Leading economist Steve Keen has launched industrial action against the University of Western Sydney as its board investigates him for ‘‘serious academic misconduct’’.
Professor Keen told the Sun the university’s executive was trying to reprimand him for refusing to fail students.
‘‘I told students that I couldn’t see how I could possibly fail anyone in the final submissions when the degree they are studying was going to be abolished,’’ he said.
Professor Keen said it would be unfair to fail students who would have no way to re-attempt the course given it had been dropped by the university.
‘‘In this situation, what do you do with a student who has failed this subject?,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m seen as a world leader in this field. I teach (students) stuff that nobody else can teach them.’’
Professor Keen said the university had only announced the degree would not be continued two weeks before the final assessment.
He had not been informed what recourse would be available for failed students, he said.
Professor Keen is regarded internationally as one of only a handful of economists who predicted the Global Financial Crisis.
He was also the only economist on a Sydney Morning Herald forecasting panel to predict interest rates would be lowered to 3 per cent last year.
Professor Keen has been a vocal critic of the university’s widespread course and staff cuts since the economics degree was cancelled last year.
He has applied for a redundancy.
He launched action against the university in the Fair Work Commission, when he was not told this week whether his redundancy application was successful.
‘‘They were required by the enterprise agreement to tell me on Monday,’’ Professor Keen said.
‘‘I have three universities asking me to apply for positions; hopefully soon it will be goodbye UWS.’’
A statement from the university confirmed Professor Keen was ‘‘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.
‘‘The university takes matters relating to the upholding of academic standards very seriously and we are under obligation to report any alleged breach to the Federal Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency and the Independent Commission Against Corruption, which we have done.’’
Although students can no longer complete a degree in economics at UWS, the statement said ‘‘there would be no detrimental impact on current students’’.
‘‘The university is offering a major and sub-major in economics as part of its Bachelor of Business and Commerce program,’’ the statement said.
‘‘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.’’
The statement did not comment on Professor Keen’s industrial action.