Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Australian National University (ANU) is a terrible university and will ruin your future

I spent 4 years as an undergraduate at the Australian National University followed by another 4 years doing a PhD at the John Curtin School of Medical Research. Here is my experience of this terrible, pathetic excuse for a university.

At the end of high school, I was the top student at my school in Chemistry, Mathematics, Computer Science, and second in Physics. My SAT score, or whatever they call it now, ranked me in the top 1.34% of students in the nation. I was voted most likely to become an entrepreneur at my high school. I clearly had a gift for science and a go-getter mentality. Growing up, I was the one kid in school who was programming computers as a teenager. I learned BASIC and then Assembly language for the Motorola 6809 processor. Later I learned PASCAL.  My dad was into electronics and radio, whjich exposed me to those fields, a good environment for a scientific mind. However, coming from a poor working class family in Canberra, they could not afford to send me to UNSW where I wanted to do chemical engineering, and since no one in my family had ever gone to a university before, there was no guidance they could offer me regarding scholarships or alternative methods to get me to where I wanted to be. So instead I was forced to go to what was the only university in my home town of Canberra at the time: the Australian National Univeristy (ANU).

Of course I started on a Bachelor of Science degree, but the choice of courses available was pathetic. At that time there were no practical courses available, none at all. There were no medical or engineering schools. The ANU is a research university that receives block funding from the government, which means that rather than having to compete for grants, the ANU simply receives a large sum of money from the government and gets to choose whatever it wants to do with it. You can imagine how this tended to breed a culture of uncompetitiveness and inaction.

The ANU is also a research university, which means it does basic research, basically finding out things because there are things are things to find out, kind of like climbing Mt. Everest, "because it's there." As part of their obligation to the undergraduate culture, researchers are required to teach. Unfortunately however, they have absolutely no training in teaching, no desire to do it for the most part, and most of them aren't very good at it. This sums up pretty much everything about how this university works with regard to undergraduate education, a bunch of bumbling academics begrudgingly forced to teach students using their non-existent teaching skills.

Somewhere among my first few days of orientation at the ANU I was to choose the courses that I would undertake, and hence my future. Since there was nothing I really wanted to do, and no one to give me any career or course guidance, I chose chemistry and some biology courses. The person who looked at my choices clearly didn't care what they were doing or what my choices were. They were a spider geneticist (aka a useless twit who produces nothing for society) and was clearly just fulfilling his undergraduate obligations in a begrudging manner, and with no training or real idea of what he was doing. Once again this first experience at the ANU pretty much sums up my entire experience of the place, a bunch of bumbling academics who mostly contribute very little to society, who don't really know what they're doing but are forced to do it anyway, sitting around getting free money to pursue their bizarre hobbies, and not having to be competitive or useful.

Well four years later and I had a bachelor of science degree with honors, and absolutely no professional development, no job search skills, and no skills that would be useful in any kind of employment whatsoever. Basically what I had was a general bullshit degree, a piece of toilet paper that said I belonged to the middle class. I guess I should have realized that at the time and just used my general bullshit degree to get a general bullshit job. Instead I tried volunteering at the John Curtin School of Medical Research where I'd spent the honors year of my degree, in the hopes they'd see my interest and enthusiasm and hire me for something, anything. However, not only were they not interested in me, but they didn't even care about helping me to find employment in the field they had trained me in, my field of interest and expertise. And this was a medical research school. Why would we want people doing medical research or making some kind of meaningful contribution to society?

What a bunch of losers.  Actually, a lot of academics never make any meaningful contribution to society. They just bumble along, madly obsessed with their bizarre hobbies.

Keep in mind, this was during an era when the ANU was regularly getting ranked as having the worst graduate outcome of any university in the country, with 50% of its graduates still unemployed 5 years after finishing their degrees. This just gives you more idea of how much the ANU cares about it's students, it doesn't. The career counseling center at the time was a small room lost somewhere on campus, staffed by about three people who didn't even notice when you walked into the place. Utterly useless.

Eventually I went on to do a PhD, mistakenly thinking that being more qualified in a bunch of useless crap would somehow improve my chances of employment. Did anyone at the ANU advice me against this or give me second thoughts? Hell no, they didn't give a crap about my future career or well being. After I completed that PhD I once again hoped for employment at the John Curtin School, but instead was offered a lowly position as a research assistant for 3 months. I immediately expressed my disgust at this. Eventually I simply left this stupid university for a postdoc in Switzerland, and then went on to another postdoc in San Diego, California. Eventually I quit my career in research because it had no relevance to anything going on in the world.

