Changes to the University of Wollongong's principal academic body have been called a "breach of trust".
The university's Academic Senate works in collaboration with the University Council, the University Executive and the academic community.
The Senate has responsibility for advising the Council and the Vice-Chancellor on matters relating to teaching, scholarship, research and related activities.
It's typically been comprised of elected academic staff, ex-officio (management appointed) members and student representatives.
A UOW spokesperson said a revised membership and composition model for the Senate was approved by the University Council at its meeting on April 9.
A member of the Academic Senate, who wished to remain anonymous, said dismissing the Senate, and early termination of elected members without proper consultation was a breach of the electoral rules of the Senate.
"There was always a balance between elected academic members and ex-officio members who are appointed," they said.
"The balance was always in favour of the academic elected members... Now the changes they've introduced is that this balance will be changed, and there will be a majority for the ex-officio, which means they will control the Senate, and the voices of the elected academics will be much less influential.
"This is disrespectful and a breach of trust of what elected academic members of the Senate have been doing, and is very concerning."
A petition has been launched, calling for the senior leadership of UOW to retract the recently installed model, and resume consultation with Academic Senate.
According to the petition, the new model "shows all the signs of a hurried and poorly considered plan executed in the final days of outgoing leadership", in reference to outgoing Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings.
The UOW spokesperson said the revised model comes after a lengthy council-led review conducted by a working group that undertook extensive consultation and provided multiple reports to the University Council and to the Academic Senate prior to submitting its final recommendations to the University Council, "which had the unanimous support of all working group members".
"The revised Academic Senate membership model... Amends its size and composition to increase student representation, improve gender balance and enable more diverse staff representation by drawing on a broader cross-section of UOW's academic workforce," the spokesperson said.
"The changes to the size and composition of UOW's Academic Senate brings it more into line with similar bodies across the higher education sector, positions it more appropriately and strategically within the university's governance framework and enables it to focus on its core responsibilities of overseeing teaching and research.
"Implementation of the University Council's decision has commenced immediately and is expected to be completed by mid-May with the conclusion of Academic Senate elections."
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.