The way ahead

11 July 2008

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

The challenge ahead is to maintain the dual roles of producing internationally competitive research and providing comprehensive quality education, according to Dr Michael Spence, the new Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney.

At a time when the Federal Government is reviewing the higher education sector, Dr Spence says more needs to be done to help governments understand the importance of the innovative research being undertaken by Australian universities.

"We need far more direct funding for research in Australia. I am keen to talk with the government and with the wider Australian community about how we fund the very best research and the best teaching for the brightest students whatever their background", Dr Spence said.

"People have a tendency to think of Australia as a very clever nation, but they talk about Victa mowers and not about the important role of universities in the innovation process," he told the University of Sydney News.

In an address to all staff Dr Spence says "a distinctive combination of outstanding research and our broad research-led teaching agenda is what makes the University of Sydney so special.

"We also need to think hard about funding for teaching but at the same time we must do more to ensure the University really lives up to our policy of being genuinely socially inclusive."

"We can be elite but not elitist."

Dr Spence has signaled that he is keen to work with the Faculty Deans to involve a wider cross section of the academic community in strategic planning and management of the University as a whole.

"I am keen to harness the creativity of our academic staff in strategic agenda setting for the University."

He has invited staff and students to participate in the University's future strategic planning and has established a website for suggestions and comments.

Dr Spence has returned to the University of Sydney after spending the last twenty years at the University of Oxford where he was Head of the Division of Social Sciences, one of only four divisions reporting to the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford. Under his leadership, Oxford's social sciences division was named the best in the world in the latest Times Higher Education rankings.

He succeeds Professor Gavin Brown AO, who retired this month after 12 years as Vice-Chancellor and Principal.

Dr Spence is internationally regarded as a leader in the field of intellectual property theory and held a number of visiting appointments in Boston, Munich and Siena. He has twice been a Parsons Fellow at the Law School of the University of Sydney, and says if his already busy calendar allows, he would like to continue his research and even do some teaching.

A graduate from the University of Sydney with first class honours in Arts and Law in 1987, he was admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court in 1987 and completed a PhD at Oxford in 1996. Before leaving for Oxford in 1989, Dr Spence lectured in Law at the University of Sydney. He also worked for the Australian Copyright Council.

"Sydney is a world class institution with an exciting future. At the heart of the University's mission is a commitment to excellence in research and research-led teaching. It is a privilege to take on this new role," said Dr Spence.

Contact: Andrew Potter

Phone: 02 9351 4514

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