The University of Wollongong's top academic body has rejected the fast-tracked approval of the controversial Ramsay Centre degree in Western Civilisation.
The Academic Senate met on Wednesday and voted 28-16 that it objected to Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings' fast-track approval, which bypassed the Senate and the usual course approval processes.
And it voted unanimously to review of the use of the fast-track approval process for courses and subjects.
This does not mean that the proposed $50 million deal to deliver the Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation is dead in the water, however. While the Senate is the university's chief advisory body on academic matters, it is the University Council which is the governing authority.
National Tertiary Education Union branch president Georgine Clarsen said was rare for the the Senate to deliver such a rebuke to a Vice-Chancellor.
"It is quite unprecedented in and very rare in academic life I have to say," she said.
"What it means is that the highest governing body for academic matters at the university have said to the vice-chancellor who fast-tracked something that he did the wrong thing.
"And in fact that fast-track process needs to be reviewed.
"We don't know what it means at this state yet because it is a very serious rebuke to the Vice-Chancellor and I think it is impossible for the Vice-Chancellor just to go ahead with business as usual."
The Mercury understands Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings was at the Senate meeting.
Professor Clarsen said the NTEU would now take the matter to the federal government's Tertiary Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) as the independent regulatory agency.
"We've asked them to look into exactly what happened at the University of Wollongong, to access the files, find out what due process was not adhered to and to draw conclusions from that and reconsider our position," she said.
Academics and staff have protested angrily since UOW and the Ramsay Centre signed their deal in December whereby the university would deliver an arts degree with a focus on the great texts of Western Civilisation.
Academics had warned the process had been a threat to academic freedom and the reputation of the university.
The Senate is "the principal academic body" of the University of Wollongong, its website says. It has "responsibility for advising the Council and the Vice-Chancellor on matters relating to teaching, scholarship, research and related activities in accordance with these terms of reference".
The proposal to run a degree funded and driven by the late health care mogul Paul Ramsay's philanthropic foundation was rejected by the Australian National University before being picked up by UOW.
A university spokesman said the resolution reached by the Senate had no direct impact on the deal.
"Despite noting the Academic Senate's objection and welcoming its call for the Fast Track process to be included in the scope of an upcoming review, the Vice-Chancellor and Executive remain satisfied that the application of the Fast Track Approval Process for the Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation met current policy requirements.
"This resolution has no direct impact on the partnership between the University of Wollongong and the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation or on the status of the Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation as an approved degree offering."