Insights and impacts from privatising the public university

Date & time
12–1pm Friday 22 March 2019

Australian Centre on China in the World, Building 188, Fellows Lane The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 2601

Professor Margaret Thornton


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0418 493355

Presented by National Tertiary Education Union

Seminar Series
Margaret Thorton

The NTEU is proud to begin the 2019 iteration of the NTEU Seminar Series with a seminar delivered by Professor Margaret Thornton on privatising the public university. Emerita Professor Margaret Thornton (FASSA, FAAL) is Professor of Law and ANU Public Policy Fellow at the ANU. Her research spans discrimination law, feminist legal theory, legal education, legal profession and the corporatisation of universities. Her publications include Privatising the Public University: The Case of Law (Routledge, 2012) and an edited collection Through a Glass Darkly: The Social Sciences look at the Neoliberal University (ANU Press, 2015). You can follow a link to purchase Through a Glass Darkly here.

Since the Dawkins reforms, there has been a dizzying rollercoaster of change in universities, facilitated by managerialism and metricisation. The changes have caused most academics to turn away and meekly do what the manageriat tells them to do (boiled frog syndrome?). As universities become more like for-profit corporations, decision-making processes have become remote and opaque. The demise of collegiality has meant that there is unlikely to be a forum in which to question the new orthodoxy.

This presentation will consider the impact of the transformation for the future of the university and for society more generally.


  • Professor Margaret Thornton »

    Professor Margaret Thornton is a socio-legal and feminist scholar whose work on the legal academy and the legal profession is internationally recognised. She is regularly invited to participate in international projects.

    She has published extensively in the area of discrimination and the law. Her book The Liberal Promise (Oxford, 1990) remains the only critical study of discrimination law in Australia. Her book, Dissonanceand Distrust (Oxford, 1996) is the only study of women in the legal profession in Australia. It was translated into Mandarin and published in Beijing (Law Press, 2001).

    Margaret also has a particular interest in the impact of the corporatisation of universities on the legal academy and has conducted research in the UK, Canada and New Zealand, as well as Australia. Publications from this research include Privatising the Public University: The Case of Law (Routledge, 2012). Her current ARC-funded research focuses on work/life balance in corporate law firms, particularly the gendered effects of globalisation, competition and technology.

    Margaret’s scholarship has been acknowledged by election to the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, the invitation to be a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law, and the award of an ARC Professorial Fellowship, in additional to international fellowships.

    Margaret formerly held the Richard McGarvie Chair of Socio-Legal studies at La Trobe University where she also served as Head of School, Director of Research and Professorial Member of University Council. She served the discipline of law as a member of the ARC and as Chair of the Federal Government Advisory Committee for the Gender Issues in the Law Curriculum Project, as well as occupying many other federal and State positions.


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