Management imposes discipline structure on Uni Sydney arts

The long debated new structure for the faculty of arts and social sciences is announced

The big picture “Faculty will move from a “departmental to a disciplinary structure,” with a “reorientation” of schools. Which sounds epochal but isn’t for everybody. All six schools stay and most disciplines remain where they are. Two schools will change names, one of them, what is now Philosophical and Historical Inquiry becomes Humanities, picking up linguistics and religion. The departments of studies in religion and theatre and performance which were suggested as being for the chop continue. Gender and Cultural Studies is in Humanities (where people wanted it to be – not moved to social science and politics).

All existing courses stay and a dozen of 1800 units are “rested.”

And there are no new redundancies.

Discipline groups replace departments  there will be a chair for each discipline, or group of them. Department study coordinators will be replaced by coordinators for majors, streams and degrees.

A discipline model for FASS has been bitterly opposed, “breaking even more sharply the bond between the faculty’s organisational structure and its educational and intellectual purposes. Academics in the new structure will be grouped into ‘disciplines’ under the thumb of academic managers,” new Uni Sydney branch president of the National Tertiary Education Union, Nick Riemer wrote in statement of personal views.

However management says “academic life will continue to flourish at discipline level as well as at school levels.”

“Disciplines will in fact become more prominent in the new structure and by far the majority of you will have the same colleagues, be housed in the same buildings and participate in the same cadence of discipline and school meetings, FASS dean Lisa Adkins and deputy Garry Barrett assure staff.

But why?Students will be provided with a simplified degree pathway and stronger learning experience. Plus, “greater academic collaboration in teaching and research, consistent high-quality disciplinary training for FASS students.” The new structure will “reduce administrative double-up and contribute to securing the future of our smaller disciplines.”

Yes, but really why? “We are not currently among the top-ranked HASS faculties in Australia nor where we aim to be globally. Adkins and Barrett tell staff, citing performance on research income and ERA, QS, THE and ARU rankings and student ratings “of their overall experience.”

“Those outperforming us in Australia have had discipline-based faculty structures for some time,” they add.

But that’s not that  There is a new round of curriculum change to come, a new collaborative research scheme and a ten-year faculty plan.