Needed: more academics on uni councils  

In 2016, the WA Government changed the membership of university governing bodies. Gerd Schröder-Turk suggests it was a bad idea

University councils in the west now have only one elected academic and are dominated by appointed externals, who, with university managements have the numbers on key committees – including nominations, he states in an article for the National Tertiary Education Union’s Australian Universities Review.

Councils, Schröeder-Turk suggests, should ensure “sound financial and commercial management,” but otherwise, “focus on the core purposes and functions of the universities which by and large are educational and academic in their nature.”

And that requires engaging with the experts;

“Academics are the experts in this area; their contribution to governance is not banter. Rather, to ensure that the academic voices and perspectives are central in the university council’s decision making is good governance, and the best assurance that the council keeps the core functions of the university at the heart of its decision making.”

Aspro Schröder-Turk makes it plain that while there is a risk of self-reinforcing selection bias on councils due to the state government’s changes, he does not conclude it occurs.

And he is careful to add, the article “represents academic work that the author has conducted in his role as a member of the academic community.”

In March staff re-elected him to Murdoch U’s council with just under 70 per cent of first preference votes (CMM March 15).

In 2019, the university moved to strip him of council membership following his claims Murdoch U was accepting low-academic quality international students, (which the university strenuously rejected).

“The university maintains that all members of Senate must uphold their duties. In doing so, there is a requirement as both a matter of law and a matter of principle that members of the Senate must at all times act in the best interests of the university and not use their position to cause detriment to the university,” Murdoch U stated (CMM January 20 2020). Schröder-Turk commenced legal action to stop this, which management contested, before withdrawing its motion that Council sack him (June 15 2020).

And so, Schröder-Turk continues as an academic at Murdoch U and a staff elected member of its council. The AUR by-lines him as an “honorary ASPRO” at Murdoch U but it’s a mistake.