Following a comprehensive review established by University Council in February 2020, the University Council has at its meeting on 9 April 2021 approved a revised membership and composition of the University’s principal academic body, the Academic Senate.
Led by the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Joe Chicharo, the review was undertaken by a Working Group comprising experienced Academic Senate members, an external member of University Council, and an Academic Senate student representative. The review took into account the role and function of UOW’s Academic Senate as set out in its Terms of Reference; benchmarking data of other Australian academic boards and senates; recommendations from the 2017 independent review of UOW Academic Governance by Professor Hilary Winchester; and previous feedback from members of the Academic Senate in relation to its membership and composition.
Informed by guiding principles, a revised membership model was designed by the Working Group with the unanimous support of its members. This proposed model was presented to key groups across the University community for consultation and feedback in late 2020 and early 2021, including the University Council at its February 2021 meeting and Academic Senate at its March 2021 meeting. In approving the new membership and composition model at its April meeting, University Council made several important refinements to reflect the feedback from key staff, members of Academic Senate and members of University Council.
At its meeting, University Council carefully deliberated the merits of the proposed model and discussed a range of considerations relating to:
- feedback provided during consultation;
- the representation of different stakeholder groups across the academic community, in particular, the representation of Associate Deans of (Research), (International) and (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion);
- election eligibility and processes;
- the optimal timing to approve and implement the revised Academic Senate membership model; and
- the importance of transparency of decision-making relating to this matter.
Council acknowledged the considerable efforts and activities undertaken as part of the review and in particular the benefits of establishing a revised Academic Senate membership and composition model to resolve this long-standing issue.
The final revised Academic Senate membership approved by Council strikes the right balance between ensuring it remains fit-for-purpose, whilst amending its size and composition to position it more appropriately and strategically within UOW’s Academic Governance framework. It also reflects the wishes of the University community in relation to increasing student representation, staff representation and gender balance. Implementation of this membership model will enable Academic Senate to focus on its core business of teaching and research, and bring it into line with academic boards and senates across the higher education sector.
The revised membership model will take effect from May 2021, with elections to fill various elected positions on the Academic Senate to be conducted during April and early May.
In approving the final revised membership model and its implementation, University Council recognised and emphasised the important role of Academic Senate as the principal academic body of the University, and the crucial functions it performs within the broader UOW governance framework. This change opens a new chapter to the long and proud history of our Academic Senate, and we look forward to seeing it flourish under an improved structural model, as well as the fresh opportunities that this brings for UOW.
Professor Paul Wellings, CBE