There has been a flurry of interest over the past few days in how the University partners with external organisations and potential donors, and I just wanted to reassure you of the approach ANU takes.
The decision to withdraw from negotiations with a generous philanthropic donor is never one taken lightly, but I did so after consulting with colleagues, and with the support of the ANU Council. As I said on Friday, we approached the opportunity offered by the Ramsay Centre in a positive and open spirit, and many staff here deserve thanks for the work they put into the project.
ANU has an outstanding reputation as one of the world's leading institutions for humanities. Our extensive programs in classics, philosophy, history, politics, economics, music, art and literature represent some of the very best scholarship of the western liberal tradition. The opportunity to augment our teaching and research in these areas in really interesting ways, along with a generous scholarship program for students, was an attractive proposition for ANU and we were grateful to the Ramsay Centre for considering ANU as a partner. However, it was my judgement that ANU had a fundamentally different vision for the program than the Ramsay Centre, and that there was no prospect of us reaching agreement. In that context, the only responsible course of action was to withdraw and focus our University on our many other priorities. I understand this caused disappointment to some, but my first duty is to advance the University I am so proud to lead.
ANU is the recipient of generous funding from many different foundations, governments and individuals. While, of course, the nature of negotiations with individual donors is confidential, ANU approaches all partnerships and funding opportunities with the same core set of principles. In all cases, we retain, without compromise, our academic integrity, autonomy and freedom, and ensure that any program has academic merit consistent with our status as one of the world's great universities. These core principles drive our research excellence and are key to our outstanding global reputation.
ANU has had a unique national mission since its founding to advance both Australia's understanding of the world and the world's understanding of Australia. To do this, ANU houses many centres dedicated to the study of different regions of the world including the ANU Centre for European Studies, Australian Centre for Latin American Studies, the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, and the Australian Centre for China in the World. We are also home to country and regional institutes that cover the vast breadth of the Asia-Pacific region.
I'm disappointed to see that our globally renowned Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (the Middle East and Central Asia) has been singled out today. The Centre is an important national institution that has received bipartisan support since its establishment. It makes a significant contribution to Australian knowledge of regional challenges and issues in the Muslim Middle East and Central Asia, including providing training to many of our federal government departments interested in the region. It does great work on behalf of Australia that should make us all proud.
ANU Centres have received donations from a range of countries in addition to funds from government and industry. In all cases, ANU retains control of both curriculum and staffing decisions.
The Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies received one-off donations from the private Al-Maktoum Foundation in Dubai, the Iranian Ministry of Education, and the Turkish Government in 2000-2001. All these donations were matched by ANU, enabling the Centre to have a dedicated building, establish four endowment supported positions in Arab and Islamic Studies, Persian Language and Turkish language and studies. All its activities, including appointments, have been under the exclusive control of the university. The Centre, which receives its operating budget from the University, is a great success story, with more than 1,000 undergraduate and over 200 graduate students, as well some 20-25 PhD students a year.
I am very proud of how this university has shown an unwavering commitment to our principles, which underpin every decision of the University Executive and Council. These core principles drive our research excellence, are key to our outstanding global reputation, and are sacrosanct. I will continue to defend them, like my predecessors, at all times.