By Charles Fedor


At a 9:30 a.m. on 17 August, the Academic Board convened to officially vote on the motions proposed by concerned staff. The outcomes of these motions and their implications can now be reported*.


The following motions were approved by the Board:


Motion 1: “That the Academic Board recommend to the Vice-Chancellor that the Chair of Academic Board, or their nominee, be an advisor of the Change Management Board (CMB), and provide advice on matters falling within the broader mandate of the Academic Board.”

Voting Record

  • This motion was opposed by Management with the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Simon Biggs noting that the committee is convened by the Vice-Chancellor to advise him and thus that the Academic Board can’t tell them to add someone to a committee that provides him advice.


This motion was passed with amendments that would make the representative either the Chair of the Academic Board or one of his nominees. Regardless this might put a member of the Board on the Change Management Board (CMB) which oversees the cuts. A few concerns that might be of note:

  • It could also be viewed as outsourcing the AB’s responsibility to an individual who can make decisions over where to “identify…changes requiring discussion as per the broader mandate of Academic Board”
  • In short, there is considerable uncertainty as to whether this motion would actually allow the Board to fulfil its functions. It is nice though that there is at least representation I suppose.
  • It is up to the Vice-Chancellor himself to either ignore the advice or accept it.


Motion 4: “That, while there may be teaching intensive staff in any discipline, no discipline at UWA be deemed teaching intensive, or comprised entirely of ‘teaching focused’ staff. Thus, the conversion of existing teaching and research positions into teaching intensive, or ‘teaching focused’ positions be negotiated at the individual level, based on the needs of the discipline and the performance history and career aspirations of the individual concerned.”

Voting Record

  • This motion was opposed by management with a notable ‘nay’ vote being the Head of Social Sciences School, Dr. Amanda Davies herself.


This is a very unnecessary vote, it is basically to uphold the federal law under the Higher Education Standards Framework (HESF), and UWA’s own ‘Education Strategy’. The fact this debate needed to happen and vote on the matter should be an indictment on the state of UWA’s Executive lack of forethought on the restructure. Overall, this is a very good win for staff and students. This will make it clear that “no discipline at UWA be deemed teaching intensive”. This will guarantee that students are taught by researchers who are active in their field. It will also prevent the ‘slow strangling’ of disciplines by consigning them to irrelevance through denial of research time. It will also mandate that teaching-only positions are only created on the individual level and guarantees consideration of the “performance history and career aspirations” of the academic involved.


Motion 5:That the UWA Executive provides a clear and transparent process for genuine and timely stakeholder consultation during the development of all structural reform proposals in line with the best practice expectations of the Public Sector Commission.”

Voting Record

  • Amendment to include the word ‘timely’ was accepted.
  • Only three votes against, including:
    • The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Simon Biggs
    • Head of the School of Social Sciences Dr. Amanda Davies
    • Head of School of Biological Sciences Professor Gary Kendrick
  • The Chair of the Board who normally refrains from voting, did lend his support to the motion and according to multiple observers was caught off guard when the trio decided to oppose the motion.


This would force the UWA Executive in the future to provide a process that aligns with the Public Sector Commission. These guidelines are found here. The problem here is that the guidelines are so vague that it could be easy to dodge meaningful consultation. However, key takeaways are that:

  • In the future it would mandate a broader consultation with stakeholders but it is unclear if this would apply to the current proposal.
  • Sources noted that this unexpected opposition by Management should raise concerns for students. It suggests that the Executive are not interested in transparent, broad, or fair consultation. Given the sudden snap announcement mere hours after the meetings conclusion of more budget cuts and restructures in the School of Molecular Science, Office of Research, and Office of Finance it seems Management remain unfazed with engaging in discussion or discourse.


The following were rejected by the Board:


Motion 2: “That the disestablishment of existing disciplines at UWA be proposed only in cases where a school review in accordance with the Course and School Review Policy has been undertaken since our last TEQSA re-registration, and where that review has provided a robust recommendation that the discipline should be considered for disestablishment.”

Motion 3: “That the recission of majors be proposed only in cases where a course review, in accordance with the Course and School Review Policy of the relevant course in which they sit has been undertaken since our last TEQSA re-registration, and where that review has provided a recommendation that the major should be considered for recission. Where a school anticipates a potential need to reduce the number of majors that it teaches the school may ask for a rapid review of all of the majors in its purview. For this purpose, the PVC(Academic) should develop a rapid, but robust, review process for the such situations based on transparent, verifiable, comprehensive, standardised data.”

Voting Record

  • Management opposed this motion.
  • All speakers agreed that Section 68(3) of the statute gives the Academic Board the authority on this discussion.
  • The majority of Heads of School voted against the motion. The sentiment noted by the Heads of School were the following:
    • This is an extra layer of bureaucracy and would be too much of an interference on the Heads of School.
    • Makes it impossible to pass changes in their school.


So, in this case, the Proposal can still go ahead unchallenged by the Academic Board at present. This rejection also means that there is no guarantee that surprise restructures will be a thing of the past. Right now, schools can be restructured, majors axed, and disciplines dissolved, without any school review or official process. It is up to the Head of School to be benevolent and allow consultation. It leaves the issue of data transparency unresolved and thus restructures can occur without the provision of data or supporting evidence.


Motion 6: ““That the SDVC immediately provide the Academic Board with the specific formula being used to calculate the ‘gross margins’ on Schools, and disciplines, and provide the rationale for the differential quanta of financial cuts that have been applied among Schools.”

Voting Record

  • Management opposed this motion.
  • The majority of Heads of School voted against the motion. The sentiment noted by the Heads of School were the following:
    • There isn’t a specific formula or justification for why they targeted certain disciplines.
    • Apparently, a lot of mitigating factors were considered, though when pressed during debate on these, members declined to reveal these factors to the Board.
    • In an appalling example of managerial impunity, the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Simon Biggs noted that even if the motion passed he would still refuse to disclose this information.
    • One Head of School admitted that there is a clear need for budgeting practices and frameworks and that it required urgent consideration. This Head of School then voted ‘nay’ anyway.


Sources were appalled by the rejection of this motion, with one source noting this is a “frightening” development in university governance. Another asked incredulously what the actual purpose of the Academic Board is if it is not an accountability mechanism.  In this case the Academic Board voted to essentially abdicate its’ responsibility to hold the Heads of School to account and refused to even look into data issues and allegations of conflicts of interest.


Motion 7: “That the Academic Board recommend to the Executive, via the Senate, that to achieve a significant quantum of the academic salary savings required to meet the structural deficit, a general call for voluntary redundancies for academic staff is made.”

Voting Record

  • Management opposed this motion.


Debate was waived as they were “out of time” and the motion was self-explanatory. In this case, demoralised Academics will not be given a voluntary redundancy escape route and will be forced to face the brunt of the restructure unless students intervene.


In a refreshing change of pace, Student representatives spoke on all motions and voted in favour of all of them – perhaps prompted by previous reporting on their silence at the last meeting. Students and staff are furious over the perceived abdication of responsibility from the Academic Board. Tension was high in the meeting as the hopes of students and staff of an informed and fair discussion were dashed upon the rocks of managerial intransigence. Within hours of the meeting concluding, the School of Molecular Science, and offices of Finance, and Research have been announced as the next areas to undergo budget cuts and restructure.  Though this may be a setback, we should not allow ourselves to slide into despair and fatalism. It is clear that ‘discourse’ is simply not enough. In this case, it is a matter of the highest urgency for students, staff and community members to attend the Senate Protest on August 23rd.

*This assumes that the Executive and Senate will agree to the advice given by the Academic Board

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