By Association: Crafting Mission and Values Statements for the Australian University Heads of English


What are the values that define the profession of university English Studies in Australia, and how do those values align with what we may identify as the values of literature? And what values should a professional association of ‘English’ academics prioritise when speaking on behalf of its members and their discipline(s)? In 2021 and 2022, the Australian University Heads of English (AUHE) instigated a project to revise its mission statement and draft a statement of values. The project came about as a response to a series of public pronouncements by past and present academics, politicians and journalists about the nature of the discipline of English, on a range of matters from the very name of the field, to its economic value as the subject of education, to its impact on students and the broader community. This essay reports on the project’s results to articulate the mission and value statements for AUHE. It also seeks to open up a series of questions about the nature and identity of our profession and its place within contemporary Australia.


This is an essay about the politics and ethics of disciplinarity in the contemporary Australian humanities academy and of the efforts of scholars within one discipline, English Studies, to establish and consolidate the bona fides of a professional representative body. In itself, the drafting of mission and values statements for a group like the Australian Universities Heads of English (AUHE) is of no particular consequence – such statements are by now a standard feature of any professional organisation or association; ultimately, the utility and impact of the specific statements described below are yet to be determined. But in the context of a special issue of Australian Literary Studies devoted to the value of literary studies in Australia this essay approaches the topic from a perspective often overlooked, or simply taken for granted when the matter of values and the labour of literary study, criticism and education are examined. Unlike…

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Published 30 October 2023 in Special Issue: Literary Value. Subjects: Literature - Study & teaching.

Cite as: Clarke, Robert. ‘By Association: Crafting Mission and Values Statements for the Australian University Heads of English.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 38, no. 2, 2023, doi: 10.20314/als.f51e4ecee5.