Last year, we worked with you to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (‘MOU’) that outlined key principles to guide any future agreements we might make with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. We have not yet formally heard back about the MOU, but remain committed to the principles of academic autonomy that it enshrines.
Since then, the Centre has signed agreements with the Universities of Wollongong and Queensland. We ourselves have had time to think further about a proposal that we might put to the Ramsay Centre, a proposal consistent with the MOU, and building upon some of the excellent ideas that staff raised during the consultation. Our concern has been how Ramsay Centre funding might best support a broad range of students at Sydney, and do so in a way distinctive from the Wollongong and Queensland offerings.
What’s sometimes been lost in the public debate is a fact that many of you raised with us; that this is not a new area of study for our institution. We already have an unparalleled offering of existing units of study in these areas.
These current offerings cover a diverse range of disciplines including archaeology, architectural history, art history, Biblical studies, Classics, European studies, history, the history and philosophy of science, language, literature, music, philosophy, Studies in Religion, and majors in languages such as Ancient Greek, Classical Hebrew, French, German, Italian, Latin and Spanish.
Rather than focussing the funding on a small, select group of students, we think there is an opportunity to open up access to our teaching in these areas to hundreds more.
So yesterday I wrote to the Ramsay Centre to canvas the possibility of funding for a new proposal.
Our idea is to introduce a new major in the Western tradition that students could choose as part of our existing Bachelor of Advanced Studies program. We are proposing that the majority of funding to be used for students in the form of scholarships, bursaries, study abroad opportunities and other related support costs.
We envision the major would involve two core units: ‘Introduction to the Western Tradition I’ and ‘Introduction to the Western Tradition II’, which would be ‘great books’ in methodological approach. Students would also undertake an ICPU and select five electives from a broad pool of existing study options offered by faculties such as Arts and Social Sciences, Science, Architecture, Design and Planning and the Conservatorium of Music.
These changes will allow us to support hundreds of students each year. Over the life of the funding agreement we believe that around 1100 students could benefit.
Of course, the principles of our MOU would still need to be agreed. These include full control over our curriculum, teaching, marking and staffing.
I am sure that, as with any funding body, there will be ongoing conversations with the Ramsay Centre about ways in which they would like to see this proposal revised. As those conversations proceed, I will keep you up to date at every point consistent with my commitment to do so from the beginning.
Dr Michael Spence
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
An indicative list of units available in the last few years gives some idea of the rich array of offerings the University currently provides and will make available to students choosing to study the Western tradition as their second major.
In addition, students in the combined BA/BAdvanced Studies will have opportunities to undertake units of study in languages such as Ancient Greek, Old English, Old Norse, Latin, Classical Hebrew, French and Francophone Studies, Germanic Studies, Spanish and Latin American Studies, Italian Studies and Modern Greek Studies.