March Update

Dear colleagues It has been an exciting and vibrant start to the academic year at UNSW. Scroll through this newsletter and you will get a sense of the enormous range of activity at UNSW in the last month. The diverse range of activities and achievements involving students, staff and alumni, have enriched our campus and had an impact far beyond. We have seen thought leadership, debate, discussion, controversy and challenge - the hallmarks of a great university. Alongside this there has been steady progress with implementation of our 2025 Strategy. We are now fully into the implementation phase and have set ourselves challenging targets to ensure that UNSW delivers our ambitious objectives to improve and transform lives through outstanding research, education, social engagement, knowledge transfer, thought leadership, generosity in partnership and global impact. Delivering these objectives will require commitment, excellence in all that we do, and a highly collaborative approach – reflecting the ethos of UNSW.


It was a thrill to be part of UNSW O-week for the third time, and just as inspiring and exciting for me the first time I was part of it. The semester is now well under way, and it is good to see the campus busy again with students and staff after the summer break. O-week saw a tremendous amount of activity and enthusiasm across all our UNSW locations, thanks to record intakes of talented students this year. We welcomed our largest enrolment, with nearly 15,000 new students starting at UNSW. Domestically, despite the competitive range of university offerings in NSW, we maintained our high share of first UAC preferences. The Guaranteed Entry scheme and our personalised websites for all high school leaver applicants – totaling over 20,000 unique pages - played a significant role in informing prospective students about the opportunities available to them at UNSW. More students selected and continued to choose UNSW as their first preference in September than in any previous year. Internationally we are living up to our aspiration to be “Australia’s Global University” welcoming students from more than 100 countries in larger numbers than before. I am delighted that demand from China remains high and we had large increases in students from India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Singapore and Nigeria. Throughout O-week, high attendances and good weather added to the campus-carnival atmosphere. Our new Uni-verse App has proved popular – several thousand students are already using it to access their timetables and find their way around campus. It was my pleasure to welcome students and their families and friends at an event in the Clancy Auditorium, urging our newest students to study hard, engage with talented people, develop new ideas and activities, explore exciting career opportunities, and have plenty of fun. I also urged them to reflect on the responsibility that goes with the privilege of a UNSW education, to do whatever they can in big and small ways to improve their society and have a positive impact on the lives of others. This week I hosted a thank you event in Leighton Hall for the O-week volunteers who did an incredible job of manning stalls, guiding our new students through the labyrinth of their first-year, and offering advice based on their own experience. My heartfelt thanks to the many staff who devoted their time, energy and expertise to help make O-week such a great success. Once again we saw the UNSW community at its finest.


This year’s UNSW Grand Challenges program began with a terrific launch event for the Inequality Grand Challenge, led by Professors Richard Holden and Rosalind Dixon. Like the other two Grand Challenges – Climate Change and Refugees & Migrants – Inequality targets one of the critical issues of our time. At the official launch, I noted that although equality is enshrined in national and international laws, inequality is growing worse and demands urgent solutions. The launch featured a book club-style debate on whether French economist Thomas Piketty’s analysis of capitalism and inequality in his influential Capital in the 21st Century was correct. That gave rise to a host of issues, including tax reform, housing affordability, and the social and economic benefits of free trade & migration. Other events this year include a Sydney Writers’ Festival event in May, a Constitutions, Human Rights and Economic Inequality Conference in August, and an exploration of urbanisation and its effect on inequality.

On the Climate Change front, we hosted the launch event of the French Australian Conversations series of conference debates, organised in partnership with the Embassy of France in Australia and the Australian and French arms of the website The Conversation. The conference was introduced by France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Jean-Marc Ayrault, who reflected on how ‘the beautiful struggle’ between the environment, the economy and politics had played out since the Paris Climate Conference and the Paris Agreement, creating, as he put it, ‘new spaces for democracy, based on citizen participation.’ Professor Matthew England, Academic Lead for UNSW’s Grand Challenge on Climate Change, said it was refreshing to hear a politician ‘get the science, understand the urgency, have a vision for the solution and a path forward.’

