From the VC's Desk

2013 – celebrating a great year

Last week, UON hosted the 13th Forum of the Association of Universities of Asia and the Pacific (AUAP) – the first time this forum has been held in Australia. Thanks to the outstanding efforts of Winnie Eley and the team in International and Advancement, it was a really successful event for our University and our city. AUAP brought together senior sector colleagues from across the Asia Pacific region to hear speakers discuss issues directly relevant to the theme Innovating together: Collaboration in transnational education and research. Speakers included Federal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Brett Mason, who outlined the aims and opportunities related to the new Colombo Plan.

Hosting the international event was a great way to top-off a terrific year for UON in which our University community has achieved an enormous amount.

This year we have recruited many talented people across the institution, some hailing from far afield – the UK, Ireland, the United States and Hong Kong – while others have joined us from much closer to home. There is one new "appointee" who deserves special mention. In July, we warmly welcomed Mr Paul Jeans as our seventh Chancellor. With exceptional experience across business, governance and finance and a deep passion for education, the University and for Newcastle, our Chancellor is well equipped to provide outstanding leadership to Council and the University.

Throughout 2013, significant work across the organisation has begun to realise the aspirations of the NeW Directions Strategic Plan. The Future Workforce team forged ahead with great initiatives to promote a healthy and collaborative workplace, as well as learning and development support for our University community. The team rolled-out a range of projects including the Healthy UON Strategy, the new Performance Review and Development process and the UON Leadership Framework.

Our first two academic flagship programs – the Bachelor of Speech Pathology (Honours) and the Master of Education – were launched through our Education Plan; and the development of our Centre for Excellence in Equity in Higher Education is well underway. Under the Research and Innovation Plan, we are building stronger engagement with industry and other partners through our new multi-disciplinary ‘clusters’. This year we launched the Food Research and Innovation Cluster at the Central Coast and established the Defence Cluster; and the Creative Industries and Research and Innovation Cluster and the E-Health Cluster will be launched in the new year.

This year we received the highest total National Health and Medical Research Council funding ever awarded to Newcastle and achieved the greatest overall application success rate of any university in the country. This is a remarkable achievement in an environment where the competition intensifies every year. We also received strong support from the Australian Research Council, including Discovery Project funding of $8.8 million and a total of 11 Fellowships.

We have applauded our researchers many times in recent months including Laureate Professor Graeme Jameson’s award for the 2013 NSW Scientist of the Year at the Science and Engineering Awards (this is the second year running for UON) and our inclusion in TIME magazine’s 25 best inventions of the year for the Lazarus project – breakthrough genome technology by Professor Michael Mahony. We were the only Australian invention to make it onto this prestigious list.

Working with the NSW Business Chamber Central Coast, our colleagues at Ourimbah took out the national Business/Higher Education Round Table (B-HERT) Award in Excellence in Accounting Teaching Collaboration. These awards recognise outstanding achievement that is a result of collaboration between business and higher education.

The Wollotuka Institute celebrated its 30th anniversary. The Institute is a recognised leader in Indigenous education in Australia, and is behind our University’s great success in advancing education participation and attainment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Congratulations to John, Leanne, Peter and the team at the Wollotuka Institute on reaching this significant milestone.

Also part of NeW Directions, to support the Capital, Campus and IT Plan the Resources Division has established the Strategic Governance Office; developed the strategic asset management framework and started on a major campus master planning exercise; and delivered an IT program of works valued at approximately $13 million.

Earlier in the year we celebrated the major announcement of federal backing for our city campus, which – together with support from the NSW state government – signalled the go-ahead for our exciting NeW Space education precinct in the city. We also broke ground on our new student accommodation project with construction well underway on the four new accommodation towers that, once completed, will almost double Callaghan’s on-campus. On the Central Coast, we announced that we would establish a presence in the Gosford CBD in the ‘Kibbleplex’ complex. With a federal funding commitment of $7 million, the complex will be developed into a state-of-the-art community facility that will include new UON Central Coast pathway programs to support students entering university.

As I have said many times, an organisation is all about talented, committed and hard working staff. Our remarkable success in 2013 reflects your hard work and commitment throughout the year. On behalf of our Executive team, I would like to thank you most sincerely for a great year and wish you and your family a happy and safe festive season. Do take a break and I look forward to working with you in 2014!

Best wishes

Caroline