proposed staff cuts at ACU
The History Council of NSW condemns the Australian Catholic University (ACU) for its decision to axe 20 academic positions in history (as reported on 14 September 2023). The ACU is undertaking an unethical ‘spill and fill’ strategy, forcing academics to reapply for a smaller number of new positions, a strategy that will wreak an enormous amount of unnecessary human suffering for the workers (and students) impacted.
Given the quality of these ACU historians – their international standing and their impressive publications – these cuts will have serious long term consequences for the state of history education and research in NSW, and indeed in Australia. We note for example that the ACU’s medieval and early modern studies research program is world leading research and its disestablishment has been condemned internationally. This is already doing ACU considerable reputational damage. (See the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Research Program’s Open Letter.)
We further note that some of these positions were only recently created in the past three years, and that these cuts were announced with no meaningful discussion with history and humanities research leaders. This announcement comes only a few years after the ACU announced a new vision for humanities research that it described as “bold and ambitious”, and which attracted scholars from overseas to work at the ACU.
The History Council of New South Wales’ Value of History Statement emphasises the importance of History in shaping our identities, engaging us as citizens, creating inclusive communities, aiding economic well-being, teaching critical and creative thinking, inspiring leaders and serving as a foundation of future generations. The ACU’s decision is not only damaging for the University’s reputation and its students and employees, it is also a threat to the health of Australia’s humanities sector more generally, which can impact society more broadly.
We concur with the statement by Professor Frank Bongiorno in the statement by the Australian Historical Association, in noting that ‘these cuts are deeply harmful to Australians’ capacity to “understand the world we live in” and “create the best possible future”’ to quote the stated aims of ACU’s own National School of Arts and Humanities.