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

Published On September 20, 2020 | By Alana | General News, Latest News, News, Notes from the VC's Desk
Another week has passed by in a blink and yet so much has happened (granted in my small sphere). The hiatus across higher education is a topic of current national interest as the sector will likely shed some 21,000 jobs (more than the 9,000 projected loss from Qantas, for example) by year end as a result, for the most part, of long term overexposure to the international student market and the need to retrench as the pandemic progresses. None of this is something that any of those within the education community can be happy about. UNE is but one of the many wrestling with our past whilst juggling to ensure our future. It creates new layers of grief and anxiety on top of the challenges all have faced and continue to manage as the whole COVID experience roles forward. 

It will be no surprise that my week has been monopolised by the work to resolve our financial position, plan for 2021 and what follows, and make sure we complete the drafting of an appropriate Time for Change proposal. The plan is to circulate the plan for consultation next week. In the middle of all of this, I have been involved in a couple of  academic integrity matters, discussed benchmarking and performance monitoring, and enjoyed discussions with a range of different external authorities about the utility of various performance and assurance models which might be better applied to support universities of our kind going forward. 

Assurance models also featured in discussions around our current and possible new business systems. The prompt this time was the need to support various outstanding pieces of work around the recognition of different staff groupings, in terms of our obligations to manage and reward all staff in a fair and equitable manner and in accordance with our Enterprise Agreements. The complexity of historic data and the shifting grounds of employment law require us to be vigilant and responsive in dealing with these matters and I am obliged to give a shout out to the staff in HR and Finance who have worked through some complex outstanding issues. 

A thankyou from UNE’s scholarship recipents
Another interesting and rewarding conversation flowed out of the work being done by UNE Foundation and the UNE Council to build our fundraising capabilities. Their commitment and leadership is driven clearly by their passion for education and the value that scholarships and donations across a wider spectrum of causes bring to our community. Recognising the generosity of those who gift funds, both small and large, and resolving how to amplify the value of what we do in this space was time well spent.

Just in case you were worrying about life being all work and no play – I did escape and join the Earle Page community. The smart people in the college worked out how to modify their planned annual Coffs Harbour run and persuade the keen, the agile and other enthusiasts to rise early, complete a group warm up and then run around the campus here in Armidale to raise funds for children’s health research. My still wounded wing prevented me from running but I did get to fire the start gun (small excited whoopee here!) and natter with the nurses, media and refreshment support teams. As ever, just wonderful to meet so many alumni across a wider age profile and to hear about the ‘babies’ that have joined the human race as a result of couples that have met through the event across the decades…

The question of drought resilience has been another constant in my week. Federal Government funding at one end and the size of the UNE Lake Zod hole at the other end of the conversation. In between really interesting conversations about water capture from solar farms and the circular economics of civic, community and business needs in small regional domains where our critical currency is water. 

Having just finished reading (audio book version) The Dictionary of Lost Words, I am also minded to note that the terms like ‘spikes’, and ‘second wave’ are no longer just a part of hair salon chitter chatter and follicular management jargon. Along with Zoom, social distancing, lockdown and face masks, they have a new place in our daily lives. The debate over whether to make your own face masks or buy designer coverings is also vaguely fascinating. I am aware of having to manage some feelings of guilt because I wear approved medical masks when required to do so in public places; the need to conserve and support PPE supplies being another of those difficult to resolve discussions. I also admit to a growing interest in the face masks as the new canvas for advocacy, democracy and it seems romance…

On the positive side, after extensive scientific exploration, I have finally managed to resolve the skin stripping after effects of the liberal use of hand sanitiser  – the now correct balanced use of appropriate quanta of moisturiser means I am still a credible skin donor if need arises. The renewal of my Australian Organ Donor Card was the easiest task to complete this week – with ‘ease’ measured on a the usual ‘Malteser’ scale.

With a very interesting Booker Prize shortlist published there are books to be read and weeds to be attacked this weekend. Some asked me about music yesterday; so just in case you were wondering, I have been stuck with a version of ‘Church in the Wind’ rolling around in my head this week but also enjoyed the Marshmello/Devato ‘OK not to be OK’ offering as a piece of COVID genre music. With the arrival of spring I also noted the need to increase sunscreen protection – a large container of factor 50+ now lodged in my satchel.

Whatever your choices, enjoy the weekend and stay safe in a safe space.


Professor Brigid Heywood

Vice-Chancellor & CEO


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

  1. Russell Evans says:

    Will the “Time for Change” proposal be circulated to the general public next week as part of the planned consultation process? Our local council is currently seeking comment on its draft long term strategy, it seems that this could benefit from exposure to UNE’s “Time for Change” proposal, especially in regard to improving “town and gown” co-operation on the economic viability of Armidale (the Incubator Hub springs to mind). Could I have a copy of the proposal when released next week?

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