Our Refugees and Migration Grand Challenge team was also active, hosting the first ever Refugee Alternatives Conference exploring alternatives to current refugee policy and how to develop sustainable solutions to one of the global community’s major challenges. The conference speakers included former refugees such as Munjed Al Muderis, an Iraqi who’s now one of Australia's most respected orthopaedic surgeons; Daniel Thein Tha Nya, a Karen who lived in a Thai refugee camp for 11 years before migrating to Australia; and Mahir Momand, a microfinance expert who fled Afghanistan after being targeted by the Taliban. The keynote speaker, Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, said Australia should provide more technical assistance programs in the Asia-Pacific region, and should help develop more humane ways of achieving a durable solution to the problem. Staying with the topic of refugees, I was delighted to hear that UNSW historian Dr. Claire Higgins from the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law has been awarded a prestigious 2017-18 Fulbright Scholarship to explore how the United States has used so called ‘in-country resettlement pathways’ that allow people in need of protection to apply for a special visa while still in their home countries, avoiding the need to take often dangerous journeys to reach safety. These programs can enhance access to protection, as shown through the resettlement of hundreds of ‘locally engaged’ Australian Government workers from Afghanistan to Australia on in-country visas in 2013-14. Claire will spend six months at Georgetown University – another kudos for the Kaldor Centre, established within UNSW Law in 2013 as the world’s first and only research centre dedicated to the study of international refugee law.

Before leaving the Grand Challenges theme, a reminder that the EXIT installation currently on display in UNSW Galleries at Paddington (for the first time in Australia) holds a dramatic mirror to some of the immense challenges facing the world today. Data gathered from over 100 sources is geocoded, processed through a programming language, and presented visually by a 360-degree rotating globe that translates stats into maps, texts, and trajectories as it orbits the space. It’s a riveting way to focus on the issues driving our Grand Challenges programs and runs until March 25.


UNSW had a lot to celebrate but much to consider at this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8th March. The UNSW Grand Challenge on Inequality, in partnership with Workplace Diversity at UNSW, hosted an IWD breakfast on the Kensington campus with the theme #BeBoldForChange, highlighting the ground-breaking research and initiatives led by UNSW staff and students driving changes for women in our community. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Education and Federal Opposition Spokesperson for Women, Tanya Plibersek, urged celebration of the achievements of women but reminded us to ‘keep fighting for gender equality’ in Australia. She said her grandmother could not have imagined ‘the life I lead today, the choices I have, the autonomy I have’ and highlighted great progress for women in Australia, including equal pay test cases, affirmative action policies, the opening of the first women’s refuges, and the funding of rape crisis centres. But she also pointed to areas where not enough has been achieved: domestic violence, and income disparities. There were superb contributions from staff and students including: Professor Ros Dixon, joint Lead for the Grand Challenge on Inequality; Professor Eileen Baldry, Chair of the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Board; Professor Laura Poole-Warren, PVC and Gender Diversity Champion; Sophie Johnston, President of the National Union of Students and UNSW Alumni; Lizzie Butterworth, Women’s officer SRC; Professor Andrea Durbach, Director of the Australian Human Rights Centre, who leads the Strengthening Australian University Responses to Sexual Assault and Harassment Project; Dr Kyllie Cripps, Acting Director of our Indigenous Law Centre; and Professor Annie Cossins & Associate Professor Jan Breckenridge, co-convenors of the Gendered Violence Research Network. IWD also provided a well-deserved award for UNSW postgrad student at AGSM, Kristal Kinsela, who was named NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year. Kristal is descended from both the Jawoyn and Wiradjuri nations, and works as an advocate and mentor for Indigenous women. Her career spans education and training, organisational and workforce development; she established her own consultancy to help corporate and government clients increase their productivity, performance, and Indigenous engagement through coaching, training, and facilitation. Kristal has advised the Australian Government on policies to foster social inclusion - in 2011 she provided mentorship to Aboriginal teenage girls through the Birpai Aboriginal Land Council. She has also run teenage motivational and leadership camps to educate young Aboriginal women about their rights, and the skills required to navigate society, prejudice, and stereotypes. Kristal was recently announced as the Sydney Ambassador for Indigenous Women in Business, a not-for-profit network connecting and supporting Indigenous women who run their own businesses. UNSW also had a finalist for the NSW Woman of the Year award in Scientia Professor and Kaldor Centre Director Jane McAdam, one of the world’s leading scholars in international refugee law, who is currently advising the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and is our Academic Lead for the UNSW Grand Challenge on Refugees and Migration.


