Message from President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs - 16 February 2021

16 Feb 2021
2021 O-Week

Dear colleagues

Welcome to Week 1, Term 1, 2021!

I hope that you are starting this academic year energised by the success of O-Week. A huge congratulations to all who brought us an exciting COVID-safe event. From Speed Friending, which attracted more than 2000 students face-to-face and online, to the official welcome events attended by nearly 2000 students in person and 2100 virtually, and the campus tours that showed 3303 students the sights, it was wonderful to see so many new students engaging with each other and with our University.

My thanks to all the staff who greeted students on campus and online in more than 50 school welcomes; to the 180 volunteers who donned Arc’s iconic yellow shirts; and to all our students and staff who enthusiastically embraced the week’s activities. With more than 100 events held on campus; more than 50,000 ‘check-ins’ across the Arc stall areas; and 308 clubs, societies and associations participating, it was a delight to see campus once again the vibrant, active place we enjoy.

Over the weekend I had a look at some of my earliest messages to the UNSW community, including a note I wrote to staff during O-Week in 2015. I described – and I remember distinctly – the superb atmosphere around campus, and it was a delight to experience that same feeling again last week. I hope that the excitement of our new and returning students is invigorating for you.

I am pleased to share news of another international accolade for a UNSW colleague. Professor Alison Bashford, Australian Research Council Laureate and Director of the Laureate Centre for History & Population in our Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture, has been awarded a 2021 Dan David Prize, joining pre-eminent academics Professor Katharine Park (Harvard University) and Professor Keith Wailoo (Princeton University) in the History of Health and Medicine (Past) category. This internationally renowned prize is awarded to globally inspiring individuals and organisations, honouring outstanding contributions that expand knowledge of the past, enrich society in the present, and promise to improve the future of our world.

Alison is a world leader in the history of health and medicine. Her work is unusually expansive across geographies, topics and periods. The prize committee commended Alison for her work “demonstrating the global interconnectedness of medicine and public health in the modern world,” and for contributing to the understanding of medico-legal disease control policies and practices: salient issues as our world responds to the ongoing challenges the pandemic has wrought. 

Please join me in congratulating Alison upon receiving this prestigious prize, and for her remarkable contribution to improving our global future. You can read more about this honour in Inside UNSW.

UNSW switches to emissions-free renewable energy

UNSW takes seriously its responsibility to address the challenge of climate change. It is a commitment we, as a community, made a focus of UNSW’s 2025 Strategy. It is therefore a source of pride that, now that the Sunraysia Solar Farm is exporting electricity to the grid, we have realised our objective of achieving net zero emissions from energy use. This has been an important ambition of our University and is particularly apt given UNSW’s long and illustrious history of pioneering photovoltaic research. It was a part of the innovative solar Power Purchase Agreement that made this day possible, that the UNSW-dedicated Block 13 of the solar farm be comprised of the PERC solar technology developed by UNSW researchers, led by Scientia Professor Martin Green. This is a wonderful milestone and I congratulate everyone involved in seeing it through to fruition. You can read this article to discover more on how this initiative came about.

Having switched to emissions-free renewable electricity, we will be moving on to new commitments to achieve net zero emissions from all of UNSW’s activities.

Employee Education Discount to continue and increase

Some good news for staff who would like to further their education at UNSW. The Employee Education Discount (previously Staff Fee Subsidy) initiative that was introduced in 2018 will now be an ongoing benefit for eligible UNSW staff, for courses that are relevant to their work. Furthermore, the 40% discount that was offered during the pilot phase of the program has been increased to 50%. I am thrilled that this program will continue to provide opportunities for staff to undertake further study and grow their careers at UNSW.

You can read more about the program here. Applications for study in Term 2 2021 close on 21 May.

UNSW’s Courageous Conversations in the House of Commons

Our exemplary Courageous Conversations Program received a strong endorsement in the UK last week, with the Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP citing the program as an effective means of giving students who make serious errors of judgement during their studies a chance to “own their mistakes before formal investigations begin.”

Mr Skidmore mentioned UNSW’s Courageous Conversations in his speech in the House of Commons introducing a bill to ban ‘essay mills’ in the UK. Unlike in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland, where essay mills and their advertisement are subject to contract cheating legislation, these exploitative organisations continue to operate in Britain.

At UNSW, the Courageous Conversations Program is an important part of ensuring students are supported to succeed at university with integrity. That it is becoming a model for our domestic and international counterparts is a great credit to our colleagues.

Congratulations to Kane Murdoch, Team Leader, Student Conduct & Integrity Team, and former colleague, David House, for conceiving the idea; to Bron Greene, Director UNSW Conduct & Integrity, who oversees the program in the Conduct & Integrity Office; and to Associate Professor Cath Ellis, Associate Dean (Education), Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture, who provided evidence about the efficacy of Australian legislation for Mr Skidmore’s address.

UNSW records the most employable students for the second year in a row

In a terrific affirmation of our commitment to providing the skills and experience our students need for successful careers, UNSW was last week recognised for the employability of our students in the GradConnection Australian Financial Review Top 100 Future Leaders Competition 2021. This is the second year in a row UNSW has received this honour, with a record 37 UNSW students named as most employable students – the highest number of students to be selected from one institution since the awards began in 2014.

Two of our students, Bachelor of Information Systems (Hons) student Jessica Lawson and Bachelor of Commerce/Law student Alexandra Zoras, were also category winners for highly competitive employer awards.

It is wonderful to see the results of work-integrated learning and industry engagement in accolades and opportunities for our students. Please join me in congratulating all who were listed.

AGSM the top MBA program in Australia

Great news for AGSM in the Financial Times 2021 Global MBA Rankings that were released last week. AGSM was ranked the top MBA program in Australia and moved up nine places to 79th in the world, improving in several metrics, including climbing 20 places in the Corporate Social Responsibility metric introduced in 2019. The Financial TimesGlobal MBA Rankings are a highly competitive and prestigious scheme with strict entry and evaluation criteria. My congratulations on these impressive results.

Updated UNSW crest incorporates heart

Consistent with our updated motto of Scientia corde manu et mente – Knowledge by heart, hand mind – and with College of Arms approval now in place, we have updated the UNSW crest to incorporate ‘heart’ – corde – in the ribbon that runs below the shield.

Please use the new crest on any electronic communications and newly created items, but only update existing materials such as business cards and merchandise as the need for new stock arises.

Finally, I am confident that this year will be one of reinvigoration as we return to campus safely and cautiously, but with great optimism about the year ahead. Of course, there are still students who are unable to join us on campus in person, and we will continue to make provisions as best we can for virtual and remote students. We think especially of our students who are from, and in, Myanmar. I ask you to be supportive and understanding at this challenging time.

Please help us all enjoy a vibrant campus experience by continuing to follow our Safe Return to Campus Guidance and check the NSW Government website for the latest COVID-19 updates and alerts.

Now, as our new academic year begins, I acknowledge the remarkable journey that so many students and staff have undertaken to commence this week, and I wish every member of our UNSW community an engaging, fulfilling 2021.

Take care and stay well