The University of Queensland will commence negotiations in the new year for the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation to fund an undergraduate degree. Vice Chancellor Peter Hoj made the much-anticipated announcement yesterday morning in a message, assuring, “all UQ staff and students that the principle of the university’s independence with regard to academic decisions is a red-line issue for UQ. This point was recognised and understood in the discussion with the Ramsay Board, as was the need for UQ to engage in genuine consultation about the proposal and the likely governance principles that would overlay any potential partnership.”
The news was greeted with a measured response by campus president of the National Tertiary Education Union, Andrew Bonnell; “If Ramsay is able to meet the threshold tests, principally relating to university autonomy and guarantees of academic autonomy, then the debate about the academic merits of the proposal will get under way, and I fully expect that debate to be a lively one. Colleagues have already expressed concerns about the possible impact of this proposal on existing humanities programmes, and on UQ’s relationships with non-Western and Indigenous communities”.
In contrast, the NTEU is upset indeed with the agreement between the University of Wollongong and Ramsay announced yesterday. A Ramsay degree will be taught at UoW from 2020 in a deal worth $50m plus over eight years.
Negotiations were conducted so quietly that the Monday morning announcement was the first UoW staff outside a tight loop knew of the deal.
“Given the great controversy surrounding the proposal to establish the Ramsay Centre at other institutions, colleagues are shocked they have not been consulted prior to the decision being made. Extensive internal collegial processes are available to the vice chancellor for this purpose. … I have attempted to contact the vice chancellor directly to discuss this matter but have had no response. I am calling on the VC (Paul Wellings) to publicly release the MOU immediately,” union branch president Georgine Clarsen said yesterday.
Last night the union’s NSW branch launched a petition opposing a Ramsay funded-degree at the university.
Attention now moves to the University of Sydney, where a bitter debate on whether management should talk to the Ramsay Centre ran for months this year. Although, as the UoW deal demonstrates, the next (and it seems certain there will be a next) negotiation may be underway elsewhere.