There have been some memorable moments for UNSW in the last month. A highlight for me was the UNSW Alumni Awards, where ten alumni who have made major contributions were honoured. I was inspired on hearing about the ways their UNSW experiences, both academic and social, have shaped their careers and enabled them to achieve so much to improve the lives of people in Australia and overseas. It was a wonderful occasion with several moving acceptance speeches. An impressive number of UNSW staff, alumni and supporters were recognised in this week’s Queen’s Birthday Honours – more details of this below – congratulations to all those who received awards.
We can welcome, but with suitable scepticism and no complacency, the rise of UNSW in the QS Global University Rankings, to 45th spot and first in NSW. Regardless of the limitations of these sorts of rankings, it is gratifying to be heading in a positive direction. One objective in the UNSW 2025 Strategy is for UNSW to be securely established, on the basis of our genuine achievements, as a top 50 global university - so we can take a degree of assurance from these rankings as one indicator of our steady progress. Equally important, our strategy emphasises generosity in partnership for the benefit of our community. That objective underlies the creation of the NUW Alliance between the University of Newcastle, UNSW and the University of Wollongong, aiming to add value for communities across NSW. The potential is enormous and a consultation to explore the best areas of focus for the NUW Alliance will commence in July.
There is much to welcome in research and innovation funding. UNSW hosted the announcement of the $200m IP Group fund for commercialisation by Go8 universities and Auckland University. We formally completed our exciting strategic partnership with The George Institute and held an upbeat launch event. We had encouraging success in ARC funding with two Laureate Fellowships, 13 Future Fellowships and nine Industry Linkage awards. UNSW Canberra completed a $10m research contract with the Royal Australian Air Force. The announcement of new funds from the Medical Research Future Fund was welcomed by all involved in research in this area.
A reminder that the UNSW Futures consultation closes today. UNSW Futuresis a major initiative within our 2025 Strategy which will facilitate cross-faculty collaboration and generate innovative interdisciplinary research. The consultation document can be accessed via the 2025 Strategy website, and online submissions can be made here.
There was a large attendance at a moving flag raising ceremony to mark Sorry Day, before the ‘Statement from the Heart’ was delivered later that day at Uluru by UNSW Professor Megan Davis, our first Pro-Vice Chancellor Indigenous. Another memorable event at UNSW was the launch of the book “UNSW: Australia’s Global University”, celebrating over 50 years of international engagement and education. Wherever I travel I am impressed by the number of UNSW alumni I encounter in positions of influence, and their strong allegiance to our university. It was good to have so many of them gathered at UNSW for the book launch, which also provided a suitable occasion for recognition of Jennie Lang as an Honorary UNSW Fellow. Coincidentally, we had an opportunity to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to international partnership and collaboration by welcoming last week the Sixth Asian Engineering Deans Summit, hosted by our Dean of Engineering, Professor Mark Hoffman. The “Meet the CEO” series hosted by our Business school continued with a memorable conversation with Ahmed Fahour, CEO of Australia Post.
Efforts to enhance our student experience at UNSW continue. This month there was more progress in redesigning our courses through the Inspired Learning Initiative, the MyExperience development went live to improve the way we document the student experience, there were further developments in our Technology Enabled Learning & Teaching Initiative and the first round of our Scientia Education Investment Funding Grants were announced. All of this alongside the recent appointment of 150 Education Focussed Academics highlights our commitment to raise the profile, recognition, and reward for outstanding teaching and learning at UNSW.
The UNSW Grand Challenge theme, a cornerstone of our efforts to play an important role in thought leadership, continues apace. Major events are planned in June and July for the Inequality Grand Challenge (see below). Our fourth Grand Challenge on the fascinating topic of ‘Living with 21st Century Technology’ has been announced and, as explained in the newsletter, we are seeking expressions of interest from potential leaders of this theme. Our contribution to debate, discussion, and culture was well represented by numerous activities described below as part of the Sydney Writer’s Festival and this year’s Vivid Festival. I am delighted to report the appointments of: Paul Ramadge, previously Editor in Chief of The Age as the first Director of the PLuS Alliance; Dr John Vallance, previously Headmaster, Sydney Grammar School, as UNSW Honorary Professor for the Public Understanding of the Humanities; and Neil Morris, previously Vice-President of Campus Life & Community Engagement, as our new UNSW Director of Student Life.
You can also read below about: the recognition of UNSW’s NewSouth as “Small Publisher of the Year” in the 2017 Australian Book Industry Awards; our further success for AGSM in the Financial Times (UK) rankings; the award to Sophie Levy in our Business School of the Co-op Global Policy Scholarship for 2017; appointment of UNSW alumnus James Morton as Indigenous Judicial Officer in Queensland; Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences student awards; a UNSW podcast about Aboriginal crime fiction; the arrival at UNSW of Anne Enright as inaugural Thomas Keneally Fellow; the 13thGirls Do the Maths workshop involving 300 school pupils; the recognition of best Medical Journal of Australia research article to Professor Mary-Louise McLaws and colleagues for their paper on Sepsis; the launch of a UNSW app to help the disabled and elderly modify their homes and stay in them longer; the success of Sarah Contos, UNSW graduate, in the $100,000 Ramsay Art Prize; the fifth Wipeout Dementia event; and the ORCID system for recording research outputs.
We are still engaged in a search for the Director of our new Institute of Global Development, but global activities are progressing. We have 30 students from Engineering and Arts & Social Sciences in Northern Uganda, as part of our partnership with Gulu University. Important work continues in renewable energy in Vanuatu, and in education in India where UNSW business students commenced a program in Mumbai.
In last month’s newsletter I commented on the higher education funding proposals announced in the budget. Not surprisingly discussion and debate on this topic has continued across the sector. The Group of Eight universities have expressed opposition to the proposed legislation. Following a plenary session of Universities Australia on May 16th, our new Chair, Professor Margaret Gardner, indicated that the sector is unanimously opposed to the proposed university funding cuts and student fee increases, and that the majority of universities oppose the proposals as a whole. This will play out over the next few months, and it is uncertain at present whether or not the proposals will receive Senate approval.
