Notes from the VC’s Desk: Direct from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brigid Heywood this week

Published On February 14, 2020 | By Amy | Latest News, News, Notes from the VC's Desk
Another week of interesting news and events.. The world remains gripped by the ongoing spread of COVID-19 infections; the unfurling reality of the epidemic both in human and economic terms does not make for pleasant reading. The recent spate of storms have finally doused the fires in NSW – it remains to be seen if the drought is at an end. All of these events have dominated the business of my week in various ways.

With the end of the bushfires, we are now more focused on ensuring that we connect and support those communities affected by loss of property and infrastructure. We can see (not unexpected) evidence in our student data of an impact of regional, rural and remote students both in terms of performance and enrolments. It is important we find ways to assist each cohort. The impact on various UNE research projects affected by the fires must also be resolved.

The Australian education sector is in daily conversation across various portals about the in-country management and consequences of the COVID-19 epidemic; every effort is being expended to assure and support those students affected by the travel constraints and design alternate study pathways for them. The immediate and longer term financial impact is not insignificant for some institutions, including ours, and here again much effort is being expended to resolve the quantum of the problem and how that risk might be offset.

Health matters of a different kind were very much in mind with various meetings this week to discuss progress with the ‘Spinifex’ network, now a truly national consortium of rural and regional health groups all focused on the question of how to develop and provide better local health care. The development of the UNE concept for a Virtual Hospital Network for New England also figured in my work plan – the draft business case has been completed and we are now very much focused on stakeholder dialogues.

I visited our Tamworth Study Centre midweek and also briefed the Mayor and his colleagues on progress with the Tamworth 2022 plans and to agree details of the planned visit to Armidale and the University Council’s upcoming visit to the city. UNE will also contribute to the industry forum ‘State of the City’ being hosted in Tamworth next week so that we can gather more intelligence from the key business cluster to better inform our design dialogue.


The Armidale Rotary Club hosted me for lunch this week and granted me the opportunity to continue the ‘Town with Gown’ conversation. They proved to be a generous group of critical friends with a great interest in UNE and expressed a strong commitment to helping us work through the next strategic planning cycle; it is very important that we do hear from a broad spectrum of stakeholders as we progress with UNE 2021+.

My visits to the Schools and Directorates have commenced again, the Business School took line honours for 2020 and welcomed me to their sumptuous morning tea; staff shared their ideas around rankings, entrepreneurship, education and international student recruitment as we munched happily through a spectrum of cakes and scones. I also met with staff from across the institution to discuss promotion, the People and Culture agenda and Enterprise Bargaining.

In between these events I have been busy with work on retention and progression data profiling so that we can unpick the core issues and develop more targeted actions. With the arrival of our new Chief Financial Officer, Ms Anita Taylor, and end of year reporting, I have also been much occupied with an in-depth analysis of our budgets to better understand the underlying issues in order to refine how we progress with budgeting for 2020 and what follows. The workforce audit and compliance reporting also featured in my week, as did the planning for the 2020 Senior Leadership Team (SLT) Development Programme and UNE in Conversation schedule; further information will be circulated to staff shortly and will be published on the staff webpage. With the endorsement this week of our Academic Enterprise Agreement by the National NTEU office, we are now moving steadily towards the completion of this important work and I am committed to seeing the agreements with both Academic and Professional staff brought to life as we move through 2020.

Perhaps the most significant event for me this week was the Repatriation Ceremony held in the Arts Building on a very wet Thursday morning. Anaiwan Elders and representatives of the Dunghutti people joined UNE staff in a ceremony to honour the remains of an Ancestor whose skeleton was disturbed and exposed in the 1960’s during a rain storm. The unidentified remains rested in the UNE Collection for many years until their identity was resolved through the work of Steve Ahoy and Professor Martin Gibbs. Thanks to the facilitation support of the NSW Cultural Heritage Office, this Dunghutti Ancestor will now be returned to an appropriate site.

UNE has offered an apology and will continue to work towards the restoration and repatriation of cultural artefacts in a manner which recognises their importance to our Aboriginal communities.

There is only one thing left to say today – Happy Valentines Day!


Professor Brigid Heywood

Vice-Chancellor & CEO


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