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 is distinct from the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. 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. A partnership would provide significant funding for students, staff and curriculum development in these areas.

The first of these partnerships with the University of Wollongong was recently announced, with the initial cohort of students starting the 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. The EOI process 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.

On 12 October 2018, UQ submitted its Expression of Interest.

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 EOI. The opportunity for staff to provide feedback concluded on the 14 February 2019.

What is the status of the proposed partnership?

The University’s engagement with staff on the proposed partnership ended on 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.

The proposal will also be discussed at the Senate meeting.

The responses will be carefully considered. This feedback will help ensure that any partnership is on the right terms for the University, and upholds our institutional independence and academic freedom.

A summary of the responses will be shared with staff once this analysis is completed.

Why were UQ staff not asked to have their say during the EOI stage?

Due to a confidentiality agreement signed by both parties during the EOI phase, only senior academic staff and key executives had input.

Once we entered a new phase in our discussions, UQ recognised that it would be both prudent and valuable to give genuine consideration to the views of all staff who chose to take up the opportunity, especially given the high level of public interest that had been evident.

Students are being engaged through representatives on Academic Board and Senate.

Has the University leadership already made its mind up?

Senior leaders believe a partnership with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation is in UQ’s interests because it provides a unique opportunity and substantial uplift in funding support for the humanities and in particular for students who want to take one of the pathways to a major in Western Civilisation.

The University leadership recognises the need to keep an open mind, and respects the need to talk to and listen to staff and students as we consider the next steps.

Any partnership agreement would have to be on the right terms – and there would need to be safeguards built in to protect the University’s integrity and autonomy.

If the partnership goes ahead, will UQ be creating a new named degree in Western Civilisation?

No. If the partnership proceeds, a new major in Western Civilisation would be offered to undergraduate students as an interdisciplinary option in two degree pathways:

  • Pathway A: a new extended major in Western Civilisation delivered through the existing four-year Bachelor of Advanced Humanities (Honours)
  • Pathway B: a new dual degree offering incorporating a new Bachelor of Humanities with a major in Western Civilisation taken in conjunction with the existing Laws (Honours) degree.

The new major and new dual-degree will, as per policy, go through UQ’s standard processes, including consideration by the Committee for Academic Programs Policy and Academic Board prior to approval by the Vice-Chancellor.

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

Yes, the new courses and major will be available to students in the Advanced Humanities degree.

What will the impact be on current staff?

It is difficult to predict exactly what the staffing will look like until the curriculum is finalised.

The partnership will make available resources to hire new staff.

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.

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?

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?

A curriculum consultation group comprising senior academics has developed an indicative course and reading list that disciplinary experts within our current staff complement will continue to refine.

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, communicated a resolution opposing the partnership on the basis of a branch meeting held in early February. The President took an active part in the Academic Board debate, and members of all campus unions have had the opportunity to provide feedback individually.

What influence will the Ramsay Centre have on the delivery of the courses and majors?

The EOI proposed the creation of a Board, which would aim to ensure the partnership delivers on its goals. Indicators of success may include student evaluations of the courses, student retention levels, student attainment, and eventually, employability data.

The Board would meet twice a year and would share findings – subject to any restrictions governing the confidentiality of data – to the Ramsay Centre CEO, Professor Simon Haines, who is an experienced and senior scholar. Additionally, we expect that the UQ Ramsay Centre Director, and the professional staff involved, will have regular contact with staff at the Ramsay Centre.

How will UQ maintain its academic independence?

The University will only pursue a partnership with the Ramsay Centre if our principles of independence and academic freedom are respected and adhered to.

The principle of the University's independence with regard to academic decisions is a red-line issue for UQ. This point was recognised and understood in the discussion with the Ramsay Centre Board of Directors.

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.

Talented young people 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’.

The proposed reading and supplementary reading lists in the EOI included a number of fiction and nonfiction texts that explore the impact of the West on Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These texts were indicative only and include: Australian Human Rights Commission, Bringing Them Home; Henry Reynolds, selected writings on Aboriginal–settler relations in Australia; Patrick Thornberry, Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights; Mabo v Queensland (1992); Kim Scott, That Deadman Dance; Kate Grenville, The Secret River; Sally Morgan, My Place.

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 11 new academic staff. The intention is that these staff members would be teaching and research active (T&R). They will likely be trained in a range of humanities disciplines, and 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 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.