Is Murdoch University Changing Its Culture? A reshuffle of the executive and governance is underway


“I am proud that no one at UWA has been fired,” she said.

“We used the collective bargained employment framework approach, saving time until the end of 2021 so that a better plan could be considered, consulted and mapped for the future.”

But she did not welcome the cultural wars that erupted between universities and their leaders when they could not agree on a national framework to save jobs with the National Tertiary Education Union.

“The most important thing to do when you take a VC job is to let things look better than you find them. “

Professor Emeritus Jane den Hollander

“We ended up catastrophizing; the universities deciding their sovereignty were called into question, as if. And it was certainly not by the NTEU, ”she said.

She criticized the federal government’s “groundhog day of budget cuts and regulatory changes”.

“The reductionist view of our elected leaders is demoralizing and our place in the world is at risk as funding is cut and increasingly narrow university education gains momentum,” said Professor den Hollander.

“Universities can do much more to our country than just ensuring that graduates get jobs within six months of graduation. “

She said the great moral challenges of climate change and the indigenous voice in parliament had not gone away, which remained important to the nation and the higher education sector.

“The surge of support for Black Lives Matter, the increase in homelessness, deaths in senior care and the trend in violence against women are red signals; signals that we are not doing things right and that there are divisions that will bring us down if we do not stand up.

“This is the job of universities; to reflect society, to educate, to speak and write the truth and also to provide some of the solutions.

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As an expert in digital technologies, Professor den Hollander profoundly changed Deakin’s teaching and research more than a decade ago by grounding him “in a digital origin” and creating better access to teaching. remotely, which helped him “climb the ranks”.

She said making such a change was very difficult at first and “you can’t avoid discussion and battles,” calling it the most difficult job in academia.

“When you take on a VC position – in fact, any leadership role – the most important thing to do first and foremost is to leave things better than you find them – that’s the measure of our success, and that is our individual heritage. “

She stressed the importance of having a strong culture that supports the strategy: “The staff at UWA did this and my part which I will treasure”.

And in an almost call to arms, she told academics the university sector was “now in danger”.

“Years of successive cuts and malicious disinterest are paying off,” she said.

“Inclusion and the right to education are now in question, as is our ability to contribute ideas and speak the truth.

“Our social license is in question and this will require our full attention.”

It’s not a federal election, but votes matter

The Murdoch University senatorial elections, which close on December 10, will explain what motivates those invested in higher education to vote.

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The alumni seat held by Abby Agrawal is hotly contested by 10 others, including a retired fisheries science professor who opposed the dissolution of the face-to-face conferences in Murdoch, and a duty lawyer for Murdoch. company and the former chairman of the guild, who only recently left the university.

Alex Bellotti, a law graduate and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission investigator, called for an end to the bad press about the university and to hold senior management to account.

“Murdoch’s current approach to management and pedagogy does a disservice to everyone involved, leading it to achieve the unenviable rank of the state’s least performing public university for research,” teaching and impact in the influential Times Higher Education ‘World University Rankings, ”said Mr. Bellotti.

“As alumni, we must take a stand and declare that this is enough, before Murdoch’s reputation (and by extension the reputation of our degrees) is further eroded by the shutdown of core areas of research and research. teaching, cost reductions masquerading as “contemporary” or unproductive pedagogy. legal campaigns against whistleblowers.

Former CSIRO marine biologist and Murdoch professor emeritus Neil Loneragan agreed that since 2012, “major and damaging restructuring” has had an impact on the reputation and morale of staff.

“By appointing to an alumni position in the Senate, I bring both senior ‘internal’ experience and an ‘external’ perspective on priorities that can ensure the highest value and quality of Murdoch University for the public good of WA and the alumni community, ”he said. stated in his electoral profile.

“If elected, I would uphold the values ​​of fairness, respect, fairness and transparency in planning and decision-making to ensure the reputation of the university and the value of the Murdoch degree.

But among the most radical changes is the university’s academic council, where academic representation drops from 19 seats to 25 out of 50, with two additional seats for principals and two additional seats for students, while office seats are falling from 21 to 17, in a national trend reversal.

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He returns the balance of power over academia to the hands of his local representatives, which was conceded after a review by the Higher Education Quality and Standards Agency found Murdoch risked failing to comply with its academic advice identifying, mitigating and maintaining “monitoring of material risks that impact the quality of teaching and learning at Murdoch”.

“Based on research, best practices and benchmarking, the composition of the academic council at Murdoch University has been adjusted, with elected members now constituting a clear majority,” said a spokesperson for Murdoch University. university.

“The university has also added the direct election of university members to many subordinate committees, thereby expanding participation in academic governance across the university.”

Dr Michael Tomlinson, who was a governance and compliance consultant at TEQSA until January 2020, said university boards or councils were previously at the heart of university decision-making structures, where academic policies and strategies were discussed and decisions made. to accredit the courses.

“But their position has gradually eroded and more and more decisions have been made by management over the years,” he said.

“It was a trend at all universities here and abroad.”

Dr Tomlinson said the changes at Murdoch should allow for more collective oversight of management proposals.

“This is more difficult to achieve if the academic council is dominated by ex officio management appointees, who will naturally tend to support a management agenda,” he said.

“In some ways, these collegiate bodies can be internal watchdogs ensuring that academic standards are maintained and that corners are not cut in the pursuit of entrepreneurial goals.”

Murdoch scholar and whistleblower Gerd Schroeder-Turk said it was great to see the university turn the tide of academic representation on boards, boards and committees because it was essential to the greater public good of the education of future generations.

“The recent changes make me optimistic and will strengthen Murdoch University as it continues its proud and strong contribution and service to our society,” he said.

“I believe that a responsible and happy staff is the best guarantee of excellent results for a university. This is exactly what increasing the number of elected members of committees does.

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Norma A. Roth