First: sincere thanks to my assistant – Murdoch University English literature MA candidate, Jinjing – who wrote the header. I’ll take it from here. Hard on the heels of James Cook University’s decision to pursue marine scientist Peter Ridd to the High Court (donate to his fighting fund here), Murdoch University is suing one of its own for speaking out about academic standards. Murdoch is also going after the reporters who spoke to him – which means legal action is likely to embroil the billion-dollar per annum ABC. Good luck with that.
Court records show the university is suing associate professor Gerd Schröder-Turk, one of several academics who blew the whistle on the treatment of international students to the ABC’s flagship current affairs program, Four Corners, earlier this year.
The Four Corners program, which aired in May, alleged universities were admitting international students who did not meet their own standards for English.
Schröder-Turk spoke out about his concerns for the welfare of international students and the “integrity of the academic teaching at Murdoch”.
“Admitting students who don’t have the right qualifications, or right prerequisites, or correct language capabilities is setting them up for failure,” he told Four Corners.
Schröder-Turk was summarily dismissed from the university senate after the revelations were aired. He subsequently took legal action against his employer under Western Australia’s whistleblower protection laws and now Murdoch has responded with a cross-claim targeting Schröder-Turk and several others. The university claims its international enrolments and, consequently, its revenue have both declined because of the scandal.
If that’s true – and we have zero evidence at this stage that it is – wouldn’t it signify to savvy administrators that there is a responsive market overseas for rigour in the provision of higher education? Furthermore, if it does, how will that same market respond to months, possibly years, of embarrassing litigation about Murdoch’s quality control? Throw in the fact that the university seems eager to make the ABC a co-respondent – a potential enemy with a far bigger budget than its own – and an even more serious loss of market share and prestige seems probable.
Here’s an idea: instead of lashing out at their own senior staff with court action, why don’t Australian universities listen to their concerns and take appropriate action to remedy crisis? Wouldn’t that be a more university-like course of action? Wouldn’t it also pay off for them in the long run?