SOUTHERN CROSS University has rejected claims its courses in alternative and complementary medicine are non-scientific "quackery".
A group called Friends of Science in Medicine has written to the vice-chancellors of 19 Australian universities calling on them to axe alternative and complementary medicine degrees.
The group includes world-renowned biologist Sir Gustav Nossal, the creator of the cervical cancer vaccine professor Ian Frazer, and more than 400 doctors, medical researchers and scientists.
The group criticises chiropractic studies, naturopathy, iridology, acupuncture and homeopathy as courses in "quackery" that are being given "undeserved credibility" by universities who teach them "as if they were science".
The group's vision statement is to "reverse the current trend which sees government-funded tertiary institutions offering health-care 'science' courses not based on scientific principles nor supported by scientific evidence".
Southern Cross University is drafting a response to the group's letter.
The head of SCU's School of Health and Human Science (SHHS), professor Iain Graham, said he welcomes any scrutiny of educational practices.
"Eighty per cent of Australians seek alternative therapies," Professor Graham said.
"Obviously orthodox medicine doesn't work for everyone. Of course you need evidence, both empirical and experience, to justify any practices."
SCU was the first Australian university to offer a degree course in naturopathy in 1995 and it describes itself as a "leader" in the provision of education in natural and complementary medicine.
Professor Graham said many alternative approaches to health have been around longer than conventional medicine.
"Overseas, there is a broader view of these types of treatments and they are well accepted, particularly in many European countries," professor Graham said.
The group's action follows a decision in Britain which means publicly-funded universities no longer offer degrees in areas of alternative medicine, including homeopathy and naturopathy.