FAQs

UOW responds on Ramsay Centre partnership

On Monday 17 December 2018, the University announced that it had reached an agreement with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation to offer a new Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation, to be taught in a newly created School of Liberal Arts in the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts (now the Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities).

The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation was launched in 2017 following a generous endowment by the late Australian businessman Paul Ramsay AO. Mr Ramsay, who founded Ramsay Health Care, sought to invigorate the study of humanities and liberal arts in Australia and promote interest in, and awareness of, western civilisation.

You can read UOW’s public announcement here.

Questions about the partnership

What will the partnership with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation involve?

Our partnership with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation will enable:
  • Establishment of a new Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation degree
  • Creation of a School of Liberal Arts in the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts (now the Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities)
  • Recruitment of ten world class academics, and support staff, specifically to deliver this program
  • Refurbishment of dedicated facilities for the new School of Liberal Arts
  • 30 annual scholarships
  • International study opportunities for participating students
  • A summer school and visiting speakers program.
The small group teaching setting planned for this degree will support the personalised approach to teaching and learning for which UOW is renowned and has received international acclaim.
 

When did UOW begin negotiations with the Ramsay Centre?

In response to a call from the Ramsay Centre UOW, along with a significant number of universities, submitted an Expression of Interest in early November 2017 to be a partner university. In early September 2018, UOW was invited to make an initial presentation to the Ramsay Centre Board. It was not until late October 2018 that negotiations began with a view to a partnership.
 
A Memorandum of Understanding between UOW and the Ramsay Centre was concluded and signed on Friday 14 December 2018 and announced on the first business day afterwards, Monday 17 December 2018.
 

Why were current staff not consulted about this agreement?

UOW joined a number of other universities in responding to the Ramsay Centre’s call for Expressions of Interest over a year ago. Confidentiality was a condition of responding to that EOI and UOW has respected that condition throughout discussions.
 
When considering whether and how to respond to the call for expressions of interest for a Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation in mid-2017, senior academics from the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts (now the Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities) were advised and consulted. Senior Professor Daniel Hutto was chosen to lead the bid and, while honouring confidentiality requirements, he consulted with relevant and suitably qualified academics and stakeholders. This approach is consistent with principles commonly applied when preparing submissions for research grants or engaging prospective benefactors.
 
In our approach to engaging with the Ramsay Centre, we learned from the experience of other institutions. UOW established a small team to undertake constructive discussions, which addressed all matters related to academic freedom, governance and autonomy from the outset.
 
Our confidential approach allowed our discussions with the Ramsay Centre to be frank and productive. This was important to establishing firm foundations for a successful partnership.
 
Also, UOW’s approach of establishing a dedicated school with academics and support staff recruited specifically to deliver this program means:
  • There will be no impact on the employment arrangements of existing staff in other schools or faculties;
  • There will be no impact on academic freedom for existing staff because no one will be asked to teach this new program against their objections;
  • It will not negatively impact on the delivery of other programs or courses; and
  • It will only positively contribute to enrolments as students from this program will undertake electives, a major or a double degree from elsewhere within UOW.
UOW enters into many MOUs following confidential discussions. It is normal for confidentiality to be respected when establishing such agreements.
 

Is accepting philanthropic gifts from external donors normal practice in the Australian higher education sector?

Yes. The Australian higher education sector is increasingly accepting significant gifts from philanthropic donors.
 
Figures from Universities Australia, reported in Times Higher Education in 2016, indicated that annual donations to Australian universities increased by 83 per cent, from A$161 million in 2005 to A$295 million in 2013.
 
UOW’s Annual Report lists the many individuals, corporations, trusts and foundations that have donated funds to support the work of the University.
 
UOW raised over $5.1 million dollars in the calendar year 2018.
 

How is UOW honouring and protecting its academic freedom and autonomy?

There are many features of this degree’s development and delivery, and of the terms of the partnership, which protect academic freedom and autonomy at UOW.
  • The curriculum has been developed and refined by a suitably qualified and experienced senior UOW academic.
  • The degree has been approved internally by UOW via its own well-established approval processes.
  • The degree will be taught in a newly created School of Liberal Arts. This prevents any impact on existing schools, programs or staff in the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts (now the Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities).
  • The degree will be taught by high calibre academics recruited specifically for this degree. No existing staff will be asked to teach this program against their objections.
  • Academics in the School of Liberal Arts will be selected by UOW-led selection panels and employed by UOW under UOW’s normal academic employment agreement, with its clear academic freedom protections.
  • Academics in the School of Liberal Arts will operate with the same freedoms, rights, responsibilities and protections as other UOW academics. They will be required to deliver subjects according to the approved curriculum, but have flexibility in course delivery decisions and complete academic freedom in their research.
  • Marketing and student recruitment for the degree will be undertaken by UOW.
  • Student admissions onto the degree course is entirely controlled by UOW.
  • The scholarships will be administered by UOW.
  • UOW’s annual reporting to the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation will be formal, transparent and clearly outlined in the final contract.
  • The Memorandum of Understanding does not guarantee an exclusive relationship, limit any party’s independence, or preclude other activities by the parties—either together or separately.
 

What influence will the Ramsay Centre have on curriculum content, staff hires, and/or student recruitment?

In its original call for expressions of interest, the Ramsay Centre stipulated that the course they were seeking to fund must primarily, though not exclusively, focus on great works of Western thought and art, ranging from the classical period to the present, and be taught in small classroom settings. Our curriculum conforms to these requirements.
 
We have also responded to feedback from Ramsay Centre academics on the need to limit the new course to 16 subjects, so as to enable students to undertake electives, a major or a double degree from other UOW programs. Other than these broad course design and content requirements, the Ramsay Centre has not stipulated how UOW’s curriculum was to be constructed.
 
