Shock and awe at rock star Rathjen in ICAC probe

Former Adelaide University Vice Chancellor Peter Rathjen. Picture: Naomi Jellicoe

Which will make the explosive bulletins this 7 days all the extra extraordinary and the extensive-expression problems complicated to quantify.

At the incredibly the very least, it casts sizeable question on the long term of the career of 1 of the state’s loudest and most transformative voices, but also the course of the college he was charged to lead.

Prof Rathjen returned to his hometown of Adelaide in 2018 with enormous wraps.

It was an appointment which sent shockwaves by means of the restricted-knit Tasmanian group, exactly where he had been a drive of nature as chief of the state’s sole college, UTAS, for five several years.

Tasmania is normally considered as a tourism oasis a lovely island of picturesque mountains, globe course bush walks, a slicing edge arts and culture scene, and some of the finest house developed generate in the nation. And it is.

But beneath the area lies an ongoing education crisis. Literacy stages are amid the worst in the nation. Abs stats estimate about fifty percent of the populace aged fifteen to 74 do not have ample examining or producing skills.

Education and learning results are dwarfed by other states. Changeover stages to Calendar year 12 alone, enable alone college, are reduce than their mainland counterparts. And the point out has extensive held yearly graduation ceremonies for Calendar year ten students.

A lot of faculties really don’t go to Calendar year 12, with clusters of group colleges filling the void. These challenges were being the most deeply felt in the state’s north and northwest, exactly where the greatest barrier was the dearth of a culture for academic attainment, in spots which had extensive survived on forestry and mining – right before the forestry sector all but collapsed.

Prof Rathjen, in conjunction with a newly elected Liberal State Federal government less than arguably the state’s finest leading of the past 30 several years, Will Hodgman, and a progressive education minister in Jeremy Rockliffe, had a assembly of minds in and about 2014 and resolved to tackle this concern head on.

It took a minimal when for the two groups to get on to the very same site. Prof Rathjen, a Rhodes Scholar, has a potent intellect but can also be blunt. He attracts advocates and critics in equal evaluate. He likes to hold court at lunches and meal. He can engage or alienate. The Federal government initially considered him as an significant, but complicated, stakeholder. But more than time the marriage peaceful and strengthened.

From this the progress was nothing shorter of extraordinary.

Hundreds of tens of millions of bucks worthy of of college campuses were being permitted for the state’s most disadvantaged locations a centre to enhance the state’s literacy, named following the late governor Peter Underwood, was set up in Hobart extra faculties took on Calendar year 12 the quantities gradually improved controversial new associate degrees were being released to give folks fast pathways into spots this sort of as aquaculture and horticulture, and new scholar accommodation structures were being founded in Hobart, transforming the city centre, and attracting extra international students to the island.

Perhaps most appreciably, for the initial time the term “education” was the most talked about subject matter in Tasmania.

When it was announced Prof Rathjen was returning to Adelaide in 2018, UTAS was in the method of functioning on a master system to change its Sandy Bay campus to the city centre, with the aim of building Hobart a bona-fide college city. A system for a STEM centre, which had been backed by Infrastructure Australia, was currently being worked on for Hobart.

He was given an elaborate, ceremonial farewell attended by a veritable who’s who in Tasmania.

So it is no understatement to say that Adelaide College had significant hopes for Prof Rathjen’s return.

It did not take him extensive to make his presence felt.

He set a number of noses out of joint in senior political circles with converse of a Metropolis Deal, similar to what he had worked on in Tasmania, to provide private, public and college jobs jointly less than 1 banner.

“Who does this bloke imagine he is,” 1 informed The Advertiser, regularly.

He talked openly about bettering education results and rising quantities of international students.

He advocated for shorter, sharper degrees, which were being extra sector focused and would present extra direct pathways into spots this sort of as defence, production and space.

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He held typical round desk catch-ups with the city’s assumed leaders at his eastern suburbs house.

And he confronted what many had assumed unachievable, a likely merger with UniSA. He preferred an SA college which was not only regarded as amid the finest in Australia, but the globe.

Talks were being properly state-of-the-art and appeared to be on the right monitor when the undertaking abruptly collapsed.

Prof Rathjen was shocked and devastated.

In latest periods, he had spoken about the college weathering the COVID-19 storm, inspite of the noticeable diabolic effect on the sector which is now our biggest export market place, and reports began circulating that international students may be allowed again in less than fourteen times quarantine. If nothing else, there was hope.

But that came crashing down this 7 days.

Initially it was announced by the college that Prof Rathjen was having indefinite depart. The rumour mill swung into overdrive. Senior politicians and silks were being none the wiser. The college was fast to level out it had nothing to do with the institution’s economic problem, which simply included to the secret.

The bombshell hit on Thursday when Impartial Commissioner In opposition to Corruption Bruce Lander announced he was investigating Prof Rathjen for “allegations of improper conduct by the Vice-Chancellor of The College of Adelaide”.

“I am also investigating the fashion in which the college dealt with those people allegations,” Mr Lander mentioned.

The announcement also adopted Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce immediately resigning as Chancellor before in the 7 days.

“Ordinarily I would not affirm or deny the existence of an investigation mainly because the legislation less than which I function is predicated on investigations currently being performed in private,” Mr Lander mentioned.

“ … Nonetheless, in mild of the powerful speculation relating to the College of Adelaide, and the likelihood that that speculation will proceed and likely lead to an pointless negative effect on the university’s operations, I have decided to make this public assertion.” Mr Lander pressured two details: Initially that his investigation had just started and ought to not be construed as showing there had been any impropriety second, that the investigation was into probable misconduct or maladministration but not corruption.

As essential by regulation, the investigation will be held in key. The Marketr is sure by the ICAC Act and seriously limited on what it can or can’t report.

From below the investigation will run its course. It is not recognized if conclusions will be produced public.

The long term for the bright star Prof Rathjen is equally unclear.

But, on any amount, it is a seismic course of functions.