How the University is run (and why you should care)

The Senate, University Executive and Academic Board explained

You’re a student at the University of Sydney, but do you know how this place is run? If you’re unfamiliar with the University’s governance, rest assured that by the end of this article you’ll have a HD in University politics.

The Senate is the governing body of the University. It’s made up of 15 Fellows – three are termed ex-officio (meaning ‘by virtue of their position’) and comprise the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and Chair of the Academic Board; five are appointed by the University, two by the State Government, and the remaining five are elected by students and staff. The Senate makes all the big decisions about the University’s strategy, including financial management, building developments, academic activities and the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor.

The University Executive is the peak management committee, which makes recommendations to the Vice-Chancellor on matters of University-wide planning, decision-making and oversight.

The Academic Board is responsible for maintaining the highest standard of teaching and research and preserving academic freedom and integrity. It provides guidance to the Senate on academic matters (including new academic programs and changes to existing courses) and receives reports from each of the Faculty and University School boards, who are responsible for academic decisions within their own discipline.


What are the elections, and why should I care?

The University Governance Office runs elections to fill student positions on the Senate, the Academic Board, faculties and faculty boards, and the faculty and University schools and University school boards.

Senate elections are different to those run by student organisations, like the SRC, SUPRA and USU elections. They’re super important though, because it ensures that there is a student voice within the University’s official governance.

Who are these Student Fellows of Senate and what do they do?

Like Harry Potter, the Student Fellows will be awarded a wand and inducted into the secret University wizard society. Just kidding – there’s no wand or magic, it’s all very serious business.

The actual role of a Student Fellow of Senate is to oversee the performance of the University and make decisions about its strategic direction from a student’s perspective. You’ll need to attend regular Senate meetings, and you’ll be expected to take part in committees and University activities.

Student Fellows are elected for a two-year term of office. Only one undergraduate and one postgraduate student will be elected to office.

What about the other governing committees?

Students can also stand for election to Academic Board, faculty and faculty board, Univeristy school and University school boards. 

As members of the peak academic governing body at the University, student members of Academic Board have the opportunity to help shape academic policies and even which courses the University offers. 

A faculty or a University school is a consultative forum that receives and considers reports on academic matters. The faculty or University school then presents these recommendations to the faculty board/University school board, who are responsible for making academic decisions, as appropriate.

Students who are members of their respective faculty or University school can also be elected as a student representative on their respective faculty board or University school board. 

Students on Academic Board, faculty, faculty board, University school, and University school board serve a one-year term of office. A combination of undergraduate and postgraduate students will be elected, depending on the allocation of the faculty or University school. The full list of allocations is maintained on the Student Elections website. 

Should I go for it?

Have you ever thought to yourself “I wish this University could…” or “If only my faculty would…”? Without quality student feedback, the University doesn’t know what needs to be changed to improve the student experience. Make your voice heard in the room where it happens. 

Nominations are open and close at 12 noon on Tuesday 6 September.

Last updated: 17 August 2022

13 August 2018

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