Australian Left Review

Article Title

Values and University Economics


Bill Waters


A man may be petty, vicious, coarse-grained, paranoid even, and, outside his specialism, thoroughly ignorant, and yet tlo well enough as a scientist or scholar. (E. J. Mishan)

1970 WAS A YEAR OF STUDENT UNREST within the Economics Department of Sydney University. The discontent centred on mathematical courses which were introduced into Economics I and II and were compulsory for all students. The courses were not the subject of prior consultation with students and, given the prevailing student mood, several staff members, towards the end of 1969, predicted student trouble if the courses were persisted with — but their warnings were met with Professorial disbelief and hostility. The warnings were made in the light of a 1969 survey of student opinion which disclosed widespread dissatisfaction with the existing economics courses — usually on the grounds that the “orthodoxy” being taught was too theoretical and remote from reality. Students made plain their desire for “socially revelant” courses. The response of Departmental Heads Hogan and Simkin was to ignore the survey (and staff opinion) and add a compulsory mathematics section to an already highly unpopular course structure.