Minister rues ANU Western degree decision

Minister rues ANU Western degree decision

A government minister has labelled as "disappointing" the Australian National University decision to dump plans to introduce a degree on 'Western civilisation'.

ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt announced on Friday he was cancelling negotiations with the Ramsay Centre, headed by former prime minister John Howard, for fears such a degree would push a narrow view of history.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham.Credit:Jay Cronan

"This is disappointing," Education Minister Simon Birmingham tweeted on Saturday.

"Our unis should embrace the study of the values that helped to create them and our modern society. I hope other unis resist politically correct objections & ensure this generous bequest enables study into the foundations of our society."


ANU approached all partnerships and funding offers with similar principles: academic integrity, autonomy, freedom and merit, Mr Schmidt said.

"We are not even halfway towards reaching an agreement," he said in a letter to Mr Howard on Friday.

"It is clear that the autonomy with which this university needs to approve and endorse a new program of study is not compatible with a sponsored program of the type sought."

The decision follows interventions by the National Tertiary Education Union and Australian National University Student Association.

ANU student unions on Friday welcomed the decision to "prioritise their academic autonomy over external sponsorship."

In response, Mr Howard addressed a letter to the Vice-Chancellor saying the decision was at odds "with the tenor" of discussions just two days prior.

"Let me stress that the Centre has at all times fully endorsed the principles of academic autonomy," Mr Howard said.

"The Centre is continuing its discussions with other institutions. I intend to release our correspondence."

Former prime minister Tony Abbott and former Labor leader Kim Beazley sit on The Ramsay Centre board, which was formed in 2017 to promote Western civilisation.

In an April Quadrant article, Mr Abbott wrote The Ramsay Centre was "not merely about Western civilisation but in favour of it."


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