Friday, February 27, 2009


Thanks for replying in the comments. It makes the blog more interesting to write, as well as more interesting to read.

Sheldrick -- enrollment is now up to 885. It's not that there's a shortage of lecturers, but that the model is a bit different here in Australia. Undergraduate classes are set up as large lectures with tutorials. My students attend one 2-hour lecture per week, and one 2-hour tutorial per week. The lectures are huge -- final year finance electives have 300+ students and my second year introductory course gets 700+ every semester. Our largest lecture theater seats 460 -- so I give the same lecture twice each week. Tutorials are smaller groups, run by grad students. Class size is limited to 25. Tutorial activities include going through the homework and working through questions in class.

Dave -- thanks for the link to Quiggin's post on Taleb. I found the comments on that post very informative. I quite agree with those commenters that Taleb can seem quite arrogant at times. I do try to follow John Quiggin's blog (after all, his office is just upstairs from mine), but generally through Google Reader, so I miss out on the comments.


Anonymous Sheldrick said...

What is the advantage of the Australian model of large class sizes? What are your duties as a professor at an Australian University? How do you get tenure? Thanks.

6:53 am  
Blogger Karen said...

First of all, I'd like to say that I'm not necessarily an advocate of this system. It's just the system I have to work within.

I think the main advantage is financial. It costs less to have the smaller groups run by postgrad students and casual employees. Our business school would have 3000-4000 students at a time (including all business majors, post-grad and undergrad). In finance we have about 10 full-time academic staff to cover the lectures. This semester I'll average around 5 hours of classroom time per week.

As for the career path here in Australia, it is more on the British model than the US model. There are five academic levels (A-E). Level A is Assistant Lecturer (ALs). ALs are generally working full time while completing their PhD part time. They are responsible for coordinating tutorials and running tutorials. Level B (Lecturer) is the first level post-PhD. From there it goes up to Level C (Senior Lecturer), Level D (Associate Professor) and Level E (Professor). Tenure isn't tied to a particular rank or level. Generally you're hired on a "continuing" contract with a probationary period. Being confirmed in the continuing contract is essentially equivalent to tenure. Confirmation depends on research output, with higher levels of output expected at higher ranks. At UQ, a new PhD hired at Level B is generally hired on a 5 year contract and goes through the confirmation process in the fourth year of that contract. If confirmed, the contract becomes continuing.

Hope that all makes sense.

11:56 am  

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