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Campus News : December 2011
2 Campus News December 2011 University of Wollongong www.uow.edu.au Professor Gerard Sutton AO Vice-Chancellor PROFESSOR GERARD SUTTON is retiring at the end of December after 21 years at the University of Wollongong, almost 17 of them as its leader. In this special farewell message, he reflects on his time at the University: It is with great pleasure and pride that I am preparing to hand on the custodianship of one of Australia's most important educational institutions to Paul Wellings, just as my predecessor Ken McKinnon did to me almost 17 years ago. Ken gave me an institution with a wonderful culture that can best be described as a spirit of innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and collaboration. It comes together in a "can do" attitude that is known throughout Australian higher education as "the Wollongong way". It has set UOW apart and enabled us to achieve great things. Our people have for many years demonstrated that they believe what is best for the University is best for them, and not the other way around. This manifests itself in interdisciplinary cooperation and collaboration between general staff and academics that I believe is unmatched in any other Australian university. I saw it as my responsibility to jealously guard, foster and develop that culture, and I am sure my successor Paul Wellings will guard it as I have and facilitate it further. A University is defined by its culture, and ours has produced many significant benefits over the years for our students, our staff and our region. A significant recent example is the ambitious SMART Infrastructure Facility -- our federally-funded $62 million national infrastructure inter-disciplinary research and training centre opened in November by federal Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Minister Anthony Albanese. SMART draws expertise from our Faculties of Engineering, Science, Informatics, Commerce, Law and Health and Behavioural Sciences and has enormous potential to assist Australia's future development - reinforced recently by former Treasury head Dr Ken Henry accepting our invitation to chair SMART's Advisory Council. But SMART could never have even been contemplated if our faculties and units worked in "silos" and if our Executive team did not embrace opportunities so enthusiastically. We have always taken the view that if something hasn't been done before, then that is probably a good reason to do it. We talk through our ideas, but not forever. Once we decide to do something then we get on with the job and drive it hard. It's an approach that carries the risk of occasionally making mistakes, but it also means that we're usually ahead of the game. I came to UOW in 1990 as Ken McKinnon's Deputy Vice- Chancellor, fully expecting to be here for only three or four years. I wanted to learn how to be a Vice-Chancellor from a person I considered to be the best in the country, before applying for Vice-Chancellor's positions elsewhere. I certainly didn't expect to be taking over from Ken five years later, and I certainly didn't expect to remain here for 21 years. But my wife Sylvia and I quickly became attached not only to the University, but to the wonderful quality of life and sense of community - where people genuinely care about each other - that Wollongong offers. It's an attachment which has grown with each passing year, and means that now that I am leaving UOW Sylvia and I will very happily continue to live in a city that I consider to be the best place in the world to live and work. Ken brought me to Wollongong with a brief to improve the University's research performance. UOW already had a strong record in teaching and learning (which we have maintained), and Ken recognised that if we were to get to the next level we needed to improve our research intensity. Quality research attracts quality staff and more funding, but it also translates directly back to better teaching and therefore better outcomes for students. Research has been our focus throughout my time at UOW, and we are now ranked in the top two percent of the world's universities for research. This is a significant achievement for a regional Australian university, but we aspire to be in the top one percent. There is still much work to be done to achieve that, and fortunately in Paul Wellings the University has just the person for that task. There have been many milestones. Being named the Australian University of the Year in 1999-2000 and then again in 2000-2001 obviously was a huge boost for our stature both in Australia and overseas -- not to mention our collective confidence. We thought we were doing things well, and when we won that first award it was proof that we weren't imagining it. That had great benefits internally, while winning the award in successive years confirmed our place in the Australian and international higher education scene. UOW can trace its roots to the city's determination to have its own university. It was effectively established after community fund-raising and donations from local industries turned a small divisional outpost of the University of NSW into a University College and, in 1975, the independent University of Wollongong. Now we are repaying the community, generating an estimated billion dollars a year for the local economy, playing a leading role in driving economic development and making a significant contribution to the region's social and cultural activities. We are also building the city's reputation in the world by graduating thousands of international students each year -- most of whom return to their home countries with very positive impressions of our city. In regional development terms, one of our most important decisions has been to establish the Innovation Campus research and development precinct. Back in 2000 when Custodians of UOW's special culture Professor Gerard Sutton (right) with his successor as Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings, who will take over from 1 January. Continued on page 3.