Australian Catholic U dims its beacon of civilisation

Australian Catholic U management states, “there has been some inaccurate reporting” of proposed staff change in humanities and social sciences” –  which may be correct, although there is no way of telling, as the statement includes no numbers.

However, the university adds, “we will continue to conduct both teaching and research into these areas through a re-shaped community of academics that will still present a substantial offering compared with other Australian universities.” 

Which leaves staff and union allegations on specific job cuts unchallenged. Critics claim 32 positions will go, two-thirds in philosophy and history.

Management points out that plans to cut staff costs by $42m date to June 2020 (Campus Morning Mail ) but as to why HASS should take a hit, “over the past few years, the number of staff in these areas has grown considerably; so much that our staffing profile is disproportionate to the number of students in these subjects and is out of step with the rest of the higher education sector.”

Gosh – how did that happen?  Well, the university was keen on building its research rep, with international hires and an internal emphases on productivity, since the launch of its institute strategy a decade back. As the university’s 2022-’23 research plan stated, “world-leading researchers driving excellence, developing and empowering future generations … and increasing pathways and opportunities to ensure ACU develops world-ready graduate researchers.”

Plus, humanities research fit ACU’s tradition, or at least it used to.  As previous VC Greg Craven put it, “as a beacon of civilisation, a university has a duty to help its society to appreciate the way in which art, ethics, religion and philosophy, as manifestations of that society’s spirit and values, can help society continue to reflect on what matters most as it moves forward,” (Campus Morning Mail November 3 14 2018).

So what has changed? Perhaps a big commitment to HASS now dates from times past – when a major measure of university success was results in Excellence for Research in Australia and they were disciplines were ACU thought it could make a mark.

But ERA is no more – and both the previous and current government talk-up applied research with economy expanding outcomes.

It appears ACU is no longer as big in the beacon business as it was.



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