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FED: Universities aren't run by lefties, inquiry finds

By Julian Drape
04 Dec 2008 4:00 PM

CANBERRA, Dec 4 AAP - Australian universities are not controlled by left-wing academics hell bent on brainwashing students, a Senate inquiry has found.

The previous coalition government established the inquiry into allegations of academic bias, a week before it lost control of the upper house earlier this year.

But Labor senators dominated the committee, and its final report states that there is no evidence of bias in the nation's universities.

"The committee's finding is that in view of the relatively tiny number of submissions received, from the hundreds of thousands of students who are said to be affected, there can be no basis for arguing that universities are under the control of the Left," committee chair Gavin Marshall wrote in the report.

"If there is a Left conspiracy to influence the direction of the nation's affairs and its social and economic priorities through the process of subverting a generation of undergraduates, this is not yet evident."

When tabling the report, Senator Marshall said the inquiry was a waste of time.

The Labor members of the committee said the inquiry was instigated by Liberal student organisations.

The government senators were puzzled why students didn't complain about perceived bias to their universities "rather than to a Senate committee".

In the majority report they asked whether a left-wing bias among academics would even pose a problem if it existed.

"The issue is whether this has any bearing on teaching and learning, or any effect on the intellectual development of students."

But Liberal senator Mitch Fifield said that while specific examples of deliberate bias appeared to be "uncommon", real bias could be seen in the curriculum taught in many faculties.

"It ensures a monoculture," he told the Senate.

The coalition senators' minority report recommends a charter of academic freedoms be developed to protect students' rights to religious and political expression.

"This charter should be adopted by all universities as a condition of funding," the minority report states.

The coalition also wants universities to conduct a full review of their complaints processes for students.