Welcome to a re-run of the talk by the NSW Minister for Education, the Hon. Rob Stokes at the Centre for Independent Studies, followed by dialogue with CIS Executive Director Tom Switzer and a Q and A session. The topic ranged across many issues related to the future of free speech in Australian universities.
Political bias of staff and the problems of visiting conservative speakers got a mention but in his capacity as a State Minister Mr Stokes focussed on issues of structure, administration and funding.
A major funding issue is the over-dependence of the universities on overseas students to balance their budgets and the way that a very large proportion of those students come from China.
How do universities pursue their commercial objectives without compromising academic freedom? How do we deal with an increasingly assertive Chinese Government willing to flex its economic power and international muscle?
Another matter that came to the front in the Q and A is the role of the ubiquitous Confucius Centres on campus. A Canadian investigation has raised major concerns in that country and more information is required.
The Minister noted that the growth of the sector has generated very large state-funded universities (Monash has 70,000 students) he would like to see more diversity in the form of independent schools like the Campion College. He reported that the Federal shadow minister would like to see fewer and larger campuses for “more efficient administration and quality control”.