Media releases

Students on University Councils under threat: Academic Freedom comes at a price for the University of Adelaide

10 Dec 16

Media Release: Students on University Councils under threat: Academic Freedom comes at a price for the University of Adelaide

Democratic governance at South Australian universities is threatened by proposed changes that will directly decrease the number of elected staff and student members on University Council, the highest governing body. The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) stands united with the affected South Australian Universities including its affiliate the Student Representative Council (Adelaide) Inc and condemns any attempt to decrease the number of elected members on university governing bodies.
Proposed changes to the University of Adelaide Act are currently being considered by the South Australian government to trim the number of elected representatives by five while the number of appointed members of University Council remain untouched. Analogous legislation is also up for discussion that would see similar changes at Flinders University.
“It is by no coincidence that the number of appointed members is unchanged. These proposed changes reflect nationwide campaigns to radically decrease or even eliminate the number of elected members of these councils in their pursuit of corporatisation,” said Student Representative Council President Mark Pace.
University Councils or Senates traditionally represent a cross-section of the university community. Elected academic and professional staff and student representatives should make up significant proportions of the membership of these bodies, allowing all members of the community to contribute to the strategic direction of the University. In Victoria similar legislation from 2012 was recently overturned after finding it decreased student and staff focused decision making.
Incoming CAPA Central Region President, Richard Matthews says the changes are not just undemocratic but are an attack on Academic Freedom. “There is a nationwide program of erosion aimed at centralising all functions of university councils and senates in the Vice Chancellor of these institutions. We know that universities are not businesses and the input from academics and students is required to ensure the direction of the academy meets the needs of society as a whole. This is what Academic Freedom is all about. These changes erode that freedom.” he said.
“CAPA will always stand by its affiliates and the importance of student involvement at all levels of university decision making. The Adelaide University Student Representative Council condemns any attempt to reduce the number of professional or academic staff, union officials, or students on University Council and believes that Adelaide University’s highest governing body must be transparent to keep the university community aware and involved in its decisions,” Mr Matthews said.
“CAPA Central Region will work to ensure representation on university governing bodies remains equal with students and staff having equal weight to those appointed by business types.”
For comment contact incoming CAPA Central Region Branch President:
Mr Richard Matthews
CentralBranch@capa.edu.au
0414 275 570