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ACU Senate considers Pell concerns about curriculum

The Senate of the Australian Catholic University (ACU National) yesterday met to consider concerns voiced by the Cardinal George Pell about the curriculum of ACU National programs.

A statement released after the meeting announced that the Senate will seek from the Academic Board an evaluation of ACU National's teaching programs in relation to their effectiveness in preparing professionals for their careers. Any decision relating to compulsory units can be integrated into that evaluation.

Cardinal Pell last week denied a report in the Australian Financial Review that he was considering offering reduced rental to the University in exchange for an undertaking to include compulsory religious studies in its curriculum. Under an agreement with the religious congregations that relinquished two Sydney properties occupied by the University, the 10 year peppercorn rental agreement has now come to an end and is subject to review by the Archdiocese.

While denying the "deal" claimed by the Financial Review, the Cardinal admitted that he is dissatisfied with the curriculum, telling the Catholic Weekly: "For many years I have been pushing for changes to the curriculum. Little has changed."

Commenting on the Senate's resolution, ACU National Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Sheehan AO (pictured) said the University had been disappointed by the Cardinal's remarks that had appeared in the media.

"At the 2003 and 2004 Annual General Meetings of Australian Catholic University Limited, of which Cardinal Pell is the President, there has been strong endorsement of the University's policies in relation to theology and philosophy studies," said Professor Sheehan. "Members of Australian Catholic University Limited have particularly been impressed that the University's practices and principles are consistent with Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the Pope's statement on the apostolic constitution of Catholic universities."

Professor Sheehan affirmed ACU National's commitment to Catholic mission and ethos.

"We are unashamedly Catholic and make a tangible and special contribution to Catholic culture and identity across Australia through our undergraduate and post-graduate programs," he said. "Our theology, education, nursing and welfare programs, for example, are fundamental to the ongoing resourcing of Catholic schools, hospitals and welfare organisations."

Meanwhile the Senate also discussed the requirement by the Archdiocese of Sydney for ACU National to pay a significant management fee.

A second satement released late yesterday reveals that the Senate resolved to continue to explore the implications of the legal advice it is seeking in relation to matters of civil and canon law, since they both affect the property arrangements in place between the University and the Archdiocese of Sydney.

Commenting on the Senate's decision, ACU National Chancellor, Br Julian McDonald AO said: "The Senate is conscious that the matter is concerning many staff, students and other stakeholders and therefore resolved to make a final decision at its next meeting."

Teaching program review at ACU National (Australian Catholic University 23/9/04)
ACU National seeks further legal advice on rental demand from Archdiocese (Australian Catholic University 23/9/04)

Pell denies link between Uni rent and curriculum change (CathNews 17/9/04)
Pell in rent bargain with Australian Catholic University (CathNews 9/9/04)
Pell offers rent break for more religion in uni (Australian Financial Review 9/9/04)
ACU head reveals surprise at Notre Dame Uni announcement (CathNews 4/8/04)
Notre Dame welcomes Federal support for Sydney campus (CathNews 2/8/04)
Who puts the 'R' in Catholic? Who puts the 'C' in Liberal Arts? 'We Do!' (ABC Religion Report 12/5/04)
ACU National

24 Sep 2004