An unprecedented series of critical events have significantly impacted the ANU in 2020.
Since the Council last met on 13/14 February, COVID-19 has become a global pandemic, resulting in the University having to change its entire operating model - most staff have been working from home and teaching has moved to online delivery for many weeks.
At the outset, Council appreciated the severity of the situation, and the enormity of the challenge presented by COVID-19 to protect the wellbeing of students, staff and research, and to preserve the financial position and reputation of the University. The combined leadership and response from the Vice-Chancellor, his Senior Management Group, all staff and the student community has been magnificent, must continue and has the full support of the University Council.
Council considered a report prepared by the Vice-Chancellor focusing on a range of topics, including: Executive portfolios, International Women's Day events, and the vision being developed for ANU 2025. Most energy, however, has necessarily been re-directed to managing the University's response to and management of the COVID-19 situation.
A significant portion of the meeting was invested in the discussion about COVID-19, with Council receiving a comprehensive presentation of the issues involved with managing such a complex situation, including:
- The University's pandemic response and continuity plans
- Teaching continuity and safety in residences
- Research continuity
- Financial impact and strategies
- The Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT).
The Council also formally established the COVID-19 Committee for the purposes of supporting the University's response to COVID-19, and to advise Council. It began to meet almost immediately following the Council meeting.
2019 Annual Financial Statements
Council approved the 2019 Annual Financial Statements for the University, while also noting that the strong balance sheet from the previous year was largely eroded by the impact COVID-19 only a few months later. Council expressed its appreciation for the significant effort made by the University and the Audit and Risk Management Committee in assembling and finalising a technical and highly complex set of financial statements.
Council noted that the meeting was potentially the last one for Mrs Claire Shrewsbury, whose two year term will end on 25 May 2020. Council thanked Mrs Shrewsbury for bringing a voice for professional staff to the Council table, for her support of students and the University campus via her membership to the Campus Planning Committee. A process is underway to elect Mrs Shrewsbury's successor.
Council also re-appointed a range of members to its Committees, and discussed its own membership succession plan.
Council also considered a range of other significant matters, including:
- The first progress report concerning the new Sexual Violence Prevention Strategy;
- The Socially Responsible Investment Report for 2019;
- The Student Safety Report;
- The Staff Work Health and Safety Report;
- Academic governance;
- Land acquisition; and
- Summaries of Council Committee and Academic Board activity since the last meeting.
Council next meets (by video), on Friday 1 May, then again on 29 May 2020.
The Hon Julie Bishop