Debtwatch economist Steve Keen takes UWS to Fair Work Commission, but uni gets ready to fire back

Economist and housing market bear Steve Keen is at loggerheads with his academic institution, the University of Western Sydney (UWS), following comments made to his final-year economics students last year.

Keen is taking UWS to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) with the case due to be heard in Sydney this afternoon.

A spokesperson for the FWC told Property Observer it is scheduled as a confidential conference to deal with a dispute between the two parties.

A report from the ABC suggests it is over delays in processing his voluntary redundancy, with Keen tweeting last week that he needed urgent “industrial relations and also defamation legal representation”.

At the same time, UWS is investigating Keen for “serious academic misconduct” after Keen told his final economics students that he could not fail any of them because the university had abolished the economics faculty and they would have no way of re-taking his class.

“Without commenting on the specifics of a matter that is under investigation for serious academic misconduct, the University of Western Sydney believes that any allegation of ‘soft marking’ is extremely serious and an affront to academic standards,” said the university in a statement.

The unversity says it also obligated to report any alleged breach of academic standards to the Federal Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) and the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for investigation, “which we have done”.

“The matter is then to be investigated internally in accordance with the process outlined in the University’s collective agreements.”

Keen told Property Observer in October the university was cutting economics entirely from its curriculum and claimed UWS would soon have the “dubious” distinction of being the first university in Australia to offer no economics courses.

He made these comments as he contemplated quitting academic life for possible private sector roles in London, where he is a well-known economic analyst.

The university has denied it will no longer offer economics courses and said in a statement that it is “completely false” that students would not be able to re-sit their exams.

“Should an instance present where a current Bachelor of Economics student has failed a subject, the University would case manage the situation on an individual basis to ensure students can still finalise their degree and provide a good outcome for them, ” said the university in a statement.

A spokesperson for the university told the ABC it would continue to offer a major and sub-major in economics as part of its Bachelor of Business and Commerce degree.

However, it did announce in November last year that it was closing its economics degree program after applications for the course fell from 241 four years ago to just 47 last year.

The Australian reported that the only economics course offered to students next year would be an introductory course for first-year business students.

Keen has tweeted about his battles with the university and also received messages of support from students.

He is one of 30 academics offered voluntary redundancy following UWS’s decision to cancel economics and other courses.

This article first appeared on Property Observer.


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