International student crisis goes on trial at Murdoch

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.

Unconventional Economist
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  1. It feels to me like a choice as to whether Australia falls further towards enabling corruption or whether we say ‘enough is enough’.

    I see that the Gaurdian is reporting today that there is a case for penalising public servants for not reporting dodgy behaviour. Meanwhile big business will want to know if board members can also be whistleblowers.

    This case is bigger than one university or even the university sector.

    • the saddest part is that such an important question is going to be decided and legislated by an unelected bureaucrat, not by democratically elected parliament

      this is becoming super common theme recently around the world, especially in common law countries – democratic legislative procedure is being replaced by ad-hock trials. even if it goes all the way to high court it’s still scary

      • Actually, a judge can only make a ruling that is within the laws as set by parliament.
        If parliament has made laws so vague they can be interpreted many ways you should take that up with the politicians, not the judges.

        • when laws were written something like this was beyond any possibility so it’s hard to blame politicians who made those laws
          imagine few decades ago the idea that uni students will not be able to speak English

          now it’s up to unelected bureaucrats – judges to legislate

  2. i’m looking towards the reputation of Australia’s education system being exposed and trashed internationally by the case. Hilarious.

  3. Ronin8317MEMBER

    Murdoch University losing the case will not result in any undertaking. In fact, Murdoch University doesn’t have a case, it is doing it as a warning to any future whistleblower : you will be bankrupted through the courts. Expect the case to go on for years with more and more baseless claims against the professor.

    • I only hope there is a class action brought by all the failed students which misery discourage Uni’s from accepting students who do not meet standards, Tonia the Uni’s may well view this asa necessary cost of doing business.

  4. Diogenes the CynicMEMBER

    Mudroch University is now in the dustbin, its reputation is shredded. I really hope the Professor wins the case and the decision makers who opted for legal action are sacked.

  5. Jumping jack flash

    Well I hope they don’t raise the standards until I have completed my current degree next year… after that they can do whatever they like.