Update on appointments and events across campus

Dear colleagues

I am now moving on from the introductory phase of my time at UNSW. I have met over 2,000 staff and students and my mind is full of images of people, their names, their roles, the places they work, their School/Faculty affiliation and their achievements. My problem now is joining up those pieces of information! As I walk around campus I recognise lots of faces but I have to confess that I am often guilty of guessing the wrong name or role. So please forgive me if you catch me out – I will gradually do better. I have been thrilled by what I have seen during my first month in post and it gives me confidence that we can plan and deliver an exciting agenda for UNSW.

UNSW Staff Survey (launch tomorrow – please participate)

Tomorrow I will be launching the UNSW Staff Survey. The survey seeks your views about the management and workplace practices you have experienced at UNSW in recent years. It will build on a similar survey held in 2012 and provide benchmark data against other universities and industries. As you will realise this survey (which is a look back at your experience of UNSW) is different to the Strategic Planning Consultation (which seeks your suggestions for the next few years). I hope that there will be a high participation rate in the Staff Survey.

2015-2025 Strategic Consultation

The response to the invitation to provide your ideas on our future direction, around the strategic priorities of Academic Excellence, Social Engagement and Global Impact, has been very encouraging. I thank all those who have already contributed. If you have not yet participated you can still do so before March 31st - just click through to this website: https://www.unsw.edu.au/2015-2025-strategic-planning-process. Please do contribute your ideas – I want to read them.

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

James Donald’s term as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is ending this year. James has done outstanding work as Dean, raising the profile of the Faculty and its disciplines. We will have a chance to celebrate his contribution to UNSW before he leaves at the end of June. I am delighted to announce that Eileen Baldry has agreed to act as Dean from 1 July 2015 until the end of February 2016 so as to allow time for us to undertake the search for a permanent successor. Eileen joined UNSW many years ago (1993) and is Professor of Criminology as well as Deputy Dean. She was Associate Dean (Education) from 2007 to mid-2010. Eileen is internationally recognised for her extensive and prolific research on mental health and cognitive disability in the criminal justice system, homelessness and the transition from prison, Indigenous social work, community development and social housing and disability services. She has had an outstanding record over the past twenty years as a Chief Investigator on major grants from the ARC, NHMRC and other organisations. Eileen is actively involved in a voluntary capacity with a number of development and justice community agencies while also carrying a teaching load. She is President of the NSW Council of Social Services and she was awarded the 2009 NSW Justice Medal. I am delighted to welcome Eileen to the role and am grateful to her for taking it on in such a selfless way in the interest of the Faculty and UNSW.

UNSW Canberra

I had the opportunity last week to visit Canberra for the first time. Part of my trip involved attending the Universities Australia meeting (much discussion about the tuition fee debacle and threat to NCRIS funding), meeting my new colleague VC’s from the other 39 Australian universities (without exception welcoming and collegiate), meeting with Aidan Byrne, Director of ARC and with Ian Chubb, Australia’s Chief Scientific Officer. A key part of my visit was my introduction to UNSW Canberra. Professor Michael Frater’s role as Rector of UNSW Canberra was recently renewed through to January 2021 in recognition of his outstanding leadership in strengthening academic performance and culture at UNSW Canberra. Michael has also played an important role in enhancing UNSW’s relationships not only with the Department of Defence but also with other parts of the Commonwealth public service and all sides of politics. I had a busy programme with visits to three Schools, discussions with staff and a tour of the impressive campus. UNSW Canberra has provided undergraduate and postgraduate education to officers in the Australian Defence Forces alongside their military training since 1967. It is a unique facility internationally and counts amongst its alumni many of the most senior figures in the army, navy and air force, including the current Governor of NSW. I was enthused about the quality of the education the campus provides and the research activity in each of the Schools. There was a wish from many of the staff to have stronger links with the Kensington campus – finding ways to achieve this will be an aspect of the strategic consultation, to which I hope staff in Canberra will make an extensive contribution. The day ended with a drinks reception before the Commencement Dinner at which members of the combined armed forces, who will soon perform at the Gallipoli commemorations, treated us to an awesome precision military drill.

