2015 was a year of celebration as we recognised 50 years of achievement and success. The University of Newcastle (UON) continued its commitment to equity, great teaching and learning, to produce work-ready graduates, innovators and entrepreneurs, together with leading edge research and innovation which will enhance the economic and social wellbeing of the communities we serve. We have also continued to expand our international outreach in both education and research.
With an element of uncertainty facing the higher education sector, it is important for UON to continue to build on the strong foundation of the last 50 years, while driving a bold and inspiring future for our regions and beyond.
UON Council members and the executive team have worked together to prepare a strong decadal strategic plan, NeW Futures, and under the Vice-Chancellor’s leadership we are focused on delivering the outcomes to ensure the success and sustainability of UON. With the development of the University’s Long Term Financial Plan we are clear about what is required to achieve our strategic direction.
Our 2015 financial result reflects a surplus consistent with the University’s long term targets. During the year UON’s financial position was bolstered by the strong performance of its investments and a number of one-off, non-recurring items of income. UON has clearly identified and maintained the balance sheet position it needs to ensure a sound and sustainable financial base. We have also continued to maintain a strong asset base which will enable UON to sustain its capital and strategic investment program over the next five years to support the NeW Futures strategy.
For 50 years we have been extremely fortunate to have the support of a community that continues to grow. In 2015 we extended our alumni community to 121 countries with a new network launched in Saudi Arabia and closer to home we saw the formal establishment of the Hunter Alumni Network. We are grateful to those in our community who continue to generously support UON. In 2015 UON received its largest single donation from two former students who have given generously to help disadvantaged children access higher education. We are extremely grateful for this level of generosity and for all those who support UON. While UON performs well above the sector average, with 24 per cent of students from low socio-economic backgrounds, there is still considerable work to do to provide greater equity and access to a quality education.
Our success will be determined by the quality of our graduates and we are committed to providing a unique teaching and learning experience for our students. The extensive inclusion of work integrated learning ensures that our University produces highly qualified, work-ready graduates. It has been a great source of pride to see our staff and students recognised for their outstanding achievements during 2015.
Our research strength is helping to build collaborative engagement with industry, business and government partners - with UON positioned eighth in Australia for research ranked ‘well above world standard’ in the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) 2015 assessment. This recognition assists our goal to link UON’s research expertise with industry to commercialise innovative technologies so that business, industry and the community can benefit and profit from our front line research.
UON will continue the momentum built in recent years under the leadership of Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Caroline McMillen, with her reappointment through to October 2019. Professor McMillen’s vision and determination has seen the University’s identity grow as a world class institution and has firmly marked UON as a leader in equity, Indigenous education, regional transformation and global research.
I appreciate the commitment of my UON Council colleagues, our Vice-Chancellor and her executive, staff, students, alumni, partners and donors who have all contributed to our success this year.