Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education


This thesis provides an historical examination of the development of Australian university education, 1950 to 2000, a period of rapid population expansion and social and technological change. The thesis examines the variants of liberal ideology held by successive Commonwealth Governments that influenced the direction of changes in university education. In so doing it examines the relationship of liberal ideology to notions of what constituted a university education - and the kinds of people who gained access to it. Consequently, the thesis also examines concepts of human capital, equity and equality of access, since these are fundamental to an understanding of the variants of liberalism. The primary aim was to determine the extent to which an understanding of liberal ideology and human capital theory could explain both the expansion of university education and the constraints placed on entry mechanisms.

The theoretical framework draws on the theories: of cultural and social capital developed by Bourdieu, Coleman and Putnam; and of credential inflation, developed by Hirsch. Notions of liberty, individual freedom and equality, core concepts of liberalism, are examined in relation to its variants, from Classical Liberalism to Modern and Welfare Liberalism, Neo-conservatism and Neoliberalism. The relationship between political ideology and policy formation is examined, as is the relationship between liberalism and notions of egalitarianism, equity and equality of opportunity.

The thesis is arranged chronologically, with each chapter examining one of the five major reviews into and/or reports on Australian university education in the second half of the twentieth century: the Murray Report, the Martin Report, the Williams Report, the Dawkins suite of papers, and the West Report. These reports, and contemporaneous materials, provide the primary source evidential basis for the study. The evidence is examined in relation to: the ideological influences and pressures that effected change to the social mix of the entry cohort over time; and state and other stakeholder notions of university education as a public good or private good, an opportunity for public service or capitalist opportunity for commodification.

The thesis demonstrates that the variant constructs of liberal ideology, which powerful individuals held as personal belief systems, directly influenced the development of university education in Australia. The thesis provides clear evidence that the outcomes of the - seemingly transparent - process of government initiating reviews and/or commissioning reports, is inherently influenced by the political ideology held by the initiator.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.