VC's Update - new admissions for 2020 and more

1 June 2018

Hi everyone,

It has been a busy week for ANU, so apologies for the long blog! Below you will find information about our new student admissions model, our negotiations with the Ramsay Centre, a forum on the University's investment strategy, some senior staff announcements, and a couple of other pieces of news.

On Wednesday we announced a trailblazing new student admissions model that will help ensure our national university is truly national, and open to people of talent from all walks of life and all parts of Australia. My objective is to ensure ANU admits students because of their talent and their potential, and to support those students to make the most of their capabilities. So we can make the most informed decisions about who joins ANU, we want our undergraduate admissions processes to look at a student's overall achievements and character, including their community engagement and leadership, sport or volunteering activities, part-time work and carers' responsibilities.

We aren't trying to make ANU an "American" style university - instead, we are looking to recognise skills and experiences outside the classroom that enrich a person's potential. We want this to be fair, so we are providing details of the threshold upfront and on the website ensuring transparency for all applicants. There are no personal statements or essays, so there is less scope for students receiving additional coaching or mentoring from their schools to gain an advantage.

By recognising these skills, qualities and commitments, we will transform the way we judge an applicant's suitability for admission to ANU. We will move from evaluating an academic score to seeing much more of the person that achieved that score.

This new model will also see students apply at a one-stop shop for admissions, scholarships and accommodation, with conditional offers made almost six months earlier to help provide certainty for our students. For many young Australians, just getting the marks to attend university is a barrier in of itself, before they even look at where they will live and how they will support themselves during their degree. By providing a straightforward admissions process, we can provide greater certainty and transparency to all our students.

Why do we need to do this? Partly because I want ANU to be a university any talented and hard-working person aspires to study at, and can easily access. A person's achievements and their potential need to be placed in context on the understanding not everyone starts from the same place and follows a linear path. A few innovations in the new system will help us do this:

  • The new co-curricular or services threshold is about recognising the contributions our students are already making to their community or family, such as carer responsibilities, playing sports, or working part time.
  • The threshold is a "past the post" test, meaning once you have reached the threshold, there is no extra weight given to someone who has achieved beyond the minimum requirements.
  • This model is about providing greater access to higher education by ensuring students can easily apply in one place for their entire university experience including admission, scholarships and accommodation.

On a different matter, many of you know that ANU has been in discussion over the past several months with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilization about a proposed partnership and scholarship program.  We have taken the difficult decision today to withdraw from contention for the program.

We approached the opportunity offered by the Ramsay Centre in a positive and open spirit, but it is clear that the autonomy with which this university needs to approve and endorse a new program of study is not compatible with a sponsored program of the type sought.

ANU has an outstanding reputation as one of the world's leading centres for humanities teaching covering the earliest human civilizations up to contemporary society and culture. The opportunity to augment our teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences, along with a generous scholarship program for our students, was an attractive proposition for ANU and I would like to thank the Ramsay Centre and its CEO Simon Haines for considering ANU as a partner.

I would also like to thank the many staff at ANU who contributed their time and expertise to this process.

While, of course, the nature of negotiations with donors is confidential, ANU approaches all partnerships and funding opportunities with the same core set of principles. These include retaining, without compromise, our academic integrity, and autonomy and freedom, and ensuring that any program has academic merit consistent with our status as one of the world's great universities. I am very proud of how this university has shown an unwavering commitment to these principles, which underpin every decision of the University Executive and Council. These core principles drive our research excellence and are key to our outstanding global reputation.

Earlier this week, we brought together a group of researchers, leaders, students and stakeholders on campus to discuss the University's investment strategy

In a roundtable and public forum, we heard that there is an opportunity to create value for ANU by reforming our current socially responsible investment policy. We also heard that we could do this by more comprehensively taking into account carbon risks, clean technology opportunities and future climate impacts. This creates interesting possibilities, and I will establish an internal working group to analyse options and prepare proposals for our Council to consider. This is the beginning of a fresh conversation, and you can expect that we will discuss it further later in the year.

The past couple of weeks have seen some important arrivals in our senior staff. First, I am delighted that Barbara Miles, our new Vice President (Advancement) has arrived to lead the Alumni Relations & Philanthropy and bring an executive-level, whole-of-university approach to alumni, philanthropy and fundraising activities. Barbara is an exceptional leader in this space. She led a successful $1.6 billion fundraising campaign at the University of British Columbia, where she was also Vice President, and will bring immense experience and gravitas to her new role.  

I am also delighted to announce that we have appointed Associate Professor Keturah Whitford, from the ANU College of Business and Economics, as our inaugural Dean of Staff. Keturah has been with ANU for 15 years and was previously Head of the School of Law at the University of Canberra. As Dean of Staff, Keturah will champion a culture of collegiality and collaboration across ANU, act as an intermediary to resolve issues through confidential, independent and informal early intervention, and help all members of staff - academic and professional - achieve fair and equitable outcomes. The Dean of Staff will also have an important role in monitoring and reporting on issues relating to staff experience at ANU. 

On the first day of winter, I wanted to give a shout out to our new Provost, who will be braving the Canberra chill on June 21 as part of the Vinnies CEO Sleepout. Mike is representing ANU to raise much needed funds for the homeless, and will be joined by politicians, industry and corporate CEOs, to shiver through a freezing winter night. You can donate to Mike's efforts here. He thought Launceston was cold...

Finally, don't forget to keep an eye on my social media next week. I am looking forward to sharing some photos of the RSES 'Bake your PhD' competition which I am participating in on Monday. Currants, baking time and oven temperate are all key!

Have a nice weekend,





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Comment by Josephine Anne Caine
4.45pm 4 Jun 2018

Brian. Great to be kept in the loop.
The university is an amazingly different place to 30 - let alone 40 - years ago. So much better now. And the library staff and the services they provide are world class.

Josephine Anne Caine 

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Comment by Dr Ragbir Bhathal
4.45pm 4 Jun 2018

Congratulations on making the right decision on the Ramsay Centre. As one of the world's leading university ANU must retain its independence and integrity in academic matters. Well done.


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Comment by John Hawkins
4.45pm 4 Jun 2018

I'm proud to be part of a university that puts academic integrity ahead of money. It is disappointing that agreement could not be reached on the Ramsey Centre but I think you have done the right thing.

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Comment by Paul Gatenby
4.45pm 4 Jun 2018

Pleasantly surprised and really enthusiastic about the new admissions process. Will you extend this to overseas fee-paying students? I believe we have had a similar ethos in the Medical Program since its foundation, but this may allow an extension.