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Academic Boards and Academic Freedom

AUS website
Dr Donald Savage, a Canadian higher education consultant and former adviser to UNESCO, has completed his inquiry into academic freedom in New Zealand for the Association of University Staff (AUS). His report includes some strong recommendations relating to the role and function of academic boards.

Dr Savage stresses the importance of staff and community involvement in university governance for the protection of academic freedom. “Self-governing structures such as academic boards play a key role in the defence of academic freedom,” says Dr Savage.

Dr Savage recommends that academic boards should be consulted by Vice-Chancellors and Councils on all significant matters that touch on the academic enterprise, including restructuring of academic faculties.

AUS National President, Neville Blampied, welcomed Dr Savage’s recommendations. “They support the decision of the Hamilton High Court in 1999 which found that restructuring proposals put forward by Vice-Chancellor, Bryan Gould, were not a management prerogative, but were the responsibility of the Waikato University Council after taking advice from the academic board.”

“AUS intends to ensure that academic boards are restored to their rightful place in collegial decision making,” said Neville Blampied, “and that the boards continue to be comprised of a majority of academic staff not in senior management positions.

“In doing so, we will seriously consider creative ideas, such as Dr Savage’s recommendation that the academic board be chaired by an independent person (rather than the Vice-Chancellor as at present).

“We also agree with Dr Savage that academic boards must also be fully involved in financial decisions that have an impact upon academic quality.

“The freedom of university staff to develop, debate and publicise new and potentially controversial ideas is a vital contribution to the knowledge society,” said Neville Blampied.

Neville Blampied
National President

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