An invitation to all of you to contribute to the 2015-2025 Strategic Plan

Dear Colleagues

I am now just over 3 weeks in to my time at UNSW and I am enjoying every minute of getting to grips with running the university and meeting staff and students. The atmosphere around campus, as students arrive for O week is superb and I have enjoyed the buzz of excitement when walking along the mall.

An invitation to all of you to contribute to the 2015-2025 Strategic Plan

The main subject of my message this week is an invitation to all of you to contribute your ideas to the UNSW 2015-2025 strategy. The link to a website specially set up for this purpose has been sent separately to all staff. .

Developing the new strategy will occur in several phases, as explained on the website, and will be completed by October. The first phase involves securing your direct input as individual members of staff, under any of the twelve headings you will find on the webpage. You can make as many entries as you wish of up to 500 words each. I hope that you will all contribute ideas, as it is my hope that staff will have a strong sense of ownership of the strategy that emerges. This direct route of contributing ideas will be complemented by a structured process through Schools and Faculties and by other forums for discussion and brain-storming. In April, a Green paper will be circulated for further feedback and in July a White paper, which after additional consultation will become our definitive strategy by October. I look forward to seeing your ideas.

Getting to know UNSW

During the last week I have visited the Nura Gili Centre, the International Office, the Children’s Cancer Institute, the School of Banking and Finance, the School of Marketing, the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Science and The School of Electrical Engineering. Each of the visits proved to be informative and impressive. I learnt about many outstanding achievements, heard about a range of challenges and obtained the views of staff and students on the current status and future strategy for UNSW. At each of these sessions I have been impressed by the pride staff take in their work, the collegiate spirit, the level of ambition and a willingness to engage in planning our next strategy. My thanks to everyone who has contributed.

Other events this week

I launched the strategic planning consultation at my first Vice Chancellors Advisory Committee – Heads of School Forum (try saying that after a good evening out!), last Wednesday. The leadership team split into groups to answer the question: “Taking a UNSW-wide and a Heads of School perspective, what three things would you (a) Start, (b) Stop and (c) Continue”. The suggestions covered a broad range of topics, but there were some common themes fed back from all of the groups.

On Thursday I had the enjoyable task of welcoming about 60 new staff who like me, have joined UNSW since October last year. On Friday I was either brave or foolhardy to agree to be interviewed by Ananthan Ambikairajah, a UNSW student ambassador on the “RoboCouch”. You can see the video on this page. On Monday, UNSW hosted an important visit from the President of Beihang University, in Beijing one of China’s leading universities, to talk about potential research collaborations and student exchanges in engineering, aeronautics and other areas.

That was followed, by my first UNSW Council meeting, chaired superbly by our Chancellor David Gonski. It gave me an opportunity to explain to council members my initial impressions of UNSW, developments in day-to-day operations, my information gathering/engagement process and the strategic consultation plan/timetable. We had an important and positive initial discussion about how far and how fast UNSW can progress over the next 10 years. After Council I went on to speak at a wonderful undergraduate welcoming event in the Clancy auditorium chaired by our Pro Vice Chancellor (Students), Professor Wai Fong Chua. It was a suitably upbeat and happy occasion which included wonderful dancing from the Descendance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dance Theatre and an inspiring talks by our alumnus, Raji Ambikairajah, Ben Heenan, Chair of the Arc Board and Nadine Eyre, Arc O Week Coordinator. A memorable occasion for our new students, their parents and families.

Happy Chinese New Year

Many of you will have been celebrating the Chinese New Year and welcoming the ‘Year of the Goat’. Last night UNSW hosted a Chinese New Year Reception at Sydney’s magnificent Chinese Garden of Friendship. Our guest of honour, the Consul-General of the People’s Republic of China in Sydney, was joined by over 100 guests and UNSW staff. The event was a celebration of the many teaching and research links between China and UNSW. The statistics are impressive and include the fact that our total Chinese student community numbers more than 6,000 including 650 Chinese PhD students. UNSW has just opened an office in the city of Nanjing, to coordinate partnership development across China and the ‘China International Business and Economic Law Research Initiative’ will see five of China’s best legal minds join UNSW. Their research will have a unique focus on the trade and investment law issues common to both China and Australia. Exciting developments. I ended my welcome speech with a feeble attempt to say happy New Year in Mandarin – but it was taken in good humour.

Finally, I promised to update you on my first sailing lesson. It was a beautiful afternoon on Sunday with just enough breeze for comfort and for sailing, but not too much. All seemed wonderful sitting back enjoying the setting, until that is we had to learn to change direction and tack. My wife, Chris, who (as I keep reminding her), has the advantage of having sailed a dinghy in her childhood, made tacking look easy. Then it was my turn - arms and legs all over the place and a complete loss of balance and direction, followed by mirth and ridicule from Chris and our instructor. I instantly decided that running, which I am enjoying enormously in Sydney, is a lot easier! But I will not give up just yet – it was great fun, if somewhat humiliating and wonderful to be out in Sydney harbour. Next lesson on Saturday …

Best wishes to all,


Professor Ian Jacobs
President and Vice Chancellor
UNSW Australia