Coinciding with International Women’s Day, UNSW launched the Athena SWAN Gender Equity Survey, which aims to address the under-representation of women in STEM disciplines. The survey is an important component of UNSW’s consultation process on gender equity and diversity issues and provides an opportunity for all staff, regardless of gender, to have their say about equity in the workplace, and priority areas for action. Conducted on behalf of the UNSW Athena SWAN Pilot Self-Assessment Team, and led by Professor Laura Poole-Warren, the survey will be administered and analysed by the Voice Project, specialists in staff surveys. The survey closes on 22nd March, so there is still time to take part. It’s completely anonymous and takes about 15 minutes to complete. Our Disability Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP) initiated as part of Strategy 2025 is also well underway, with the final draft being reviewed by the DIAP Working Group this month. To ensure the DIAP supports a campus culture that is inclusive of the needs of people with disabilities, the draft DIAP will be available for community consultation from mid-March on the Governance website. More information will be available in the next issue of news@UNSW.


A series of town hall meetings led by Professor Merlin Crossley, DVC Education and Professor Geoff Crisp, PVC Education have been held for staff interested in Education Focused (EF) Careers, to explain these roles and the support that will be provided for EF academics. This is a voluntary scheme for academic staff at UNSW who are interested in a career opportunity designed to enable them to excel in teaching and learning. My view is that for too long in leading universities worldwide, career progression has largely focused on research excellence with insufficient respect or reward for outstanding contributions in teaching and learning. That needs to change so that excellence in education is properly recognised and rewarded. Of course excellence in research is important – it is a key aspect of our 2025 Strategy – but so is excellence and innovation in education. As part of Strategy 2025 we are creating a well-defined career pathway from level A to level E academics for high quality teachers who wish to pursue an EF career path. I am excited by the opportunities we will provide for gifted teachers who wish to dedicate more of their time to teaching, with the prospect of progressing up to full professorial level based on their educational achievements. This will enhance the quality of the teaching we offer our students and provide new opportunities for our staff. I encourage those of you who are interested in devoting more of your time to excellence in teaching to explore this opportunity further - you can obtain the information pack regarding EF careers here

One of many champions of educational excellence at UNSW is Richard Buckland. In recognition of his significant research contributions, and that of his teaching and learning, Richard was recently promoted to professor and has been appointed Director of our First Year Experience. You can hear Richard speak thoughtfully about education focused roles and the importance of educational developments at UNSW in this 3 minute video.


Another aspect of Strategy 2025 is the plan to move in 2019 to a three term ‘trimester model’ for our teaching program, a model used by many of the world’s leading universities. The benefits of this change were explained in an email sent to all of our students last week by Professor Merlin Crossley which you can read here. Given that this is a new concept for UNSW it is not surprising that there is still some confusion over the benefits. From 2019 the UNSW3+ calendar will provide: greater flexibility for students to spread their study load over the year; more opportunities for embedding internships, volunteering and other activities into the UNSW experience; better alignment with international university calendars, facilitating more global experiences; a more vibrant campus life through more consistent use of our facilities across the year; reduced stress associated with studying as students will study up to 3 courses per term rather than 4 courses at a time; reduced pressure on classrooms, labs and facilities by spreading the load; and greater opportunities for staff who would like to dedicate themselves more fully to teaching. There has been a suggestion that we are moving to the new model to generate more finances for UNSW. The new calendar will not in itself increase teaching revenue as the normal study load over the year will remain the same and the fees will not be increased because of UNSW3+. It does enhance our capacity to grow, to use our campus more efficiently, and to offer more opportunities to our students. As a not-for-profit organisation UNSW re-invests all revenues back in to education, research or other aspects of university life. The UNSW 2025 Strategy includes a $450m investment in the Scientia Education Experience, to enable our staff to enhance teaching quality which, to our knowledge, is the greatest single commitment to enhancing education in the sector. Some have suggested that the move to a new calendar will be associated with staff cuts. That is emphatically not the case – during the course of Strategy 2025 we will create 9% more positions with increases in both academic and professional staff. We have made the decision to introduce the 2019 UNSW3+ calendar in order to improve the educational experience for our students and to ensure that UNSW continues to be a global leader in teaching quality. I am grateful to the staff and students who are working in partnership to deliver this goal.


