The University of Newcastle, Australia

60 seconds with Phill Johnson, student member of Council

Monday, 5 September 2016

Meet UON’s Council members as we share their thoughts on education and being part of the Council.

Phill Johnson

Why did you join the University Council?

When I was Vice President of NUSA in 2015, I discovered the value of student representation and the importance of students being involved in the decision making process at our University. As the governing body of the entire University, the University Council is where the major decisions are made that affect each and every student. I ran for University Council because I wanted to make a difference for all students across the University regardless of what they study or which campus they study at.

Being the student member on University Council provides a unique insight into seeing how what happens at the board level affect the students on the ground. I’ve observed simple ideas based on feedback from student reps develop and travel through committees in University management, eventually arriving before the University Council, where they are approved into policy. Being a member of the University Council has certainly given me the opportunity to develop my corporate governance skills and build my knowledge as a board director.

What do you look back on most fondly when it comes to your own education?

When I graduated from high school and came straight to university, I had the mindset that my time here would purely revolve around education and research. Within my first year, I discovered that Universities offer a lot more than just the pursuit of academia.

Universities also foster a culture of community that can truly build a strong sense of belonging. Whether it’s meeting new friends at events and activities, being involved in the students’ association, sports teams or clubs and societies or even simply hanging out with classmates at the bar in the afternoon, the student life experience is diverse and far reaching. Campus culture can really make University feel like a second home.

Our time at University is when many of us discover who we are as individuals while we are making the transition from being students to workers. The University experience as a whole is truly an important part of our lives.

A little more about Phill

I am in my third year of University studying Civil Engineering. I’m interested in the built environment and have had a passion for Science and Engineering since I was a child.

Another area of interest to me is politics, something I’ve followed closely from my earliest days of high school. Towards the end of my first year of University in 2014, I started to get involved in student politics. I was elected as the 2015 Vice President of Newcastle University Students’ Association (NUSA), which is the peak representative body for students at UON.

I am now currently President of NUSA and NSW General Secretary of the National Union of Students. Through this I regularly represent UON students in the media and at major events and forums. I’ve also had the opportunity to make contributions in shaping government policy and improving the student experience on campus.

I’ve worked hard with University management on bringing improvements to transportation, campus sustainability, amenities and teaching facilities. Upgrades underway to major lecture theatres and the rollout of new technology enabled active learning spaces are something I’m proud to be a part of. I’ve also succeeded in working with management to have a simpler and more transparent breakdown of the distribution of SSAF funding implemented so students can keep track of where their fees are going.

At the end of 2015, I ran in elections for University Council and after a two week long campaign was successfully elected to the position.

More about Council

Council is UON's governing board. Its role is to oversee the affairs of the University, set and review our strategic direction and ensure that the right structures, policies, processes, and plans are in place to help us achieve our organisational goals.

The Council is committed to providing information about itself, its activities and its decisions to staff and students. After each Council Meeting, you read more about Council’s decisions in the Council Communique.

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