Uni Wollongong to union: see you in court

Uni Wollongong Council digs in to defend western civilisation (of the Ramsay kind)

Since council last met, academic senate has objected to management fast tracking approval of a Ramsay Western Civilisation Centre degree to start next year. And last week the National Tertiary Education Union announced it would ask the NSW Supreme Court to rule the university had failed to follow its own procedures in adopting the degree.

Off to court: However, on Friday Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings told council the approval process was “lawful and in accordance with university policies and procedures” and that it intends “to oppose the action.”

“Full support” says chancellor: Jillian Broadbent backed the degree and its approval, saying she “is comfortable that the decisions taken by the VC … have been in accordance with university policies and in the best interests of the university.”

That the chancellor felt the need to publicly state support appears to indicate how seriously the university’s leadership takes the continuing controversy over accepting Ramsay funding and the content of the course.

Ms Broadbent’s apparently careful choice of words also indicated how the university will respond to union claims in court.

What this is about: The Ramsay course content did not go through the standard academic approval process, being fast-tracked by Professor Wellings, under a rule covering necessary urgent approvals. At 10 4.1 a-b, the university’s course and subject approvals procedures policy states that a course can be pushed-through if , “there is a demonstrated benefit to the university in fast-tracking the proposal without compromising the reputation of the university.

To which the union responds that reputation is precisely what suffers under the arrangement. But the court case will be more about governance; “The university’s use of the fast-track approval process departed from the usual involvement of academic staff at all levels, and ultimately the academic senate. … Best practice academic governance requires universities to take into account and reflect the views of their staff, students and communities. This has clearly not happened,” NTEU Federal President Alison Barnes.

Management has more to lose: This is asymmetrical industrial warfare. If the union case fails in the court, nothing ventured, nothing gained and it demonstrates consistency in reviling Ramsay and promoting proper procedure. But a bad day in court, or even a loss, would be a disaster for the university’s Ramsay plan – it would not be good for Professor Welling’s standing either.

A (very) learned reader reviews the Wollongong’s Ramsay degree  here.


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