The National Tertiary Education Union – Queensland Division (NTEU-QLD) has applied for an External Review of University of Queensland (UQ) management's refusal to release the full Philanthropic Agreement between UQ management and the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation following a Right to Information request from the union.
UQ's Right to Information and Privacy Office refuse to provide any of the requested documents on the basis that doing so would be a breach of confidentiality obligations.
UQ management and The Ramsay Centre signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in August 2019; however, it was a sparse document with few details. The full Philanthropic Agreement between UQ management and the Ramsay Centre was signed in November 2019. It is that document which contains full details of the $50 million deal to fund an extended Major in Western Civilisation, and the same document UQ management refuses to provide.
Despite clear opposition to the content of the Western Civilisation course from academics in UQ's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, UQ management persisted with secret negotiations with the Ramsay Centre.
NTEU UQ Branch President, Associate Professor Andrew Bonnell said he was astonished at the extent to which the University is seeking to keep the terms of the agreement secret.
"There is an obvious public interest in transparency when it comes to public universities doing deals with supposedly philanthropic tax-deductible organisations to teach certain kinds of courses," Associate Professor Bonnell said.
"Academics have continued to express concerns with the extent to which the deal protects academic freedom and upholds the intrinsic value of the degrees our institution bestows," Bonnell continued. "We have a right to see the full agreement and this secret deal must be made public," he added.
NTEU-QLD Division Secretary Michael McNally said he was alarmed that the University would not be transparent with its staff and the community which it serves.
"For UQ management to suggest it can simply write "commercial-in-confidence" on any document to avoid public scrutiny makes a mockery of the public's right to information," McNally said. "We hope our external review will lead to the disclosure of the material and uphold the requirement for public transparency and accountability of our universities."