NSW Premier visits UNSW, taking Science Week to new heights, and special tributes – 23 August 2023

22 Aug 2023
VC message

Dear colleagues

We are nearing the end of Term 2, and while it may seem quieter on campus with exams well under way, there are many exciting things happening around the University. I will be spending Friday and the weekend in India as part of the B20 discussions.

Thank you to everyone who helped put together an enthralling National Science Week program. What a brilliant showcase of our talent here at UNSW, and of the endless possibilities of science. I also extend my thanks to colleagues who are busily preparing for Open Day to show prospective students, parents and carers the breadth of our offerings and a glimpse of life at UNSW. Last year’s Open Day was tremendous, and I am very much looking forward to this one on Saturday 2 September.

Hot on the heels of our equal 19th global ranking in the QS World University Rankings, we have moved to third place in Australia in the 2023 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). This result is a testament to our people. It recognises UNSW’s strong research output and mission to advance world-class discovery and applied research in key areas such as climate change, quantum computing, new materials manufacturing and cutting-edge health research.

While we have had some recent highs, we have also had some very sad news, with the loss of three treasured members of the UNSW community.

Vale Professor Emeritus Mary-Louise McLaws AO

I, as were so many people at UNSW and in the community, was very sad to hear the news that Professor Mary-Louise McLaws had passed away. Heartfelt tributes have flowed in from around the world for Mary-Louise, a world-leading epidemiologist and infection prevention and control expert whose warmth, calm and expertise made her a household name in Australia during the COVID pandemic. Mary-Louise was a trusted voice and a highly respected member of the UNSW community for more than three decades. She will be very sadly missed by her students and colleagues and remembered fondly by those who were fortunate to know her. I encourage you to read the beautiful tributes to Mary-Louise on the UNSW Newsroom.

I also share sad news about the passing of Emeritus Professor Adrian Lee and Emeritus Professor Jeremy Davis AM.

Professor Adrian Lee was an integral part of UNSW. He had more than five decades’ association with the University, with roles including Head of School of Microbiology and Immunology, and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education and Quality Improvement). Adrian was committed to enhancing the student learning experience, establishing the Adrian Lee Travel Scholarship which has supported the career development of more than 35 students since its inception. He made a significant contribution to science in the field of microbiology, and to the UNSW community.

Professor Jeremy Davis was an early Dean of the Australian Graduate School of Management in the 1980s, making a considerable contribution to the reputation AGSM has built. Jeremy was also twice President of the UNSW Academic Board. His work in tertiary education earned him an Order of Australia.

These valued members of the UNSW community will be greatly missed. I have offered my condolences, on behalf of our University, to their families and loved ones.

Staff vote in support of Enterprise Agreements

On Monday, you will have received an email about the Enterprise Agreements (EA) voting results. Staff have voted in favour of adopting both the proposed Academic and Professional Staff EAs. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to vote. It was pleasing to see such high levels of engagement. Thank you all for your input. This EB process was unique with significant staff involvement throughout the process. It involved many staff from across the divisions and faculties contributing ideas and suggestions through the website as well as participating in the forum discussions. I would like to thank all of those who participated, especially those in the advisory group and of course our unions for all their efforts to get us to this point.

Votes were received from 2274 Academic staff and 3360 Professional staff, with the following results: 

  • 96% of Academic staff who voted said Yes to adopting the Academic EA. 
  • 98% of Professional staff who voted said Yes to adopting the Professional EA.  

This is a wonderful result for you and for the University.

The EAs will deliver a 17% pay increase across the life of the Agreements, along with many other significant enhancements to current entitlements. 

We will now work towards getting the Agreements ratified in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) as quickly as possible. 

On the matter of pay, we have previously communicated that the 6% increase in the first year of the agreement would be effective after the EAs were approved by the FWC as per normal. However to speed the increase we will instead implement this salary increase effective next pay (from 1 September 2023) for those staff covered by the salary increase in the EAs. 

UNSW achieves 89% HDR satisfaction 

Our Higher Degree Researchers (HDRs) are a highly valued and important part of UNSW’s research program, so it was pleasing to receive compelling endorsement of our efforts to provide a world-class HDR experience with an overall satisfaction score of 89% in the global Postgraduate Research Experience Survey 2023 (PRES) conducted by AdvanceHE. One hundred and five universities took part in the survey, including four from Australia. 

