Macquarie University’s Academic Senate held its last meeting of the year on November 21st, and here are the top five takeaways that you need to know:

1. Pivotal Legislative Shifts in Higher Education

The Academic Senate reviewed forthcoming changes in higher education, notably the Australian Universities Accord, with the final report due in December. The government is poised to formulate a response by May 2024, which includes setting up a panel for revising the funding model. In legislative updates, the passage of the Higher Education Support Amendment Bill 2023 marks a shift in funding and support structures, particularly in support of First Nations students and altering academic progression requirements.

2. Tracking student triumphs and challenges

(i) Graduate Research Student Performance

The Senate examined a report on graduate research student performance, noting marked improvements in success and completion rates above sector benchmarks. There’s a notable decrease in attrition, especially for part-time PhD students. While overall student satisfaction is rising, targeted efforts are underway to address the comparatively lower satisfaction levels among domestic students.

(ii) Open Universities Australia Student Performance

Open Universities Australia (OUA) has seen a significant downturn in student numbers, with a 21% decline in enrollments and a 29% drop in new student registrations. Postgraduate degree enrollments, however, continue to increase. The OUA demographic is diverse, with a significant number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The university is actively seeking strategies to support this cohort, given their lower success rate yet higher average WAM.

3. Flexible Pathways in the BPhil/MRes Program

A proposal to restructure the BPhil/MRes degrees was presented, with a flexible framework that offers various exit qualifications. This approach is intended to better serve student needs and enhance the university’s research training appeal. Approval of these changes is anticipated at the Academic Senate’s first 2024 meeting.

4. Introducing a new Master of Information Technology

A new Master of Information Technology course has been approved to commence in Session 2 2024, catering to the increasing demand for IT professionals. This course is set to provide a comprehensive curriculum designed to be accessible even to those without prior qualifications in IT, diversifying the university’s specialised postgraduate offerings.

5. Updated Policies for Graduate Research Thesis Preparation and Examination

Senate passed amendments to the Higher Degree Research Thesis Preparation, Submission, and Examination Policy and Procedure, now rebranded to reflect a broader focus on graduate research. A significant change is the reduction of examination panel members for PhD theses from three to two, which streamlines the examination process. Other changes include detailed review by the Research Degree Subcommittee in cases of divergent examiner opinions,

strong preference for at least one Australian examiner but allowing two international examiners if strongly justified, and specific prohibition of the use of Generative Artificial Intelligence use by graduate students to wholly generate a research output for examination.

Other Policies / Rules Approved at this Meeting

Senate also approved amendments to several policies (including the Higher Degree Research iThenticate Procedure (retitled as Graduate Research iThenticate Procedure), Recognition of Prior Learning Policy, Course of Study Monitoring and Review Policy, Course of Study Reaccreditation Policy) as well as amendments to Academic Senate’s Committees’ Terms of References. Changes to the Intellectual Property Policy were also noted by Academic Senate.

Policies in Progress: Your Guide to What’s Under Review

Consultation on Student Performance Monitoring and Reporting Procedure is currently being undertaken with staff and students via the Policy Central Bulletin Board and the following key policies are also under review:

  • Course Transfer (Undergraduate Coursework) Policy / Procedure; and
  • Learning and Teaching Awards and Grants Policy / Procedure.

The first Senate meeting of 2023 will be held on 27 February. Keep an eye out for our ThisWeek notice in mid-February giving staff an opportunity to observe, or contact the Governance Secretariat by email at

Posted by Jacqueline Phillips

Jacqueline Phillips is a neurophysiologist and Professor of Neuroscience at Macquarie. She worked as a veterinarian before pursuing medical research. She is currently the Chair of Academic Senate.

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