Response by Australian Universities Heads of English to the University of Sydney’s decision not to continue funding the Chair of Australian Literature.
As the nation’s peak academic body for promoting the interests of English Literature departments, the Australian Universities Heads of English (AUHE) expresses its strong opposition to the University of Sydney’s decision to cease funding the Chair of Australian Literature. We understand that the University will no longer support the Chair, following the retirement of Professor Robert Dixon in June 2019, unless external financial support is found.
Established in 1962 with the appointment of Gerald Wilkes, the Chair of Australian Literature is the oldest position of its kind in the country. Internationally-recognised scholars (Gerald Wilkes, Dame Leonie Kramer, Elizabeth Webby and Robert Dixon) have occupied the Chair, leading the Department of English’s substantial contribution to the understanding of the nation’s literary and cultural history, and to the awareness of Australia’s indigenous and multicultural literary heritage. The university’s decision to cease supporting the Chair will have grave consequences for the vitality of Australian Literature as a subject nationally and to the esteem with which it is held in Australia and internationally.
Given the University of Sydney’s standing as an important home for Humanities and Literary Studies research in Australia, the AUHE urges it to reconsider its decision.