I am not a fan of honorary doctorates but I do recognise that all universities confer them for various reasons. The Australian in reporting that Curtin University wants to confer an honorary on Rosmah Mansor – wife of the Malaysian prime minister. Now giving awards to political figures (and even their spouses) is always going to be fraught. So it is in this instance. Okay, whatever.
The government regulator TEQSA has taken it upon itself to intervene.
A spokesman for TEQSA said the agency had “considered this matter and will be taking it into account in its ongoing monitoring of this provider”.
He said awards that were not part of the Australian Qualifications Framework were “covered under the qualification standards” and TEQSA considered honorary doctorates fell into this category.
“As such, TEQSA will take (honorary doctorates) into consideration as part of our ongoing monitoring,” he said.
So let’s understand what is happening here. A government agency will determine whether awarding an honorary doctorate to a political figure is appropriate? That same government agency thinks that awarding a non-earned degree impacts on the standards that underpin the earned degrees? If so, it is quite clear that TEQSA have absolutely no understanding whatsoever of how universities operate. None.
I have argued before that TEQSA was a waste of money but I think political interference by a government agency at this level is very problematic. (No doubt some will ask about my views of the Brendan Nelson veto over some ARC projects – different situation.)