Update from the Provost

13 September 2019

Dear colleagues and students,

It has been a number of months since my last blog. I am currently acting Vice-Chancellor while Professor Schmidt is overseas delivering the 2019 Menzies Lecture. This was a great privilege for Brian, representing both ANU and Australia at this event.

You may have also seen reports that ANU has partnered with King's College London to create an Asia-Pacific satellite of their Global Institute for Women's Leadership, chaired by former Prime Minster, the Hon Julia Gillard. This is an exciting collaboration, bringing the expertise of ANU researchers at the Gender Institute together with their global counterparts in this field, to play a role in creating a network of researchers and practitioners to promote and support gender equality. ANU is already home to great research, and I look forward to seeing how this collaboration builds a better - and equal - future across our region.

Back on campus, a lot has been happening in our community. For those walking through the Copland Courtyard, you may have seen the Lennon Wall - with students sharing their differing perspectives about the ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong. We have seen protests overseas and within Australia become violent at times - demonstrating great passion and belief from both sides. ANU proudly hosts students from all regions of China and we celebrate their contribution to the campus community. From engaging with our student community, we know that different ideas and conflicting views can be shared in peaceful and respectful ways. I have been very impressed that both groups have been able to express their views in a manner that respects others and avoids offensive language and behaviours and have self-regulated to this effect. For our community to be truly open and inclusive to everyone, we need to be a place where all can share views, with peers and colleagues, in a respectful way - to ensure that great debate happens and that all voices have an opportunity to be heard.

Two weeks ago, I enjoyed my second Open Day at ANU. The Kambri precinct was a hive of activity, with prospective students and their families, staff, student volunteers and protesters all coming together. Speaking to prospective students, they were excited to become part of a community that is open to debate and sharing their views - ANU is certainly home to great student activism.

During the day, I met a group of students who will be joining ANU in 2020 as the first cohort under the Admissions, Scholarships and Accommodation (ASA) model. I must recognise and congratulate Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), who was instrumental in re-designing the way we admit students. The ability to select a cohort of diverse students from across Australia makes ANU unique. For our students, it also provides early clarity and certainty about their future, where they will live and whether they will receive financial support. The common sentiment amongst these new students was that they could not wait to start in 2020, and knowing they had a place at ANU alleviated some of their stress for final exams. As of close of business yesterday, we have offered and received acceptances for more than 80% of 2020 places. Congratulations to everyone across campus who has made the ASA such a success. We will still be making a number of offers through the standard UAC processes for students, although places will be limited.

In addition to changing our domestic admissions model, we have also updated the way we admit our international students - again providing us with the ability to select a diverse cohort of the best students. The first round offers will be released on 30 September, and I will provide another update in the coming months.

As we change the way we admit students, we must also change the way we recruit our students - shifting to focus on a diverse cohort of highly talented individuals. We have been engaging with principals and career advisors to show them what makes ANU a different place to study; and how an education from ANU will provide a student with the best possible future. In the last fortnight, I have had the great privilege of meeting some of our prospective international students, and hearing why they want to study at ANU. It is clear that our message of providing a transformational student experience, combining a great education with a great community experience, is resonating with prospective students. Thank you to all of the staff who have been open and supportive of the changes we are making, and ensuring that we continue to recruit the best and brightest to ANU.

As I reflect on ANU and the changes we have made to admissions, I also think about the students who need additional support to make coming to university possible. We know that accepting an offer is easy, but then being able to afford to come to Canberra can be an entirely different reality. For some students, financial barriers stand between them and a great education. I am pleased to see that our Advancement division is working on ways to address this issue. Last year, the 'give more than a degree' campaign was established to support regional and rural scholarships. On Wednesday 18 September, Giving Day will be held to raise more funds for additional scholarships. I encourage everyone to get involved - whether you attend the trivia event, meet some of the team at the Giving Day Stand  or participate in the 'signing station' for donors, there are many ways to get involved.

In the last fortnight, the Public Policy and Societal Impact Hub has awarded funding for 12 projects in the inaugural round of the ANU Policy Greenhouse Fund grants. These grants support academics to engage with the policy-making community and work on policy-relevant research, and it is great to see the range of projects. Although all of the projects are interesting, I particularly enjoyed the 'Enhancing health and wellbeing in the Indian Ocean Territories' submission, led by Professor Emily Lancsar from CHM, who will be looking at chronic illness, mental health and diabetes in remote Australia. This kind of research reminds us of the important work ANU does to understand and solve the problems facing our nation. Congratulations to everyone who received funding, and I look forward to seeing how your projects progress.

This week we also celebrated the achievements of two of our academics being recognized with awards of the country's most prestigious fellowships Australian Laureate Fellowships from the Australian Research Council. These projects will help drive deeper understanding and better outcomes for two major challenges facing our nation and the world - crop resilience and water use. Professor Barry Pogson (Research School of Biology) to create higher-yielding and more resilient 'smart plants' for good and bad seasons; and Professor Quentin Grafton (Crawford School of Public Policy) for his sustainable water use project which aims to improve our understanding of the relationship Indigenous Australians have with water.

Last night I had the pleasure of hosting the 2019 Mitchell Oration, delivered by Dr Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund. Dr Kanem spoke on the critically important issue of reproductive and sexual rights - important not only for achieving gender equality and universal human rights, but also for sustainable development in our region and globally.

I would also like to highlight our participation in the WATTLE Program. Women ATTaining LEadership is a carefully designed, five-day residential program aimed at empowering women to attain senior university leadership roles. If you are interested in participating please contact my office for more information on eo.provost@anu.edu.au.  

Finally, I end this message with a farewell to Chris Grange, our outgoing Chief Operating Officer. Chris has been a dedicated member of the University's executive, and has contributed enormously to the campus that we have today. Under his leadership, we have seen a number of key priorities completed, including the new Kambri precinct. I will personally miss Chris and wish him all the best.

I hope you have a nice weekend, and I look forward to letting you know of further developments.