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Aus: Murdoch Uni drops counter-claim

Western Australia’s Murdoch University is withdrawing a multi-million-dollar claim filed against one of its own academics for damages caused by his appearance on an Australian Broadcasting Corporation program last year, just days after it confirmed it had terminated its contract with a major recruiter of Indian students.

At the time of publication, 32,909 people had signed a petition calling for justice for Schroeder-Turk. Photo: Change.org

More than 32,000 people had signed a petition calling for the university to drop the counter-claim

Senior maths and statistics professor Gerd Schroeder-Turk was one of three Murdoch academics who appeared on the Four Corners episode “Cash Cows” in May 2019, which investigated whether international students were undermining higher education because of universities lowering their English requirements to increase numbers and boost revenue.

“I have always acted in the best interest of the university… however, my concerns about the welfare of students remain”

Following the broadcast, Schroeder-Turk commenced legal proceedings to stop the university from removing him from his position on the university’s senate.

In November, Murdoch University submitted a counter-claim against Schroeder-Turk, alleging his appearance resulted in the loss of millions of dollars in revenue due to fewer international students, as well costing substantial amounts in responding to investigations by the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency.

However, the move drew international criticism and public outcry, with more than 32,000 people signing a petition calling for the university to drop the counter-claim against him.

In a statement, Schroeder-Turk said the counter-claim had caused “a great deal of unnecessary stress”.

“I have always acted in the best interest of the university, its students and its staff, and have done so in very difficult circumstances,” he continued.

“However, my concerns about the welfare of students remain.”

In a statement, the National Tertiary Education Union welcomed the decision to drop the counter-claim.

“This was nothing more than a legal tactic to intimidate Gerd [Schroeder-Turk],” said NTEU general secretary, Matthew McGowan.

“It was patently absurd to think that a university would sue a staff member for millions of dollars in damages…[and] it’s pleasing to see that the university is finally seeing some sense on this issue.”

McGowan noted that Murdoch University had dropped this part of its claim at the same time as it announced it has severed its ties with an Indian recruitment agency – Overseas Education and Career Consultants – reportedly accused of fraud by Indian migration authorities.

“This goes to the heart of the issues raised by… Schroeder-Turk. This development vindicates the nature of the concerns he and others have raised.

“Schroeder-Turk’s continuing concerns for Murdoch students’ welfare and academic integrity are the motivations for continuing with this action,” McGowan added.

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