The developments we planned as part of Strategy 2025 are now being implemented so as to: optimise the way we deliver our professional services; respond to growing demand; harness the benefits of new technology; and offer better experiences for students and staff. Workplace change proposals for Finance functions and the central International, Marketing and Communications leadership team were the subject of consultation processes which ended last week. This week central IT and Philanthropy commenced consultation on their workplace change proposals. For IT this is the first of a series of change proposals that will continue during 2017. Enhancing service excellence in all our professional areas will help our UNSW community to realise our full potential. Change on this scale is not easy, particularly when it concerns structural change involving people we work alongside, admire and respect. We will progress these developments as rapidly as is possible through proper consultation and planning so as to minimise the stress and uncertainty for staff involved. I am grateful to staff across UNSW who are working hard to implement these challenging developments in a considered way, providing extensive information to all involved, and with a commitment to treating all staff who are affected with respect and consideration. The steps we are taking will establish services that are fit for the challenge we face in delivering our aspirations in a highly competitive higher education sector. Importantly, they will also allow us to increase by 9% the number of professional and academic staff positions at UNSW during the implementation of Strategy 2025, have well defined career pathways, and create new employment opportunities for our community.


Along with several other UNSW staff, I attended the recent three-day Universities Australia (UA) annual conference in Canberra. There were plenty of provocative and innovative ideas, though the debate around university funding seemed to have a Groundhog Day air to it. As the Coalition again contemplates a raft of proposals, UA’s pre-Budget submission cautioned against radical overhaul of the system, and urged the government to maintain funding at least at current levels and restore certainty to funding arrangements. On the upside, one story everyone enjoyed talking about was the boom in our international education exports, which contributed a record $21.8 billion dollars to the economy in 2016. Australia’s universities are certainly earning their keep. UNSW is up there with the leaders. In that context there was a lot of talk about how Australia should ‘seize the moment’ to attract the best and brightest students and academics from a troubled landscape in the UK and the US – we are working on that at UNSW. There were three highlights of the conference for me. Firstly, an outstanding plenary lecture by Jeffrey Bleich, former US Ambassador to Australia, of which I write about at the end of my newsletter. Secondly, the launch of the UA Indigenous Strategy 2017-2020, with ambitious targets to lift university enrolment and completion rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. In the first national strategy of its kind, universities have committed in the next three years to grow the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled by 50 percent above the growth rate of non-Indigenous students. We’ve seen strong growth in Indigenous enrolments over recent years, with 70 percent more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students now than in 2008. However, the gap is still too wide - Indigenous people comprise 2.7 per cent of Australia’s working age population but only 1.6 per cent of university domestic student enrolments. One of our 2025 commitments at UNSW is to match NSW demographics for numbers of indigenous students and staff. The third highlight was the privilege of chairing a session at the UA summit focused on the role of women in leadership. I chaired an outstanding panel: Professor Brigid Heywood, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research at the University of Tasmania; Dr Saraid Billiards, Head of Strategy & Engagement Science in Australia Gender Equity; and our own Professor Emma Johnston, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at UNSW. We had a wide ranging discussion which amongst other things explored the role of quotas and affirmative action in ensuring that we increase the pace of change to greater gender equity – another critical but challenging UNSW objective. While in Canberra I attended the Group of 8 (Go8) gathering as the new Deputy Chair, with the Vice-Chancellor of University of Queensland, Professor Peter Hoj, as the new Go8 Chair. UA has also elected a new Chair, the Vice-Chancellor of Monash, Professor Margaret Gardner, who will follow on from the outstanding leadership of Barney Glover in May.


I was pleased to hear that ASPIRE, UNSW’s premier outreach program that introduces disadvantaged students to university, will be rolling out new projects in regional NSW after receiving an $800,000 funding boost from the Federal government. ASPIRE, which celebrated its tenth anniversary last year under the guidance of its Director Dr Ann Jardine, encourages students from low SES backgrounds to interact with the university environment through workshops and visits to campus. To date the program has reached nearly 50,000 students, and is involved with 56 primary and secondary schools in regional and metropolitan areas. The funding focus on regional schools is especially welcome, given the difficulties that students from non-urban areas have in getting to university. For many, ASPIRE has been life changing, by opening eyes to new possibilities. One project to benefit from this latest National Priority Pool funding is Uni in a Ute, which gives regional Year 11 students what they need to get them ‘on the road’ to the world of higher education. The data shows what programs like this can achieve: the Universities Admissions Centre reports a 120% increase in university offers to students from ASPIRE partner schools over six years (1076 in 2016, up from 488 in 2010). This year, UNSW is committing a further $4.5 million to ASPIRE’s AimHigh Unit.