UNSW was ranked in the highest quarter for each of the nine aspects covered in the survey. Furthermore, UNSW HDRs’ responses regarding ‘Feeling a sense of belonging’ and ‘Research community influence’ were aspects in which our University demonstrated best practice, achieving satisfaction scores 13 and 12 percentage points above the global benchmark, respectively.  

Acknowledging these excellent results and in the spirit of continuous improvement, we will be using this data to further enhance the HDR experience at UNSW. UNSW is already discussing enhancing Community (70% overall satisfaction) and Professional development (81%) with Arc’s Postgraduate Council (PGC). I attend PGC Board Meetings periodically and am grateful for the insights shared with me in that forum. I very much enjoyed the recent PGC Research Awards, which recognised the outstanding work of candidates and staff who have improved the HDR experience at UNSW over the past year.  

My sincere thanks to all colleagues who are focused on making our University ever better for research candidates, including in the Graduate Research School and throughout our Divisions and Faculties. This year was UNSW’s first participation in the annual PRES. We intend to participate again in 2024. 

NSW Premier visits UNSW for Housing Affordability Roundtable

It was a privilege to host NSW Premier the Hon. Chris Minns MP, Minister for Housing the Hon. Rose Jackson MP, Minister for Planning and Public Spaces the Hon. Paul Scully MP, and colleagues from UTS, University of Sydney, and University of Wollongong at UNSW last Wednesday for a housing affordability roundtable.

Adequate supply of appropriate and affordable quality housing is hugely complex. The roundtable was a valuable opportunity for UNSW experts in housing policy, planning and design to share their expertise and applied knowledge about how to develop evidence-based approaches and solutions to address this complex issue.

We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with partners in government and our fellow universities to help tackle such stubborn societal problems.

Casual staff share their insights in Phase Two of the Staff Survey

In my last message, I shared with you the two main themes that emerged from phase One and Two of the Insight staff engagement survey which we will focus on at a University-wide level. I am pleased to share more details about the results of Phase Two of the survey (for staff employed on a casual basis). The engagement score for Phase Two was 81 per cent.

When it comes to our strengths to celebrate, 92 per cent of respondents acknowledged they feel they are treated with respect at work and 91 per cent agreed that they have the autonomy they need to do their job effectively. Opportunities to improve include how we collaborate across UNSW and how we demonstrate that people are important to our success, which was also a theme in the first phase of the Insight survey. 

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Insight survey. We are committed to acting on these results and involving you as we take meaningful action to make UNSW an even better place to work.

Research taking us to new heights

Science Week

Pictured with UNSW alumna and trainee astronaut Dr Meganne Christian.

Science Week

Pictured with UNSW engineering students Josie Kelly, current president of TWEET, and Pavitraa Hathi, president of TWEET in 2022.

I always enjoy meeting our alumni and hearing about their pursuits and successes. Last Thursday I had the great pleasure of meeting Dr Meganne Christian and UNSW Engineering students including the current and former presidents of The Women in Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications (TWEET). It was also a pleasure to meet the high school students who won the UNSW Girls in Engineering Club Humans in Space Innovation Challenge and, as part of their prize, were invited to attend the special morning tea where Meganne shared her story.

Meganne, a UNSW Engineering graduate, is now an astronaut reserve with the European Space Agency, showing the out of this world impact our alumni can have! She spoke about her remarkable and inspiring journey as a scientist (which included a year in Antarctica, brrr) at the morning tea. Meganne also spoke at the Roundhouse last week, leading a wonderful line up of National Science Week events, demonstrating the amazing heights to which science can take us.  

Thank you for your generosity

Another highlight of the past fortnight was meeting with colleagues at an event to celebrate the incredible generosity of our UNSW community. Through the workplace giving program which began in 2015, staff have donated more than $850,000 to UNSW for a range of philanthropic causes. On top of that, with one-off donations by staff, that figure has reached almost $4 million, which is truly amazing! Thank you so very much for your generous contributions.

Best regards

Professor Attila Brungs
Vice-Chancellor and President