Strategy One (August 2012 update)

Refine our governance structures

Our vision is of an institution where groups of academic communities hold one another both academically and financially accountable, and develop coordinated strategies to achieve the University’s strategic purpose. This requires effective structures for institutional governance and collective decision-making.


We changed our governance structures as soon as practicable after the formal approval of the strategic plan, with the Senior Executive Group (SEG), SEG committees and divisional boards all in place from the beginning of 2011.

1(a) Create new divisional boards as committees of SEG to bring faculties together in a relationship of mutual accountability. These divisional boards will be comprised as follows: Arts, Law, Education and Social Work; Science, Veterinary Science, Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy; Architecture, Design and Planning, Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney Conservatorium of Music; Economics and Business; Engineering and Information Technologies; Health Sciences.

The new divisional board structure, configured as described above, came into effect on 1 January 2011. (The Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources has since changed its name to the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, while the Faculty of Economics and Business has become the University of Sydney Business School, see initiative 1(f) below.)

1(b) Agree with each of the deans of the faculties and with SEG the membership, terms of reference and rules for the conduct of the business of the divisional boards.

Terms of reference for all divisional boards were agreed in March 2011. Five boards – Natural Sciences, Architecture and Creative Arts, Business, Engineering, and Humanities and Social Sciences – have since revised their terms of reference to reflect changes in organisational structure or a broadening of board membership.

1(c) Charge the divisional boards with the task of overseeing the development of faculty strategic plans and developing a strategic plan for the division as a whole.

All divisional boards had developed strategic plans for discussion at the June 2011 SEG retreat. It has taken longer for multi-faculty divisions to develop a shared understanding of the role of the board, but as financial modelling is rolled out at divisional level, cross-faculty savings and efficiencies are being identified. The Division of Architecture and Creative Arts is currently reviewing and refining its original plan so that it is more strategically aligned to divisional goals.

1(d) Restructure SEG to better represent the scale of University activity within the divisions.

A more representatively constituted SEG began meeting fortnightly in February 2011. Unlike its predecessor committee, on which each faculty, regardless of size, had one representative, the new SEG allows larger divisions to have more representatives.

1(e) Reform the subcommittees of SEG to reflect the full range of responsibilities of the reconstituted SEG.

The revised structure for the committees of SEG was established in January 2011. At present there are 15 committees, some of which are operating more effectively than others. Two committees (Information and Cultural Resources, and Community Engagement) are currently being reviewed. All SEG committees will be reviewed in the second half of 2012, as foreshadowed in the strategic plan.

1(f) Transfer the Discipline of Economics from the Faculty of Economics and Business to the Faculty of Arts, creating a new School of Economics within that faculty and renaming the Faculty of Arts as the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Economics and Business as the School of Business (with the status of a faculty).

The Discipline of Economics was moved to the Faculty of Arts on 1 January 2011 to create a new School of Economics. At the same time, the Faculty of Arts was renamed the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and the Faculty of Economics and Business was renamed the University of Sydney Business School.

1(g) Transfer the Graduate School of Government and the Centre for International Security Studies from the Faculty of Economics and Business to the Faculty of Arts.

The Centre for International Security Studies and the Graduate School of Government transferred to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in January 2011.

1(h) Determine the most appropriate place in the faculty and divisional structure for disciplines such as Agricultural Economics, Econometrics, Urban Planning and Human Geography.

As a result of the implementation of initiatives 1(f) to (h) the University has been able to recruit outstanding junior and senior economics staff, including an internationally recognised and dynamic head of school. Demand for economics is very strong at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, and more students from a wider variety of disciplinary backgrounds are studying economics in various ways than ever before at Sydney. A structure which places the School of Economics in Arts and Social Sciences while retaining strong links to the Business School is unique in Australia.

1(i) Continue to discuss ways in which we might better profile and coordinate teaching, research training and research in the social sciences, particularly with key stakeholders in the Faculty of Arts. This might involve consideration of such questions as the structure of the School of Social and Political Sciences and the formation of a Graduate School of Social Sciences.

As a result of a review of the School of Social and Political Sciences, the Centre for International Security Studies (CISS) was incorporated into the former Department of Government and International Relations, creating a new and substantial Department of Government and International Relations, with more than 30 staff. (CISS retains its identity as a centre.)

This move brings our expertise in international relations and international security into one group, which is now one of the largest and most distinguished in Australia, allowing us to offer new courses and creating a dynamic research group. A new master’s course in International Relations will be offered from 2014; this major strategic initiative will not only highlight our research and teaching strengths but also contribute to the financial wellbeing of the University, given the growth of international relations as a major area of interest at postgraduate level, as confirmed by market research undertaken in 2011.

Economics will become a major in the popular Bachelor of Political, Economic and Social Sciences course from 2014, something which had been difficult to achieve when economics was in a separate faculty. New joint units of study in social science methods are now under consideration, and the review also proposed new research training initiatives for social science higher degree research (HDR) students. These are currently being developed in line with the research training needs analysis implementation (see strategy 9).

A concept paper regarding the establishment of a Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences will go to the Divisional Board later this year for further development and discussion, with the aim of creating a more coherent and efficient approach to graduate programs and training in the humanities and social sciences.

The review also recommended a more detailed review of the administrative structure of the School of Social and Political Sciences. That review took place in May this year and the report is forthcoming.