Mind Matters: Radical Changes

Radical change can lead to great improvements. We see those improvements mostly with technological changes, such as the Internet, cell phones, search engines, and all kinds of medical advances, including gene therapy and 3-D printed body parts.

People tend to resist change, especially radical change, whenever they can because they fear being harmed by the change. For instance, global trade agreements can cause some specific individuals to lose their job.

The safest types of radical changes are those that are working out well elsewhere. As a person born in the United States, I would like to export back there five brilliant aspects of Aussie life: (1) sensible gun laws, (2) parliamentary government, (3) ranked-choice voting, (4) the requirement that citizens show up to vote at elections, and (5) roundabouts.

There are some roundabouts in the US, but not many. The state of Maine switched this year to rank-choice voting. Some American states have decent gun laws. Good ideas get round.

Do I have any American ideas to suggest to Australia? Nah. The best American ideas are scientific, technical, or cultural. Those ideas spread across the globe like wildfire. For instance, Netflix led to Stan.

But I do have a European idea to suggest: eliminate 4th year in university education. Europe has a system where students complete their undergraduate degree in three years and then go on for a two-year master’s degree if they want. Here in Australia, students must complete three years of undergraduate education, followed by fourth year, and then they can go for two more years to earn a master’s degree. The Commonwealth government could implement the change I suggest by ceasing to fund fourth year and otherwise pressing universities and accrediting bodies to eliminate it.

My argument: eliminating 4th year would save the government and students billions of dollars. Due to the diffuse nature of higher education, I expect that master’s graduates would be just as work-ready under the European system as they are now.

University students like the idea. I do not imagine that universities would favour it - those billions of dollars of savings might come out of university coffers.

I sent my radical-change suggestion to Malcolm Turnbull just before his party booted him out as Prime Minister. I no longer hope for a response.

What ideas for big changes do you have?

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England.