Finally, there are some big sporting events to look forward to at the ANZ stadium in the next few weeks. Rugby League fans will be interested in NSW welcoming Queensland to game two of the 2017 State of Origin series, holding a lead from the first game last month in Brisbane. Rugby Union fans will have their eyes on the Bledisloe Cup when the All Blacks visit in August. As a soccer fan, I am eagerly awaiting the visit of my team, Arsenal, to play Sydney FC on July 13th, and Western Sydney Wanderers on July 15th. All of that was of course just an excuse for me to mention that Arsenal will arrive in Sydney as FA Cup winners, having beaten Chelsea 2-1 in a thrilling final two weeks ago – but congratulations to Chelsea on winning the Premier League so impressively.
The QS World University Rankings 2018 came out this month. This set of rankings was good news for UNSW, but we should be cautious in reading too much into them. Critics point out that the QS ranking has a focus on reputation, citations and student:staff ratios but not sufficient attention to areas such as teaching quality, social engagement, thought leadership, and knowledge transfer, all of which are key roles for universities and, of course, core to the UNSW 2025 Strategy. With that caveat we can take some satisfaction from these rankings. The headline news is that UNSW Sydney continues to rise in this ranking, up four places to 45th, positioning highest in NSW, and third in Australia after ANU (an impressive 20th) and University of Melbourne (equal 41st). Most of the Group of Eight universities improved their ranking and seven made the top 50. That suggests two things. Firstly, that higher education in Australia at least as measured by QS standards is in good shape. Secondly, that the aspects of our work at UNSW reflected by the QS rankings are heading in the right direction. The full benefits of the 2025 Strategy will take several years to be reflected in the rankings, but this and the recent ARC funding round (see below), provide encouraging indications that the excellent work of our staff, students and graduates is being recognised - so congratulations to everyone, but no room for complacency.
Following discussions between the Executive teams and Councils of UNSW, the University of Newcastle, and the University of Wollongong, an alliance has been formed to explore ways in which our three universities can collaborate to add value for NSW. The resulting NUW Alliance (Newcastle, UNSW, Wollongong) is the first grouping of its kind in Australia, and aims to benefit people across NSW through collaboration in areas of health, education, technology, and business development - to improve the wellbeing of NSW communities, enhance equality of opportunity, create new jobs, and generate economic growth. The NUW Alliance builds on the shared ethos, history, existing collaborative links, and complementary strengths of the three institutions – including their commitment to promoting access for students from disadvantaged or non-traditional backgrounds, who face greater challenges when pursuing their higher education ambitions. Our initial focus is a consultation with key stakeholder groups across the State in the health, education, business, and government sectors, along with indigenous and other community groups. There will be many opportunities for our academic and professional staff to take part in the consultation, which will identify areas where the combined ‘firepower’ of UoN, UNSW Sydney and UoW can make a lasting difference, and allow us to explore opportunities to develop skills in critically important new sectors. Areas of joint work are entirely open, but initial discussions have identified examples in areas such as cyber security; postgraduate education and doctoral training; applying ‘Smart Cities’ technologies to improve the connectivity, productivity, and livability of our regional cities and coastal communities; creating greater access to higher education for students in regional and remote communities, including Indigenous students; and partnering with health services to improve outcomes. While retaining their legislated independence and autonomy, our three universities will work together to intensify existing, teaching and research collaborations, and initiate new ones. Given our historical and existing links, shared values, complementary strengths, and the scale of the NUW Alliance, I see enormous potential to add value for the people of NSW. I have witnessed how similar alliances internationally have delivered significant value for their communities through independent universities that are co-located in a geographic region, leveraging complementary strengths for public benefit. We are planning a formal launch event for the NUW Alliance in the coming months, and more detail will be provided in the next few weeks about the consultation process.
Late in May I had the great pleasure of hosting a launch event that will trigger significant benefits to Australia and to UNSW: a new commercialisation agreement – the first of its type in Australasia – signed between IP Group Australia, the Go8 Universities including UNSW, and University of Auckland in New Zealand. IP Group specialises in the commercialisation of scientific innovation, developed in research universities in the UK and the US, and has assembled this landmark partnership with UNSW and Australasia’s other leading universities, to invest at least A$200 million over the next ten years in finding breakthrough research, and developing spin-out companies involved in disruptive innovation. A commercial venture, with no financial input from the universities or governments, the fund will be sourced from UK investors, and from Telstra and Australian super fund investors. The IP Group is listed on the London Stock Exchange, and its portfolio comprises holdings in approximately 100 early-stage to mature businesses across four main sectors – biotech, cleantech, healthcare and technology – a focus that matches areas of major research expertise at UNSW. Knowing there is sustained funding over an initial ten years, and stretching ultimately to 20 years, will itself be a strong incentive to attract the expertise of our university researchers.
UNSW AND THE GEORGE INSTITUTE FORMALLY ENTER NEW PARTNERSHIP
In the past month, UNSW and The George Insitutute for Global Health - two of Australia’s biggest medical research organisations - have entered a strategic partnership to advance our shared health research aspirations and contribute to outcomes that will transform lives around the world. This is a major initiative with big opportunities for both our organisations. At the launch ceremony at UNSW, the founders and principal directors of The George Institute, Professors Stephen MacMahon and Robyn Norton, noted that chronic diseases like heart attacks, stroke, and diabetes are on the rise globally and solutions are needed now to tackle this growing epidemic. The new partnership ensures we can deliver affordable and accessible treatments and prevention programs that will make a difference, especially to those living in low and middle-income countries. Professor Vlado Perkovic, George Institute Executive Director for Australia, will lead the non-communicable diseases theme as part of the UNSW Medicine’s thematic research strategy, while UNSW staff will work with The George Institute’s Chief Scientist, Professor Anushka Patel, to identify new research opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region. The George’s affiliation with the University of Sydney ended last month. Over the past 18 years, The George Institute has grown from just a handful of staff to now employing 600 people globally, with satellite centres beyond Australia - in India, China and the UK.
