The state government will conduct an independent review exploring structural changes to Western Australia’s four major universities, but the timing has drawn concern from both students and university management.

Education Minister Tony Buti and Premier Mark McGowan have appointed an independent panel to examine how to improve enrolment numbers, financial stability and research opportunities at Curtin, Murdoch, Edith Cowan and the University of Western Australia.

The review panel will be expected to report later this year on their findings.

But Curtin student guild president Dylan Botica said the “rush-job review” was seeking to fundamentally alter the structure of universities without the voice of students.

“The … review has ignored the existential threat it poses to student unionism. Student guilds play a fundamental role in the higher education sector and to overlook this is a slap in the face to all students,” he said.

“Student guilds are statutory bodies that have been completely unrepresented in the panel membership, while university management is an overwhelming majority.”

Botica said there was the possibility the review could result in the loss of student guilds entirely.

“Any review that has scope to abolish student guilds cannot be conducted with a complete lack of engagement with those bodies,” he said.

The announcement comes amid an overarching review of the higher education sector in Australia, the Universities Accord.

Botica said unlike the state review, the Universities Accord had given guilds the opportunity for consultation and representation.

He said embarking on a separate review while the national review was under way would unintentionally cause “more chaos in the already embattled higher education sector”.

Murdoch University Vice Chancellor, Professor Andrew Deeks, said the review was welcomed but also voiced concerns about its timing.

“I am somewhat concerned with the timing of this review, coming as it does on the heels of the release of a discussion paper by the Australian Universities Accord Panel.

“This discussion paper is part of a 12-month review of Australia’s higher education system being conducted by the Australian government aiming to deliver an Australian Universities Accord that could significantly change the way our universities are funded.

“Personally, I would prefer that the Australian Universities Accord process was completed before this review began.”

But Deeks was overall supportive of the state review.

“Each university plays an important role in our higher education ecosystem and has its own strengths,” he said.

“This review is an opportunity to capture and consolidate the unique role each university plays and to enhance the productive cooperation that already exists between our universities.”

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