Message from President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs - 8 September 2020

08 Sep 2020
UNSW Library Lawn with Library tower in the background

Dear colleagues

I start with my thanks to all who were involved in our Open Day on Saturday and who are running our virtual O-Week. This year has presented some unique challenges and I am grateful for the effort and expertise our staff have shown in response.  You can follow this link to see what O-Week has to offer.

It was pleasing to see the success of UNSW and of Australian universities in the 2021 Times Higher Education (THE) rankings that were released last week. We went up another four places to 67th globally following our 25-place rise last year. That, combined with our 20-place rise in ARWU this year, means that we are steadily closing in on an aggregate top 50 overall ranking in QS, THE and ARWU rankings. Congratulations on this outstanding achievement.

There were 12 Australian universities in the top 200 in the THE ranking – an indicator of the quality of university education in our country.

Workplace change consultation

As explained in my staff email last week, steps to address the financial challenges of COVID-19 are progressing alongside our reorganisation and workplace change process. We have now completed the voluntary redundancy scheme, which has provided 47% of the necessary savings on posts at UNSW. Over the next few weeks, we will have the opportunity to thank those staff who are leaving us through the voluntary scheme for their contributions to UNSW.

The next phase in this process involves the release the Workplace Change Paper on Wednesday, 16 September. The paper will then be open for consultation and feedback, in accordance with our Enterprise Bargaining Agreement. Initial faculty and divisional meetings to present the overall operational plan and how it is proposed to affect specific parts of the University will be held on Wednesday, 16 September. Invitations to attend these meetings will be sent out on Friday, 11 September.

R U OK? Day

The impacts of COVID-19 have brought mental health to the fore this year. As many experience the loneliness of isolation, the loss or illness of loved ones, and the stressful economic effects of the pandemic, it is important that we keep up our connections and make the time to ask our colleagues, friends and loved ones how they are faring.

R U OK? Day, this coming Thursday, is a reminder for us all that asking a simple question may be one of the most important actions we take. You are invited to participate in the virtual program that UNSW Wellbeing has created for R U OK? Day this year.  

If you need support, free, confidential counselling is available through our Employee Assistance Program. The service is also available for immediate family members.

Nominations for the 2020 Awards for Teaching are open

I cannot recall a year in which the dedication and talent of our teachers has been more critical, so it gives me great pleasure to announce that nominations are now open for our 2020 Awards for Teaching, until 28 September. The awards will be announced at the Learning and Teaching Forum on 20 November – which will be an opportunity to hear  insights and tales of innovation as our educators come together at the end of an extraordinary year under the banner of ‘Learning without Limits: Leading the Change’.

Health 10x Accelerator participants announced

The Health 10x Accelerator program, a partnership between UNSW Founders and the George Institute for Global Health, is an exemplar of our 2025 Strategy strategic priority of Social Impact. Health 10x helps innovators grow social enterprises that address major health challenges in communities of great need.

Applications to participate in the program doubled from last year, and five teams have been selected to participate in 2020’s Health 10x, which will be wholly online. Teams will pitch on projects that include digitising healthcare in Bangladesh; improving infectious disease management; and enabling testing for, and the dispensing of prescriptions to combat, a leading cause of blindness in the developing world. Best wishes to all who will take part in this program.

Our new online ‘front door’

I encourage you to keep an eye out for the new homepage that will be launched on Wednesday. The new homepage will provide an engaging, visitor-centred ‘front door’ to experiencing UNSW online. This launch is the latest milestone in our Adobe web transformation and digital marketing program, with the re-designed Future Student Recruitment pages leading to traffic increases of up to 50% in the week after their launch. I look forward to visiting our new homepage this week.

TEDI-London Summer School tackles dementia

TEDI-London, the innovative, design-led engineering school that we co-founded with Arizona State University and King’s College London, our PLuS Alliance partners, has held its second Summer School program. This is an intensive, eight-week program that exemplifies TEDI-London’s approach to interdisciplinary, industry-engaged learning and the drive to create practical solutions for real-world problems.

This year’s Summer School tackled the idea of Dementia-Friendly Environments. Sixty-nine UNSW students from five faculties were among the nearly 150 students who took part. Teams of 10 had the task of responding to an industry project brief from one of the UK’s largest property development and investment firms. Congratulations to all who participated in the Summer School, and to the four UNSW students and their mentor who were part of the prize-winning team.

Virtual tour of UNSW Built Environment’s global impact

The Luminocity virtual exhibition presented by UNSW Built Environment is not only a brilliant showcase of the impact of UNSW Built Environment students on a global scale, but a welcome 360-degree tour of the world. From the Red Centre to built environments in Sydney and beyond, Luminocity evokes the ideas and innovations that our students have seeded throughout the world. It may just be the antidote needed by those missing international travel.

Well done to all involved in bringing this virtual-reality experience to life for our Open Day, and to those whose works are featured in the exhibition.

UNSW Student News invites contributions

The Student Information & Communications Team invites contributions for the UNSW Student News email newsletter that is sent every Monday during term and read by approximately 35,000 students. If you have news, an event or a program that has broad appeal across our student population, do consider submitting a request to the team to include your item in the newsletter. The Student News is the main source of information for students after O-Week.

NSW Legislative Council Education Committee Inquiry

Yesterday, at the invitation of the NSW Legislative Council Committee on Education, I appeared before the Committee’s Inquiry into the Future development of the NSW tertiary education sector. The invitation to appear follows the submission UNSW made to the inquiry earlier this year. The Vice-Chancellors of the University of Sydney and UTS were also present and I was accompanied by our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Planning and Assurance, Professor George Williams.

We were asked to respond to questions about a range of issues including international student numbers, casual staff numbers, research funding, freedom of speech, VC salaries, the financial consequences of the pandemic, teaching quality, our contribution to responding to COVID-19, regional activities, and the economic impact of our universities. We also had the opportunity to speak to committee members about how the NSW Government is supporting higher education and how that may evolve as universities further collaborate with the public and private sectors to drive economic recovery.

Farewell Professor Ross Harley

On Friday, 28 August, UNSW farewelled now-Emeritus Professor Ross Harley as Dean of our Faculty of Art & Design. In his final message before his departure, Ross wrote that he is looking forward to refocusing on his own creative work and continuing to support the creative sector through his roles with the Sydney Culture Network, the Create Multi-Arts Board, the Committee for Sydney Live-Love Taskforce and the Academic Board at NIDA.

I again thank Ross for his many achievements at UNSW and wish him well.

UNSW alumna leads UNSW Law Society

UNSW is fortunate to have more than 300,000 alumni around the world, many making positive contributions to communities near and far. I was pleased to read that UNSW Law and Commerce graduate, Sonja Stewart, last week became the Chief Executive Officer of the Law Society of NSW, the peak body for solicitors in our state. My congratulations to Ms Stewart on her appointment.

Vale Dr Donald Anderson

I was saddened to read of the recent passing of Sydney cardiologist and former UNSW lecturer in Medicine, Dr Donald Anderson OBE. Dr Anderson (Don) was involved in the early days of the National Heart Foundation and was instrumental in transforming post-heart attack patient care, which, when Dr Anderson’s career in cardiology began, was total bed rest for eight weeks and six months’ convalescence. Don worked in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Unit at Prince of Wales Hospital before his retirement. I express my condolences to Don’s family, friends and colleagues.

Finally, a reminder to continue to check the NSW Government website for news and updates related to COVID-19 health alerts. If you need support, free, confidential counselling is available through our Employee Assistance Program. The service is also available for immediate family members. Assistance for our students is available via The Nucleus on 02 9385 8500 and our Student Support Advisors.

Take care and stay well.