QED

The Higher Degree of Bruce Pascoe’s Deceptions

Subsequent to my article being published at Quadrant Online on October 30, two Quadrant readers have alerted me to the fact that my statement that Melbourne University has never had a Bachelor of Education degree is wrong. It offered a degree with that name from 1936 to 1995. Nonetheless, a search of its lists of graduates has not found Bruce Pascoe’s name among them, thus confirming the main point of my original article, which I have amended accordingly. Here is the corrected version:

Although I have research degrees in Australian History — my Masters thesis was published with a foreword by Manning Clark, who had supervised my Honours and Masters theses — I took only a casual interest in the Bruce Pascoe controversies until I learned of his appointment as (salaried) Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture at Melbourne University. I then investigated his alleged academic qualifications — most notably, the claim that he has a Bachelor of Education degree from Melbourne University.

The Wikipedia article for Pascoe states:

He attended the local state school before completing his secondary education at University High School….Pascoe went on to attend the University of Melbourne, initially studying commerce but then transferring to Melbourne State College. After graduating with a Bachelor of Education, he was posted to a small township near Shepparton [i.e., Numurkah — C.H.J.]. He later taught at Bairnsdale for nine years.

The bibliographical note accompanying the entry for his papers in the National Library of Australia, some of which papers were provided by Pascoe as late as 2008, states, 

Bruce Pascoe was born in Richmond, Victoria, on 11 October 1947. After graduating from Melbourne University with a Bachelor of Education, he taught as a secondary teacher and was a Curriculum Development Officer with the Victorian Education Department.

The ABC site for Q&A, as updated on March 22, 2021, states that Pascoe “was born in Victoria and graduated from Melbourne University with a Bachelor of Education.”

Given Pascoe’s birth date, in the ordinary course of events he should have finished his Year 12 (“Matriculation” as it was then known in Victoria) in 1965.

Pascoe did not, as the Wikipedia entry alleges, attend the Melbourne State College, which was only instituted in August 1972, but attended rather the Secondary Teachers’ College of Victoria, which existed from 1957 to 1971. Of this institution one learns as follows from the site “eMelbourne: the City Past and Present”:

Until the 1950s, most teacher preparation for the small State secondary education system was shared by the Melbourne Teachers’ College and the adjacent University of Melbourne. After 1945 an explosion in demand led to a rapid increase in secondary teacher preparation. | In 1949 the Education Department introduced secondary studentships, which provided a living allowance and free tuition for a university degree and a Diploma of Education, establishing the Secondary Teachers’ Training Centre in 1950 to administer these allowances and provide tutorial assistance … The centre expanded rapidly and in 1953 became the Secondary Teachers’ College, which in 1957 commenced its own three-year Trained Secondary Teachers Certificate (TSTC), for studentship holders who had failed at university.

In 1960 the Secondary Teachers’ College began admitting students straight from school; however, if there is any truth in the Wikipedia claim that Pascoe “transferred” to the College after beginning a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Melbourne University, then he presumably started on the degree on a Victorian Education Department scholarship; failed to complete his first year; then was required by the Department to enrol for a Trained Secondary Teachers Certificate at the College, the alternative being to pay out his scholarship bond and part company with the Department.

Pascoe was at the College in 1970, when filmmaker Ivan Gaal, who began employment with the Victorian Department of Education that year, met him there.

The Victorian Secondary Teachers’ College never issued degrees. Moreover, although Melbourne University offered (but no longer does) a Bachelor of Education degree, prior to the University’s 1978 graduations this degree was exclusively a post-graduate qualification available only to those who already had another degree. Bruce Pascoe’s name does not appear in any of the lists of year-by-year Melbourne University degree and diploma conferrals which until 1986 were published in the University’s annual calendars. In a Canberra Times article of March 26, 1983, in which he features prominently and is much-quoted, Pascoe in his account of his educational background makes no claim to have a degree. The writer, Patrick Connelly, tells us that

Pascoe attended the local high school and later the coveted Melbourne University High, entry to which is restricted to academic whizz-kids or their siblings. “My sister Jenny was brilliant but I was a bummer at study,” he confesses. Yet he matriculated to Melbourne University, foundered in commerce and gravitated to the State College, studying teaching and settling into his real loves: literature and drama.

