Monash VC calls for buffer between government and unis

Margaret Gardner calls for an agency to stand between universities and the vagaries of politics

Speaking on a Group of Eight podcast yesterday, the vice chancellor of Monash University nominated two issues that are shaping “top-level discussion,” freedom of speech on campus and foreign interference. Free speech “is not actually at great threat in our universities,” she said. “We get discussions about foreign interference, there’s not a lot of evidence that there is a really great threat in this space and the universities have responded and have always been responsibly engaged,” Professor Gardner added.

“Threat aspects are culturally raised and that seems to be the basis on which people read the relationship and that seems to be a very unfortunate and limited way of talking about the way universities are embedded in the future of our society and economy,” she said.

Professor Gardner proposed a “buffer body that would stop a lot of this tetchy debate.”

This would be the place for funding discussions and on issues like foreign interference through to freedom of speech, “in ways that are considered and are not driven by populist politics.”

Prior to the restructure of higher education by the Labor Government in the early ‘90s the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission recommended funding for universities and then then colleges of advanced education to the government.