The Ramsay Centre announces its first postgraduate scholars

Jul 7, 2021 | Read

By Jill Rowbotham, Higher Education Writer, The Australian newspaper

Scholars have a new avenue of ­opportunity and funding to pursue with the arrival of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation postgraduate scholarships, offering 20 students $85,000 a year for up to three years to study at the world’s best universities.

The inaugural awards, announced on Wednesday, join the John Monash Scholarships as an Australia-overseas postgraduate program to rival the Rhodes Scholarships in prestige and value.

The Ramsay Centre was founded in 2017 with an endowment from the late founder of Ramsay Health Care, Paul Ramsay. One of its board members is former prime minister and Rhodes Scholar Tony Abbott.

As with the other schemes, applicants must be academically excellent and have the potential to be future leaders in the community. They must also have a desire to advance a richer and deeper understanding of Western civilisation. “That is in keeping with the overall remit we have from Paul Ramsay’s endowment,” Ramsay Centre chief executive Simon Haines said.

One of the inaugural recipients, Roseanna Bricknell, said it was an appealing prospect.

“I’m interested in those things and that’s why this scholarship is a good fit for me,” said Ms Bricknell, who is senior lawyer with the ­Australian Government Solicitor, based in Sydney.

She took an honours degree in law and science at the Australian National University. Her goal now is to harness her understanding of technological sciences to study the regulation of digital platforms. “My ability to understand science makes me a better lawyer and my understanding of law and society makes me a better scientist,” she said.

Ms Bricknell’s World Universities Ramsay Postgraduate Scholarship is one of the two variations offered. The other is the St John’s College, Annapolis, Ramsay Postgraduate Scholarship.

In September, she will head to Oxford University to pursue a one-year bachelor of civil law (the equivalent of a masters degree).

“As a lawyer, what is most interesting about the law is that it is the codification of the social contract of how we live together,” she said. “I think we’re seeing probably the most important political shift in my lifetime: the changing way that those rules operate.”

Ms Bricknell said those rules increasingly were set not by democratic representatives but by the executives who run tech companies, and the software engineers and data scientists they employ.

“A lot of people – most people – don’t question how those new rules are made, but they can have just as big an impact on our lives as statutes made by parliament,” she said. She cited an example from English barrister Jamie Susskind about the future of motoring, with speed controls built into cars.

The argument goes that in the case of an emergency, such as someone needing to rush a woman in labour to hospital, that overriding control would deprive a person of their ability to commit an act of civil disobedience.

“I think it’s really important that there are clear rules around what can and can’t be done in a digital environment. And a lot of those issues go to the heart of ­freedom and democracy.”

Other issues are how scrutiny or monitoring by technology and data collection can change the way people behave. “The more data is collected on someone, the greater ability the collector of that data has to influence that person.”

Ms Bricknell was among almost 100 applicants for a Ramsay Centre postgraduate scholarship. Other recipients include Matthew Blacker, who will study a masters in theoretical physics at Cambridge University; Margot Holbert, who will compete a masters of architecture at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana; and Emma Williams, who will finish her doctorate in artistic research at The Netherlands’ Leiden University.