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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 13 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 3968..


DR FOSKEY (continuing):

also makes some other amendments, which are fairly minor, that ensure the structure of the university remains consistent with federal legislation.

There do remain issues of independence for universities, and the Greens are particular supporters of academic freedom, which does appear to be under threat in some areas at present. When it comes to governance, we do not support the notion that a university can, and should, simply manage its own finances as it sees fit without strong governance arrangements in place. In most universities now professors and academics are at the head of departments. It cannot be assumed that they will be good administrators, and this is true of universities and departments everywhere. It is a practice that perhaps has set up some concerns that are now being addressed with governance arrangements.

The problems that arose about four or five years ago relating to the University of Canberra student union and the apparent reluctance of the university council to face up to those issues were indicative of the need for change. The university was first set up as a college of advanced education. Then, when it became a university, there was a vision of an institution to train professionals, particularly in the areas of human services and environmental design—key areas, one would think, for us to continue to invest in. There is no doubt that the University of Canberra has a great role to play in the development of people with the skills that the ACT community and economy need.

Over the past few years, however, that commitment to environmental design has unfortunately become history. A number of international education projects seem to have distracted the University of Canberra leadership from pursuing that strong vision of education for this community. I have got to say that that is being exacerbated by the federal government's funding changes which have made it necessary for universities to compete on a national landscape, rather than for a university like this one to satisfy the needs of the community it is part of.

We would like to see the University of Canberra continuing to build on our research and human assets and to look to provide an education strategy that meets the needs of the ACT community into the future and, through that, the needs of Australia into the future. Hopefully, this revamp in governance, along with an imminent change in leadership, which will hopefully strengthen it, will assist the university to grow in the right direction.

MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation and Minister for Industrial Relations) (11.50) in reply: I thank members for their support of this bill. As members can see, the bill introduces significant amendments to the University of Canberra Act 1989. It reduces the size of the university council from 22 to 15 members and specifies the composition of the council by stipulating the skills and experience required of appointed members. Some additional related amendments are also proposed regarding the remuneration of the Chief Minister's external appointments, as well as some minor technical matters.

Overall, these changes will further improve council's capacity for good governance and effective administration of the University of Canberra, while at the same time ensuring that the university complies with the conditions set for it to receive Australian government funding.


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