Third Annual Conference 23 March 2023

Australian Association of University Professors Third Annual Conference 2023

Thursday March 23rd, 2023 (Times are AEDT)

Register here: Conference and Webinar registration

If you will be attending in-person at the Oorala Lecture Theatre, UNE, Armidale, please contact

Session 1 Chair – Gabriel Donleavy, UNE

09:00 – 09:10 Acknowledgement to Country, introduction, welcome and housekeeping

09:10 – 09:30 Save UTAS Campus, lessons to learn – Pam Sharpe, Unimelb

University of Tasmania has gone further than most Australian universities by planning to sell its main Sandy Bay campus and moving the university to the Hobart CBD along with relocating its regional campuses in Burnie and Launceston to more central city locations. Meanwhile the rationalisation of teaching (supposedly as a reaction to Covid) almost caused the collapse of the UTAS Law School. As Founder and Chair of the ’Save UTAS Campus’ group, I will reflect on some aspects of community resistance to the UTAS plans and the ongoing State Government Legislative Council enquiry into the governance of the university.

09:30 – 09:50 Reconstituting Universities in Conformity with their Legislative Foundations:

The case of the University of Tasmania and the 2022 Tasmanian Parliamentary Review of the UTas Act (1992) – Jeff Malpas, UTas

Despite the radical changes to Australian universities over the last thirty years, the extent to which those changes are consistent with the various state legislative provisions under which Australian universities are constituted has seldom been given detailed scrutiny. Earlier this year a parliamentary review was undertaken of the Act that founds the University of Tasmania – a review that was initiated largely as a result of public concern at the operations of the University with particular reference to its proposal to move its main campus into the Hobart CBD. That review offered an unprecedented opportunity to reconsider the legitimacy both of past university reforms and of the current mode of university operations with implications, not only for Tasmania, but for higher education across Australia. This brief talk will look at some key aspects of the Tasmanian legislation, whose character mirrors that of similar legislation elsewhere in Australia, with specific reference to the founding principles it contains. The main contention is that there is a clear lack of consistency between those principles and other elements in the relevant legislation, that there is a lack of consistency between those principles and the so-called ‘reforms’ of the last thirty years, and that there is a lack of consistency between those principles and the current configuration and mode of operation of the University of Tasmania. The wider conclusion is that this lack of consistency extends across the entire sector and that the current mode of operation of Australian universities is thus inconsistent with the idea of the University that sits at the center of every University Act around the country. It is also, it will be argued, inconsistent with the idea of the university that continues to be endorsed by the majority of Australians.

09:50 – 10:10 Discussion

10:10 – 10:30 Professional ethical framework, part 1 –John Kenny, UTas

AAUP Professional Ethical Framework for Australian Academics

An overview of Framework and the planned research: what we have done and where we plan to go; a discussion about implications for AAUP of adoption of the Framework; why we need the Framework. How can it be used it to build the reputation and influence of AAUP? Commitment? Communication? Dissemination? Refinement?

10:30 – 10:50 Professional ethics framework, part 2 – John Kenny, UTas

A discussion about the broader implications of the Framework for the sector. The need for professional standards of practice to set more clear parameters around academic working conditions. Consideration of our relationship with the NTEU. What academic accountability should look like… A formal submission to the Ministerial review (working conditions) based around the Framework.

10:50 – 11:10 Discussion

11:10 – 11:30 Academic Freedom – Robyn Bartel, UNE

Academic freedom and collegiality are being undermined in Australia by adverse political interference and perverse university responses. State suppression is evident in acute instances and in the chronic re-engineering of universities to serve a narrow economic agenda. Conservative Australian governments have intervened repeatedly to overturn peer recommendations for research funding while simultaneously instituting sector-wide cuts and an ideologically driven pro-freedom of speech agenda based on weak evidence and in disregard of institutional autonomy. Contemporary regression of academic freedom and collegiality is compounding legacy exclusion and historic silencing as university managements uncritically adopt commercial models and counter-productive internal policies. Awareness-raising and advocacy is necessary for the advancement of academic freedom and collegiality through law reform, beyond compliance behaviour, and the establishment of autonomous collegiate, inclusive and caring institutions capable of addressing the inter-related environmental and social justice challenges of our time. 

11:30 – 11:40 Discussion

Session 2 Chair – Jill Blackmore, Deakin

11:40 – 12:00 University of New England Governance, Management and Convocation – Thomas Fudge, UNE

This address will discuss the background to the calling of the UNE Convocation late last year, the usefulness and limitations of Convocation, responses by Council, the media, and the UNE Professoriate and then suggesting ways that Convocation might be helpful in addressing and potentially solving problems at other universities.

12:00 – 12:10 Discussion

12:10 – 12:30 Re-imagining the University of Western Australia’s Convocation Council – Jenny Gregory, UWA

The University of Western Australia appears to be unique amongst Australian universities in having had a continuous Convocation of Graduates with an elected Council and representation on Senate since its foundation in 1913.  Six of the Go8s also had a Convocation but most seem to have morphed into an Alumni Association, with an appointed rather than elected Council. This short presentation reflects on the meaning and history of Convocation from its mediaeval British origins until the present, before sketching the history of UWA’s Convocation — at times lamington bakers and at other times a fiery ginger group — and its reimagining as an influential group with advice for Senate, Vice Chancellors and their Executives. Its role is vital at a time when the corporate memory of most universities has been decimated, following funding crises, staff cuts and the apparent rotation of VC’s and other senior staff around the university circuit. Convocation may represent a university’s most important link with its community of graduates and the wider society.

12:30 – 12:40 Convocation at the University of New England – Trevor Brown, UNE

The interim Vice Chancellor called in December 2022 the first UNE Convocation to occur in living memory at the request of the UNE Professoriate and NTEU local Branch. Council has since “endorsed the establishment of a Standing Committee of Convocation to provide advice and input in the best interests of the University.” There will be at least two general meetings of Convocation per year. The legislation, structures and functions will be discussed.

12:40 – 13:00 Discussion

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch

Session 3 Chair – Thomas Fudge, UNE

14:00 – 14:20 Performance criteria for university councils/senates – Paul Martin, UNE

Our University Councils/Senates governance problems: Limited accountability and evaluation impedes governance improvement; directly affected stakeholders lack the power to drive or direct that improvement; Legislated change is unlikely to be an efficient and effective solution (at least in the short term).

14:20 – 14:30 Discussion

14:30 – 14:50 Changing pathways into role and composition of the professoriate – Jill Blackmore, Deakin (also see)

14:50 – 15:00 Discussion

15:00 – 15:20 History of the AAUP – Manuel Graeber, USyd

15:20 – 15:30 Discussion

End of Conference

15:30 – 16:30 AAUP Annual General Meeting