Message from the Vice-Chancellor: outcomes from first SEG meeting of 2014

6 February 2014

Dear colleagues,

Welcome to 2014 - I hope you all had a good break.

Although it is still more than four weeks until the start of Semester One, the University is already well into its stride for 2014. Senate held its first meeting of the year earlier this week, and SEG met last Thursday. Such meetings provide useful opportunities to reflect on the previous year's achievements and to take them forward for the new year.

Senate update

At Monday's Senate, I provided an update on the five key projects we had identified as a priority for 2013.

  • As reported in last week's Staff News, we successfully developed our Campus Improvement Program proposal, currently lodged with the NSW planning authorities, which sets out a seven-year vision for a campus environment that meets the needs of our University community.
  • We also successfully launched the INSPIRED fundraising campaign, and I am delighted to let you know that during 2013, we raised $82.5 million from 12,225 donors, surpassing our own fundraising record for the third consecutive year.
  • Following the report of the Health and Medical Research Strategic Review (the Wills Review) in mid-2013, a high-level road map has been developed so that we can make the most of our considerable strengths in health and medical research. An implementation steering committee will consider this plan in March.
  • The Provost will shortly write to academic staff about the Academic Performance and Development (AP&D) system, but for me two lessons stand out from our 2012 implementation: first, we need to do a better job of the technical platform underpinning AP&D (and we will). Second, we have had excellent feedback from across faculties about how to make the process of mentoring and support work better.
  • Finally, we carried out a great deal of work to transform how we provide marketing and communications, student recruitment and admissions and student administration support to the University, including through the Sydney Student project.

So we achieved a great deal last year, but we still have much to do, and I will provide further updates on these and on our key projects for 2014 as the year progresses.

SEG update

This year, I also want to provide you with regular updates on what happens at SEG.

The creation of this group, which includes the deputy vice-chancellors, the Chair of the Academic Board, representation from all of the University's academic divisions (including all 16 faculty deans) and key administrators (31 people in all), has been one of the most important things we have done under the 2011-15 Strategic Plan. That may sound like internally focused housekeeping, but if we are to harness the University's very considerable intellectual firepower to deliver research and teaching that makes a real difference in the communities we serve, we need to ensure representatives from all areas are involved in making decisions about our future. That is why SEG and its sub-committees are collectively responsible for the ongoing management of the University.

At last Thursday's meeting, we covered a number of important issues.

  • We endorsed HR's proposed approach to implementing two important parts of the new Enterprise Agreement: the introduction of the new Scholarly Teaching and Early Career Development fellowships, and the process for supporting next-step career development through a Professional Staff Development Fund. Further details will be communicated in upcoming editions of Staff News.
  • I outlined my plans to seek Senate approval for two new positions: a Vice-Principal (Operations) to oversee the work of the four professional services units (HR, Finance, ICT and CIS) in anticipation of the end of Professor Ann Brewer's term as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Strategic Management), and a Vice-Principal (Advancement) to lead a restructured alumni and development team. Senate approved both of those positions at its meeting on Monday.
  • The University Librarian updated SEG on a change process that has started this week in the library. The change plan responds to a fundamental change in the way students and researchers engage with our libraries, where the majority of new information resources and services are now delivered electronically. The Provost has written separately about this change program.
  • SEG endorsed a proposal by Professor Trevor Hambley, Chair of the Division of Natural Sciences, to develop a full business case for the construction of a new building to house members of the life, earth and environmental sciences disciplines so that the University can improve its response to the major environmental challenges facing Australia and the world. SEG noted the urgent need for an institution-wide discussion to ensure alignment with other plans in the life sciences area.
  • SEG considered a policy change that would increase the percentage of lectures that are recorded to support students' access to learning resources and overall experience.
  • We received an update from Campus Infrastructure and Services (CIS) about the implementation of strategies to improve event management and venue bookings.
  • Tim Payne (Director, Policy Analysis and Communication) provided an update on higher education policy development. If you are interested in learning more, the University publishes all its submissions to government enquiries and policy reviews on the University website.
  • SEG approved a recommendation to amend the Coursework Rule and the Higher Degree by Research Rule in relation to student appeals against academic decisions.
  • SEG received an update on the University's program to replace the website content management system (CMS).

If you have any questions about any of the above, please email There is a lot happening, but it is important that you understand how we are changing as a University to support our research and teaching mission. I look forward to keeping you up to date in months to come.


Dr Michael Spence

Vice-Chancellor and Principal