The Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee (AVCC) today recommended changes to the Australian Research Council Amendment Bill 2006 when it appeared before the Senate Employment, Workplace Relations and Education Legislation Committee which is conducting an inquiry into the provisions of the Bill.
AVCC Chief Executive Officer John Mullarvey told the Senate Committee that universities had concerns about a number of changes proposed in the ARC Amendment Bill.
"The AVCC is pleased with the $572m increase proposed for the ARC's funding cap for the forward estimates period 2008-09.
"However, the AVCC is concerned with changes proposed to the governance and management structure and has recommended to the Senate Committee that the Bill be amended to reflect the concerns identified today," Mr Mullarvey said.
The AVCC CEO raised the following concerns with the Senate Committee:
Removal of the Board of Directors: The AVCC does not support the proposed removal of the ARC Board on the basis that the existence of the Board provided a degree of independence in the ARC's assessment and ranking processes.
Establishment of Designated Committees: The AVCC is concerned with Part 4 of the Bill which establishes designated committees and specifically because the Minister would determine the function, and composition, of any such committee[s].
The AVCC has no in-principle objection to the establishment of an Advisory Committee to support the ARC CEO toharvest ideas if the ARC Board is abolished. In this eventuality the AVCC recommends that such a committee be structured to ensure that its advice is consistent with the mission and objectives of the ARC and is both fair and equitable to ARC's stakeholders.
Power of Inquiry: The AVCC is concerned that the Bill proposes to remove the capacity of the ARC to initiate its own inquiries by the transference of those powers to the Minister. Whilst this power has not previously been used by the ARC, this function of the ARC is seen as a proper mechanism for maintaining the independence of the advice provided by the ARC on grant funding and should be a function retained by the ARC.
The AVCC welcomed the opportunity to appear before the Senate Committee and looks forward to the scheduled release of its findings on or before 10 May 2006.
The AVCC provided a submission to the Senate Commimtte in April 2006 which is available from here.
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