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This week started with commencement and ended with teleconferences on the matter of the emerging global pandemic and Australia’s response.

UNE students both old and new are returning to their studies after the summer break and sharing their stories of the difficult times of recent months.

One of our biggest challenges now is to manage water usage given that we reduced our consumption by some 80% last year; whilst the recent rain has abated some drought pressures, water restrictions remain in place across much of NSW.

News that some 90% of our Chinese students both new and continuing have transitioned to online study is great news for UNE and our ability to support multi-mode learning. I am very pleased with the effort Student Success, the International Office and others have invested in supporting these students whilst they are under the constraint of an international travel ban.

Given the original plan for the week was for me to be in India, my diary has played out in interesting ways – despite it being blank, it has been manically busy! The first Academic Board for 2020 was a busy affair with a range of topics from an engaging discussion about ‘Freedom of Speech’ and ‘Academic Freedom’ and our response to the French Report juxtaposed across matters addressing TEQSA standards and Learning and Teaching issues. Our student representatives were also much involved with questions about careers support for international postgraduates and industry engagement.

I enjoyed a ramble through the various student focused stalls at Lifesaver Day which appeared early in the week at our Armidale Campus as both UNE students societies, New England business leaders, the local police and various environmental groups cooperated to promote the opportunities for campus students in Armidale and the region – a great example of ‘Town with Gown’.  

With budget reporting still very much in the front end of my thinking, it was also good to spend time with the new CFO and engage in conversations around how to resolve our shortfall and plan out for future years. As we progress towards the ballot on the new Enterprise Agreements, it was also helpful to just link in with staff at various fora and discuss what opportunities the new agreements provide for UNE and our staff.

The week also afforded time to develop and extend a series of positive conversations with key partners in support of the Tamworth expansion plans, the re-development of our Sydney hub and the opportunities which our proposal for a Virtual Hospital Network across New England offers to the region. These conversations also provided me with a landscape to do further shaping and thinking around the strategic conversations for UNE 2021+, planning of which will start in late March and flow through to mid-May.

Much of the rest of the week was consumed with meetings around planning, the Strategic Taskforces and our need to address UNE retention and progression issues with more focus. The deficits which are emerging in our data repositories and the need to strengthen our business intelligence capabilities is a matter of concern for me and the SET.

On the up side, it was great to hear that UNE staff were recognised by the AAUT for Excellence in Teaching and to hear of other successes, both personal and professional. It is easy to get buried in the various challenges of moving UNE forward – five minutes with students and staff sharing good news stories is always uplifting!

This weekend will see me seeking fresh air and exercise, and working out how to tame the jungle which was my vegetable garden…


Professor Brigid Heywood

Vice-Chancellor & CEO