Independent writer, Paul Wallis, has penned an interesting analysis of Murdoch University’s case against Dr Gerd Schroeder-Turk, who is being sued for causing a drop in international student enrolments after he told ABC’s Four corners that entry and teaching standards at the university had collapsed:
You’d think it’d be common sense for international students coming to Australia to have a good working knowledge of English. Not so, apparently. A lot of students are getting student visas, with inadequate English, and they’re not doing well…
The stakes went up, a lot, when Murdoch University sued a whistleblowing professor named Associate Professor Gerd Schroder-Turk for damages and costs after his public criticism of the university regarding the welfare of a number of Indian students who are failing their courses.
The academic battle found its way into the courts soon enough. Schroder-Turk took out a Federal Court injunction to prevent his removal from the university Senate as the matter escalated. The university counter-alleges that international student enrolments are down as a result of his criticism, and that its reputation has been damaged, hence the lawsuit.
The damage seems to be a lot deeper than that, though. Murdoch University’s interesting and fully documented mix of a large number of English language skills waivers for applicants, combined at the same time as numbers of students failing, is making a point of its own.
Students are coming to Australia, apparently paying their fees, and then find themselves quite evidently disadvantaged by their lack of English skills…
This is one of the most important legal issues ever to hit the Australian education sector…
Findings by the court could well rewrite the application and acceptance rules for universities around the country, and affect tens of thousands of students. The findings may also directly affect the right of students to take their own legal actions…
Whatever the outcome of the court cases, these incidents have raised many absolutely critical, fundamental issues for the education sector and for international students. Senior Australian academics have taken the unprecedented step of protesting to Murdoch University and asking it to drop the case to protect the right of academic free expression. That, also needs to be addressed. There’s too much at stake to be complacent. Governance of universities is too important for a “Code of Silence” to be tolerated.
Wallis is right. This is an extremely important test case for the entire international student market.
If Murdoch University wins, it will strongly discourage other academics from coming forward and blowing the whistle on Australia’s international student scandal.
Effectively, a cone of silence will be placed over academics, criticism will be gagged, and universities will be empowered to operate without public scrutiny.
However, if Murdoch loses, it could empower academics to speak-out, increasing pressure on universities and policy makers to lift entry and teaching standards.
Needless to say, there is a lot riding on this case.