What “tenure” may mean for a professor at UNSW

The Federal Court is on the case

Melissa Knothe Tate and the university are in dispute over redundancy. Professor  Knothe Tate moved from the US in 2013 to become the inaugural Paul M Trainor Chair in Biomedical Engineering at UNSW. She states that the university told her then the position was endowed, with guaranteed funding but that UNSW made her redundant last year. UNSW says Professor Knothe Tate’s position was disestablished in a restructure to “address funding shortfalls” and that this was done in accordance with “relevant industrial agreements.”

Professor Knothe Tate disputes this and after the failure of mediation has asked for the matter to be transferred from the Federal Circuit Court to the Federal Court. The former is “a high-volume trial court with limited resources to hear lengthy and difficult matters. Such matters are better heard in the Federal Court of Australia that has the resourcing and time to hear such matters,” Judge Humphreys of the Circuit Court concludes.

Matters to be considered include;

“the meaning of the word ‘tenured’ within the university context and an endowed professorial chair”

“consideration of the terms and conditions of the relevant workplace enterprise agreements for the university”

“the capacity of the university to disestablish a tenured professorial position.”

“The Court considers these matters to be of some significant general importance by reference to the tertiary education sector,” Judge Humphreys states.