(For the period 11 July 2018 to the day before the first meeting of the newly constituted Academic Senate held after 30 June 2020)
(Having right of audience and debate at meetings that the elected Faculty representative is unable to attend)
Members of Academic Senate, particularly elected members, have a crucial role in explaining Senate and its work to other members of the academic community – and in encouraging colleagues to bring forward relevant matters for discussion at Senate committees. Too, all members of Senate are encouraged to bring to committees their own experience and expertise – as well as the views of the particular group or electorate that they represent (such as the student body or the Senior Executive or a School or Faculty). Nevertheless, as a member of a Senate committee, all members' decision-making and inputs into the committee must reflect the interests of the University as a whole. Beyond this, members' responsibilities are to be aware of the committee's purpose and functions, to be ethical and diligent, and to contribute actively and critically to the committee's discussions and work. Importantly, members should also be the communication point between the committee and the member's School, Faculty, Division or other area regarding the discussions, decisions, policies and other developments in the committee. All this applies as much to Faculty and School committees as it does to University committees and Academic Senate itself.
The Academic Senate has agreed that regardless of their category of membership (that is, elected, nominated, ex officio etc) all members of Academic Senate and its committees have the following roles and responsibilities:
Elected, nominated or appointed members of Academic Senate or one of its committees are encouraged to bring to that committee their own experience and expertise and the views of the particular group or electorate (such as the student body or a School or Faculty) that they represent. However, as a member of the committee, their decision and input into the committee must reflect the interests of the university as a whole. Once they assume membership of the Academic Senate or committee they are subject to the overriding duty to serve the interests of the Academic Senate or committee (Bennetts v Board of Fire Commissioners of New South Wales (1967) 87 W.N. (Pt1) (NSW) 307 at 311 refers).
The Role of the Chair (Presiding Officer)
The Presiding Officer or Chair of a committee has a critical role in ensuring the smooth and effective operation of the committee. They should:
The Role of the Secretary/Governance Officer
The secretary to the committee shall be appointed by the Academic Secretary. The secretary’s main roles are:
The secretary is not a ‘note-taker’. They will minute decisions rather than discussion, unless some elements of the discussion are required to contextualise the decision. Their role is also advisory, and they will have knowledge of policy relating to the decisions being made, as well as of the procedure for the operation of the meeting.
There are various ways of putting items on the Senate agenda. Probably the best way is first to discuss your issue with colleagues (including your Senate representative and, if needed, the Manager, Academic Senate) and then write a brief paper. There is a template to help you construct your paper on the Academic Senate website. Your paper should, first, explain what your issue is (one or two sentences), then give some background to the issue (a few paragraphs), then raise discussion points (one or two paragraphs) and, finally, make recommendations for policy, if appropriate (as dot points). Once written the paper is probably best 'escalated' through Senate's committee structure (e.g. from School Board to Faculty Board on to the Academic Senate). This will ensure that the issue you are concerned about is fully debated in a collegial way. Alternatively, if it is urgent for example, the issue could be tabled directly at Academic Senate.
The Executive Officer, Academic Senate will receive items for the agenda up to 14 days prior to the next meeting. The agenda is then published on Yammer for members and on the Academic Senate website.
Procedures for Debate
In addition to the Rule for the Conduct of Meetings of Academic Committees, there are debating procedures that all Chairs and members should be aware of:
Academic Senate is scheduled to meet five times per year. Meetings are conducted on a rotational basis at the Bathurst (2 meetings per year), Albury-Wodonga (1 meeting per year) and Wagga Wagga (2 meetings per year) campuses. It always meets face-to-face, not by videoconference.
The travel and accommodation expenses of the Presiding Officer, Deputy Presiding Officer and student members of Academic Senate are paid for from the Academic Senate budget.
The Executive Officer, Academic Senate liaises with the student members of Academic Senate about their travel and accommodation requirements before each meeting and makes any necessary bookings for them.
The travel and accommodation expenses of all other members of Academic Senate are paid for from the relevant primary cost centre budget.
Apologies are accepted up to the day of the meeting by email or phone 84746 to the Executive Officer, Academic Senate.
