UNSW… 70 years and 500 Council meetings

UNSW Council at its 500th meeting

In the University’s 70th year, another milestone has been reached with UNSW holding its 500th Council meeting.

“I welcome you all to this auspicious occasion, being the 500th anniversary meeting of the UNSW Council.” With these words the Chancellor, Mr David Gonski AC, opened the 500th meeting of Council on 18 February 2018, noting that this year is also the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the University. To mark the occasion, the Chancellor presented those attending the meeting with a “500th Council Meeting” anniversary pen.

The Council is the University’s governing body and is responsible for acting on the University’s behalf to promote its objectives and interests. The first meeting of the University’s Council was held on 6 July 1949 when UNSW was then known as the New South Wales University of Technology. The name of the University was changed on 7 October 1958 to the University of New South Wales by an Act of the NSW Parliament.

Today the Council consists of 15 members with a variety of internal and external perspectives. Five members are elected by staff and students, two members are appointed by the State Minister for Education and five members by the Council itself. The President and Vice-Chancellor and the President of the Academic Board are ex-officio members of Council while the Chancellor is elected by the members of Council. Since the first meeting of Council in 1949, more than 370 people have served as members of Council.

As Mr Gonski noted, the first meeting of the Council was a decidedly male affair. It took some time for this to change, with Jessica Milner Davis becoming the first female member of the Council on 12 July 1965. In 1981 she then also became UNSW’s first female Deputy Chancellor, as well as the first UNSW graduate to take on the Deputy Chancellor position. The current Deputy Chancellor, Ms Jillian Segal AO, is also a UNSW graduate. Today there is much greater gender diversity on the UNSW Council, although this fluctuates in part due to the elected positions. In 2016, 40% of Council members were female although this dropped to 27% following elections in 2018.

The first UNSW Council meeting
The first UNSW Council meeting, 6 July 1949.

As Chancellor since 1 August 2005, Mr Gonski has been instrumental in promoting and advancing the University during a time of significant change. This has included growth in both domestic and international student numbers as well as extensive and ongoing improvements to the University’s estate. Mr Gonski paid tribute to the members of Council for their service and unwavering commitment to the University.

The President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Jacobs, highlighted in his report to the 500th meeting of Council, “that at this milestone, UNSW ranks 81st amongst universities globally – our highest ever place in our averaged benchmark rankings,” (ARWU, Times Higher, QS). As part of the University’s 2025 Strategy, UNSW aims to be in the top 50 universities globally.

Following the historic 500th meeting of Council, celebrations are being planned to mark the 70th anniversary of the University’s establishment.

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