Message from President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs - 8 December 2021

06 Dec 2021
President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs

Dear friends

This is another wonderful edition of Inside UNSW over which to preside, and the last for both 2021 and for me as Vice-Chancellor of UNSW Sydney. Once more, Inside UNSW is crammed full of magnificent achievements, even as it comes at the end of a year that has served up many memorable moments, and some unforgettable ones too.

First, some good news. This week we are thrilled to welcome 55 UNSW students back to Australia as part of the International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan. This is an important moment for our University and our international friends.

I will be in touch with you again before I finish as President and VC on 17 January, but I will take this opportunity to look back on 2021, and on the marvellous experience that it has been bringing you news, celebrations and University milestones over the past seven years, through Inside UNSW in particular.

In my first message when I joined UNSW as President and Vice-Chancellor in February 2015, I remarked on the pride shared by our students, staff and alumni in being part of the UNSW community. Nearly seven years later, I feel that same pride, as well as the privilege of being a member of this brilliant, compassionate body of people. Looking back on my first Inside UNSW message in February 2018, I promised news, events, celebrations of achievements, and plenty of fresh information about life on campus. It has been a pleasure to write to you about these accomplishments. But it has also been my responsibility and a privilege to write to you in challenging times, including when we have lost friends and colleagues, during natural disasters, and of course through the ordeal of COVID-19.

By my reckoning, across my 89 (!) Inside UNSW dispatches, I’ve shared somewhere in the order of 1000 morsels – just a taste of the UNSW achievements these past years. It is no wonder that compiling this newsletter has been one of the joys of my time as your VC.

In 2021, even while we have navigated the pandemic and its affects on learning, teaching, research and all aspects of university operations, you have still excelled. In extraordinary state, national and international honours and awards; in our achievements in equity, diversity and inclusion; in metrics such as our graduate outcomes and myExperience scores; in research quality, impact and citations; in the generous support you have given students experiencing financial hardship during the pandemic; in the way you engaged with the important national conversation about a First Nations Voice to Parliament; in the tremendous progress for our Alliances and Precincts; in the support you have given students as they have learned in virtual environments, in Australia and overseas; in the extraordinary rise of UNSW from within the top 100 to becoming one of the world’s top 50 universities; and in a multitude of other ways – many of them perhaps unacknowledged – you have shown the heart that is a definitive part of the UNSW community.

My constant refrain these seven years has been that people are central to all we do – especially as we strive towards our vision of improving lives locally and around the world. Thank you for being people of great heart and great vision. I commend to you this edition of Inside UNSW. I hope you find it as inspiring as ever.

NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science and Engineering

Last Wednesday, five UNSW colleagues were awarded prestigious NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science and Engineering. These prizes are well-deserved recognition of their innovative, transformative work and it is my pleasure to offer warm congratulations on behalf of the UNSW community to:

  • Scientia Associate Professor Rona Chandrawati, who won the award for NSW Early Career Researcher of the Year (Physical Sciences)
  • Emeritus Professor Peter Steinberg, for the Excellence in Biological Sciences (Ecological, environmental, agricultural and organismal) award
  • Scientia Professor Gregory Dore, who won the award for Excellence in Medical Biological Sciences (Cell and molecular, medical, veterinary and genetics)
  • Dr Louise Causer, for the NSW Early Career Researcher of the Year (Biological Sciences) award
  • Scientia Professor Richard Bryant AC, who received the Leadership in Innovation in NSW award.

Fellows of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering

Please join me in congratulating Professor Xiao Lin Zhao, Associate Dean International, UNSW Engineering, and Professor Jason Sharples, Professor of Bushfire Dynamics, UNSW Canberra, upon their election as Fellows of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE). Election as Fellows of the Academy recognises outstanding contributions to advancing engineering, technology and applied science. In the words of ATSE President Professor Hugh Bradlow, the new Fellows are frontrunners in growing Australia’s standing as one of the top technologically-driven nations in the world. My best wishes to our two esteemed colleagues as they realise their immense potential at the forefront of their fields.