Emerging and developing world projects? (tell us about your work)

On my visits around the university I have been impressed by the range and quality of our activities in countries that may be loosely described as having “emerging and developing economies”. I take the view that a university as well resourced as ours, in a country with the wealth of Australia, has a responsibility to undertake work that can benefit less privileged peoples and less affluent societies. Regardless of our responsibility in this context, it is also a massive opportunity for personal and academic development. You will have noticed that the strategic consultation process includes a call for ideas about how we can work in a sustainable way in the developing world. Alongside that I would like to map the work currently underway so that we understand the scale and scope of work led by UNSW around the world. As a starting point I would be grateful if those who have activity in places that fall under the broad heading of “emerging and developing countries”, would send a 2-3 line email with a (very) brief description to Shahina Mohamed my Operations Director (shahina.mohamed@unsw.edu.au). On the basis of that initial trawl we will make a plan to collect additional information and to bring together those involved in this area of work.

International Visitors

There is great interest in UNSW from the leaders of universities across the world. Since my last newsletter we have had a visit from an Upsalla University delegation including the Vice-Chancellor Professor Eva Akesson, from Professor Andrew Deeks the President of University College Dublin, from Joanna Newman the Vice-President International at Kings’ College London (KCL) and most recently from Arizona State University (ASU), including the President Michael Crow. President Crow gave an inspiring lecture to the UNSW leadership team last Monday on the topic of “The New American University”. He emphasised the role of the modern cutting edge university in providing an education accessible to all in society and was critical of elitist universities in the USA, which through fee levels or selection methods exclude many able potential students. The ethos of ASU is remarkably similar to the ethos most of you have espoused in my discussions and visits over the last few weeks. The story of the development of ASU in education and research over the last decade is enormously impressive. Our leadership team is particularly interested in the way ASU has rapidly introduced novel online technology to enhance the quality of teaching and the student experience. We are exploring collaborative opportunities with ASU and KCL and I hope to be able to tell you more in due course.

O week and commencement dinners

The excitement of O week already seems some time ago. Many you have commented on the great atmosphere on campus as we welcomed thousands of new students. All seemed to go amazingly smoothly but I am in no doubt about the effort and organisational skill required of our staff in the admissions team to make that possible. My profuse thanks to everyone involved. My gratitude also to the student organisations and societies for creating such a welcoming atmosphere all over the campus. I enjoyed seeing the yellow-shirts working so hard to make the introduction for new students memorable. I had the chance to join the yellow-shirts over breakfast one morning and to hear some of their team songs – fun combined with wonderful enthusiasm and energy. I also had the privilege of attending and speaking at commencement dinners for Basser College, Goldstein College and New College - great events where the pride in the history of the Colleges, all of which date back to the 1960’s or earlier, and in being students at UNSW, was matched by a strong collegiate spirit. I suspect the real fun happened after the dinners – I know that the students at Basser and Goldstein went on to celebrate at a bar in central Sydney.

School and Centre visits

It is hard to capture in a newsletter the quality of the presentations and discussion at the Schools and Centres I have visited over the last 5 weeks. The range of excellent research and education is extraordinary. I have been pleased with the ideas about our 2015-25 strategy and the response to the high level priorities of academic excellence, social engagement and global impact. My recent visits have involved the School of Psychiatry, the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, the iCinema Centre, the School of Chemical Engineering and three Schools at UNSW Canberra – Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Physical, Environmental & Mathematical Sciences.

Student consultation

This week we held the first of a series of workshops with about 60 student representatives to seek their input to the 2015-25 strategy. After an introductory session the students broke into working groups to consider positive and negative aspects of their experience of teaching and campus life at UNSW and provide feedback on what we should stop, start and continue. The students emphasised the high value they give to interactive teaching, their enthusiasm for well designed use of novel technology and a wish for the education to be made as relevant as possible to the external working environment. We talked about increasing opportunities for work experience, interactions with industry and study abroad. It was gratifying to hear a consistent theme emerge related to facilitating the social relevance of education at UNSW. Amongst many other topics there was discussion about life on campus and ways in which we can help students to get the most out of the societies and facilities available to them. This gave me the opportunity to tell the students about plans for the long awaited refurbishment of the Roundhouse.