Commemorating events like Sorry Day is an important act of support for Indigenous Australians, and demonstrates a genuine commitment to building communities. This year Sorry Day had added significance: marking the 20th anniversary of the tabling in Federal Parliament of the Bringing Them Home report in 1997, and the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum to include Aboriginal people in the census. A ceremony at the Kensington campus, raising the Aboriginal flag, reiterated our commitment to Indigenous Australians and recognised that the land on which UNSW now sits was a place of great learning for more than 8000 years, where the Bedegal people taught their children about culture, history, and subsistence. The ceremony allowed those of us who came long after the First Peoples to express our sorrow at the wrongs inflicted on the original inhabitants of this land. As the Director of Nura Gili, Associate Professor Reuben Bolt, noted, ‘This small gesture is so important to Indigenous peoples.’ Acknowledging the past, he said, could help to close the ‘discrepancy gap.’ UNSW Arts & Social Sciences Associate Professor Sue Green, a Wiradjuri woman, gave a powerful personal account of the impact of child removals – which she said were continuing at an alarming rate. Our new Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Megan Davis, who began official duties on 1st June, was away at Uluru for the First Nations Constitutional Convention, which, later on Sorry Day, delivered its ‘Statement from the Heart’. The three key dimensions of the statement’s proposed reforms were described by Megan as ‘power, treaty and truth‘: the power that would enshrine a ‘First Nations Voice’ in the Australian Constitution; the treaty that would result from a process overseen by the proposed Makarrata Commission; and the truth that would emerge as the Makarrata Commission oversaw a process of uncovering the colonial past.
UNSW was awarded more than $20 million in the latest round of grants from the Australian Research Council (ARC), including two prestigious Australian Laureate Fellowships, 13 Future Fellowships, and funding under ARC’s Industrial Transformation Research Program (ITRP). UNSW Professors Jill Bennett and Fedor Sukochev were among the 17 Australian Laureate Fellows announced by Education Minister Simon Birmingham. Their projects, worth a combined $5.3 million, will involve research on immersive visualisation that allows users to see the world through the eyes of others, and breakthrough mathematical methods that could solve difficult problems in the physical world. UNSW received 13 of the 91 Future Fellowships announced, the highest number in NSW. The UNSW Fellowships, totaling $11.2 million, include work on developing new methods to analyse large and complex data sets, and an investigation into collecting more accurate information on the human influence behind heatwaves. This is very good news - we significantly increased our number of ARC Future Fellowships compared to last year's round. These results are a testament to the great research work being done across our university, and reflect both hard work and excellence - so congratulations to all award recipients.
UNSW researchers have also done well in the latest round of Federal funding for industry-linked research projects, outperforming other universities in the State, and picking up $2.7 million in Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Projects grants. UNSW ranked third nationally in the scheme, with nine grants covering projects in fields ranging from workplace fraud, to improving the accuracy of facial identification, and promoting sexual health and safety to users of dating apps. UNSW Engineering projects performed particularly well in the latest round, picking up five of the University’s nine successful grants.
Key measures of a great university are how much it values its alumni, and the scale of the contribution that university alumni make to society. So it was wonderful to celebrate those achievements at a gala evening in the Greenhouse on the Village Green last month, when ten inspiring graduates were honoured in the 2017 UNSW Alumni Awards. An Indigenous art champion, a doctor undertaking world-renowned work in leprosy, and the founder of a not-for-profit organisation combating sexual violence in India were among the award winners, chosen from a pool of close to 290,000 alumni. Each award winner received a trophy designed by acclaimed sculptor Bert Flugelman in 1972. The awards recognise and honour those who have made outstanding contributions to the community, demonstrated exceptional leadership in their field of endeavour, and made significant cultural and charitable impact. Choosing the ten winners from the extraordinary alumni talent spread across 146 countries and all facets of human endeavour was no easy task. Presenting the awards, Chancellor David Gonski AC thanked the selection panel, led by Sydney Water Chair and UNSW Foundation Board member Bruce Morgan, and noted the University had enjoyed its biggest-ever response to the call for nominations. You can see photos of the event here. These awards allow us each year to recognise the remarkable impact our alumni are having in Australia and worldwide. It was a joyous occasion, with each of the award winners making memorable acceptance speeches, which left me inspired and proud of the values and achievements our great university has facilitated.
The Queen's Birthday honours for 2017 were announced this week, and among those from the UNSW community recognised are leading medical researchers and practitioners, philanthropists, and a former librarian. Those appointed the highest honour, Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), include Professor John Shine AO, a molecular biologist at UNSW Medicine and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, in recognition of his service to medical research. Michael Crouch AO, chair of Midgeon Holdings and whose donation made UNSW’s Michael Crouch Innovation Centre possible, was honoured for his eminent service to the community, to business, and as a supporter of innovation and higher education. Those appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) include Richard Alcock, Director of UNSW Foundation, for distinguished service to the community, particularly through health management roles, and to the law, corporate governance, and higher education organisations; Gordian Fulde, UNSW Associate Professor of emergency medicine, for distinguished service to emergency medicine as a clinician and administrator, to medical education, and to the community as an advocate for a range of public health issues; Dr Caroline Homer, Conjoint Senior Lecturer UNSW School of Women's & Children's Health, for distinguished service to medicine in the field of midwifery as a clinician, researcher, author, and educator; Professor Stephen MacMahon and Professor Robyn Norton, UNSW Medicine and The George Institute for Global Health, for distinguished service to medical research at a national and international level; Roger Simnett, Scientia Professor UNSW Business, for distinguished service to the accountancy profession, to business education, to the development of national and international auditing and assurance standards, to accounting organisations, and to research; Professor Jeremy Wilson, Clinical Associate Dean, South Western Sydney Clinical School, for distinguished service to medicine as a pancreatologist, to medical administration and clinical governance, to education as an academic, researcher, and mentor, and to professional associations; and Angus Paradice, UNSW alumni and principal of Paradice Investment Management, for distinguished service to the community through philanthropic contributions and charitable support, and to business and commerce in the field of investment management. Other UNSW community members were awarded Member of the Order of Australia (AM) and the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM). My sincere congratulations on behalf of UNSW to all staff, alumni, advisers, and supporters who have been honoured. An expanded list of UNSW recipients and Alumni can be seen here and here, and the full honours list for Australia here.
