NOOSA - Former of University of Technology vice-chancellor, Albert Schram, said the PNG Higher Education Act of 2014 had “laid the basis for a fundamental change in university governance” and that this had helped create the conditions in which he was dismissed from his job.
“I warned about this before in a lecture at the Australian National University in 2016, but nothing was done,” Dr Schram said.
“Only independent universities, can protect academic freedom and freedom of expression. Democracies cannot thrive without independent universities and vice-versa.”
He had previously told the ABC’s Pacific Beat program that there was an orchestrated campaign to have him removed from his job at Unitech at a time the university was given a clean bill of financial health for the first time in 20 years.
Dr Schram that the case against him was triggered by an accusation he had falsified his qualifications, an allegation eventually dismissed by the national court.
More recently Dr John Warren resigned as vice-chancellor of the University of Natural Resources and Environment in Rabaul, saying he had been threatened with arrest after chancellor Kenneth Sumbuk accused him of spreading false rumours.
PNG’s higher education secretary Father Jan Czuba told Pacific Beat that both cases were “isolated” and there was no campaign to remove outspoken foreign academics, but Dr Schram says these experiences are symptoms of government moves to exert broader control over academic institutions.
“The sad thing is that now they have two well-connected European vice chancellors out of the country and exposing their lies and shenanigans,” Dr Schram says. “There is still much more where this is coming from.
“We would have left if they had asked nicely. They would have had life-long ambassadors of the university and the country.”