Newcastle uni halves student input

STUDENT and staff unions are outraged after the University of Newcastle quietly cut student and staff representatives from the institution's governing council.

The University of Newcastle Council's March meeting minutes show the 19 members voted to "opt-in" to state government laws requiring only one student and academic representative. The council currently has one undergraduate, one postgraduate and two academic staff representatives.

The council is understood to have followed up the decision with a vote in May to cut two of the positions.

The laws required a two-thirds majority vote to pass the move, meaning the votes of student and staff representatives were eclipsed by the votes of up to 15 other members.

National Tertiary Education Union Newcastle branch acting president Bert Groen, a former council member, said the move was "just plain wrong".

He said other council members often came with a business perspective and little or dated knowledge of the realities of universities.

Newcastle University Student Association president Heather Richards said it would be detrimental to student representation.

The University of Newcastle said it was unable to confirm if the council changed its composition because the May meeting minutes would not be ratified until July. A spokeswoman said the council believed a strong body included staff, student and external members with a skills mix.

"Council members are expected to make decisions . . . in the best interests of all aspects of the university," she said.

The state government said the laws gave universities more flexibility.

Cessnock MP Clayton Barr said students should have significant representation.

Greens MP John Kaye said the laws would hand universities to corporations.

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