The Australian National University has accepted up to $2 million each from the governments of Dubai, Iran and Turkey, raising questions about the university’s withdrawal from plans to establish a course in Western civilisation with the Ramsay Centre, citing academic autonomy.
Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi has questioned whether academic autonomy is the real reason for the withdrawal as opposed to the financial influence of other nations and the relentless push of academic leftists away from Western traditions and towards enforced political correctness.
The Australian newspaper reports, the ANU Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, which has operated since 1994, counts on its advisory board Mirza Al-Sayegh, an adviser to the deputy ruler of Dubai, and former United Arab Emirates government minister Khalifa Bakhit Al-Falasi, also a former ambassador to Australia.
The ANU has come under fire over its handling of the Ramsay Centre deal, which was to result in a degree in Western civilisation inspired by the “great books” courses at New York’s Columbia University and the University of Chicago, backed by a substantial scholarship program.
Explaining its decision to cease negotiations on Friday, ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt said “the sponsored program” sought by the Ramsay Centre was “not compatible” with the university’s “autonomy”.
He had been lobbied by the National Tertiary Education Union and the students association, which said the prospective course would push a “racist” and “radically conservative agenda”.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham questioned ANU’s stand yesterday given its other partnerships and donations. “I’m surprised a university could overcome all the potential ethical considerations across such a wide spectrum of financial relationships, yet be unable to do so with an Australian-based entity whose values align with those that helped to create universities and free academic inquiry,” he said.
Photo: Mirza Al-Sayegh Cartoon: Johannes Leak
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