Sector welcomes university reform agenda

By Melissa Coade

July 12, 2022

Jason Clare
Education minister Jason Clare. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Stakeholders from Australia’s higher education sector have welcomed the federal government’s desire to ‘reset’ its relationship with them.

The Australasian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (DASSH) has welcomed remarks made by new education minister Jason Clare to address sector matters including equity and inclusion, Indigenous enrolment numbers, student safety and the role and operations of the Australian Research Council (ARC).

As previously reported by The Mandarin, Clare announced an independent review of ARC’s role and function at a dinner hosted by Universities Australia in Canberra last week. 

DASSH president Catharine Coleborne welcomed Labor’s ‘clear decision’ to refresh its relationships with universities, which had soured in the final days of the Coalition government. 

“We are confident these changes and commitments signal the beginning of a set of reforms that will continue to improve outcomes for universities, students and staff, particularly those with a humanities, arts or social sciences background,”  Coleborne said in a statement on Monday. 

“We are very much looking forward to working with the new minister to support the step-change process needed to achieve real reform.”

In terms of the ARC review, Coleborne said, the decision marked an ‘important turning point’. But the group’s members also wanted to see a humanities representative on the council’s advisory committee, she added.

“The independent review of the ARC is [sic] something DASSH has advocated for over the last six months – particularly when calling for an end to ministerial vetoes on Discovery Grants.

“The appointment of Sue Dodds, former DASSH president and current deputy vice-chancellor (Research and Industry Engagement) at La Trobe University, to the ARC advisory committee firms up the minister’s commitment to a reset,” she said. 

ARC CEO Judi Zielke also welcomed the review, with a particular focus on the governance framework and reporting mechanism of the council. She said the independent exercise would build on work the council had already done towards better strategy and processes.

“The ARC legislation has not been substantially reviewed since it was established more than two decades ago – yet the challenges and needs of the research sector are now very different,” Zielke said.

“The new review will lay foundations for changes the ARC needs to make to serve the research sector over the coming decade.”

DASSH backed other recent announcements made as part of the new government’s higher education reform agenda, including $20.5 million over four years for Curtin University’s National Centre for Student Equity.

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