Melbourne University chancellor Elizabeth Alexander has lashed out at the government about changes to the make-up of university councils in a letter to students and staff, which said she had told the government about her concerns to no avail.
”We are disappointed by the action of the government and its apparent unwillingness to respond to our objections,” she said.
Under present rules university councils and TAFE boards must include elected student and staff representatives. But according to legislation passing through Parliament this week, these representatives could only be appointed by the council or board if they demonstrated the ”necessary” skills.
If universities wanted to retain students and staff on councils, the government would then appoint an equal or greater number of its own representatives, a spokesman confirmed. Ms Alexander said the changes were an ”unjustified incursion”.
We stressed that removal of these representatives was likely to disrupt the relationship of council to the university as a whole and inevitably cause resentment at staff and student levels, giving rise to tensions which do not currently exist.
However, La Trobe deputy chancellor John McKenzie welcomed the proposed changes.
The focus on professionalism and reduced size will facilitate a more skills-based governing body appropriate for responsibilities that include oversight of strategy, finance and compliance.
The University of Ballarat said it had no concerns about the changes. “Staff and students will still be strongly represented on campus through other means,” a spokesman said.
Victoria University’s pro vice-chancellor external affairs Rob Brown said the greater flexibility “seems a good thing,” noting that under the legislation universities could include greater student and staff membership on their boards if they wanted.
Deakin, Monash, RMIT and Swinburne all said they are considering the changes.