Andrew Norton will be known to Cats of long standing as the only classical liberal in Carlton (Melbourne). He has been blogging for along time with a special interest in higher education and he has a serious national reputation in this field. Here he is concerned with the rather prickly topic of Ministerial interference in the weird and wonderful ways that our money is spent by academic researchers.
Senator Kim Carr has been around forever, and knows what questions to ask in Senate Estimates. And yesterday he got the Australian Research Council to reveal that, last year, then education minister Simon Birmingham rejected 11 humanities grant recommendations. So far as we know, this hasn’t happened since Brendan Nelson was minister in the middle of the last decade (Gideon Haigh tells that story well).
As with the Nelson intervention, Birmingham’s decision has prompted outrage. The Australian Academy of the Humanities says that “this interference is entirely at odds with a nation that prides itself on free and open critical enquiry.”
By a nice coincidence the matter of freedom of inquiry came up among the performance indicators that the universities are supposed to meet according to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards that are prescribed somewhere. I didn’t know about that until I read the previous post. And I didn’t go looking for this item, it just turned up when I went to the Blogroll and dipped in.