The Independent Scholars Association of Australia Inc. (ISAA) has as one of its key aims the promotion of scholarship. As a national network of scholars pursuing interests in the sciences, business, law, humanities, social sciences and the arts, ISAA recognises the importance of university education in all fields, because without people gaining a foundation in the range of fields of study, scholarship in the future will be weakened. Scholars are not only found in universities, but in all aspects of professional practice, from law and education to policymaking and management, from engineering and environmental science to diplomacy and creative writing.
The right for talented people to have a university education should not be diminished on ideological grounds, neither at the family level nor through political ideology at the state or national levels. Nor should it be denied because it is too costly. This is a time when students are expected to contribute to their university education, but that contribution should not be so burdensome as to prevent some potential students from enrolling and completing their degrees, nor should potential students feel coerced by financial consideration to take on one course of study when their interests and untapped talent may lie in another. This course of action will also weaken the nation’s knowledge base in the future, discouraging those who might otherwise have used their specialist knowledge at undergraduate or master’s level to further their work-related interests in a scholarly way.
A degree is the start of an education not its termination in a job. The seeds planted at university are a foundation for a rounded personality, equal to the rigours of a professional or entrepreneurial career; or a lifetime in the pursuit of knowledge in and of itself. In each case Australia reaps a benefit well beyond public investment in an institution. The key in every case is prepared motivation, equitable access and high standards of teaching and learning across the range of the learned disciplines. Blending passion in scholarship with lifelong learning can carry an individual through career shifts, the burdens of responsibility, life’s vicissitudes, and the constraints of everyday existence.
ISAA demonstrates in microcosm the vitality of intercourse between the humanities and the sciences towards a mature understanding of who and where we are, where we are going and how we, as a polity, are to navigate the terrain along the way.
Professor Shirley Randell AO, President