Government says unis asked the state to butt in
The Victorian government has introduced the Education Legislation Amendment (Governance) Bill 2012, which will dump requirements for councils to have elected student and staff members on university councils and TAFE boards, give the government a stronger say in council appointments and the whole say in TAFE board appointements. The changes are being strongly disputed by staff and students. But according to the government, in respect of university councils, the government is acting at the behest of the universities themselves (with the apparent exception of the University of Melbourne, which has been openly critical of the changes).
Vctorian NTEU secretary Colin Long points out that the changes provide the state government with unprecedented ability to interfere in the running of universities. They will make it possible for a university council to consist of one council appointee, the chancellor, vice-chancellor and head of academic board and seven government appointees. In other words, the government could capture control of the university’s governance.
As the idea of the university as a community of scholars seeking truth has been forcefully replaced with the concept of the university as a cog in the government economic and training machine, politicians and university bureaucrats have been gradually attempting to convert councils into boards of directors of what they see as companies selling degrees and conducting research that can be commercialised.
During debate innovation minister louise Asher told the lower house that sh’e been “advised” that the universities as awhole are strongly supportive of these particular changes.
But Liberal MP Cindy McLeish said there was nonetheless some “argy bargy” over the issue when the government held round table discussions with chancellors and vice chancellors.
The chancellors of the universities approached the minister, and as a result of that approach, and being the responsive government we are, the minister convened a number of round table discussions where there was some real argy-bargy and where matters were thrashed out..
On the matter of TAFE boards, the Labor opposition opposed the changes. Positions have flipped from a couple of years ago, when the then Coalition opposition opposed the self same changes proposed by the then Labor government.
It’s all rather moot as the Education Legislation Amendment (Governance) Bill 2012 has passed the lower house and the government also has a majority in the upper house.