UNSW proposes to make Living with 21st Century Technology the fourth Grand Challenge, joining Climate Change, Refugees & Migrants, and Inequality. Technological innovations have disrupted our worlds since the earliest days of tool use, generating both opportunities and threats; the pace of these changes, and the speed of the disruption they wreak, presents an ongoing challenge to societies. Artificial intelligence, cyber security, the biosecurity implications of new technologies, like CRISPR/CAS9 gene editing, and the mental health implications of our increasingly digital world are stoking debate internationally. How will these technologies change the way we live, think, and die? What newer technologies should we be watching, discussing, and debating? Our fourth Grand Challenge acknowledges UNSW’s strengths past and present in technology. We are seeking a variety of inputs and expressions of interest, including submissions on topics that could be included in the Grand Challenge, particularly where UNSW has expertise; UNSW staff and students interested in leading a dimension of the Grand Challenge, and/or activities such as hosting conferences, talks, debates; and UNSW staff interested in leading our fourth Grand Challenge overall. The roles of Grand Challenge Leaders are voluntary and will be in addition to existing responsibilities. All queries to firstname.lastname@example.org
The PLuS Alliance and UNSW Grand Challenges will be presenting the International Forum on Inequality in Sydney next month, from Thursday 20th to Friday 21st July, 2017. The Forum on Inequality is open to all UNSW professional and academic staff and, initially, registrations of interest are being sought in order to ensure focussed discussions. Inequality was declared as the third theme in UNSW's Grand Challenges program in 2017. The PLuS Alliance Forum will contribute interdisciplinary collaboration, and generate new research ideas across the themes of sustainability, global health, social justice, and technology and innovation. Day one will feature a public Grand Challenges event with a high-profile speaker and panels on: Shaping the Conversation; Towards Future Research Collaborations; Towards Engagement and Outcomes; as well as a Conference Dinner. Day two will look at PLuS Alliance Initiatives: Education Models; Foundations of Philanthropy; and Community Engagement. You are also invited to register for a special event hosted by the UNSW Grand Challenge on Inequality on 28th June. Professor Christina Romer, former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama, will speak on what the 2008 economic crisis can teach us about the effects of financial crises, and implications for the future direction of economic policy and reform. Click here to find out more.
Our global engagement under the UNSW 2025 Strategy proceeds apace. Inaugural teams from the Arts & Social Sciences and Engineering Faculties will be travelling to Uganda over the winter break to work with our partner Gulu University on projects linked to sustainable livelihoods, conflict reduction, and agricultural entrepreneurship. The Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences is sending a team of 20 students to Gulu University’s Institute of Peace and Strategic Studies to participate in a fieldwork school to understand first-hand the challenges faced by post-conflict communities. The Faculty of Engineering will team up with the Faculty of Agriculture and the Environment in Gulu, sending 10 students to participate in summer school placements with local farmers addressing issues of agricultural and business development. All students participating will be assigned a colleague from Gulu University, with whom they will work to create change in the local communities. The teams heading for Uganda have already undergone pre-departure briefings. I will be eagerly tracking their adventures, and their contributions to the Ugandan people over the coming months, and hope to make a brief visit to Gulu whilst they are in Uganda.
For ten years, our Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics has been providing solar power to medical clinics and schools in unelectrified rural areas in Tanna Island, Vanuatu. Dr Richard Corkish, the Centre’s COO in the School of Photovoltaic & Renewable Energy Engineering, has been active with UNSW student projects in Tanna since 2007, and was there in January this year. He will return to Vanuatu next month with four students, and again in January 2018. The teams have been installing and repairing small solar power and hydropower systems for dispensaries, schools, and the village of Imaki. Richard reports his applications for support from the Vanuatu Government ‘seem to be going around in circles in Port Vila’, so he has turned to public fundraising to install lights in more health posts and to repair and add PV to the Imaki minigrid built by our UNSW students in previous years. If you would like to donate, go to https://everydayhero.com.au/event/unswerv for more details. See photos of the projects on Richard’s Flickr site. A really worthy project.
Late last month I was delighted to speak at a celebration of more than half a century of UNSW international engagement, which included a book launch and awards ceremony at the Greenhouse on the Village Green. International alumni, students and staff, and former and current University leaders gathered for the launch of UNSW: Australia's Global University written by Mick Le Moignan, and to present Vice-President Jennie Lang with an Honorary Fellowship for her outstanding contribution to the University, and her trailblazing role in international education. Since joining the University in 1997, Jennie has led UNSW’s International Office, serving six years as Pro Vice-Chancellor International and most recently as head of the Division of Advancement, and the UNSW Foundation. Chancellor David Gonski AC presented Jennie with her Honorary Fellowship, witnessed by an audience that included former UNSW Vice-Chancellors John Niland AC, Professor Mark Wainwright and Fred Hilmer AO. One of Jennie’s last projects in the Advancement portfolio was to commission a history of UNSW’s global engagement, from the early days of the Colombo Plan to today’s ambitious international student programs. In many ways, UNSW: Australia’s Global University tells the parallel story of Australia’s engagement with Asia, and Australia’s embrace of multiculturalism, as a force for change in the postwar era. As I noted at the launch, these days every university has an international dimension, but few did it as early and as well as UNSW – particularly in terms of engagement with Asia. Former Vice-Chancellor John Niland AC paid a special tribute to one of UNSW’s most significant alumni, Dr Hartarto Sastrosunato, who died last month. Dr Sastrosunato was the first graduate of an Australian university to be appointed to a Ministerial position in Indonesia, as Minister for Industry from 1983 to 1993. His program of development, reform, and deregulation of Indonesia's industrial sector, is now widely regarded as a model for developing countries. All in all, a glittering occasion to mark significant milestones in the UNSW success story.
