The faculties getting the chop are: health and medical sciences; science; engineering and mathematical sciences and the faculty of arts, business, law and education. They will be replaced by their constituent academic schools.
“This will bring 22 schools and four institutes into one body where we can discuss topics that cover the entire spectrum of issues facing us.”
Apart from making costs more real to academics, the changes will mean academics can teach their subject in different schools, whereas previously the faculty could have stopped them.
And students will be able to combine units from different schools without hitting faculty barriers.
“The real work is done at the school level. But we have made it difficult for schools to make decisions. Most schools did not have any budget. If you don’t have a budget how do you understand there is something like a budget?
“We are ending the disconnect between people who do the work and who spend the money,” said Professor Chakma.
The decision coincides with a federal government plan to allow students to “compile” degrees by taking units in different subjects from all over a university. This underpins the Job-ready Graduates legislation for fees and subsidies.
This will charge students 113 per cent more for an arts degree but federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said a student could offset some of that cost by taking units that had lower fees and higher subsidies.
The strategy of shaking up universities has come at the same time as the pandemic-related blow of collapsing international revenue.
Professor Chakma, who took up the vice-chancellor job only four months ago, said axing faculties should not be seen in an industrial relations context.
“It’s too early for me to make any informed comments about that but what I do know from my past experience, you always have the ability to make progress.”
The academic board was consulted about the vice-chancellor’s proposal before it was put to the university senate, which is the governing body.
Education expert at the Mitchell Institute, Peter Hurley, said universities are undergoing a major transformation in the face of legislation and the pandemic.
“The international student problem will go into 2022 and beyond. Job losses were just the first wave.”