The University of Wollongong chancellor, Jillian Broadbent, believes universities' emphasis on vocational degrees has overshadowed the importance of nurturing skills such as critical thinking and reasoned argument.
Ms Broadbent said the university's degree in western civilisation, funded by the Ramsay Centre and opposed by many of the university's academics, would produce critical, agile thinkers who would be able to "apply themselves to anything".
"The university sector has been under pressure to emphasise the vocational side of education," she said. "That isn't at the expense of critical thinking, but the balance can get out of whack.
"The capacity to argue the case and reason is not as developed as it should be. There's a real need for [courses] to be vocationally driven, but it doesn't mean you have to abandon the development of reason and thinking. I think it's going to be good for society, having this developed.
"Certainly in politics we can do with a bit more forward-thinking and vision and leadership than we are currently getting."
The Ramsay Centre is in talks with three universities to fund courses in western civilisation, but all three proposals have hit obstacles amid concerns from academics that the course would be an exercise in cultural supremacism.
Sydney University academics have been vocal in their opposition, the University of Queensland's faculty of humanities board rejected the proposed curriculum, and there has been a legal challenge at the University of Wollongong.
The University of Wollongong is pushing ahead with advertisements for academics to teach the course next year, despite the National Tertiary Education Union's Supreme Court challenge against the process used to approve it.
"We will be taking students in 2020, it's going to happen," said Ms Broadbent. "We are very comfortable that the fast-track process was legitimate.
"It's a disappointing action from the NTEU ... I don't really understand it. I don't understand why the fear factor is there, when we've got the academic freedom, we've got the independence."
Georgine Clarsen from the NTEU said the university used the fast-track process to bypass scrutiny of the degree by academic committees. "I don't know of any new degrees that go through the fast-track process," she said.
"If something that's already been in operation, maybe you might fast track it ... but not to determine a whole new degree, and one that is potentially going to divide your university."
If the NTEU's legal action succeeds, the university would have go through a longer and more hostile approval process. "They've put themselves in a difficult position where potentially the whole thing is in jeopardy," said Dr Clarsens.
The University of Queensland is refining the curriculum for its proposed western civilisation major after the initial version was rejected by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences' Board of Studies.
Sydney University is still waiting for a response from the Ramsay Centre's board to a proposed memorandum of understanding that was submitted in November amid vocal disapproval from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.