The book launch took place soon after NewSouth, a division of our publisher UNSW Press, was named Small Publisher of the Year for the second year running at the 2017 Australian Book Industry Awards, held at the Art Gallery of NSW. Small Publisher of the Year is awarded to the publisher with a turnover of less than $10 million whose program demonstrates excellence over the course of the year, and which contributes to the overall success of the industry. With a host of literary prize winners and political sagas, alongside popular science, narrative histories and biographies, the past few years have cemented NewSouth’s place as one of Australia’s most creative and innovative independent publishers. The judges’ comments said it all: ‘In a quality field, NewSouth Publishing stood out across most of the judging criteria. NewSouth had clear objectives and set about achieving them, including through an extensive events program.’ As UNSW Press CEO Kathy Bail says, ‘We may be relatively small in scale, but we think big all the same. Our books create debate and spark conversation. And they look beautiful.’ Congratulations to Kathy and her talented team on yet another well-deserved award, which shows once again that, in the challenging world of global publishing, small can indeed be beautiful.
I am delighted to let you know that Paul Ramadge has been appointed as the first Managing Director of the PLuS Alliance. Paul has had a distinguished career as Editor-in-Chief of The Age, Director of the Australia-Indonesia Centre and a Vice-Chancellor’s Professorial Fellow at Monash University. He will work closely with Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University, Professor Ed Byrne AC, Principal of King’s College London and myself to maximise opportunities for high-impact collaborations across our universities. Earlier in his career as a journalist and editor, Paul oversaw editorial at The Age newspaper (2008-2012) during a period of defining investigative journalism, digital transformation and multi-channel coverage of major national and world events. He founded the Australia-Indonesia Centre in 2013 where he delivered substantial collaborative research projects involving top-tier universities in both nations, programs in leadership and education, cultural exchanges and analyses of attitudes and perceptions. As Managing Director of the PLuS Alliance he will play a critical role in linking our staff and students across the PLuS Alliance and in developing our research and educational plans.
Former headmaster of Sydney Grammar School, and respected classical scholar, Dr John Vallance, is joining UNSW as Honorary Professor for the Public Understanding of the Humanities. Working with our Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education, Professor Merlin Crossley, and the School of Humanities and Languages in UNSW Arts and Social Sciences, he will explore the importance of the humanities as part of a rounded scientific, professional and technical education. Sydney-born, Cambridge-educated, John is a highly respected scholar and a formidable champion for educational quality and access. He was headmaster at Sydney Grammar from 1999 to early this year, and is the author of works on ancient philosophy, science, and medicine. As an academic, he lectured widely in Europe and the US, and has served as a member of the Library Council of NSW, and as a Trustee of the State Library Foundation. He is currently a Director of both the National Art School and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. We very much look forward to having John at UNSW.
UNSW has a new Director, Student Life. Many of you will already know Neil Morris well. He joined UNSW in 1990 and has served in various roles including Vice-President of Campus Life & Community Engagement. UNSW will continue to benefit from his expertise, experience and relationships across the university and in the broader community. As part of the 2025 Strategy, the University is investing in further enhancing the student experience, and Neil and his team will be working closely with Professor Merlin Crossley our Deputy-Vice Chancellor Education, and with the Director, Student Hub (yet to be appointed) to ensure we preserve the many good things we do, and keep looking for ways of making life even better for our students and our staff. While recruitment for the Director, Student Hub role is in process, the Deputy Director Student Hub, Robert Jones, will continue to lead that portfolio. Congratulations to Neil on his appointment.
Innovations just keep coming in the UNSW learning space. Our dedicated and enthusiastic faculty staff and students have been partnering with the PVCE Educational Delivery Services (EDS) team to enhance the student educational experience through the Inspired Learning Initiative Digital Uplift Project. In the first quarter of the year, EDS partnered with faculty staff and students to initiate the redesign of 31 courses across eight faculties. To date, we are progressing through the redesign of 45 courses, and expect the commencement of an additional 20 courses by July, bringing us to a total of 65 courses after the second quarter. We are now seeking interest for 2018, and encourage faculty staff who would like to take part in this initiative to contact their Head of School and Associate Dean of Education for course nomination. Each course redesign receives funding support of $30,000.
The first round of the UNSW SEIF (Scientia Education Investment Funding) grants have been announced. These competitive grants highlight the commitment UNSW has to educational excellence by supporting school and faculty initiated projects aimed at enhancing the overall student experience, and their educational outcomes. Congratulations to the 18 successful recipients, seven receiving large grant funding (up to $200,000) and 11 receiving small (up to $50,000) grant funding. The grants cover a broad range of educational initiatives including ‘Demonstrating the potential of immersive technology and serious play in the flipped classroom’, ‘Interaction interface for creative enquiry into social robotics’ and ‘Learning hubs - an adaptive, personalised, community centric education model’. The grants align directly with the 2025 Strategy priorities, and their outcomes will afford new opportunities for our students.
The first institution-wide roll out of myExperience survey is now live - the semester one myExperience survey was launched on the 15th of May for courses running as part of the Standard Academic Calendar. By late May, and with the survey due to close in early June, the response rate across the university was 29% and climbing. myExperience has replaced CATEI and gives students the opportunity to tell us about their experience of learning and teaching at UNSW. Students complete their myExperience surveys via Moodle, and they include two sets of questions: course questions and teacher questions. Academic staff have access to the ‘Close the Loop’ feature in each Moodle course site where they can respond to feedback with a ‘you said, we did’ approach. All Academics are encouraged to use this feature, summarise the student feedback, and list any actions taken to implement improvements to the course as part of a continual cycle of improving their practice. For this semester’s survey, with the help of student volunteers from the Student Hub, UNSW hosted three successful engagement events where students completed their myExperience surveys for a free ice-cream or cupcake. There were huge line-ups, the ice cream quickly ran out and there was a great uplift in responses! myExperience is now part of the Pro Vice Chancellor Education, Geoff Crisp’s portfolio and can be contacted on myExperience@unsw.edu.au.
