August 2018 Guest Speaker, Deborah Veness

We were delighted to welcome Deborah to talk to the Vintage Reds on the topic of “Funding and Ethics: the Ramsay Foundation Case Study”.

Deborah is currently the manager of the ANU’s College of Arts and Social Sciences Student and Education Office. She is an NTEU member and is a former ANU Council member. She is also from Bob Katter’s electorate, from a family with generations of teachers, publicans and police officers.

Universities are either academic (such as the ANU) or vocational. The academic ones teach critical thinking, which is naturally not the same as course content. The term “customers” for tertiary students doesn’t really apply, as they are not there to buy a product or a service, but instead get the opportunity to learn in a scholarly environment.

Turning to Ramsay: ANU has no state funding and relies on the National Institutes Grant. The Ramsay offer put this grant under threat, so negotiations continued, but making academic freedom a priority. Tony Abbott claims to have set up the Ramsay Foundation, to “restore” Western civilisation, despite the robust selection of courses in Western civilisation already in place. In fact, an agreement on autonomy had been reached at the ANU, only for Abbott to demolish it with his demand for control. The Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt then pulled the plug; he probably had no option. The program may end up at Sydney University, though the NTEU there is very militant; otherwise it may go to the very small Campion College, which has a connection with Joe de Bruyn, a Catholic union leader.

[Post Script: In June 2019, Wollongong University was the first university to strike a $50 million deal with the Ramsay Centre to create a degree in Western Civilisation, after intervening to approve the course, in an attempt to shut down legal action from the academic union. See ABC news online, 24 June 2019]