100 signatures reached
To: Members of the Flinders University Council, the Chancellor, and Vice Chancellor
Say NO to Academic Restructuring at Flinders University
Stand with Students and Academic Staff at Flinders University: Say "NO" to the 'Academic Restructuring' and 2025 Agenda.
We are welcoming signatures from students, staff, alumni and all concerned community members.
Dear Members of the Flinders University Council,
We, the students and staff at Flinders University, have very serious concerns about the implementation of the major changes to Academic Staff in alignment with the 2025 proposal.
For undergraduate students, recent changes indicate increasing class size, less time for student consultation and longer turn-around on marking. In addition, access to tutors and lecturers with expertise in field-leading research will be stripped away under the changes. This raises major concerns with degree accreditation, value of higher education, and quality of innovation in teaching.
For graduate and postgraduate students, these changes mean that for many of us our research supervisors will be displaced or leave the institution. This raises serious concerns about the continuity of our projects. Indeed, it raises serious concerns with academic integrity and freedom. While the Fair Work Commission Settlement allays some of the concerns of postgraduate students, the ramifications of these changes are deeply felt at all levels for those undertaking research traineeships.
In addition, in a survey to all students, more than 15 have reported that the university asked them not to publicly discuss matters related to the 2025 agenda and academic restructuring. This silencing of students is deeply concerning in regards to freedom, and the functioning of the public university.
For staff, the newly negotiated ring-fenced merit-selection process means that many will be competing with their colleagues for a handful of balanced positions in each college. If staff are unsuccessful they will no longer be able to conduct ground-breaking research at Flinders University, nor will they be able to meaningfully continue supervision with their honours and higher degree students.
These changes bring into sharp focus serious problems with the implementation of the 2025 agenda. Not only do these changes undermine student and staff positions within the university, but they have much broader effects on the community. Community-connected research is under threat, in favour of industry-driven fads. Critical, ethical and sociological research in the colleges is marginalised in favour of high profile exclusive (Quartile 1) publications. The international reputation of the university has already taken a hit, and we foresee this degrading further.
We urge the council to intervene, and seriously reconsider the course of these changes. Only once the expertise of the students and staff at Flinders have been called upon can we meaningfully progress towards a better university.
Friends of Flinders
Why is this important?
What is presently happening in universities, not just at Flinders University but elsewhere, will have – and is having – serious social impacts. Put simply:
• Troubled by decades of inequitable Federal funding cuts, universities, like Flinders, are transforming into businesses;
• This changes the way we think about public education: from a vehicle for public good (i.e. to be invested in jointly by the state and commonwealth for collective good, and accessible to the broader community), to a commodity (paid for by individuals for private benefit);
• These same governments are increasing support for the banks, the wealthy, the military and big corporations, while university managers are diverting much of the funds they do have, to upper management salaries and marketing campaigns while starving administrative support and teaching in many parts of the university;
• Together, this impacts education and teaching. For example, within this ‘business’ formulation, academic subjects are considered valuable to the extent that they hold exchange value on the market. The hard sciences, for instance, are typically more valued by university managers for their amenability to industry partnerships and patents;
• Subjects less amenable to outside funding; i.e., the humanities, social sciences, education, social work, arts, racial and ethnic or other minority studies, are increasingly devalued and are most at risk because they question power;
• The latter fields are those where social inequalities have historically been most vigorously addressed (i.e. poverty, racism, gender inequalities). These are areas where students learn to think critically and care deeply about social equity. They are also areas where women academics are most highly concentrated, and these areas are current targets of the greatest and most casualised workforce;
• Within this formulation, learning areas with highest market value (the ones that make the most money) are thus increasingly tied to outside corporate interests and funding, which in other parts of the world where this model has been applied, have given rise to ethical issues concerning ethics of research;
• Rather than develop critical, social-democratic thinkers with social and political consciousness, with the shift from ‘public education’ to ‘private investment’, universities are destined to develop future generations of workers who are technically trained, yet self-interested, and our societies will be impoverished as a consequence.
Universities have never been perfect institutions, but those like Flinders have had a proud record of making social equity a core part of their rationale. Current moves in higher education are deepening existing social inequalities, they are creating a precarious workforce that hurts minority groups the most, and they are positioning students-as-consumers who, if trends overseas are to be observed, will soon be subject to steeper tuition costs, making education an impossibility for many future students. Save our public universities, save our societies.
How it will be delivered
Once enough signatures have been obtained, this petition will be sent to the members of the Flinders University Council for their immediate consideration.
It will be made clear that the petition comes from the Flinders University community widely.