Today I live in San Diego, California. I feel so betrayed by the ANU and the Australian higher education system in general that I have no desire to ever return to Australia or to academia, or to ever contribute anything to that country or the crappy university that wasted years of my life. I left my science career over 13 years ago. I now work in the multi-billion dollar mobile telecommunications industry and have done much better with my life ever since I left behind that stupid pointless career path that the ANU put me on. I'm married, my house is paid off, I'm in a wealthy and dynamic industry, and I'm a US citizen.

As a comparison, we have the University of California San Diego here where I live. It is surrounded by companies, businesses, and startups that have been spawned from it through the education of its students. These businesses bring billions of dollars of income to this city. It's quite a contrast when I look at the ANU and think about what it has surrounding it, and how much that contributes to the city of Canberra. NOTHING!!

And what became of the other highly ranked science students from my high school. They came from fairly well off families and went to good universities like UNSW, USyd, and elsewhere, and they were given good guidance in their careers. And what did they end up becoming? A pediatric surgeon, a civil engineer, an organic chemist for a global pharmaceutical company, various other high-powered careers. My bachelor degree and PhD papers are still sitting in a box somewhere in my garage. I don't even put them on my resume anymore, as they are irrelevant and not worth anything, they provide no skills that could be useful to any business anywhere.

So if you want to send your career into a fatal death-dive and end up with a general bullshit degree and no hope of employment, if you want to wreck your future and waste years of your life on meaningless nonsense, the ANU is the place for you. As a German professor once told me during her sabbatical at the John Curtin School during my PhD days, "This is the place you come to when you want to do nothing".  

Of course, growing up in Canberra sets you up for failure as well. Canberra is a city with no industries and no reason for being there. It's merely a by-product of the indecisiveness of some aristocrats who couldn't decide whether to make Sydney or Melbourne the capital, so they chose a small farming community about half way between with a population of 26 people, and proceeded to turn it into the capital. Rather than rely on the existing infrastructure of Sydney or Melbourne, they created a city that's a financial burden on the nation:, roads, water works, electrical grid, etc, to serve nothing more than an administrative bureaucracy. My ancestors were pioneers of the region and simply got caught up in the noise and fuss of this artificial city with no purpose.

Today the ANU does have an engineering department, but of course what university but the ANU could take something useful like engineering and turn it into something useless like "AI robotics" and other useless non-functional crap. People have worked on that problem for 35 years and still haven't produced a useful domestic robot beyond the Roomba vacuum cleaner. Meanwhile we have industrial robots and AI processes doing useful things in industry everywhere now days, which makes it clear that the ANU is dedicated to teaching you how to become a bumbling academic rather than becoming a useful asset to industry and society. That's why people in industry prefer not to hire people who been in the academic system too long, PhDs and researchers and the like, because they've been coddled by the university system and are unable to produce on deliverables within a specific deadline, and have no concept of a marketable product.

Looking at the egos of the people in academia however, you'd think they're all very important people who make the world go around. Industry makes the world go around, academia just bumbles around in ever-diminishing circles and doesn't produce anything useful most of the time. I wouldn't be surprised if the ANU had programs for nuclear fusion and interstellar travel, two other bogus fields that will never produce anything useful, yet are espoused by academics for their own personal gain, by pulling the wool over the eyes of those who don't understand the science behind them.

From my experience, academics can be pretty accurately described as people from fairly wealthy families for whom money has never been a major concern in their life, and so employment and income have not been major goals in their lives. Thus they've been able to pursue frivolous dreams that have little to no outcome. Welcome to the Australian National University, the grrreatest university in the world!! Or so they'd like you to think. In reality it's just a bumble fest of over-inflated egos studying useless crap and feeding off free handouts.

To conclude, the Australian National University is just a worthless bunch of wankers and a giant pile of shit, and I highly recommend people not to go there unless they want to destroy their future and career.

-Dave Bad Person

More reading on this topic

Here's the post on a public forum where I first posted this.

Here's another one of my blog posts about why a non-professional college degree is useless.

Here's my blog post about how academics have become detached from the reality of what society needs from them.

Here's another one of my blog posts about how scientists lie about the goals and utility of their research so they can make themselves and their work seem more important.

Here's my parody of the media release by the President of the Australian Academy of Science regarding the recent mega-fires in Australia.

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