Michael Spence has set non-negotiable terms for the University of Sydney in any talks about conducting courses from, or for, the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. The vice chancellor set out his position in a response to the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, which is flat-out against treating with Ramsay.
“We are talking to the Ramsay Centre about what our terms of engagement with them might be. This includes non-negotiable matters such as academic freedom and autonomy. If we are unable to reach agreement on these matters, we will not proceed with further negotiations,” the vice chancellor states.
Dr Spence addresses three core issues:
access to information: the VC rejects claims the university has a confidential MOU with the Ramsay centre. “This is simply not the case … there is no MoU with Ramsay. If and when there is, we will make it public.”
curriculum development: “any course we would teach at the University, Ramsay or other, would have to be workshopped and developed by a group of relevant academics before it could be taken to a faculty board and to the Academic Board for approval. This is not least so that people could express an interest in teaching on the course and be a part of developing it.
“Any course to be offered with the support of Ramsay funding would need to be developed and approved in the normal way for an academic course at the University.”
process: “If we reach the stage of developing a formal course proposal, it will proceed through the normal academic processes, including the Faculty Board, Undergraduate Studies Committee and Academic Board prior to consideration by the Senate. There is no other way that a course can be approved and offered at the University.”
Dr Spence adds the university wants Ramsay’s resources, but only on his terms. “The support potentially available from the Ramsay Centre represents a rare opportunity for a university such as ours, which has the intellectual resources in core relevant areas, to develop an internationally excellent programme. However, we would never consider compromising on the principles of academic freedom and integrity that constitute the very foundation of this University in order to secure it.”
And the vice chancellor puts the onus on Ramsay to accept the university’s position before any negotiations begin.
“We will need to reach agreement with Ramsay on these core principles before we even consider negotiating a formal agreement or developing a detailed course proposal.”