VC’s Update – The Future of Universities and financial forum

5 June 2020

Hi everyone,

This week marked the next stage of our return to campus with HDR candidates, professional and academic staff - pending local approval - returning to their offices. I spent two days in Chancelry - my first two days after 72 days away, and it was a nice change to see friendly faces in person rather than just through my computer screen! I know many of you are gradually returning to your offices and I encourage you to keep social distancing, practicing good hygiene and following the new guidelines. It will be easy to get sloppy over time, so please remain vigilant. I'll be spending at least one day a week at home for the foreseeable future, and I'll also be limiting in-person meetings when I am on campus. I encourage our supervisors to lead the way with demonstrating flexibility and supporting everyone in our community to work in a way that works best for them and their team.

Yesterday I participated in the first public panel for the ANU Crawford Leadership Forum. This year we've been able to open the program by hosting a series of "Big Picture" discussions. Professor Genevieve Bell hosted the opening panel, where I was joined by Professor Michael McRobbie, President of Indiana University and Professor Lily Kong, President of Singapore Management University - both distinguished members of our alumni community - for a discussion about the 'Future of Universities'. Despite our geographic differences, our universities are united in our mission to make the world a better place, provide a great experience for our students and ignite the conversations that will define the world around us. From climate change, to global pandemics, online learning and providing skills for the next generation of students - we each brought our own perspective and ideas. This was the first of six events and I encourage you to sign up for at least one - these are the brightest minds in the world tackling some of the most complex problems for this generation.   

Following my update last week on the University's financial position, I've hosted a community forum to answer your questions - thank you to the 1,100 staff who joined me - and I've also received more than 150 emails with ideas, comments and suggestions to address our financial situation. Many of you have told me you want to explore options around changing your hours, salary or the way we work to help meet this challenge. Your generosity is inspiring, but we will only consider ideas that might change our Enterprise Agreement if we are sure the majority of staff support them - many ideas will work for some of us, but may affect others adversely, so I want everyone to have their say. I will be hosting another forum on Tuesday 23 June where we can discuss ideas and I can hear your frank and fearless feedback. This will be open to all staff and I hope to see professional and academic staff, from senior leaders to graduates, partaking in this discussion.

None of this is easy or fun for any of us, but I remain incredibly impressed by the generosity, creativity and commitment of our community work through our challenges together. We've been working hard to put together the information that describes the details of our finances to help answer your questions and provide more clarity and transparency around our situation. This has taken a little longer than I anticipated but I will provide an update on Tuesday morning.  I know this will generate a lot of discussion and potentially different points of view. But I feel it is important that we are as transparent as possible so you can understand the decisions we are making, and why we are making them. 

Enjoy the long weekend; I'll be spending a quiet weekend with family up in Sydney.

Brian