Key Considerations for Effective Committees
See the Group Guidelines and Committee Guidelines for general considerations around successful committee and group work.
In most universities, collegiality is considered a key driver of committee work. However there is not always a clear understanding of what collegiality means. In the context of academic governance, it means more than a broad range of people having a say in decisions. Collegiality is also the basic underlying model of all academic work, and is closely aligned with the idea of peer-review. In academic governance collegiality is about applying the collective oversight of the ‘academy’ to key university decisions. It is only in this way that the academic quality of a decision can be assessed; quality is by definition a decision of the entire academy, both within an institution and between institutions, nationally and internationally.
As detailed in the Committee Guidelines, committees function best when they have detailed and considered options put before them, where possible containing input from the stakeholders to the final decision. Committees function best when they are the pointy-end of distributed discussion and decision processes; their role becomes to make final decisions, based on options gathered from the distributed process. At CSU the Academic Senate includes many sub-committees, including those that operate within the Faculty, such as Faculty Boards, School Boards, Faculty Courses Committees and Faculty Assessment Committees. This distributed network of committees allows every member of academic staff the opportunity to consider and advise on decisions. All of these committees collectively are ‘the Senate’ of the University.
The efficiency and effectiveness of committees is paramount, to prevent a waste of staff time and effort. Governance committees operate using a formal framework, including some formal meeting procedures, and this formality is not ceremonial but rather a mechanism to ensure that workable decisions can be made, in the shortest time possible, while respecting the need to allow all members to make a contribution, irrespective of their position within the University. In governance committees, all votes have the same value. Committees should also be reviewed periodically, to ensure they are fulfilling their terms of reference and to make changes as required to adapt to changing circumstances.
Committees act within a policy framework. The outcome of the governance decisions of the committees is often captured in the policies of the University, and so members will be asked to consider questions from within the framework of these policies. The policies act as the ongoing collective memory of the institution, in governance matters. Committees are not general discussion forums, they have specific governance functions to achieve.
Members of committees have important responsibilities in the communication of their decisions and roles, to other members of the University.
Universities were originally governed exclusively by academic boards, and these have been supplemented over time with corporate governance requirements. Today corporate governance is the model used to govern most universities, but with an associated requirement that academic activity and quality continue to be governed via some form of academic governance arrangement. The reason for this is mostly the nature of the work of universities themselves, which is intrinsically collegial in character as a result of the peer review that is at the heart of academic knowledge production and assurance.
There is no way to bypass the requirement for peer review in assessing both the quality and veracity of academic knowledge, and therefore it must be evident in some way in a university’s governance arrangements. The relationship between corporate and academic governance is often described as working best when there is a productive tension between them. This is because on many academic issues there will be a collective academic view that will not necessarily be unified, and there will be economic and other factors that a university must take into account as an ongoing concern. Balancing all of these requirements is the task of governance, a university without sound corporate governance could not continue to function, but without academic governance it will cease being a university. The two complement each other.
Rules for the Operation of Committees
Academic Senate meetings, including meetings of its sub-committees, operate under the requirements of internal Rules and policies. These are:
Boards and Committees Policy – General. This policy gives general guidance to members of Academic Senate and its committees on matters such as:
This Rule provides specific guidance on the running of academic governance meetings, in areas such as:
Setting up and Maintaining a Committee
Governance Services in the Office of Governance and Corporate Affairs (OGCA) will organise the setting up and ongoing running of official University governance committees. Some of these committees will be serviced by staff outside the OGCA, such as School Boards. The OGCA will advise such staff of the requirements.
All Australian universities are required to have academic governance arrangements in place, as part of their authority to operate, from government. Currently (2017) all universities centre these arrangements around an Academic Board or Academic Senate, normally a sub-committee of the university’s governing board.
The specific academic governance arrangements for each University are set out in enabling legislation, such as the university’s Act and/or By-laws, and also sometimes in additional Rules and policies approved by an institution’s governing board. At CSU the legal framework for its Academic Senate is specified in three main instruments:
In addition the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 contains academic governance requirements that all Higher Education Providers must meet. The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency has legislated responsibility for regulating the application of the Standards in universities, as well as registering universities more generally across a range of requirements, to allow them to operate.