The constitution, functions, and powers of the University Council

As with most Australian universities, the University of Tasmania is established by an Act of state parliament.

The first of these Acts was passed in 1890 making the University of Tasmania the fourth oldest university in Australia and one of a small number formed before Federation. Today, the University is governed by a University Council constituted and appointed under the provisions of the University of Tasmania Act 1992. The current University Council is comprised of a total of 14 members, and we are fortunate to have a combination of members appointed and elected from academic and professional staff, students, and graduates. Two additional members are selected by the State Minister for Education and there are six positions that the Council may appoint through the recommendations of its Remuneration and Nominations Committee, which for these purposes, is also constituted by members of the community who are external to the University.

The Act is detailed in its prescription of Council’s responsibilities, principally to act in all matters concerning the University in the way it considers will best advance the interests of the University. Council also has the power to appoint persons to positions of responsibility within the University, this includes the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor, and Council is also able to allocate funds and otherwise determine the best use of the resources for the University.

The Act also outlines how Council can delegate its powers (and reserve them for itself).

The work of the Council is supported currently by five Committees with a mix of Council and external members. These committees provide advice and make recommendations to Council on important areas of focus. These include monitoring the activities and performance of the internal and external audit functions and the strategic and coordinated deployment of physical and financial resources. Council committees are Chaired by Council members and are required to report to Council following every meeting with detailed reports on issues considered. These committees also refer specific items to Council which require approval, noting or that are for further discussion by Council.

The Council and each committee maintain charters outlining their terms, which are regularly reviewed. These reviews confirm that the committee’s functions, delegations, and structure is right and that they are best placed to carry out their delegated responsibilities on behalf of Council. This includes ensuring that the committee membership is appropriate and that members bring the skills and expertise required to support the work of the committee. Council considers and confirms any proposed amendments to the terms of reference following this process.

As per the Act (Section 14), the University has a Chancellor who is elected by the Council. Council has defined the skills and experiences it looks for when selecting a suitable person to become Chancellor. The person must be an exemplary leader who understands the complexities of large organisations and has a broad spectrum of strategic, financial, and organisational skills. The Chancellor must understand the role of governance versus management in the context of a university and possess a strong commitment to the mission of the University to serve the future of the State, confident in their ability to navigate the often-complex politics of the State.

As per the Act (Section 16), the University has a Vice-Chancellor who is the chief academic and executive officer of the University and is appointed by the Council. Council determines the terms and conditions subject to which a person is appointed to the office of Vice-Chancellor and has agreed a selection process to recruit a Vice-Chancellor, approved by Council and involving a specially appointed selection committee and interview panel, chaired by the Chancellor, and including higher education sector representation, a state government representative, a commercial sector representative and Council members. The Selection Committee’s final recommendation is submitted to Council for approval.

The Act (Section 10) allows for Council to determine the powers and functions it will reserve for itself and those it may delegate to other officers and forums, including the Vice-Chancellor, Academic Senate, and other University staff, to enable the efficient and effective operation of the University in pursuit of its strategic and operational objectives. Functions and powers in relation to academic decisions may be delegated through the Academic Delegations Ordinance. This Ordinance prescribes the power and functions Council has delegated to Academic Senate including the determination of the qualification required of candidates before they are admitted to an award (degree, diploma, certificate).

The University Council Ordinance (PDF 184.9 KB) outlines the powers and functions Council reserves for itself. These include:

  • electing a Chancellor
  • appointing the Vice-Chancellor
  • approving the mission and strategic direction of the University and the strategic plan
  • conferring, and revoking degrees
  • approving the annual University budget
  • establishing a positive University culture and ensuring the University operates ethically and in line with its values.

It also includes information on the role of the Chancellor and Deputy Chancellor/s; the powers and functions delegated to the Vice-Chancellor and the establishment and operation of Council committees.

The University’s General Delegations Ordinance (Available on staff only intranet) is the instrument by which Council delegates powers and functions to identified University positions for:

  • financial contracts, borrowings, and expenditure
  • non-financial contracts and applications for funding
  • appointment, remuneration and termination of University staff
  • risk acceptance.

The delegations are risk-based and aim to improve operational efficiency across the organisation, build organisational capability and support a culture based on trust and accountability. These ordinances are amended by Council when there is an identified need to provide for efficient decision making.

Find out more about the University Council