We’re back: CMM breaks the summer hols on day one to report the Ramsay Western Civilisation Centre has found a university partner.
What’s happening: Ramsay says the deal is worth $50 million-plus over 8 years for the University of Wollongong to teach a 16-subject BA Western Civ. UoW students will be able to take it in whole, with “an outside major” or as a double degree. The funding will also provide 150 undergrad scholarships and “the hiring of world class educators.” The university says ten academics will be recruited to teach the degree in a new school of liberal arts. A recruiter will also be appointed specifically to, “seek out the brightest inquiring minds” to study in it.” The course will be taught “in a specially refurbished place on the Wollongong campus.”
The university also announces the course will be run by senior professor (that’s a rank not a descriptor) Daniel Hutto who says his work, “is a sustained attempt to understand human nature in a way which respects natural science but which nevertheless rejects the impersonal metaphysics of much contemporary naturalism.”
Why Wollongong: The university is a respectable partner for Ramsay. It is bang-on national averages, or above, for teaching quality, student experience, learner engagement, learning resources and skills development on the student-survey based Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching. It also rates solidly for research output in relevant discipline areas on the Australian Research Council’s Excellence in Research for Australia, scoring four (out of five) for history and three for philosophy.
It also helps that UoW management wants the programme. The university’s dean of law, humanities and the arts Theo Farrell (who joined UoW from the University of London late last year) is said to have negotiated carefully and discretely. This is in contrast to the acrimony that characterised the end of talks between Ramsay and ANU in June and the saga at the University of Sydney where the university executive faces vocal opposition to its negotiating with the Civ Centre.
UoW is also home to Greg Melleuish, one of the few senior scholars to have made a considered case for western civ as a suitable subject for study during the debate the Ramsay proposal has generated. In an August essay published by the Ramsay Centre he writes;
“There may be aspects of western civilisation which have contributed to the capacity of states of western origin to become powerfu but that is not the primary reason for studying western civilisation. As commonwealths, civilisations are concerned primarily with matters associated wth the way in which we live, and should live, our lives and the ways in which we express ourselves regarding such matters.”
What happens next: This looks like a deal that is done. The Ramsay Centre says this morning’s announcement is of a “memorandum of understanding” but the university says it “will partner” with Ramsay “to deliver a new BA in western civilisation” from 2020.
It may not be the only arrangement made over the summer. There is talk around the traps of imminent announcements at the universities of Sydney and Queensland. Certainly, UoQ leadership is said to be keen and staff opposition there is not as vocal as at UniSyd. Whatever happens at either or both, the Ramsay Centre has at least one university signed-up. Given how quietly the UoW agreement was reached there could be another announcement no-one expects.