Proposed partnership with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation

During the time that UQ has been in discussion with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation (Ramsay Centre), people have questioned why a partnership is in the interests of the University. We think it is helpful to capture the sentiments behind these questions and share some perspectives with staff, students, and interested members of the public.

What is the Ramsay Centre?

The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation website is available at ramsaycentre.org.

The Ramsay Centre was established in March 2017, following an endowment from Mr Paul Ramsay AO, Australian business leader and philanthropist. Mr Ramsay established a private psychiatric clinic in Sydney in 1964. From this beginning, Ramsay Health Care grew to become one of the world’s largest private hospital operators, with 212 hospitals located in Australia, the UK, France, Indonesia and Malaysia.

In his lifetime, Mr Ramsay established The Paul Ramsay Foundation, and upon his death left a bequest worth approximately $3 billion to the Foundation. The Foundation funds the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation although both are independent entities. Professor Simon Haines is the CEO of the Ramsay Centre based in Sydney.

The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation aims to establish partnerships with two or three Australian universities, with a focus on scholarships and degrees in humanities disciplines that are intrinsic to the study of western civilisation. The partnerships would provide significant funding for students scholarships and staff hired to teach on the program.

In December 2018, the University of Wollongong was announced as the first of these partnerships with an initial cohort of students planned to enrol on their new BA Western Civilisation in 2020.

When did UQ begin formal discussions with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation about a possible partnership?

In early September 2018, The University of Queensland was invited by the Ramsay Centre to participate in an Expression of Interest (EOI) process. This invitation followed a meeting between members of the senior executive of both UQ and the Ramsay Centre, held in mid-August, to explore a possible partnership and set-out issues that are non-negotiable for the University.

The Expression of Interest, submitted on 12 October 2018, was an opportunity for both parties to explore compatibility and areas of mutual interest as well as articulating the key ‘red line’ issues on both sides.

In December 2018, the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanity and Social Sciences met with the Ramsay Centre Board. The meeting was constructive, with both parties in agreement that a partnership on the appropriate terms for both UQ and the Ramsay Centre was desirable and achievable.

On 21 January 2019, the University shared extensive information on what had been discussed between UQ and Ramsay Centre, and invited staff to submit feedback on the governance, curriculum and the approach set out in the Expression of Interest. The opportunity for staff to provide feedback concluded on the 14 February 2019, with approximately 270 responses received.

Additional consultation with staff and student representatives has been undertaken, alongside a lengthy debate at Academic Board on 4 February and a Senate meeting on 25 February.

What is the status of the proposed partnership?

On 1 July 2019, The University of Queensland Academic Board passed a motion to endorse the proposal to introduce the new Bachelor of Humanities / Bachelor of Laws (Honours), and the Western Civilisation extended major into both the new program and the established Bachelor of Advanced Humanities (Honours), with effect from Semester 1, 2020.

Consistent with UQ’s policies, the advice will be considered by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor Joanne Wright, who will then provide a recommendation to the Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Peter Høj AC.

Meanwhile, the University is continuing discussions with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), ensuring it is consistent with the University’s policies of autonomy over curriculum, academic appointments, academic freedom and governance arrangements, as directed by the UQ Senate on 25 February.

Will existing Advanced Humanities students be able to take the new courses?

Yes, the new courses and will be available to students who are currently in the Advanced Humanities degree. These students will be able to take available courses as electives in line with the program rules. They will also be able to select the major.

However, not all courses in the new major will be available for enrolment in 2020; courses will be rolled out in a staged process over the next couple of years. This will have implications for current students wishing to change to the new Western Civilisation major as well as for prospective students seeking to transfer into the program with credit for study from other programs.

Current students wishing to change to the new Western Civilisation major and prospective students seeking to transfer into the program with credit for study from other programs should consider course availability and progression before applying.

What will the impact be on current staff?

The partnership will make available resources to hire new staff who will be teaching into the new major.

The exact staffing complement will be worked out by the Executive Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS), with advice from the HASS Faculty Executive. With regard to the law contribution to the Western Civilisation major, this will be determined by the Dean of Law in consultation with the leadership of the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law.

It is also envisaged that some existing UQ staff may decide to teach into the new major.

Can students take another degree alongside their major in Western Civilisation?

Pathway A, Bachelor of Advanced Humanities (Honours) (Western Civilisation), cannot be undertaken as part of a dual degree.

Pathway B on the other hand is a dual degree: Bachelor of Humanities (Western Civilisation) / Bachelor of Laws (Honours).

What is the value of a Ramsay Scholarship likely to be?

It is expected that the Ramsay Scholars would receive approximately $27,000 per annum for 4–5 years, depending on the chosen pathway.

