Tehan to “embolden” chancellors and councils on free speech

The Education Minister says the government “will embolden” them, “to make sure that their university is implementing the (French free speech) code”

“We’re giving them a key role now, and we want them to seize that role,” Mr Tehan said.

The minister was speaking at the launch yesterday of Sally Walker’s review of universities implementation of Robert French’s model code for free speech on campus (CMM yesterday).

Professor Walker found nine universities in-line with Mr French’s code, 14 mostly there, four partly and six not at all.

Mr Tehan said he was looking to a panel of chancellors to put templates of the code in place. The minister mentioned chair of their council, Stephen Gerlach (Flinders U), John Brumby (La Trobe U) Julie Bishop (ANU), Belinda Hutchinson (Uni Sydney) Peter Shergold (Western Sydney U) and Paul Jeans (Uni Newcastle). ”What we are doing now is we are saying to those chancellors and their governing councils, we want you to take up the mantle and really show the way.”

Mr Tehan added there could be a role for the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, in considering university statements of their commitment to the code – Professor Walker proposes an “attestation” on freedom of speech and academic freedom by a university’s governing body be included in annual reports.

As to what happens next, Mr Tehan made it plain it is up to universities. He acknowledged the government could tie funding to adherence to the free speech code, “but that’s not where we need to go. And we shouldn’t have to go there. This should be something which the universities, of themselves, just adopt and see as key tenets of what they do.”



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