Fellows of the Australian Academy of the Humanities

Congratulations to new Fellows of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, Professor Lisa Ford and Professor Robert Freestone, from UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture. As Fellows, Lisa, of the School of Humanities & Languages, and Robert, of the School of Built Environment, are recognised for their distinguished achievement in the humanities and arts disciplines and for their outstanding contribution to Australian cultural life. The humanities are a vital aspect of understanding and advancing society and culture; we are incredibly fortunate at UNSW to host some of the most insightful thinkers and practitioners in humanities across a breadth of disciplines. I wish Lisa and Robert well as they continue to advance their fields and, in so doing, our society.

Student satisfaction scores for Term 3 2021 our highest on record

Huge congratulations are due to all who contributed to UNSW achieving our highest ever scores for student satisfaction with teaching, for Term 3 2021. This is the fourth consecutive term for which our myExperience scores have been the highest on record, an outcome that is a terrific vote of confidence in our academic staff, especially considering the disruptions of the pandemic. In a very positive end to the year, all faculties recorded higher teaching and course satisfaction in 2021 than in the previous four years. These results reflect your ongoing commitment to putting our students at the centre of everything we do. Thank you for providing an innovative, engaging learning experience that is uniquely UNSW.

First Education Festival celebrates educational excellence

What a wonderful first UNSW Education Festival it was from 22–26 November. It began with more than 100 of our Education Focussed academics gathering for a virtual retreat on Monday and culminated with the in-person ‘Celebrations, presentations and debate’. The weeklong festival was the first bringing together of the Learning & Teaching Forum and Faculty Education Events into one, supercharged celebration of education. Over the week, more than 670 people registered for 135 events at which 22 posters were shown and 200 presenters shared their insights. A tremendous, collaborative learning experience that is a tribute to our talented educators and their dedication to excellence. I am enormously proud of our passion for education at UNSW and I congratulate all who arranged and engaged in this fantastic showcase.

2021 Paul Bourke Award of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia

Congratulations also to early career researcher, Dr Timothy Neal, economist at UNSW Business School and the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR). In receiving the 2021 Paul Bourke Award for early career research from the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA), Tim makes his mark as one of Australia’s best emerging social science researchers. Tim received this prestigious award for his “new insights into the economics of climate change, COVID-19 panic buying and child labour, among other areas”.

Australian Workplace Equality Index – staff survey now open

For the fifth consecutive year, UNSW is applying to be recognised in the Australian Workplace Equality Index, the national benchmark of LGBTIQ+ workplace inclusion. Through the dedicated leadership of the Division of Equity Diversity & Inclusion, and the hard work of colleagues including our allies and champions, UNSW has achieved Gold Employer status for the past two years. The Australian Workplace Equality Index LGBTIQ+ survey is an important part of the AWEI process. I invite all staff to complete the anonymous, 15-minute survey, irrespective of how you identify. The survey aids understanding of how inclusive our workplaces are: the information gleaned from previous surveys has helped UNSW make changes to improve workplace experiences for LGBTIQ+ staff. Please help us go for gold for the third year running.

New scholarships to support asylum seekers and refugees

Throughout my time at UNSW I have been impressed by the dedication with which many in our community have worked to improve access to education for people who face barriers to attending university. I have been privileged to meet, to work with and to befriend some wonderful people whose commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion are heartfelt, renowned, and bound to our vision for transformative education and a just society. Two new scholarships that UNSW is offering to support asylum seekers and refugees are testament to this genuine commitment. The new scholarships are the Sanctuary Scholarship for People Seeking Asylum and Refugees with Temporary Protection and the Welcome Scholarship for Students from Refugee Backgrounds. Thank you to all in the UNSW community who have worked hard to make these scholarships possible.

Now, I sign off my 89th Inside UNSW ‘Message from the President and Vice-Chancellor’ with a heartfelt thanks and congratulations to you all.

My sincere thanks for the resilience and good nature that have been features of your approach during 2021. The year began with great promise and while you have all achieved so much, I know that it may feel as though some of those accomplishments have been hard fought and won in spite of circumstances. I recognise this. Thank you for your courage.

My sincere congratulations for reaching this point in another tough year. While it is the case that determination has brought us here, it is important to acknowledge that with it often comes an unwelcome companion: weariness. My hope for all of you is that some balance will be restored over the holiday break, and that 2022 will reward the optimism with which we look forward to a new year.

Very best wishes, stay well