Still on funding, some further good news from the Research Division. UNSW is a participant in two (of 17) new Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) projects recently announced by the Commonwealth Department of Industry. These projects are industry led and must involve a research organisation:

  • Novogen Ltd will partner with UNSW in targeting tropomyosin as a novel anti-cancer therapy. Total project value is $7.45m with Commonwealth input of $3m. UNSW researchers Professor Peter Gunning and Professor Edna Hardeman in the School of Medical Sciences will lead the research component of the project.
  • BT Imaging Pty Ltd, a start-up established in 2008 by UNSW staff and former students from the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering, will partner with UNSW in establishing a Universal Solar Module Inspection and Data Storage System. Total project value is $4.4m with Commonwealth funding of $1.8m.

In addition the Tyree Foundation has allotted $3m, split between UNSW and the University of Sydney for projects that address the needs of rural and remote communities in Australia. The first project is in microgrid technologies, led at UNSW by Professor John Fletcher and a team comprising Professor Jinhong Yuan, Dr Hendra Nurdin, Dr Jayashri Ravishankar and Dr Mihai Ciobotaru; and the second involves diagnostic tools and techniques for single wire earth return systems, led by Associate Professor Toan Phung.


I am pleased to pass on news of the rollout of the ‘Not Here’ training program in our residential colleges in association with two important initiatives; 'Strengthening Responses to Sexual Assault and Harassment on University Campuses', and the Universities Australia 'Respect. Now. Always' initiative. Last year UNSW Colleges developed a training program on gendered and sexual misconduct, specifically as it related to sexual assault, sexual harassment, racial vilification, homophobia, and hazing. The training is being rolled out in stages throughout the year with the first stage under way, involving 37 staff and over 100 student leaders. (You can view the YouTube video here.) Later stages will involve an e-learning package, an online seminar, and resident-led activities and events with guest speakers, workshops, and screenings of The Hunting Ground documentary.


For the first time, UNSW this year had its own official float in Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on Saturday, 4th March. A creative collaboration between students and staff, the float design played homage to our iconic Rainbow Basser Steps and consisted of a scale model of the staircase, accompanied by LED lights, the UNSW colours, and striking ‘rainbow’ UNSW cheerleader costumes. I enjoyed meeting the 40 participants as they conducted their final dress rehearsal on University Mall earlier in the afternoon. It was the perfect opportunity to publicly demonstrate our support and commitment to the LGBTIQ community. Organisation of the event was spearheaded by Joseph Daher, 2016 SRC Queer Officer, with support from Campus Life and Community Engagement. Congratulations to all involved.


While the Roundhouse, legendary home of UNSW student life, is undergoing an overdue refurbishment (at a cost of $32 million, and due to reopen January 2018), the Greenhouse is now open for business. Located on the Village Green, the temporary structure includes a bar, multi-purpose function rooms with full AV capabilities, and an expansive recreational deck, designed to support student engagement and club gatherings. Doors are open for business and all are welcome. Also coming up is a ‘silent’ disco on 13 April where everybody wears headphones.


Some wonderful news on the philanthropy front: the founder of Sydney’s White Rabbit Gallery, Judith Neilson AM, has made her second major donation to UNSW, a gift of $6 million to establish The Judith Neilson Chair in Contemporary Art. The White Rabbit Gallery has become a global magnet for lovers and specialists of contemporary Chinese art, and the Professorial Chair will work between UNSW Art & Design and the White Rabbit Gallery to expand study of contemporary Chinese art in a global and historic context. In 2015, Judith funded the $10 million Judith Neilson Chair in Architecture to research design of affordable housing for people displaced by natural disasters, geo-political conflicts, and economic & environmental factors. Judith’s visionary gift in creating this new professorial chair will support UNSW’s mission to build enduring, reciprocal partnerships between China and Australia, encompassing culture, education, research and innovation.