Academic appointment panels will be chaired by either the Vice-Chancellor or the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts (now the Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities), depending on the position being filled. The Ramsay Centre will have two academic representatives on those panels alongside a far larger number of UOW academic panel members. It is intended that panel decisions will be made by consensus. These arrangements are not unusual for UOW academic appointment panels.
 
Marketing and student recruitment for the degree will be administered by UOW.
 
A Ramsay Scholarship panel with academic members appointed by the Ramsay Centre and UOW will award the scholarships. This panel will be chaired by the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts (now the Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities) and the scholarships will be administered by UOW.
 

Will the academics recruited to teach on the degree work for the Ramsay Centre?

No. Academics in the School of Liberal Arts will be selected by UOW-led selection panels and employed by UOW under UOW’s normal academic employment agreement, with its clear academic freedom protections.
 

Will the Ramsay Centre be monitoring classes?

The Ramsay Centre will not be monitoring classes at UOW.
 
Ramsay Centre academic staff will be invited to visit UOW to observe in person the facilities and activities and to attend social functions. This may include observing some classes but this will not be for the purpose of assessing individual academics, or teaching quality or any formal evaluation.
 
We will draw on UOW’s normal quality assurance processes to generate data for annual reports to the Ramsay Centre on the Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation.
 

Will UOW be publishing the Memorandum of Understanding with the Ramsay Centre?

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was not released previously due to confidentiality considerations, so as to avoid impacting on other negotiations. The parties are now satisfied this risk has abated, allowing for its publication.
 
The MOU has now been publicly released and is available here.
 
The Memorandum was originally signed on Friday 14 December 2018 and publicly announced on Monday 17 December. It was then amended to more clearly describe the purpose and scope of visitation by Ramsay Centre representatives and re-signed on 21 January 2019.
 

Did the Ramsay Centre only choose UOW because ANU withdrew late in its negotiations?

No. The Ramsay Centre has made it very clear in its public statements that our excellence in teaching was a key factor in our selection.
 
It is also important to note that it has been publicly reported that negotiations with Sydney University, the University of Queensland and other universities are still ongoing.
 

Questions about the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation

What is the Ramsay Centre’s mission?

The Ramsay Centre is a philanthropic organisation.
 
Its objective is: “to advance education by promoting studies and discussion associated with the establishment and development of western civilisation, including through establishing scholarship funds and educational courses in partnership with universities”.
 
 

What is the nature of the bequest left by Mr Paul Ramsay AO?

Paul Ramsay was a leading Australian businessman who was passionate about education and wished to educate future generations in the traditions and practices of western civilisation: its history, philosophy, literature, science, theology, music, art and architecture.
 
 

Who runs the Ramsay Centre?

The Ramsay Centre is led by its Chief Executive Officer Professor Simon Haines who is supported by Executive Officer (Academic) Dr Stephen McInerney and Executive Officer (Operations) Emma-Kate Bos.
 
The Ramsay Centre is overseen by a diverse board comprised of prominent people from business, academia, education, politics, the union movement and public administration.
 
 

Is the Ramsay Centre a think tank?

No the Ramsay Centre is not a think tank. It has no political party orientation.
 
It is a philanthropic organisation that seeks to partner with universities to provide students from all across Australia the opportunity to study Western Civilisation and better understand our society’s foundations through an entirely non-political “Great Books” course.
 
 
 

Have any other universities reached an agreement with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation?

On 27 February 2019 it was publicly reported that the University of Queensland Senate (Council) had endorsed that University continuing its discussions with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation with a view to negotiating and entering into a Memorandum of Understanding.
 
Coverage of this resolution was published in Times Higher Education.

Questions about the approval process

What is the Fast Track Approval Process?

The University has long standing approval arrangements for new courses set out in University policy (the Course and Subject Approval Procedures: New Offerings and Discontinuations).
 
These processes include a fast track approval process whereby a course proposal can be approved by the Vice Chancellor, subject to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) being satisfied that grounds exist to use the process.
 

Is the Fast Track Approval Process new?

No. The Fast Track Approval Process is a long-standing approval process that has been in place at UOW for more than 20 years.
 

What grounds must exist to use this process?

The grounds are as follows:
 
1. There is a demonstrated benefit to the University in fast-tracking the proposal without compromising:
 
a. the quality of the Course, Major or Specialisation; or
 
b. the reputation of the University, AND,
 
2. The proposal relates to
 
a. a customised course required for a specific client within a short time-frame; or
 
b. a full-fee paying course where it can be demonstrated that the Faculty has to move quickly to:
 
i. take advantage of an opening in the market, or
 
ii. maintain a place in the market, OR,
 
3. The proposal relates to a course in respect of which there are other circumstances that warrant action related to maintaining or enhancing the University’s competitive position.
 
The Vice-Chancellor was satisfied that these requirements were met for the Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation.
 

How often is the Fast Track Approval Process used?

The University uses the Fast Track Approval Process about five times a year on average.
 
Every time the process is used, the Strategic Course Development Committee, the Quality Assurance Review Group and the Academic Senate are asked to take note of the use of the process. That happens at the next meeting following the approval of a course proposal to approve a course.
 

Is the Fast Track Approval Process allowed under the Higher Education Standards?

Yes. The Higher Education Standards Framework requires that the University, as a self-accrediting provider, establishes processes for the approval of courses and that these processes are overseen by the peak academic governance body of the University (the Academic Senate).
 
The Course and Subject Approval Procedures: New Offerings and Discontinuations set out the relevant processes, including the fast track approval process. The Academic Senate has oversight of the approval and review of these procedures.