From good to great

By Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor and Principal
Dr Michael Spence

Dr Michael Spence


At a time when Australia grapples with some of the most significant higher education reforms of our generation, it is clear that while government will always play a role in supporting universities, public funding is not enough.

Our future – and the future of all universities – relies upon a range of funding sources which help to make the difference between a good and a truly great institution.

We are committed to providing a worldclass education to all of our students. If we are to honour this commitment and remain on an even playing field with our international counterparts, we need to find ways to make up the funding shortfalls that recent government proposals will impose upon us. This must include the possibility of greater contributions to the cost of their education from students who can afford to make them.

As we argue for additional funding, universities have an obligation to ensure that they do not leave bright young Australians behind. The University of Sydney already spends more than $60 million a year in scholarships and under the new regime this would need to increase considerably.

In the great US universities, many more than one in five students receives a package of assistance, including scholarships, residential support and on-campus employment. We must aim to do the same to support not just those from specified disadvantaged groups, but also those whose families are on middle incomes.

In addition to making important decisions over the coming months about whether to increase student fees generally or in specific courses, we need to find ways to diversify and increase our discretionary revenue streams. And we need to focus on our strategic priorities, doing more with what we have and making sure we use our limited resources on people and work of the highest quality.

This is where philanthropy comes in. The generosity of our donors gives us the power to go beyond the realm of government funding and pursue the margin of excellence. Through philanthropy, we are able to create and sustain a community in which researchers and students can thrive.

Philanthropy helps to make a University of Sydney education attainable for all promising students, whatever their social or cultural background.

And philanthropy enables our people to be at the forefront of some of the world’s greatest discoveries. From bionic ears to the black box – the University has a long history of alumni undertaking groundbreaking work that contributes to the world around us. Discoveries like these are made possible by our donors, who from our earliest days have played a critical role in our ability to change the world in which we live.

Today, with the combined support of industry, government, and individual philanthropists, we are giving our researchers and students the opportunity to explore new frontiers of knowledge and inquiry. The multidisciplinary and cross- University work we have set in motion, such as through the Charles Perkins Centre, means we can bring our people together in new ways to deliver realworld solutions in areas of national and international importance.

Our multidisciplinary centres represent more than just new approaches to research and teaching. They are living, breathing examples of how the University community – students, researchers, donors, alumni and staff – are working together to transform lives within our local community and around the world.

At the heart of any great institution is a team of dedicated staff, and I am pleased to tell you about three very important appointments for the University.

First, our new Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), Professor Pip Pattison, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Registrar), Professor Tyrone Carlin, will play vital roles in our efforts to deliver an outstanding education and overall university experience for our students.

Professor Pattison has been Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at the University of Melbourne since 2011. A quantitative psychologist by background, she began her academic career at Melbourne, and has previously served as president of its Academic Board. As Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), Professor Pattison will lead our strategy and vision for teaching and learning and our students’ educational experience.

Many of you will be familiar with the significant contribution Professor Carlin has already made to the University in his most recent roles as Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education Operations) and Co-Dean of the University of Sydney Business School.

In his new role as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Registrar), Professor Carlin is responsible for how we manage and develop each student’s relationship with the University, from their first enquiry to their graduation.

Finally, Professor Greg Whitwell has accepted our offer to become Dean of the Business School. Joining us from a position as Senior Deputy Dean of the Australian Business School at the University of New South Wales, Professor Whitwell’s academic experience and stature will be a welcome addition.