Major monthly releases and upgrades continue at a rapid pace across the TELT platform, including Moodle, UNSW Lecture Recordings+ and theBox. This has led to significant enhancements which support the inspired learning initiative and improve the student experience. Examples include institutional rollout of the middleware development for the Educational Design App, ten innovation pilots and five MOOC courses. As a result, TELT system usage has increased significantly with Moodle alone having 58,000 logins in April and an average of 500+ users online at any given time.
Australia Post’s CEO Ahmed Fahour, who steps down next month, was our guest at the recent Meet the CEO event organised by our Business Faculty, and hosted by our Dean Professor Chris Styles. Ahmed shared with a packed audience at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney, his warm and often amusing personal and professional insights on leadership and the path to the top. Interviewed by Mark Scott, former ABC Managing Director and current Secretary of the New South Wales Department of Education, Ahmed Fahour told us about his roots in a migrant family welcomed to Australia: how his family migrated from Lebanon in 1969 when he was three, how his father worked at several tough jobs, and how his approach to business was shaped by his mother, who ran a bakery in Melbourne. Fahour said embracing and encouraging diversity had always been a top priority, and led to one of his proudest achievements while at Australia Post. ‘When I started,’ he said, ‘only 19% of all management positions were women, and I thought that was shocking. Within two years, that number was 37%.’ His advice to UNSW business graduates? ‘Find out what you want to do, and it will come out in your body language and your whole demeanour, and you will find that connection to achieve something that makes you tick.’ Video of the flagship alumni event, organised annually by the UNSW Business School, can be seen here.
Executive Education Open Programs offered by the AGSM @ UNSW Business School have again been ranked ‘among the world’s finest’ in the latest Financial Times (UK) rankings - consolidating AGSM’s position as a leader in management education and executive business leadership development in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. Frank Kennedy, Executive Director, AGSM Executive Education says the strong showing for UNSW was a testament to AGSM’s commitment to excellence across all its programs. ‘Our Open Programs continue to be recognised for faculty diversity throughout our full range of innovative new programs specifically designed to develop leadership capability from emerging leaders all the way up to non-executive directors.’ AGSM Executive Education offers Open Programs for the development of individual skills, and custom solutions tailored to empower business leaders. The annual Financial Times survey of executive education programs, now in its 19th year, is regarded as one of the most prestigious worldwide.
UNSW Business School students will travel to Mumbai this month to experience life and work in India, in the wake of increasing higher education connections between Australia and India. In a partnership with Tata Consultancy Services, part of the India-based multinational Tata group, the Business School will provide a three-week program to immerse students in the Indian business and cultural environment. Most of the visiting students will be placed with Tata, while others will be placed with a start-up called Flexiloans or work in UNSW’s India office.
UNSW Business School student Sophie Levy has been awarded the Co-op Global Policy Scholarship for 2017. A final year B. Commerce (Co-op) Accounting & Business Management scholar, Sophie has secured her place in a delegation of leading university students from across Australia to attend the OECD Forum in Paris this month with Global Voices. Sophie has recently returned from a pre-departure briefing in Canberra where she met with Australian government leaders, including current Ministers and Opposition Spokespersons, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) officers, and members of the Australia Strategic Policy Institute, before she joined the delegation heading to Paris.
The Arts & Social Sciences awards season kicked off this month with a high tea event on the Alumni Lawn, acknowledging all students who made this year's Dean's List. Arts & Social Sciences alumna and recipient of this year's UNSW's Young Alumni Award Caitlin Barrett shared her story of founding Love Mercy, a volunteer enterprise that helps empower communities in Northern Uganda to overcome poverty caused by war - showcasing the real-world impact graduates can achieve. The Dean's Research Awards followed, recognising outstanding research performance within the Faculty, promoting the pipeline from HDR students, to early-career and established academics; and finally the Dean’s Learning & Teaching Awards were awarded alongside the Arts & Social Sciences Student Awards, reflecting the interrelationship between our high-performing students and our education-focussed academics.
Congratulations to alumnus James Morton (LLB ’03) who has become UNSW Law’s fourth Indigenous judicial officer after the Hon Pat O’Shane, the Hon Bob Bellear and the Hon Matthew Myers AM. James was sworn in last month, appointed a Queensland magistrate and will serve in Mt Isa. For around 20 years, he has been a defence barrister, working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the NT and Queensland. James has broad criminal law experience and is also a lecturer at QUT Law. He is also a member of the Regional Parole Board and the chair of the Sentencing Advisory Council recently been reinstated under Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath. Reflecting on his time at UNSW, James fondly remembers classes in Dr Tom Hickie’s ever-popular Sport & The Law elective – they have remained in touch over the years. He also recalls Phyllis Lee as being a great support to Indigenous students during his time at UNSW Law. Since James graduated in 2003, UNSW Law has had a further 55 Indigenous Law students graduate. At present, the Faculty has 60 Indigenous students enrolled in Law programs, including the current first year cohort of 17 students across the JD, LLB and Humanities Pathway Programs.
