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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 Secretariat runs elections to fill student positions on the Senate, the Academic Board, and the faculty 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.

The voting for Senate elections is conducted online in September, which is why (unlike SRC voting) you often won’t see as much campaigning around campus.

Who is this Student Fellow of Senate and what do they do?

Like Harry Potter, the Student Fellow 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 members of faculty or university schools?

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

Students serve a one-year term of office. A combination of undergraduate, postgraduate and higher degree by research students will be elected, depending on the size of the faculty or University school.

From this pool of elected students, members will then select from among themselves who will sit on the Academic Board – like a parliamentary cabinet.

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 on Monday 23 August. 

13 August 2018

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