ANU Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt once described the university’s School of Culture, History and Language (CHL) as the ‘jewel in the crown’, but in 2014 it was placed under review. CHL staff supervise 180 PhD students, have won several ARC grants (in 2015 there were four ARC Laureate Fellows and six Future Fellowships) and have achieved ERA ratings of 4 and 5 across the relevant disciplines. This was not enough to save them from the managerial axe.
CHL was to be the test case for a new University wide review policy. As management oscillated between financial and academic rationales for the review, the estimated deficit of the school likewise varied: sometimes the shortfall was estimated to be less than half a million dollars, at other times several million. In 2015, the university commissioned an expensive external review who found that this excellent school had yet to settle from previous re-structures and recommended that it should endure no more. Despite this in late 2015 deeply unsettling rumours began to circulate about staff cuts as high as 60%.