The governing body of the University of Melbourne will see a shift in structure following legislative changes introduced by the Andrews Government.
The amendment to the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 will see elected student representatives once again granted voting rights on university councils.
The university council is responsible for the appointment of the vice-chancellor and the setting of the budget, alongside other major responsibilities.
Currently, elected student representatives only sit as fellows of the University of Melbourne’s council. Two representatives have fellow spots – one elected at large in the UMSU elections and one elected specifically from graduate students in the GSA elections. Some universities having no student representation at all on their councils.
Under this amendment, students elected to councils will also receive formal training.
In a press release, the Minister for Training and Skills, Steve Herbert, has said that the State Government will be working closely with institutions to ensure a smooth transition.
“TAFEs and Universities are major learning institutions and we’re restoring the capacity for staff and students to have a position on boards and councils.”
The amendment appears to be generally welcomed on both a staff and student level. Professor Rachel Webster, president of the Academic Board, believes the council can only benefit from stronger student participation.
“The University of Melbourne, and certainly Academic Board has always been committed to student representation on all its committees,” she said. “In my experience students have provided invaluable input and advice.”
University of Melbourne Student Union General Secretary, Hana Dalton, welcomes a strengthened student voice on the highest governing body.
“I’m really pleased to see the introduction of this legislation. As University Councils set the strategic direction for each University, it is absolutely critical that students are represented at this level of governance,” she said.
Regardless of this new legislation, members of the University remain adamant they ensured maximum student participation in university affairs following the abolition of voting student representatives under the Napthine government.
“Despite this change, the University is proud of the structure it developed over the last few years that ensured that students could remain as participants in the Council,” says Deputy Provost Professor Susan Elliot.
Student participation, either on a voting or non-voting level, is common amongst the various boards across the University. However, the balance tends to weigh in favour of the professional staff, and there is belief that further improvement can be made.
“I would have liked the legislation to stipulate at least two elected student representatives on each University Council, representing undergraduate and postgraduate cohorts, as is done here at Melbourne,” says Dalton. “But all in all I think this is a fantastic step by the Government, and I’m glad to see them delivering on this commitment.”