Public Universities Australia calls for urgent university governance reform

                                                                                    Media Release 25 May 2022

Public Universities Australia calls for urgent university governance reform

Public Universities Australia welcomes the change of the Australian Government and looks forward to working with the new education minister on improving the public standing and effectiveness of Australia’s universities.

The top priority that needs to be addressed, and which we assert is at the root of almost all the problems that currently beset our universities (such as declining academic freedom, persecution of whistle-blowers, grotesque senior management salaries, falling academic standards, and growing casualisation of academic staff) is their currently outdated and out-of-touch governance arrangements.

Universities certainly do need a better government funding model, but providing more money to our universities alone will not solve the problems they face.

Rather, the key to re-establishing public confidence in our universities is to change the Federal and State legislation and regulations that determine how our universities are governed.

The governance of Australian public universities must be collegial, transparent and accountable

University governing bodies should be accountable both to staff and students they govern and to the public they serve. They should be composed of a guaranteed majority of active members of the academic community. External financial, commercial and community expertise is welcome, but it should never dominate the composition of any university’s governing body. Governing bodies should also include individuals (including alumni) who can represent the interests of the broader community.

Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors should be democratically elected and ultimately be answerable to the entire university community (including students, graduates and academic and professional staff).

All decisions made by the governance bodies of Australian public universities should be transparent and visible to the entire community they serve. Equally, all discussions by governing bodies (unless they concern matters of a personal nature or that are commercial in confidence) must be open to the public, and detailed minutes of such discussions must be made publicly available in a timely manner.

We believe that such changes will help return service in the furtherance of the public good to the centre of our universities’ mission, strategic planning and budgeting.

Public Universities Australia (PUA)

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