Pascoe must only have developed his “false memory” that he has a degree at a later date.

If Pascoe in his written application for his professorship at Melbourne University claimed in his CV to have a Bachelor of Education degree from the University then the University authorities could not have conducted a “due diligence” investigation into his claims in the application, such as they should automatically have done. Yet whatever Pascoe wrote there, given how widely the false claim that he has that degree from the University is circulating, it is surely incumbent on the authorities to conduct such an investigation now.

23 comments
  • nfw

    What? University administrators do some research? Brucie and the others BELIEVE he has academic qualifications and that belief is good enough for them. The fact (Facts? How quaint) those of us who actually did research and worked for our degrees does not mean we are qualified for university jobs; far from it, it just shows if you make up fairy stories that will get you the money. Sounds like government to me.

  • Tony Tea

    Thanks, Colin. I’ve been asking questions about Pascoe’s educational bonafides for a while now, and it’s good to see you investigate them, or rather, lack of them, as I have suspected.

  • Claude James

    Like all novelists, of any calibre, Pascoe has a tendency to fantasy, not only in what he writes and publishes.
    The main point here is that our universities have ceased to deal with important matters in empirical, logical ways.
    It’s a bit hard for many people to comprehend this, even if they bother wondering about the issue, but we have descended into a new age of superstition.
    Superstition is the attribution of fake/false causes to fake/false effects.
    And we see this now across the board -in the education systems, in the MSM, in the legal system, in the human-caused climate scam/sham, in the multiculturalist fantasy, in the various economic policies, in the nature of the threats from China…

  • Peter OBrien

    Colin,

    good on you for following this up. You cannot take anything Pascoe says on trust.

  • rosross

    What is reprehensible is how long Pascoe has gotten away with the lies. Then again it has been some time since academics have been able to identify facts from fiction, or data from opinion.

  • rosross

    Surely there must be student records at all of these institutions Pascoe claims he attended which would have his date of admission and date of graduation?

  • Tony Tea

    Rosross, no doubt “lost” in the great floods of 1973.

  • NFriar

    @Tony Tea – from memory you and I had a discussion on here.
    I assumed he transferred to a Teacher’s College for whatever reason and his appointment as a Professor was merely on ‘skin’ and not merit – given the Victorian State attitude to aborigines in Victoria – first at everything including a Council of some sorts with plans on a Treaty.

    ( It is noted that Pascoe’s ancestry has now been dropped by Melbourne Uni)

    Haven’t there been those with some aborigines ancestry appointed as professors – Stan Grant?

  • NFriar

    Stan was appointed as a Professor without having graduated…. in recent years – based on skin – not merit?

  • john.singer

    Both the University of Melbourne and the Minister for Indigenous Australians have held out to the world that Mr Pascoe is an Aboriginal Academic and Author without it seems sufficient investigation into his credentials, By that failure they are diminishing the value others set on their qualifications and are exposing students to question the authenticity of their studies. It is not too late to make the necessary inquiries but it is too late not to.

  • Doubting Thomas

    The evIdence is mounting that blatant fraud has been, and is continuing to be committed and abetted by Pascoe and his claque. That there seems to be no way to have anything done about this is outrageous.

  • Daffy

    It looks like we are on the path the the US professor. That is, almost anyone who gets before students is a ‘professor’.

  • Lonsdale

    Is Stan Grant a professor somewhere?

  • Claude James

    Lonsdale? Answer is no. But with his limited comprehension of everything he writes and talks about, he’s in in the running for the big time. MSM, universities, and let’s not rule out the High Court.

  • Peter OBrien

    Did Pascoe apply for his professorship or was it just a brain snap by some activist academic and an unsolicited offer made to him?

  • STD

    The degree of scam is breathtaking- rotten to the core ,and utterly divorced from the real truth of reality-to make use of the words of INXS- “Every single one of us is dead inside”( incide).

