Why I became a Melbourne Model (the Musical) Whore (2008)

My enrolment in this University was a protest. I deferred my Gap Year to the end of my degree to escape the impending implementation of the Melbourne Model. So suck on that Glynn Davis. I’ve got the degree I wanted, under my terms and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Except cut subjects, sack my tutors and ignore a very polite invitation to attend the production written and performed as a companion piece to your education revolution: Melbourne Model: the Musical.

For the last indiscretion at least, you have an opportunity to redeem yourself for Melbourne Model: the Musical is returning to the Union House Theatre for a Very Special 2009 Comedy Festival Season! Under the new direction of Ben Landau the satirical and farcical look at the controversial introduction of the Melbourne Model and its consquences for tertiary education is back urging everyone to Dream Larger.

Fregmonto Stokes’ hilarious script follows a Young Liberal, Wally Higgins-Beaumont as he charts the murky waters between the seductive Vice-Chancellor Glynn Davis with his promises of shared dreams and the opposing radical Student Unionists lead by Queen Bathsheba. There are changes afoot in the University of Melbourne.

Throughout 2007 there was considerable apprehension brewing about the restructuring of the Undergraduate program at the University of Melbourne. There were forums, protests and petitions involving staff and students to little avail. There were limited concessions approved by the University but it became clear that the Melbourne Model was here to Broaden our Horizons whether we wanted it to, or not.

That year the School of Creative Arts received its final intake of first years and it was taken for granted that it would fade away into academic obscurity. The Award Winning CRUNCH! 08 season of Melbourne Model: the Musical proved that the University had overlooked a very important point - when petitions, protests and forums fail, there is only one way out… satire. A musical satire. A musical of infinite capabilities!

Now, even when no Creative Arts Admins are staffing the Arts Centre, somewhere on the fourth floor in the Black Hole, a rehearsal is just getting started and Ben Kiley and Angus Leslie’s original music is returning to life. That this is occurring during the second year of the Melbourne Model is testament to student continuing defiance and creativity.

Opposition to the Melbourne Model continues and the concerns raised when it was first proposed have not been addressed. They are worth revisiting to contextualise the issues that permeate the show.

The dilution of academic diversity remains a significant drawback. Through drastic subject cuts specialised study areas including Gender Studies have been pushed away from mainstream study in favour of shallow and superficial core subjects. The reduction of ninety-six undergraduate degrees to a mere six does not offer both breadth and depth in a general degree. It offers insipid, standard and restrictive options for students.

The changes also require students to remain longer at University to complete a specialised education, undermining the validity of undergraduate coursework and of the degree you receive at the end of three years. The Melbourne Model follows the system widely employed across the USA where students complete general courses before furthering their education in Graduate Studies. This devalues the Undergraduate Degree and pressures students to further their education thus prolonging their already exorbitantly high college fees. There is no doubting that Postgraduate Study is an important option but it should not be a forced addition to give credibility to a degree and more money to the University. The number of full-fee paying students are also increased at a level above Commonwealth Supported Places (332 vs 287 extra in 2005 over 2004 offers) reinforcing the financial focus.

Further framing Melbourne Model: the Musical is the University of Melbourne’s enormous publicity machine. Accessing the latest articles linked to the University of Melbourne homepage, you are informed that ‘The world warms to University of Melbourne's model’ according to The Australian and Glynn Davis and Peter McPhee are being hailed as ‘the Wizards of Oz’ by The Times. This seemingly good spin is being given an extra whirl by the University publicity department, yet a reading of both articles reveals little praise for the actual Melbourne Model gives an appreciation of the marketing jugganout that accompianied the restructuring.

Bryan MacGregor from the University of Aberdeen (which is currently going through a review in course structure) commented that: "[Melbourne] had … generated a lot of publicity for themselves.” (1) When Glynn Davis is quoted with "We have had considerable interest from other Australian universities and from universities around the world" there is little surprise as to why. Michael Arthur, University of Leeds Vice-Chancellor and Chairman of the World Universities Network says that what has “set Melbourne apart was its publicity drive.” (2) and not the actual Melbourne Model.

If something is that good it shouldn’t need slick advertisments in Cinemas across the country and on billboards across campus to gather public support. Awareness raising is one thing. “Strategic Brand Presence” is an entirely different matter and smacks of shifty spin. That the Melbourne Model is bold and beautifully advertised is indisputable. Whether underneath the gloss there is any substance remains to be seen.

Melbourne Model: the Musical strips back the sheen and hilariously reveals the glaring contradictions in University policy to give you the most exciting and relevant show for any student in the 2009 Comedy Festival Guide!

We’re developing… a musical…with issues that will stay stuck in your head as well as the songs. Come along Glynn. You never know, you might deepen and broaden your Education. Education? That is such a clunky, un-proactive word… What we must do is dreamlarge.

And that is exactly what I shall be doing, after I have finished my personally tailored Heritage-listed Batchelor of Arts (double major in Creative Writing and Theatre Studies) and headed overseas for the long-awaited reward for my three year protest.


(1) http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=404898
(2) http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24909191-12149,00.html

Two things: firstly I need to learn how to jump posts eh? Also this again was a rejected piece for a University paper and was also the catalyst for a little bit of fallout. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you always get on with the show. Also please bear in mind that this was written at 2am for a deadline - that in the end didn't matter one little bit - but anyway!