Architecture is very much a hotbed of contested ideas and architecture aimed at building engaged and resilient communities is firmly in line with the UNSW ethos of serving society. I was pleased to hear this month how 19 of our final-year Master of Architecture students spent one day a week for eight months in an onsite studio at St Canice’s church in Elizabeth Bay, near Sydney’s Kings Cross, working on designs that could become part of the parish’s final redevelopment, and help emerging architects think about how to serve greater social needs. The Social Agency stream in our Masters program focuses on designing buildings in a humanitarian context, including issues of social displacement and alienation. While on the topic of architecture, equally impressive is the bamboo community centre designed and built by UNSW Master of Architecture students in Cambodia. It’s based in a village in Ta Skor, south-east of Phnom Penh, where 100 families living in slums on the outskirts of the capital will be relocated. The community centre, constructed entirely of bamboo, is designed to accommodate the local community and withstand local weather conditions, including monsoon flooding from the nearby Mekong River. UNSW Architecture alumnus Jed Long, the creative director and co-founder of Cave Urban, a Sydney-based collective that champions the use of bamboo, was on hand in Cambodia to help the UNSW students and show them how to use this cheap, renewable alternative to timber, and, as importantly, how to navigate the complexities of social architecture. In all, these are laudatory projects that tap directly into our 2025 Strategy aims of social engagement and global impact. Congratulations to all involved.


Also just back from Cambodia are over 20 of our student engineers - supervised by Dr. Lauren Kark from the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering - who have been gaining hands-on experience in public healthcare facilities: focusing on basic electronics, training staff in a developing world hospital environment, and assessing needs and troubleshooting medical monitoring and therapeutic equipment. After a technical training block in Sydney, and more technical training plus language training in Phnom Penh, they gained invaluable in-hospital experience across Cambodia. A terrific example of the global impact of the UNSW community.


A lot that’s happened at UNSW over the past month involves water. We had the inspiring launch of the UNSW Press publication Water is Life, written by the late Colleen McCullough, the esteemed author of bestsellers including The Thorn Birds. This stimulating work of non-fiction, written several years before Colleen died, focused on a subject close to her heart - the role of water in human history, and how best to harness its power to ensure Australia’s future. It is also a biography of Michael Crouch, the visionary businessman who transformed Zip hot water enterprises into a global success story, exporting innovative, Australian-made products to over 70 countries. Michael spoke of his passion for water in a continent with precious little of it, and the need to conserve Australia’s water supply and use it wisely. Water professionals from around the world also converged on Kensington last month for the 11th International Water Association (IWA) Symposium on Tastes, Odours and Algal Toxins in Water, hosted by UNSW’s Water Research Centre. The symposium presented the latest, cutting-edge research targeted at reducing odours from water sources and improving the taste of water for public consumption.

In a separate development I am delighted to report that UNSW will receive $1.25m over five years to advance marine and coastal research in the Southern Hemisphere through a new collaboration with Chinese partners, as part of our Torch Innovation Precinct, showcasing entrepreneurship and Chinese and Australian ventures. Last November, representatives from UNSW and China’s Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology signed a memorandum of understanding to create a new Centre for Southern Hemisphere Ocean Research (C-SHOR). Professor Xiao Hua Wang, Founding Director of the Canberra-based UNSW Sino-Australian Research Centre for Coastal Management, will co-lead UNSW’s C-SHOR activities with Professor Matt England from UNSW’s Climate Change Research Centre and the Australian Research Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science. Other C-SHOR partners include CSIRO and the University of Tasmania.


UNSW, in partnership with the NSW Government Department of Industry, has launched TechConnect Global, a service designed to help us engage with NSW small and medium enterprises, and build long term partnerships that will create impact from our work. The service had three main programs. The first element is a series of co-working spaces on campus (to be located in the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre) for any partner enterprises wanting to spend time with us. The second element is a range of facilitated programs run through the MCIC and UNSW Innovations, from Design Thinking and Digital Fabrication through to co-design sandpits. The third element is NSW TechVouchers, that provide matched funding from the NSW government up to $15,000 for SMEs to use here at UNSW for research activities, access to facilities, and other purposes. The program is open to all eligible regional and metropolitan enterprises and innovators, with a focus on areas of priority for the NSW Government: advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity, water, renewable energies, and defence & aerospace technologies.


