The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is taking the University of Wollongong and its vice chancellor Professor Paul Wellings to the Supreme Court over the approval process used to create its Ramsay Centre degree.
The union lodged a claim in the Supreme Court of NSW to see approval of the Bachelor of Arts – Western Civilisation degree declared invalid.
NTEU’s UOW branch president Associate Professor Georgine Clarsen said the basis of the legal challenge was that the VC inappropriately invoked the fast-track approval process for the degree.
Clarsen said while the fast-track process is commonly and appropriately used for minor changes to courses or to move them to other university centres, to establish a new degree that’s “immensely controversial and has demonstrably affected the reputation of the University of Wollongong” is not an appropriate time to invoke it.
She added that members are concerned about the Ramsay Centre as an organisation, its reputation and aims. “We do not think it is an organisation that our university should partner with and we defend our members’ right to express their concerns about these issues,” she said.
NTEU national president Dr Alison Barnes said the action was made due to the “gradual and persistent erosion of academic governance at our universities in recent decades”.
“Corporate governance and managerial prerogative are displacing collegiality – and it is time to ‘draw a line in the sand’,” Barnes said.
“The University’s subsequent dismissal of the Academic Senate’s objection indicates its disregard for its own academic community.
“Best practice academic governance requires universities to take into account and reflect the views of their staff, students and communities. This has clearly not happened in this case.”
Clarsen said through collegial processes, committees, discussion and levels of scrutiny, academics have together devised courses and degrees and accredited them. “In this case, our managers have pre-empted that and decided that they themselves are able to decide and accredit a course without recourse to that normal process.”
“We feel that has been going on for some time and it’s time to call a halt to it.”
UOW said that as it is a legal matter, the university will not be making public comment at this time.Do you have an idea for a story?
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