Financial support would also be available to enable a semester abroad.

What kind of organisational unit will deliver the new offerings?

The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences will serve as the administrative home for the Western Civilisation courses / major. Academic staff will be housed in one of HASS’s seven Schools and the TC Beirne School of Law.

We do not intend to develop a new Faculty or School. We do propose to have a UQ Ramsay Centre Director, who would be a senior UQ academic staff member, as well as professional staff to support the delivery of both pathways.

Who is designing the curriculum?

Between January and June a multi-disciplinary curriculum working party made many changes to the curriculum in light of feedback received through the consultation process and in the HASS Board of Studies meetings. The working group consulted with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit staff, as well as various members of and groups within the HASS faculty.

In late May, the HASS Executive Dean decided that the revised curriculum responded to the concerns previously raised, and put the curriculum forward to be considered by the UQ Committee for Academic Programs Policy (CAPP).

The proposals were endorsed by CAPP for consideration by Academic Board on July 1st and Academic Board subsequently voted to recommend the proposals to the Vice-Chancellor for approval pending signing of an MOU.

If the proposals are approved by the VC, the Faculty intends to convene a series of workshops in the second half of 2019 to compile appropriate reading lists and develop assessment tasks.

Have discussions been held with the NTEU?

There have been no separate consultations held with the NTEU. The President of the NTEU, Associate Professor Andrew Bonnell, has communicated the views of his members at two Academic Board meetings. There are also NTEU members on UQ’s Senate.

How will UQ maintain its academic independence?

The University will only pursue a partnership with the Ramsay Centre providing it is consistent with the University’s policies of autonomy over curriculum, academic appointments, academic freedom and governance arrangements.

The principle of the University's autonomy with regard to academic decisions is a red-line issue for UQ, and it was identified with the Ramsay Centre at the very beginning of the discussions. This point was also recognised and understood in the discussion that took place with the Ramsay Centre Board of Directors on 12 December 2018.

The Ramsay Centre has also confirmed they will include a commitment to academic freedom in future agreements.

All partnerships must follow UQ’s policies and procedures in relation to program development, staffing decisions, and how courses are delivered and managed.

In accordance with policy, all new courses, major sequences or degrees go through UQ’s approval processes, including consultation with relevant academic units and obtaining advice from the Academic Board – UQ will not cut corners or compromise its approvals process.

UQ will maintain control over staff appointments as well as the curriculum and teaching.

How will UQ ensure intellectual pluralism in the teaching of Western Civilisation courses?

If created at UQ, the courses on Western Civilisation would be taught from diverse perspectives, with the primary purpose being to inform open, mature, and often critical debate about the past - as is the case in our current course offerings.

The proposed approach is not only to recover the meaning of the ‘great books’ but also to critically evaluate their value and significance. Seminars would be conducted to encourage, invite and debate different views.

Students would be taught in a pluralistic way to make sure future leaders are informed by the rigour that our Humanities disciplines can and should inject into decisions about how we best develop fair, prosperous and cohesive societies.

UQ has recently developed a Reconciliation Action Plan. Does a partnership with the Ramsay Centre undercut this commitment?

UQ’s Reconciliation Action Plan builds on the extensive work already undertaken to strongly support and encourage diverse cultures and knowledge at the University; we recognise the enormous contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have brought and continue to bring to UQ. Our commitment to this is unwavering.

UQ acknowledges the historical fact that violent colonisation was undertaken by western countries that believed themselves to be ‘civilised’.

Who will teach the new courses that make up the two pathways to a major in Western Civilisation?

Ramsay Centre funding would in part be used to hire up to 10 new academic staff. The intention is that these staff members would occupy Teaching and Research roles.  They will likely be trained in a range of humanities disciplines, and appointed at a range of levels.

UQ remains steadfast in our commitment to the standard recruitment process for academic staff, including the criteria for panel membership that allows for external representation.

New staff will be subject to UQ’s policies and procedures, and UQ’s performance expectations.

How will the courses be taught?

Students will encounter foundational texts in the Western tradition – and texts critical of the Western tradition - through the medium of short lectures and two-hour tutorials taught in small groups (up to 10 students).

Courses will primarily be taught by new staff.

Will the new courses be offered without a partnership with the Ramsay Centre?

We could not teach the pathways without significant resources that would flow from the partnership; this shows how external funding can radically alter how the University evaluates the viability of courses and majors.

The Bachelor of Advanced Humanities (Honours) would continue with the current list of majors, and the Bachelor of Arts dual degree with Laws (Honours) would also continue in its current form.

If a memorandum of understanding (MoU) is agreed, will UQ publish it?

It is our intention to do so.