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WOLLONGONG UNIVERSITY GIVES GREEN LIGHT TO WESTERN CIVILISATION DEGREE

In an bid to thwart a union court challenge to its Western Civilisation course that is due to start next year, the University of Wollongong’s top governing body has intervened to green light the new degree.  The university’s council decided to use its ultimate authority to approve the degree, which is sponsored by the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, independently of the university’s regular processes.  In a statement the university said the decision was intended to remove any uncertainty about whether the Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation would begin in 2020 as planned.

The university called on the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) , which launched NSW Supreme Court action in April this year in an attempt to stop the degree’s rollout, to end its court challenge.  NTEU national president Alison Barnes responded by condemning the council’s decision, saying it was “another example of the university not following its normal processes, at the expense of academic governance”.  She said the union would consider the impact of the university’s move on its legal case and “decide next steps as soon as we are in a position to do so”.

The council said it took its decision under NSW legislation governing the University of Wollongong which says the council has powers to “act in all matters concerning the university”, and to “provide such courses, and confer such degrees … as it thinks fit”.  The NTEU’s court action challenged the decision by University of Wollongong vice-chancellor Paul Wellings, announced in February, to use his fast-track power to speed the formal approval of the Western civilisation degree, meaning that it was not considered and approved in the normal way by the university’s academic senate which represents academics across all faculties of the university.

The NTEU lodged a claim in the NSW Supreme Court to have Professor Wellings’ decision declared invalid and to halt its preparations to offer the degree.  University of Wollongong chancellor Jillian Broadbent said that the council had full respect for the university’s academic process, particularly the role of the academic senate.  “By approving the degree the council has acted in the best interests of the university.  It will enable progress to continue despite any continuing legal challenge to the vice-chancellor’s approval decision,” she said.  “The council remains prepared to continue with its legal defence of the vice-chancellor’s exercise of his delegated authority.”

Ms Barnes said that the NTEU’S case against the University of Wollongong centred on the by-passing of normal academic governance processes which “play a vital role in quality control and are fundamental to ensuring academic integrity and quality”. “The NTEU is again disappointed at UOW’s disregard for its academic staff and the broader university community,” she said.  Ms Broadbent said “I encourage the whole university community to unite in a shared commitment to our objectives of encouraging ‘the advancement, development and application of knowledge informed by free inquiry’ and ‘the provision of courses of study across a range of fields.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports