Wollongong Receives AU$50 Million for Philosophy-Based Degree Program

The University of Wollongong is creating a philosophy-based bachelor of arts degree program in “Western Civilization”, to be based in a new School of Liberal Arts, with the help of a AU$50 million (approximately $35.6 million) gift from the Ramsay Centre.

The new school will be headed up by philosopher Daniel Hutto. In some promotional materials for the school, he writes that it will combine elements of different liberal arts and “great books” programs. Its curriculum will be “philosophical, through and through,” based on “great masterworks of thought and art,” and will enter into “respectful, high-quality conversations with non-Western traditions.”

The promotional materials include testimonials from philosophers at other schools who have reviewed the curriculum, including Shaun Gallagher, Ruth Millikan, Onora O’Neill, Jay Garfield, and several others.

The Ramsay Centre was created with funds from a bequest from the late Australian businessman Paul Ramsay, and had sought an institutional home for its proposed Western Civilization degree at a number of Australian universities. It had recently been turned down by the University of Sydney owing to faculty concerns about political bias and academic freedom, mainly over the extent to which there’d be involvement of Ramsay Centre staff in university hiring, admissions, and curricular decisions.

According to The Guardian,

In a statement on Monday a [Wollongong] university spokesman [said] that a “small team” had been established to “quietly” work through “all matters related to academic freedom, governance and autonomy from the outset”. However the university spokesman confirmed the Ramsay Centre would have “representatives” on selection committees.

“Ramsay will have representatives on selection committees alongside UOW members, but they will not chair the committees, will not have a majority and nor will they have any overriding deciding vote,” he said. 

The spokesman said the curriculum for the course had been designed by the university’s academics, but “refined in consultation with Ramsay Centre”.

And while the university said Ramsay Centre staff “will not be sitting in on classes for the purposes of assessing teaching content or quality” the university would provide regular “quality assurance” reports to the Ramsay Centre.

You can look at detailed descriptions of the course offerings here. The school will offer scholarships of at least AU$27,000 (approximately $19,250) to all admitted students. The first class, expected to number 30 students, will begin the three-year program in 2020.


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