Academic Board News; meeting 6, 2019

16 December 2019

ANU Statement on Freedom of Expression

Academic Board approved the ANU Statement on Freedom of Expression to complement the existing Statement on Academic Freedom and shape the Codes of Conduct currently being developed for staff and students.

Board highlighted that Freedom of Expression is not a license to offend, but a delicate balance between being a platform for debate and, maintaining civil and respectful relations.

Hot Topic: Research Performance

Board had an engaging discussion on research performance at ANU as compared to peers in the sector. 

The following main points were made during the discussion:

·         Being distinctive needs to include a focus on quality of academic staff.

·         ANU has a high proportion of staff in Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences (HASS) as compared to the Group of Eight (Go8).

·         Sophisticated analytical techniques could help emphasise strengths that are not metric driven (For example, development goals).

·         The University is establishing an Engagement and Impact Steering Committee sourced from the Executive and colleges, charged with strategic oversight of all engagement and impact activities.

·         The University needs to better articulate its accomplishments, national interest projects and employ more sophisticated measurement tools to gauge impact and engagement from a HASS perspective.

Poll Questions

Academic Board discussed the following topics:

There has been allegations of breaches of academic integrity with leaked exam papers. Is this true and how is the University addressing the issue?

The Provost advised that breaches are being taken seriously, and being investigated. Board also discussed a recent incident in CECS where students had to retake a leaked exam paper.

Chair of Teaching and Learning Development Committee and Chair of Academic Quality Assurance Committee will be closely examining such cases to assess their occurrence and mitigation strategies.

How can the University protect academic freedom and freedom of expression for ANU staff who might be sent off-shore to teach in transnational education programs with partner universities?

The Provost advised the University does not intend to engage in overseas teaching of its degrees, the only exception being the Master of Management (Tsinghua).

With new agreements being established, the University needs to avoid compromising academic standards and freedom of expression whilst recognising legal constraints in a host country, and constraints of policy at the host institution, and the content for transnational education programs needs to be sensitive to the local country. 

Academic staff have the freedom to refuse to teach in another country, without penalty. 

What is the latest update on measures to address the ongoing threat of data breach?

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation) discussed adoption of the Foreign Interference Guidelines and the level of accountability associated with them.  

Board noted this is an active area of discussion within the sector and a key consideration for the Government, especially given the implications for national security.  

Redefining the ANU PhD - White Paper 2019

The Interim Dean, Higher Degree Research (HDR) presented the topic and summarised the following key challenges that the White Paper aims to address:

·         Declining demand, both domestically and internationally;

·         High proportion of PhD graduates going into non-academic careers;

·         Increased completion times; and

·         Patchy student experience.

The ANU Graduate School will be coordinating strategies identified in the White Paper to deliver an exceptional student experience, with activities aimed at both college and central level.

Student Partnership Agreement - Annual Review

The President, ANUSA spoke to the item and advised that the Report includes a status update on projects undertaken during 2019 as well as suggested themes for next year.

Implementation of the Student Partnership Agreement is demanding, requiring collaboration on many fronts and the University has always respected its importance to students. 

The Student Partnership Agreement for 2020 will be presented at AB 1/2020.

Chair - Academic Board

The current Chair Academic Board, Professor Jaqueline Lo's term will end on 23 March 2020.

The Deputy Chair is leading a Nominations Committee to collate suitable nominations for Vice-Chancellor's consideration by 17 January 2020.


Academic Board is keen to hear from the wider University. What are the big issues regarding academic governance that you want us to address? Chat to your College / Student representatives or email the Secretary. Members of the Board are also available to speak at College fora.

I will be leaving ANU at the end of February. It has been a privilege to be part of the ANU community for 22 years and to lead Academic Board for the past 4 years. Thank you your support and contribution to academic governance at ANU.

Professor Jacqueline Lo

Chair Academic Board