Late Friday ANU Brian Schmidt said negotiations were off with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, which proposed funding and teaching degrees at ANU. “It is clear that the autonomy with which this university needs to approve and endorse a new program of study is not compatible with a sponsored program of the type sought,” the vice chancellor said.
This was not the sense of management’s thinking that all attending got when arts dean Rae Frances briefed an open meeting on the proposal in March (CMM March 7).
And on April 30 the College of Arts and Social Sciences was indicating the university would be in control in any deal with Ramsay.
“The university’s legal framework requires ANU to retain control of the delivery of its programs. Our strong university academic structures govern academic curriculum, delivery and standards and any new degree would need to be approved by the usual ANU processes and subject to the usual quality reviews.
The proposed Ramsay scholarships would be ANU scholarships, and, as such, also fall under university policies and procedures.
Students in the proposed program would be subject to ANU legislation, policies and procedures regarding academic progress, misconduct and discipline.
Similarly, staff appointed under any funding arrangements would be appointed by an ANU selection committee and would be ANU employees, subject to the university’s HR processes and procedures.”
This did not sound like management thought it was selling out academic integrity for $30m in pieces of silver, (the sum the Ramsay Centre is said to have to spend). But the deal was never popular on campus.
There was distaste for what was considered a “Plato to NATO” great achievements of the western world approach. There was disquiet about the company it would involve the university keeping, with conservatives John Howard and Tony Abbott Ramsay board members, as once was now WA governor Kim Beazley. And many deplored the proposed structure, warning it inevitably involved an erosion of university autonomy.
The unpopularity of the proposal became pronounced, demonstrated by the carefully calibrated intervention of the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union. “It would appear the Ramsay Centre seeks to pursue a narrow, radically conservative program to demonstrate and promulgate the alleged superiority of western culture and civilisation. Any association, real or perceived, with this divisive cultural and political agenda could potentially damage the intellectual reputation of the humanities at ANU and the ANU more broadly,” the union’s Matthew King warned Professor Schmidt (CMM May 23).
And that appears to have been that, with management reading the signs in the Acton skies. A couple of days later Professor Schmidt signalled his strategy, telling staff. “ANU approaches any partnership or funding opportunity with the same core set of principles. These include retaining, without compromise, our academic integrity, autonomy and freedom, and ensuring that any program has academic merit consistent with our status as one of the world’s great universities,” ( CMM May 28)
And on Friday he implemented it.
Ramsay Civ Centre supporters harrumphed over the weekend about scholarship being excluded but on Saturday, the NTEU spoke for the campus orthodoxy. “This has always been about academic integrity, academic processes and university autonomy in a democratic society … public universities are not and ought not to be for sale.”