Another event-filled Sydney Writers Festival has come and gone - and for the eighth year, UNSW was a proud sponsor and contributor, with a host of UNSW academics and alumni featured in the seven-day program. Some of these events spilled from harbourside to the campus, with renowned American writer and self-titled ‘bad feminist’ Roxane Gay speaking on ‘What’s Feminism Got To Do With It?’ with Dr. Emma Jane from the School of the Arts & Media about her latest collection of stories Difficult Women, and the success of her previous work The Bad Feminist. In ‘Human Baggage: The Hate Politics of Immigration’, Associate Professor Claudia Tazreiter from the Forced Migration Research Network and writer Roanna Gonsalves from the School of the Arts & Media examined changing responses to refugees. And the headline session ‘Globalisation & Inequality in the Age of Trump’ proved (not surprisingly) a Festival highlight, presented in partnership with UNSW Grand Challenges. I was privileged to attend this session at which the ABC’s Emma Alberici (‘Let’s talk about the Age of Trump, or as I like to call it, Armageddon’) moderated an international panel featuring American economist Thomas Friedman, Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby, ACTU President Ged Kearney and our own Professor of Economics Richard Holden, from UNSW's Business School and the co-lead of UNSW's Inequality Grand Challenge, asking where today’s political climate might take us. Other panels examined the impact of Britain’s exit from the European Union, hate politics, the legacy of the Russian Revolution 100 years on, small-town secrets, the societal changes needed in a changing world, and whether to opt out of the 24-hour news cycle – overall, a feast for the mind. I was immensely pleased to see the UNSW community so engaged with this vibrant and dynamic knowledge exchange.
TALKING ABOUT ABORIGINAL CRIME FICTION
Fans of crime fiction might want to listen to a new UNSW Writing podcast featuring poet Alison Whittaker interviewing author Nicole Watson about her first novel, The Boundary, described by one critic as ‘no ordinary crime novel’, being possibly the first ever to feature ‘Native Title, community activism, wellbeing, black bureaucracy, deaths in custody, stolen wages, and racism.’ Alison discusses the complex issues surrounding the writing of Indigenous crime fiction and thrillers, including the aspirations of Indigenous writers in this genre, and the challenges facing them. The podcast was produced by Tom Hogan and The Creative Practice Lab at UNSW, and you can download it here on Soundcloud.
IRISH NOVELIST IS INAUGURAL THOMAS KENEALLY FELLOW
UNSW Irish Studies has welcomed the distinguished Irish novelist Anne Enright as its inaugural Thomas Keneally Fellow. One of Ireland’s most critically lauded and popular novelists, and winner of the Man Booker Prize, Anne Enright is noted for her dry humour, mesmeric prose and blistering depictions of family relationships, love, sex, and Catholicism. She delivered masterclasses to Creative Writing students, and, in a public talk at UNSW, The Landscape Solution: Hurt and Healing in the Irish Countryside, turned her attention to the Irish landscape, treating an audience of over 100 to an exploration of scenery that has been the backdrop of terrible cruelties. The role of Fellow in Irish Studies acknowledges the great Australian writer Thomas Keneally, who has a long-standing relationship with UNSW. In 2015, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of his contributions to Australian literature and society. In 2014, he delivered the university's annual Gandhi Oration, and before that played an important role in the campaign to establish a Chair of Irish Studies.
Once again the Vivid Ideas Festival brought tens of thousands of Sydneysiders and visitors out at night to witness spectacular forms in lighting, including luminous projections onto the Opera House. UNSW was again heavily involved. For the third year in a row, the dedicated and talented engineering students from CREATE UNSW were invited to exhibit, and their contribution this year was an interactive, sensor-activated light display, Crystallise, inspired by LA street artist Colette Miller, consisting of an interactive mosaic wall that lit up to adorn visitors standing before it with celestial wings. Another important contribution this year was an address by Scientia Professor Michelle Simmons at the Museum of Contemporary Art, where she spoke about her team’s research in the race to build the world’s first quantum computer. With her unstoppable enthusiasm, Michelle projected a world in which quantum computers would lead to improved software for aeroplanes, the discovery of distant planets, early cancer detection, self-driving cars, and the development of more effective drugs. You can hear a recording of her keynote address here.
ASIAN ENGINEERING DEANS GATHER AT KENSINGTON
Last week I had the pleasure of welcoming distinguished Deans of Engineering from across the region to UNSW for the Sixth Asian Engineering Deans Summit (AEDS) 2017. I made the point that the role of engineers was growing ever more complex, especially since the postwar love affair with technology had been tempered by unwanted side effects. Yet the world turns to its engineers to solve those problems too. This means engineering schools are facing new challenges, opportunities and expectations, and the AEDS hosted by our Dean of Engineering, Professor Mark Hoffman, was a platform to discuss these vital topics in relation to engineering education and research. The conference theme was fittingly ‘Enginuity – Engineers as Creators’, a play on the world ‘ingenuity’. The gathering was timed this year to coincide with Vivid Sydney, which provided visiting delegates with wonderful examples of what happens when great engineering and visual art are brought together.
The School of Mathematics and Statistics hosted 300 female high school students for their 13th annual Girls Do the Maths workshop at UNSW last month. The workshops focus on inspiring Year 11 and 12 female students to consider mathematics and statistics as an enriching career path. Speakers included the 2017 Women in Mathematics and Statistics Ambassador, Associate Professor Regina Burachik from the University of South Australia, and UNSW Dean of Science, Professor Emma Johnston, who videoed the girls declaring ‘We love maths!’ for her popular Twitter account. The students also heard from Dr Michelle Dunbar, a former student of the School, who is now working in the Radiation Physics Laboratory at Sydney Medical School. Congratulations to all involved in organising this annual event.
Last month I reported how UNSW was sending satellites in to space. This month we learn that UNSW and the RAAF have signed a $10M research contract to enable UNSW Canberra Space to perform extensive ground-based research, develop and fly two space missions with three miniature satellites, and translate the research directly into educational outcomes for the Australian Defence Force. As well as the research activities, the RAAF funds will provide for the recruitment of several new space engineers and postdoctoral fellows, boosting the UNSW Canberra Space team to some 40 academics, scientists, engineers, and RHD students. UNSW Canberra Space really is a flagship activity of UNSW Canberra, and through significant investments in recent years, has assembled a world-class team of scientists and engineers, and grown into Australia’s leading space capability. The strategy of the group is to combine space-based technology with game-changing innovations, to help meet national and international needs and opportunities.
