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Pell in rent bargain with Australian Catholic University

Sydney's Cardinal George Pell is reportedly using the incentive of reduced rent to convince the Australian Catholic University to include compulsory religious studies in its curriculum.

In an article published today, the Australian Financial Review claims several ACU sources told it that Cardinal Pell proposed an agreement to waive or reduce a mooted rent increase in exchange for an undertaking for the university to incorporate compulsory religious studies, including theology and philosophy, into its courses.

It is likely the rental increase would have dire financial consequences for the cash-strapped ACU's two Sydney campuses. The campuses were previously rented from the Catholic Church for a peppercorn fee but this arrangement is up for renegotiation.

The Financial Review says that the university, which has six campuses across Australia, has close ties with the Church, but a formal agreement on curriculum could breach clauses on academic independence in enterprise bargaining agreements and some government regulations.

Cardinal Pell, who is also president of ACU Ltd, the university's controlling company, has expressed his desire for more religious education at the university.

ACU national chancellor Julian McDonald said the university is still negotiating with the Archdiocese of Sydney regarding "management fees", and the matter would be discussed at the next meeting of the University Senate on 23 September.

Cardinal Pell has upset ACU by his enthusiastic backing of two private Catholic higher-education providers, Perth-based Notre Dame University and Campion College in Sydney's west.

Prime Minister John Howard recently announced a gift to Notre Dame of $2 million and funding for 200 student places even though the ACU's request for more had been rejected by the Minister for Education, Brendan Nelson.

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

9 Sep 2004