TAFE & university councils should be governed in the public interest, says union
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is calling on all Victorian universities and TAFEs to oppose legislation before the Victorian Parliament to strip staff and student representatives of guaranteed seats on university councils.
“We will be asking all Victorian universities and TAFEs to guarantee staff and student representation on their respective councils, whether or not the amendments are passed. We will also be seeking the rejection of a proposal allowing the number of government-appointed council members to exceed the number of university-appointed members and other measures which limit the size, scope and autonomy of the councils,” said Dr Colin Long, Victorian Division Secretary.
“We congratulate the University of Melbourne Chancellor, Elizabeth Alexander, for taking a lead in opposing the changes and for standing up for the important role of staff and students in university governance. We call on other universities and TAFEs to communicate their concerns to the Baillieu in similar terms.”
Dr Long said that it was yet another attempt by the Baillieu government to wreak havoc on tertiary education institutions.
“The government doesn’t understand that TAFEs and universities are not businesses; they are important civic institutions which should be governed in the public interest,” he said.
“Staff and student representatives on boards and councils are vital because it is these people who understand the fundamental activities of TAFEs and universities best – teaching, learning and research. Business people and other outside appointees may know about running businesses but most of them have not studied for decades and have no idea about the new technologies and new ideas that are flowing through universities and TAFEs now.
“This latest foray by the Baillieu government demonstrates its narrow conception of the purpose of education – that it should provide job training for big business, and therefore it should be managed by business representatives. In the rapidly changing world, graduates with a rounded education and an ability to think and adapt are far more important than people who are trained for the specific skill needs of today’s businesses.
“Universities are not training institutes for businesses that won’t spend money on their own training, and nor are they corporate research institutes for businesses that won’t spend money on research and development. They are vital components of civil society and their governance arrangements should reflect this, including by having staff and student representatives.”
Dr Long said that university statutes were important documents and when governments seek to change them they should have a reason to do so.
“No change is benign, even if the government thinks it might be. Take the example of Swinburne University of Technology. A few years ago, its Act was amended to remove its statutory responsibility to provide higher education to the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Now Swinburne is closing its Lilydale campus and wants to flog it off,” he said.
“It’s also telling that the Baillieu Government plans to foist the restrictions on staff and student representation without any consultation with the universities and TAFE themselves.”
Media enquiries: Carmel Shute, NTEU Media Officer: 0412 569 356 firstname.lastname@example.org
Media comment: Media comment: Colin Long, Victorian Division Secretary, NTEU, 0403 920 361 email@example.com