As one of Australia’s leading medical research-intensive universities, we were immensely pleased to note a boost in funding from the Federal government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) which will increase both the capacity and innovation of our clinical trials, and researchers. The investment - $26 million into medical researchers, clinical trials and research grants - is not only good news for UNSW, but equally an investment in the future health of Australia. The announcement of an $8 million boost to National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) fellowship schemes will be welcomed by our exceptional early to mid-career, and clinical researchers, and is important in ensuring that their important work keeps UNSW – and Australia – at the forefront of medical discovery. Another $18 million for clinical trial networks and grants will improve real health outcomes for patients by creating more access to these programs. The MRFF funding for clinical trials comes just as UNSW Scientia Clinical Research, the first purpose built, early phase clinical trials centre in NSW, settles into its new home in the state-of-the-art Bright Building at Prince of Wales Hospital.
NEW APP TO HELP AUSTRALIANS STAY IN THEIR HOMES
With funding by the Department of Family and Community Services, UNSW researchers have designed a first-of-its-kind app that allows people with disabilities and older Australians to modify their homes - to stay in them for longer. The DIYmodify App, launched this month, will help consumers make decisions around purchasing five common home modifications including grab rails and handheld showers. Overwhelmingly, people want to stay in their own homes rather than go into care, and UNSW Associate Professor Catherine Bridge, Director of the HMinfo Clearinghouse based at UNSW Built Environment, says UNSW research shows more than 15,000 DIY home modifications are undertaken by people with disability and older Australians each year in NSW alone. The HMinfo Clearinghouse analysed consumer sales data from the largest national hardware chain by monitoring the sale of five products; grabrails; handrails, hand-held showers, shower infills, and small ramps. ‘When people complete their own home modifications, they can choose the products they want and have control over the process – the DIYmodify App is designed to assist them with this and shows that grab rails and ramps can be installed in a way that won’t make their home look like a hospital.’ The free app is available for iPhone/iPad and Android devices and can be downloaded here.
A study that implemented and examined a program to recognise and treat sepsis in NSW public hospitals – a collaboration between the Clinical Excellence Commission and UNSW’s Professor Mary-Louise McLaws - has been judged the best research article published in the Medical Journal of Australia last year. The winning article, ‘SEPSIS KILLS: early intervention saves lives’ was the journal’s most highly cited paper in 2016. Authored by Professor McLaws, School of Community Medicine and Public Health, with Dr Anthony Burrell, Mary Fullick, Rosemary Sullivan and Dr Doungkamol Sindhusake, all from the NSW Clinical Excellence Commission, the article followed the 2011 program that has been rolled out to 200 hospitals, and was awarded the international Global Sepsis Alliance Award. Emergency department staff were educated about the signs and symptoms of sepsis (one of the most common reasons why patients’ health deteriorates in hospital), and how to intervene early.
Professor McLaws says an immediate 27% reduction in death was achieved, and death rates continue to fall. An additional 150 lives are saved each year through following the program - by reducing the time before antibiotics are administered, and fluid resuscitation is initiated. For their winning MJA article, the authors were awarded a $10,000 prize.
‘SOFT COLLAGE’ COLLECTS INAUGURAL $100,000 RAMSAY ART PRIZE
UNSW Art & Design graduate Sarah Contos has won the $100,000 Ramsay Art Prize, Australia’s richest for young contemporary artists - with her work Sarah Contos Presents: The Long Kiss Goodbye. The massive ‘soft collage’ quilt took Sarah three months to create by hand and machine. Measuring more than six metres by three metres, it was inspired by the break-up of a long-term relationship and created especially for the competition. Sarah said the Prize was a good motivator to get out of bed and start making: ‘All those feelings … it was a way for me to say goodbye to all these characters and also a moment in time.’ Art Gallery of South Australia Director, Nick Mitzevich, said it was Sarah’s most ambitious work to date: ‘This tour de force brings together aspects of her career from the last four years. Previous works of art and exhibition histories are all captured in this textile time-capsule, making it a self-initiated retrospective of her life in art.’ The judges were unanimous in their appreciation. ‘Contos’ 21st-century quilt spills over, and, like a new epic history tableaux, celebrates power women in all their glory with fireworks, sequins and PVC.’ The Prize is named after James and Diana Ramsay, leading cultural philanthropists in South Australia. UNSW Art & Design graduates make up eight of the 21 finalists who are also eligible for a $15,000 People’s Choice Prize, to be announced on 11th August.
CheBA (Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing at UNSW) held its fifth Wipeout Dementia event at Queenscliff beach on Saturday, 27th May. Twenty-four ‘corporate surfers’ (including high profile CEOs, Managing Directors, former PM Tony Abbott, and former NSW Premier Mike Baird) took to the water to raise $95,000 for the Centre for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias research. In Australia, 244 people are joining the population with dementia each day, a figure set to increase to 650 new cases per day by 2025. With dementia now the second leading cause of death in the nation - and over 25% of the population set to be aged 65+ by 2050 - CHeBA’s Co-Directors are stressing the need to target early to mid-life groups to reduce the risk of dementia. They are also exploring internet-based interventions – such as CHeBA’s Maintain Your Brain study – to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Terrific work for a great cause.
University Librarian Martin Borchert wants all academic staff to know about ORCID, an ‘Open Researcher and Contributor ID’ that gives a unique, persistent identifier to UNSW researchers. Put simply, it distinguishes you from every other researcher, ensuring you get credit for your research activities and outputs. Researchers with an ORCID are instantly identifiable, and connected with all of their research outputs, including publications, grants, and datasets. It enables a transparent, permanent record of your research and scholarly communication. UNSW researchers can sign up for an ORCID ID by logging into ROS, or link an existing ORCID to their ROS profile. As a trusted source, any publications harvested in ROS using your ORCID will be automatically claimed for you. A wonderful innovation and essential tool for all our UNSW researchers.