Vice-Chancellor outlines exciting future

Wednesday 29 July, 2015



The President and Vice-Chancellor of UNSW Australia, Professor Ian Jacobs, outlined an exciting, ambitious and bold future for UNSW when he spoke to Warrane residents at the College’s formal dinner on Wednesday 29 July 2015.

He said the University, which is already rated in the top 100 universities in the world, aimed to move into the top 50 over the next decade and in doing so would have an even greater impact on the lives of people all over the world.

Professor Jacobs, who was appointed to the position earlier this year following Professor Fred Hilmer’s retirement, came to Australia from the UK where he had a distinguished career both in medical research and in university leadership.

He is a former Vice President and Dean at the University of Manchester and Director of the Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, a partnership linking the University with six healthcare organisations.

He said that when he arrived at UNSW he loved its “magnificent” campus and its outstanding community. Everyone had told him that Warrane was a great place and now that he had visited the College he was impressed by its “fantastic atmosphere”.

“I want to emphasise to you how privileged you are to be at this College of UNSW in 2015,” he said, “and make you think about where you are heading and how you can use all the opportunities available to you.

“I had heard about the camaraderie in the College and I can see that it really is true.”

Professor Jacobs told residents they would make friends at Warrane who they would remain in touch with for the rest of their careers and that they would go out into the world to do great things.

“That is the opportunity that a place like this gives,” he said.

In addition to being in the top 100 universities worldwide, UNSW had a very high level of awards and grants and crossed all disciplines.

“It’s an amazing place,” he said, “the first in Australia for the number of executives running top one hundred companies and it’s the thirty third in the world for the number of millionaires. But I feel these things are far less important than the fact that there are people who graduated from UNSW who have done amazing things in the Arts, in Science, in Medicine, and in Engineering.

“That really has changed lives all over the world. It has great achievements and a great ethos . . . a place that is vibrant, innovative and with a sense of social responsibility and a determination that starts in places like this College.

“We have to use the opportunities we have to make a difference to other people’s lives in a spectacular way.”

Professor Jacobs said he had become a medical doctor because he decided very early in life that he wanted to have an impact on people’s lives. He had loved the interaction with patients and doing his very best to help them, but had found that as a researcher he could have an impact on many more people’s lives.

During his research career he had carried out research on cancer of the cervix, the most common cancer affecting women worldwide. Screening programs were now almost 100 percent effective and he had set up a screening program in Uganda which proved to be simple and cost effective.

Turning his attention to the future of UNSW, he said that the University had been developing its strategy for the 2015 to 2025 period.

“The University is in great shape: it is well organised and has had great achievements and is on a trajectory and we want to accelerate that trajectory so that by 2025 UNSW will be in the top 50 universities in the world.

“We want to do that, not because we particularly care about the numbers, but because the great universities of the world have a massive positive impact on people’s lives.

“So we have been thinking about how we do that, how we get there and we have three top-level parts of our strategy. One is academic excellence, and I heard about that this evening - about the achievements here.

“The second one is social engagement and responsibility, and the third one is to have a global impact.”

Regarding academic excellence, Professor Jacobs said the University particularly wanted to continue to improve its research quality.

“We want to invest in recruiting more people and supporting the academics we have and for that we need several billion dollars extra.”

UNSW also wanted to improve equality and diversity at the university and it had also started a discussion and debate about “grand challenges” like climate change, poverty, ageing, security and migration. It also wanted to be a leader for driving the discoveries of its researchers “out into applications in society - to bring benefits to society and economic prosperity for Australia”.

“Australia, of course, needs to diversify its economy,” Professor Jacobs said. “It depends too much on raw materials. Universities can be at the heart of diversifying Australia.”

Regarding overseas projects, Professor Jacobs pointed out that UNSW is already involved in 50 projects in developing countries around the world but it intended to make an even bigger impact there.

“So we will be investing very heavily in people who can do research, education and other things,” he said. “It is a very ambitious strategy.”

Returning to the theme of the opportunities available to students, Professor Jacobs offered Warrane residents a number of suggestions.

“First,” he said, “engage in every opportunity you have. I think that a college like this really encourages you to do that. Even if you are quite a reticent person, living in this college you get so many opportunities to engage, you can’t really help doing it.

“Do that while you can, take advantage of every opportunity you can.

“Second, try to get a balance. I think this college encourages you to do this - the balance between working hard and having fun. You need a balance between work and family and fun and friends.

“The third thing is to be aware of just how privileged you are. Don’t carry it with you as a burden, but do carry it with you as a responsibility to make as big a difference as you can to the lives of others.

“The fourth one is just have fun. Have a great time. And I have had a great time tonight and I’m really grateful to you.”

During a lively question and answer session, Professor Jacobs was asked if he believed that it was a particularly hard time for university graduates to find a job.

“It is tougher than it has been but, but it is still a good job market for a graduate of UNSW,” he said.

Although the world had been through a “massive financial crisis”, he didn’t think things were  too bad in this country. Universities were “at the forefront of the Australian economy” and were becoming much more entrepreneurial. The turnover of UNSW, for instance, was $1.8 billion per year and over 10 years would be about $20 billion. But the University was seeking to raise that annual figure by an additional $300 million.

“Areas of opportunity included quantum computing, in which UNSW was a world leader. It was one technology that was going to change the world, along with solar energy, thanks partly to the efforts of the University’s Professor Martin Green.

“We have a responsibility to actively do what we can about climate change with renewable energies,” he said. “It is possible for Australia to move to renewable energies.”

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