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RMIT – what's going on?

By Malcolm King - posted Friday, 27 April 2012

Recent reports of staff bullying at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology have been overtaken by the university flagging a new bizarre behaviour modification scheme called the ''Behavioural Capability Framework' (BCF).

The BCF wants staff to adopt more positive attitudes and concomitant behaviours and these will be assessed against a yearly work plan.

I ran the writing programs at RMIT for six years and taught there for 12 years as a tutor, lecturer and senior lecturer. My home faculty was Art, Design and Communication (now Media and Communication).


I left in 2004, just before RMIT sacked more than 500 staff. I could see the writing on the wall. The payout was generous and almost every staff member I knew in my age cohort (mid 30s-early 40s) jumped at the chance of a voluntary departure package.

I look back at my time at RMIT with fondness and humour. I got my big break at RMIT in the late 1980s. I had teachers par excellence in Sally White and John Wallace in journalism and Professor Jack Clancy in communication theory.

Dark clouds have been hanging over my alma mater for more than a decade. In 2004 Vice Chancellor Ruth Dunkin resigned creating a 'palace coup' whereby the managerialists in the Faculties of Business and Engineering took over.

Their top down edicts changed the political culture of the organisation, turning it from a relatively stable oligarchy of five faculties (with various degrees of business acumen) to a dictatorship directed by the Chancellery. The factionalism within the restructured mega faculties is tearing the place apart.

As The Age reporter Erica Cervini pointed out in a recent article:

"Is this the same mentality that led the Victorian ombudsman, George Brouwer, to criticise RMIT last year? In October, Brouwer released his report, Investigation into How Universities Deal with International Students."


The report stated that some universities were admitting students with substandard English and passing students who should have failed. RMIT refused to acknowledge there were any problems and stated that Brouwer didn't have jurisdiction to investigate them.

My story may be typical of others at RMIT. I was planning to leave RMIT when a new head of school was appointed from a science department (we were an arts and communications department) in 2002 who enforced his 'vision' on the school much like Hitler enforced his 'mission statement' on Poland.

The new boss was right to sack some staff as they had been woefully underperforming. But like a wolf down from the fold, he got a taste for it.

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About the Author

Malcolm King is a journalist and professional writer. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University in Adelaide. He runs a writing business called Republic.

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