The Australian Catholic University (ACU) has been under fire from academics both in Australia and abroad for its plan to eliminate hundreds of posts in the history or humanities, including positions in highly desirable departments, as well as to completely dismantle institutes that study philosophy and history.
As a part of the university’s most recent effort to reorganize its operations, the top management team at the Australian Catholic University published a draft plan on Monday that confirmed the elimination of 32 jobs that are comparable to full-time work.
This comes after earlier this year, more than eighty full-time and academic professional jobs were eliminated.
Dismay has been expressed by members of the academic community upon hearing the news, which eliminates 52 positions in order to fill only 19. The fields of philosophy, history, and theology, as well as gender studies, social sciences, and religion, are hit the hardest, and the program for medieval and early modern studies has been fully abolished.
It was referred to be a “myopic decision” by Megan Cassidy-Welch, who was the director of the program. Within a span of just two days, more than five hundred people had signed an open letter urging the continuation of the initiative.
“Medieval and early modern studies lies at the heart of university history, theology, philosophy, literary studies, and so much more,” she wrote. “This is especially true in a Catholic university,” she added.
“It is perplexing that the university has decided to stop investing in history or a research program that is of essential relevance not just to the Catholic university’s ability to engage with its own legacy but also to the university’s own mission.
We are situated in an area that is central to the Catholic identity of the university.
Cassidy-Welch stated that it occurred only a few years after ACU presented a “bold and ambitious” strategy for humanities research, which drew a number of scholars from other countries. The news of the layoffs came “out of the blue” for her and the other employees in her department.
“It came as a surprise to me that my entire team had been dismissed,” she added. We have enlisted the assistance of well-known academics and colleagues from around the world, and we are keeping our fingers crossed that our endeavour will be fruitful, but the stakes for our reputation are extremely high.
“It’s going to hurt the university’s ability to conduct important and cutting-edge research… However, I believe that they consider us to be an easy target.
Prof. Abid Khan, the deputy vice chancellor of research and enterprise at the Australian Catholic University, stated that the university was “not wavering” from its longtime commitment to the humanities. He added that the projected reductions constituted a “small fraction” of research-active staff.
Khan stated that the draft plan recommended a “greater integration” of research and teaching in order to produce a “more balanced and sustainable academic model.” Khan was referring to the plan.
Khan stated that “we… need to manage a sustainable level of staff to students and balance that with our capacity to support internally funded research programs and relatively large numbers of internally funded research-only staff.” “We… need to manage a sustainable level of staff to students.”
The proposed cutbacks represent a small fraction of ACU’s research active workforce and are also a subset of our internally financed, research-only jobs. However, there is no way around the fact that this will result in the loss of some roles in order to achieve this balance and move us closer to sector-norms.
Professor Stephen Finlay, who is the director of the Dianoia Institute of Philosophy at ACU, stated that the majority of his colleagues had been headhunted from other countries and were now required to once again uproot their lives.
They had lifetime tenure and job security in leading universities in other parts of the world… the loss of our positions just a few years later implies that we have to begin our careers from scratch.
“The human dimension is absolutely devastating.”
Only four of Finlay’s fifteen employees will be eligible to submit applications for new positions in the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry.
Finlay characterized the choice as “completely indefensible” in his statement. “Right now, everybody is in fighting mode,” he said. “It’s going to be a long night.” “We are very great, ranking in the top 10 in the world in several areas of specialization while also holding the number two spot in the world for publishing… The reactions of individuals all throughout the world have been described as “shock and outrage.”
Dr. Leah Kaufmann, who serves as the head of the ACU National Tertiary Education Union branch, referred to the employment losses as a “disaster.”
“There is no way that ACU’s ability to deliver core work, particularly teaching, supporting students, and conducting research, can be put at risk by job cuts,” she said. “There is no way that excess spending can be solved by job cuts.”
During the next two weeks, interested parties will have opportunity to give feedback on draft plan, which is the second of three proposals designed to alleviate ACU’s financial gap.
A tiny surplus of $200,000 was reported by ACU in 2022, which was far lower than the $56 million reported in 2021.