing literature; stated objectives are from the original research I will conduct; meaning will be established  using sociological theory (Weber 1947) combined with Plato as a contrasting ideal; university education is described in legislation, specifically that of TEQSA; and Australia for my thesis is the Federal Government, the universities as listed in TEQSA legislation and the accounting professional bodies.

Taking this approach I can now clearly describe my problem – Australia is not providing quality university education according the literature, but the literature does not provide the meaning of university education it merely indicates there has been change and the change is not ideal. So my thesis will identify the change, through the literature – incentives – as well as the objectives of university education as stated by Australia. By exploring the similarities in changes and differences it will be possible to articulate the meaning of university education thereby demonstrating if Australia really is getting the university education it wants, or if it isn’t. This research will support policy makers, universities and the professional bodies better understand expectations associated with university education and either continue to deliver the status quo, or work for (further) change. The research will also inform other researchers in university education if the change regularly discussed, really is the issue it is indicated to be, or if it has been blown out of proportion.


Czarniawska, B. (2014). Narratives on Social Science Research. Great Britain, Sage Publications Ltd.

Trow, M. (2010). Twentieth-century higher education: Elite to mass to universal. Baltimore, The John Hopkins University Press.

Weber, M. (1947). The theory of social and economic organization. USA, Martino Publishing.

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