Jason Pover & Eliza Croft

ANU announced plans for a $25,000 a year scholarship associated with a proposed Bachelor of Western Civilization on Tuesday, subject to student consultation. The announcement occurred at a forum for staff and student feedback, where more details of the proposed program were given, though some students voiced concerns.

At $25,000, the scholarship is the largest ever offered at ANU. It will be larger by just above 15% than the Tuckwell Scholarship, which is set at $21,700 for 2018.  

The degree will consist of “16 courses, 12 of which will be compulsory core courses”, according to an ANU spokesperson Rae Frances, the Dean of CASS. Combined with electives, this would make it a standard length three year single degree. Frances said the degree will be able to lead into Honours in Western Civilization or in an allied discipline such as Philosophy. The required ATAR score for entry to the degree will be 97, and will take into account bonus points.

The program will be “Socratic” in its pedagogy, according to Frances, consisting of “small groups” of seven to ten students “interrogating great texts”. These courses will only be open to those studying the Western Civilisation degree.

Frances said the annual intake of the program would be around 60 students. Of these, 30 would be on the full scholarship while the remaining 30 would be self-funded. All students undertaking the program (not just those on the full scholarship), would have access to a travel scholarship. Students in the program would be encouraged to travel during their degree.

In a question at the forum, one attendee quoted the CEO of the Ramsay Centre, Simon Haines, as saying, “If we feel like it’s not going to go to appreciation of Western Civilization, then we can withdraw the funding.” They asked how this was consistent with the stated commitment of the ANU to make certain that their “academic independence and integrity is preserved”. Frances responded that the ‘appreciation’ of Western Civilization would include appreciation of the “openness to debate and critical enquiry [which] is a key element of Western Civilisation”.

Some students and staff voiced criticism of the proposed degree. One student asked why the degree was being offered when there is a lack of courses relating to Africa. “We can [have an African studies degree] if you can find a donor to give millions of dollars to fund it,” Frances replied. 2017 ANUSA Education Officer, Robyn Lewis, expressed concern that there is a “problem with areas of study be[ing] dictated by philanthropists”. When asked by Observer what the threshold donation is to create one’s own degree at ANU, Frances quiped jokingly “$50 million”.

There were also concerns about the potential implications for Indigenous Australians. PARSA President Alyssa Shaw noted ”concerns of Indigenous students with Ramsay centre’s affiliation with the [political] right, that may feel unsafe”. Frances responded by encouraging Indigenous students to take up the degree saying “Indigenous activists should have a deep knowledge of the colonisers’ ideas to better fight them”. Aunty Anne Martin, head of the Tjabal Centre, told Observer, “I can understand why people are concerned…but you’ve got to be able to have the discussions.” She encouraged students to “see it as a challenge to flip over these discussions and debates”.

The University will be consulting with students during the next ‘few weeks’ with negotiations already in ‘their final stages’. The tight time frame is due to the University’s wish to commence the program in 2019, while negotiations only began last year, Frances explained. When asked how exactly students can provide their input, Frances invited students to “email [her]”. However, speaking at a different event, Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt emphasised that while the University is “trying to get it right”, ultimately it would be Chancelry and not students that make decisions about the program. “It’s not an ‘everyone vote on every issue’ kind of place,” Schmidt said.

Adelle Millhouse contributed to the reporting of this story.

This Article previously stated the scholarship will be 25% larger than the Tuckwell, it is in fact closer to 15%.