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. This invitation followed a meeting between the Vice-Chancellor and Ramsay Centre senior executive held in mid-August to explore a possible partnership and set-out the threshold issues for the University which are non-negotiable.

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 and Senate meetings.

What is the status of the proposed partnership?

The UQ Senate has authorised the Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor to continue negotiating with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation and, if successful, agree a Memorandum of Understanding – providing it is consistent with the University’s policies of autonomy over curriculum, academic appointments, academic freedom and governance arrangements.

The Senate discussion was informed by our initial Expression of Interest, the key points discussed at the Academic Board meeting in February, and a summary of feedback received from staff and students during the engagement period.

The areas of concern identified have been consistent across all consultation:

  • the need to broaden and diversify the curriculum
  • reputational issues
  • the question of influence on academic appointments
  • the concern about academic freedom
  • how the proposed major can be reconciled with the commitments to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community embodied in the UQ Reconciliation Action Plan
  • the compatibility of the new major with other UQ programs
  • the need to ensure both high quality and diversity among scholarship recipients.

The University will continue to analyse the feedback and will share the steps taken to safeguard the University’s autonomy and remain true to its principles. 

Has the University leadership already made its mind up?

At a meeting on Monday 25 February, the UQ Senate endorsed the University continuing its discussions with the Ramsay Centre. 

Senate also gave the go ahead for the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor to proceed with negotiating, and if successful, sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) - providing it is consistent with the University's policies of autonomy over curriculum, academic appointments, academic freedom and governance arrangements.

In arriving at the decision, the Senate debate was informed by the following information submitted by University leadership:

  •  the extensive academic and program content set out in the Expression of Interest,
  • a submission that included a summary of the feedback received from staff and students during the engagement period,
  • the key points discussed at the Academic Board meeting earlier in February.

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 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.

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?

For the Expression of Interest, a curriculum consultation group comprising of senior academics developed an indicative course and reading list.

Following the staff engagement, a team of senior academics from HASS are drawing on staff feedback to consider what changes might be warranted to finalise the proposed curriculum so that it can undergo the academic review required.

The group will also consult with experts in areas such as music, gender, political theory, indigenous history and scholarship, Australian studies and other essential areas.

The Dean of Law will be seeking advice from colleagues as to any changes that will be made to their schools contribution to the new major.

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 an academic board meeting. There are also NTEU members on UQ’s Senate.

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

It is envisaged that a Board would be created with the 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 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 when the Vice-Chancellor first met with a senior executive to explore a possible partnership in August 2018. This point was also recognised and understood in the discussion with the Ramsay Centre Board of Directors.

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 11 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 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.