I am delighted with the news that we have appointed Professor Ana Deletic as Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) to succeed Professor Emma Johnston, who moves on to the role of Dean of the Faculty of Science in May. Professor Deletic is currently Associate Dean Research in the Faculty of Engineering at Monash University. Her appointment comes after a competitive search process, and she will take up the role in July 2017. Initially from Serbia, Ana undertook her PhD in Civil Engineering at the University of Aberdeen. At Monash from 2003, she has built an internationally-recognised research team in urban water management, focusing on green treatment technologies, stormwater management, and socio-technical modelling. With an impressive track record of leadership experience, Professor Deletic is now the Director of Monash Infrastructure, an interdisciplinary research institute that works with industry and government to deliver impact from Monash’s infrastructure resources. Ana is the Editor of Water Research, she has raised over $30m in grants as chief investigator, supervised 38 PhD students, and has over 250 publications. In 2012 Ana received the Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation (Physical Sciences), the only woman in the 18 years since the prize was established by the Victorian Parliament to be so recognised. We are looking forward to welcoming Professor Ana Deletic to UNSW.


As part of our thought leadership priority in Strategy 2025, we are creating Forum@UNSW to publicise events across UNSW, support our Grand Challenges and to develop a programme of high profile events. We have created the new post of Head of Strategic Events to lead this effort and I am delighted that Ann Mossop has been appointed to the role. Ann has an impressive track record in her previous role at Sydney Opera House, including co-curating the Festival of Dangerous ideas for the Sydney Opera House, bringing speakers from around the world to Sydney to discuss topics ranging from death to drugs, politics to parenting, and sexism to slavery. We can expect a fascinating events programme when Ann joins us in the near future.


There are three well deserved emeritus professorial appointments to let you know about. Jason Middleton, former Head of the School of Aviation, whose research interests include environmental fluid dynamics and aviation meteorology, particularly wake flows arising from natural objects in wind and ocean current streams. Rakesh Kumar, from the School of Medical Sciences, has been appointed Emeritus Professor when he retires later this year. Rakesh has worked in pathology at UNSW since 1977. His research is focused on chronic lung disease, especially asthma. Bruce Judd, former Director, Australian School of Architecture and Design. Bruce joined the School of Architecture at UNSW as a lecturer in 1981. His research interests include housing design and human behaviour; medium-density housing; public housing estate renewal; urban renewal; and ageing and the built environment. Jason, Rakesh and Bruce have been wonderful contributors to UNSW and I am delighted that their link will continue through their emeritus titles.


We have a lot to celebrate. UNSW’s internationally renowned ‘waste innovator’, Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla has been honoured by India, being made a Jubilee Professor by the Indian Academy of Sciences. With her team at the UNSW Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT), Veena ‘recycles the unrecyclable’, including toxic electronic waste (e-waste), focusing her research on delivering practical and commercially viable solutions for complex wastes that would otherwise end up as landfill. The Jubilee Chair is open to any scientist from any discipline worldwide and has been held recently by leading academics from Harvard and Cambridge. An internationally recognised research leader and trailblazer, Veena is a wonderful role model for our students, particularly young women considering engineering or science as a career. In 2016, she was named one of Australia’s most innovative engineers by Engineers Australia, the latest in a long list of Australian and international honours. The UNSW Business School has named its first Luminis Scholar, engineer Hugh Amos. He is the first student to benefit from a $1-million MBA scholarship program at UNSW set up by Luminis Partners, through the Luminis Foundation and AGSM. The prestigious scholarship will provide full tuition fees and a stipend for Amos to complete a full-time MBA, and will include an international exchange at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the world's top business schools, as well as access to exclusive business networks. Hugh comes to business from a background in engineering and holds a Master of Philosophy in Engineering for Sustainable Development from the University of Cambridge.

Dr. Haris Aziz from UNSW and Data61 was the recipient of the 2017 Chris Wallace Research award, for significant contributions to computer science research in particular for a substantial breakthrough in resource allocation. The prize is awarded to an academic for post-PhD research undertaken in Australia or New Zealand in the past three years.

Dr. Sara Khalifa from UNSW was the 2017 recipient of the John Makepeace Bennett award for the Australasian Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation, “Energy-Efficient Human Activity Recognition for Self-powered Wearable Devices”. The prize is given to the best PhD thesis of the year from Australia or New Zealand.

Dr Ryan Armstrong was awarded the best paper award for 2016 for work presented at the Society of Core Analysts Annual Symposium. His work was also featured on the cover page for Petrophysics. Scientia Professor Gernot Heiser has been appointed to the Scientific Advisory Board of the Max-Planck Institute for Software Systems (MPI-SWS) and received a grant worth US$58k from Google, as seed funding for a project to prove the absence of information leakage through timing channels.


