The current composition of the Australian Universities Accord Panel and Reference Group gives professional academic staff no distinct voice. The academic staff and students are not a mere stakeholder group but ARE the University (as specified under the relevant state university acts) and must be included. We, therefore, appeal to you to effect the inclusion of the Australian Association of University Professors (AAUP; https://www.professoriate.org/) which represents senior academics across all fields and Public Universities Australia (PUA; https://puau.org), the combined voices and by far largest representative body of academics and students in the Australian higher education sector.
A government review that from the outset substantially precludes the direct input from academic teachers, researchers and students and instead overly relies on paid consultants and the level of senior management that in fact bears direct responsibility for many of the current failures is likely to perpetuate the suppression of deeper analyses and perspectives on how the higher education sector can be reformed beyond the status quo. A recent article in The Australian by the chair of the Australian Universities Accord Panel (6 Jan 2023) congratulates the sector on past achievements and reiterates the magnitude of the challenges ahead yet provides no indication of how – as per explicit ministerial brief – to “drive lasting reform in Australia’s higher education system” when those formidable investments into the up-skilling of the nation are eventually made. Why? The voices of those who actually deliver the education and research in their daily work are excluded. The Government speaks to management which is not the same as the University. The well-documented problems in University governance have increasingly become matters of public attention. Australians are concerned about the quality of the university education available for their children.
Instead, the government should respond to the need for a fundamental university governance reform, that enshrines and better protects academic values, such as integrity, scholarship, and collegiality, that as many studies and empirical observation show are systemically undermined by a non-professional managerial culture that perpetuates a high-risk business model of selling university places to international students beyond sustainability, introduces metrics and pressures that further a spurious productivity at the price of lower quality, while generating an unprecedented scale of abuse, exploitation and inequity within the university sector.
The university sector deserves closer scrutiny and a more transparent and open process, which in our view would be best enabled by a Royal Commission.
In summary, given its current composition, the Australian Universities Accord Panel and Reference Group fundamentally lack scholarly and thus academic repute, and orientation. We, therefore, seek convincing involvement of academia in the composition of the Australian Universities Accord Panel and Reference Group. This can be achieved by inviting direct participation of our national association of university professors (AAUP) as well as Public Universities Australia (PUA).
Council of the Australian Association of University Professors (AAUP)