  • MungoMann

    It looks like it is time for us humble taxpayers to get some value out of our SBS by asking them to feature Uncle Bruce in an episode of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

    Every two-bit, C-grade celebrity has been on the show – why not Australia’s most successful Aboriginal writer, professor, fire-fighter, farmer and raconteur of all time? What could go wrong?

  • Elizabeth Beare

    From ‘Who do you think you are?” to ‘Who you really are?’

    Can’t think of a better use for otherwise wasted ABC funds.

  • NFriar

    Even without a degree from a University – Pascoe also doesn’t meet requirements wherein a degree is not necessary – Tony Thomas covers it in this paper>
    ~~~~~~~~~
    Bruce Pascoe, Melbourne University’s Former Aborigine
    27th October 2021
    Melbourne Uni introduced its “Enterprise Professors” category in 2015.

    Criteria for appointment:

    2.1. “In order to be appointed to the position of ‘Melbourne Enterprise Professor’ or ‘Honorary Melbourne Enterprise Professor’, individuals must:

    ♦ Have an eminent and sustained record of peak level leadership, entrepreneurship and influence;

    ♦ Be widely recognised for their outstanding achievements in industry, business, professions and/or government; and

    ♦ Demonstrate specialist expertise and a highly developed industry/business knowledge base that matches in breadth and depth what is expected of all professors of the University”.

    As a retired Associate Professor of History Les Louis puts it, “However loosely interpreted, Bruce Pascoe does not meet these criteria.”

    [In response to questions from Tony Thomas – ]
    With commendable efficiency but faint relevance, a reply came a day later from a uni PR Amelia Swinburne:
    “Here is our statement, which is attributable to a University of Melbourne spokesperson.
    The Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences appointed Bruce Pascoe as an Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture to further our work in this area. His extensive knowledge and experience is extending our teaching, research and engagement in Indigenous agriculture. Bruce is a respected member of our Faculty and makes a valuable contribution to our academic community, and we will not be reviewing his appointment.”

    https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2021/10/bruce-pascoe-melbourne-universitys-former-aborigine/

  • padmmdpat

    Like a true Aussie he has more front than Myer.

  • Katzenjammer

    Pascoe has permanently laid to rest any alternate definition of “chutzpah”.

  • pmprociv

    As always with Bruce Pascoe, it all seems to grow curiouser and curiouser. For me, this extract from The Canberra Times of March, 1983 was quite revealing: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/116375658

    It reports that at State College, he studied teaching and settled into “his real loves: literature and drama”. After about 10 years teaching in country schools (I still don’t know at what level, but possibly high school), he bought a country property, but also worked fulltime with the curriculum section of the Victorian Education Department’s Drama Resources Centre. He submitted work for publication. “His poetry was not a roaring success . . . [but] In four years, 21 of his works [of fiction] were published.” He was also quoted: “When you’re out in a paddock working away with a crowbar the brain is in neutral gear and the ideas just roll in,” Pascoe says. “I definitely recommend fencing for the aspiring writer.”

    So, there it is: a bloke with a vivid imagination and a love of dramatic performance, spending a lot of time ruminating about a fast track to fame and fortune. His research wasn’t of the boring academic kind, sitting in libraries and ploughing through reams of dense writing, but simply living in the “university of the real world”, dreaming up various possible futures for himself. His early novels, with Aboriginal themes, allowed him to slip into “character”. Not only did nobody bother checking or questioning his identity, but his works attracted praise, admiration and recognition, all enhanced (and validated?) by the marketing advantage of Aboriginality. Having got away with it so easily, he embellished his new persona, and gained a loyal and growing following. The world, and Bruce, were thus prepared for “Dark Emu”, and here we are.

    I can imagine a restless bloke with a penchant for confabulation like that would not be easy to live with — perhaps explaining why he’s been married at least twice. It would be fascinating to know what his former partners might have to say on this subject; has anyone ever contacted them?

  • wdr

    There ought to be an official protest to Melbourne University about this outrageous situation.

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