Everywhere, digitisation proceeds apace, nowhere more so than in libraries. Martin Borchert, our UNSW Librarian, notes the Library is continuing to expand its online collection, and provides the following updates:

  • All Pearson textbooks selected by academics for UNSW courses are now available in both ebook and print format.
  • With new Springer and Early English Books Online collections, there are now over 650,000 ebooks available.
  • The Times Higher Education (THE) is now available online.
  • Fairfax newspapers including The Australian Financial Review, Sydney Morning Herald and The Age are available via a new Fairfax platform.
  • The IBIS World database of Australian industry, company and risk reports, and Chinese industry reports is now available.

Staff and students now have a choice of five technologies to access online resources off-campus, including the UNSW Library VPN, so there is a means to suit everyone. And UNSW students and staff no longer have to worry about their library loans going overdue - all standard loans will now be automatically renewed to the maximum borrowing period (16 weeks for undergraduates, 24 months for staff and PG students), unless a book is requested by someone else. If someone else requests something you have on loan you will still receive a change due date notice, and need to return the item within a week. Courtesy notices will still be sent when a loan is due, and you can also opt in to receive SMS notifications under the Personal settings tab in my Library.


It is with great sadness that I write about the loss of Emeritus Professor Tony Vinson, the former Dean of Professional Studies and Professor of Social Work at UNSW. Professor Vinson passed away on Friday 17th February after a short period of illness. An alumnus of both UNSW and the University of Sydney, he was an influential leader and his many prestigious appointments included Foundation Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Newcastle University and Foundation Director of the Bureau of Crime Statistics & Research. He was a pioneer of innovative social science and social justice research in Australia, and throughout his long career, contributed greatly to social research and education, government services, prison reform, community development, addressing social disadvantage, and child protection. Many people have let me know how much Tony Vinson will be missed and remembered as a kind and generous mentor, and a tireless and fierce champion of social justice, who also made UNSW immeasurably richer for being in our midst.


On a personal note, I have spent over 30 years deeply committed to research, focused on developing a screening programme for the early detection of cancer of the ovary, a disease responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 women worldwide each year. Tackling this cancer is a career long passion for me and staying involved in research has the additional benefit of helping me to keep in touch with the challenges facing our academic staff. One of the research trials I have led for many years was completed recently and reported on the role of screening in women at high risk of ovarian cancer because of a strong family history or genetic predisposition. Although screening is not yet the complete answer to managing this cancer, it was pleasing to report that it does have a role in the care of some women at risk. Anyone who wants to know more can access the paper here. You can also view a video of the presentaion I recently gave at the Ovarian Cancer Symposium.

I also want to bring to your attention the keynote speech given by Jeffrey Bleich, the former US Ambassador to Australia at the UA conference. In the wake of the recent political upheavals in the UK and US, he noted a ‘profound sense of uncertainty’, a consequence of disruptive developments and changes. He focused on four contributing factors: eloquently explaining the impact of the pace of ‘the digital revolution’; describing the troubling ‘gaming of democracy’ to reduce trust in governments and secure votes; explaining the disruption in ‘demographic expectations’ related to globalisation and their impact on sections of society; and lamenting the ‘degrading of journalism’ and the impact on how we receive and interpret information. He finished with a vision for a way forward in which universities and education have a key role to play for the global community. He urged us to rethink our educational model for lifelong learning so that universities become ‘less of a way station for youth than a life-long subscription service’ and ‘liberate the workforce to do the one thing that machines can’t do – improve ourselves and the emotional lives of others’. The address made a deep impression on many of us at the UA summit, and I encourage you to read or listen to it when you have some time.It is directly relevant to the role and responsibility of a great university like UNSW in addressing global challenges.

Finally, a benefit of living on the other side of the world from family is that when they visit, they do so for extended periods of time. Chris and I are enjoying having our daughter along with her boyfriend staying with us for four months, the longest she has lived with us since leaving home for university some seven years ago. It is a joy having them here and all is going well ……….. so far. In addition my in-laws have been visiting for the last month – living with us for longer than any time since I met them 35 years ago! I am of course the perfect son-in-law (as far as I am concerned), looking after their every need. It makes for a busy, lively household and it is a precious time having them all with us in Sydney.

My very best wishes to all, Ian

Professor Ian Jacobs
President and Vice-Chancellor
UNSW Sydney