I had the opportunity to attend an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce lunch that was addressed by our NSW Premier Mike Baird. In a suitably upbeat pre-election speech he described progress in the NSW economy and future plans for investment in NSW and Sydney of funds generated by asset sales. He noted the importance of higher education, with a particular mention and pledge of funds for the Monash Fellowships.

Plans for the future of Sydney, in this case architectural, were the subject of the Paul Reid Lecture in the Utzon Lecture series in our Faculty of the Built Environment. Graham Jahn, Director of City Planning, Development & Design in Sydney spoke on the subject: “Transforming Sydney: where it’s at, where it’s headed”. In my welcome I said that I thought Sydney was perfect and did not need transforming but I was soon stunned by the exciting plans for development of buildings and open spaces in Sydney that Mr Jahn described and illustrated. I was left in no doubt that this great city will soon be even greater.

Another important event on campus was the launch of the “Women at Work” initiative at Kingsford Legal Centre. KLC is part of our Law faculty and provides free legal advice and help to people in the local community as well as a state wide service in discrimination law. The Women at Work factsheets are translated in to many languages to provide information to women experiencing challenges in the workplace. The initiative follows workshops run over a 12-month period and aims to educate women about their rights in the workplace, such as fair pay and what to do about discrimination.

The theme of social justice and human rights continued with an important ceremony to raise the Rainbow Flag for the first time at UNSW. Many staff and students, as well as members of the community, attended the ceremony, hosted by the Kirby Institute in partnership with the ALLY@UNSW, to celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer equality. Inevitably the flagpole did not work (!) but even that seemed to symbolize the struggle for equality which the Rainbow flag represents. The flag was flying by the end of the day and many of you will have seen the rainbow colours decorating trees outside the Faculty of Law. Michael Kirby put it well when he said, “[The flag-raising will] symbolise that UNSW is committed to all its members, staff, students and others, whatever their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression may be.”

I had the opportunity to launch another event that represents the drive for social equity at UNSW – the Sydney launch of the “Science 50:50” initiative funded through Professor Veena Sahajwalla’s Laureate Fellowship. The Science 50:50 programme aims to inspire Australian girls and young women to pursue degrees and careers in science and technology so they can succeed in an innovation-driven future. The all day programme at the National Maritime Museum was attended by over 200 young women from schools in Sydney and included inspiring talks from academics and industry including Veena, Merlin Crossley, our Dean of Science, and Aidan Byrne, Director of the ARC.

On Sunday March 9th I obtained a sense of the Randwick local community spirit by joining hundreds of others at The Spot Festival which is Randwick's largest free outdoor festival. There was a great street party atmosphere with music, food, market stalls, live entertainment and many other activities - an enjoyable festive event during which I recognized a number of UNSW staff having a good time. On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a performance of the Australia Ensemble @ UNSW with a superbly performed programme of works by Ravel, Bax, Faure and MacMillan, in the company of His Excellency General David Hurley, Governor of NSW and his wife. I recommend the Ensemble performances, which are in our Clancy auditorium, to staff and students at UNSW. The next concert is on Saturday April 18th (www.ae.unsw.edu.au).

Sporting update

I make no apologies for yet again ending with a sports section, but you will have to wait a while for the next instalment of my battle with sailing. Those of you who are as sad as me, in following English football closely, will have noticed a great result for my team Arsenal last week – we are now in the FA Cup semi-final after destroying Man United at Old Trafford and I am confident that more glory will follow! Closer to home the Randwick racecourse invited several representatives of UNSW to attend the races on March 7th and, even better, named one of the main races for UNSW – the UNSW Todman Stakes. I presented the prizes to the owners and to Gai Waterhouse, the trainer of the winning horse ‘Vancouver’. It was great fun particularly because Gai is an alumnus of UNSW. Those of you who follow horse racing will know that Vancouver is now the favourite for the Golden Slipper race at Rosehill on March 21st.

This weekend I enjoyed an exciting match at the Allianz stadium seeing Sydney FC beat Brisbane 5-4 in the company of members of UNSWs ‘Football United’ including the founder and director Anne Bunde-Birouste. Anne spoke at half time about how Football United uses football to bring people together to build the capacity of communities and to improve the skills of people from diverse areas, including a high proportion of refugee, migrant and Indigenous Australian children. Football United is an inspiring way to use sport as a link to broader benefits for our communities locally and globally.