The Ramsay Centre’s proposed Western Civilisation course will be relabelled as a course in “Western Tradition”, under a revised draft of the University’s memorandum of understanding, and Ramsay Centre representatives will not have voting rights on the course’s governing committees.
The University informed staff of the changes on Tuesday evening, after nearly half of all respondents of a staff survey expressed concern that the proposed MoU would fail to protect academic independence.
The MoU has been amended to address some staff concerns about the decision-making power and political agenda of the Centre. The name change from “Western Civilisation” to “Western Tradition” reflects the belief, voiced by some survey respondents, that the Centre’s terminology was too vague. Other respondents argued that the terminology glorifies Western societies, but this wasn’t acknowledged in the University’s report.
There were also significant changes to the Centre’s level of control over the course. The one Ramsay Centre representative who sits on selection committees for scholarships and academic appointments will not have voting rights, diluting the Centre’s powers, as many staff members requested. A review of the course will be conducted by a mixed team of representatives from the University and the Centre, who will jointly determine whether the University will continue to receive funding from the Centre, rather than by the Centre alone.
Staff teaching the program will be “free from any interference or oversight, bar the University’s usual quality assurance mechanisms”, building on the first draft, which stated that “the teaching and marking of students in the program will be the sole responsibility of the University”.
The University will also have control over marketing for the course—something which wasn’t mentioned in the first draft of the MoU.
Other changes would tie the learning outcomes of the course to the University’s “pedagogic values”, as specified in the undergraduate curriculum.
The Ramsay Centre, a conservative public interest group backed by John Howard and Tony Abbott, is offering the University $25 million to host its Western studies course. There has been heated debate over the proposal, especially since the ANU rejected a similar deal in June.
The University’s survey results, released last week, show that USyd staff are divided on the issue: 43 per cent of respondents were not satisfied with the draft MoU, 42.6 per cent were satisfied, and the remainder gave an unclear answer. Out of those who opposed the draft MoU, almost 66 per cent of respondents rejected it because they were concerned about the Centre’s political agenda and ability to influence the University.
The University has not accepted the Centre’s offer yet, and the institute is yet to receive USyd’s draft MoU. Negotiations between the University and the Centre are ongoing.