December 2016

Hello and welcome to the final instalment for the year.

What a busy 12 months it has been for everyone at La Trobe!  This has been a year in which we have done well in traditional areas of university activity like teaching and research, but have also taken significant strides in emergent areas such as industry partnerships and collaboration.

This is the last edition of my monthly blog for the year, so it seems fitting to reflect on the year that was. While it is not possible to list every achievement of the last twelve months, I would like to share with you a summary of some of the activity across the University during 2016.

Rankings results - our best ever

The international university rankings are increasingly important, particularly as they serve as a proxy indicator of quality for international students choosing between universities.

I am delighted that the University achieved its highest ever ranking this year. For the first time in the University’s history, we are now ranked in the Top 400 of all three of the most prestigious rankings, the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), Times Higher Education and QS rankings. We rose 200 places in the ARWU ranking, one of the most improved Universities in the country, achieving our Future Ready goal of being in the Top 500 by 2017 a year early.

Other achievements include:

  • OurLife Sciences research being ranked in the Top 200 in the world by the ARWU Field Rankings, the first time La Trobe’s research activity has been included in the ARWU disciplinary rankings
  • Being ranked for the first time in the QS Top 50 universities in the world under 50 years of age, and moving up 42 places to be ranked at 58 in THE’s ranking of the world’s best 150 universities under 50

·       Being ranked as one of the Top 200 most international universities in the world by THE

·       Achieving a 20 per cent increase compared to last year in the number of La Trobe subjects rated by QS as amongst the world’s Top 100, including those in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

I am sure you will agree that this is a very impressive overall result, of which we should be very proud.  I offer warm congratulations to all staff across the University whose research publications and hard work are reflected in these results.

Research that matters

In addition to our outstanding performance in the rankings, there were many other research achievements during 2016.

Our researchers were published in some of the world’s most prestigious journals, and continued to make important discoveries that will have a major impact on society. For example, Emeritus Professor Nick Hoogenraad and his team in the La Trobe Institute of Molecular Science (LIMS) were awarded $2.5m from the Victorian Cancer Agency to translate the University’s breakthrough research on cachexia (wasting of the body) in cancer patients into an effective treatment for the condition; ourOlga Tennison Autism Research Centre launched an extraordinarily successful mobile application that helps with the early detection of autism and was a finalist in the Australian Google Impact Challenge; and Professor Paul Fisher from the School of Life Sciences received funding from the Michael J Fox Foundation to develop a blood test that will enable doctors to detect Parkinson’s disease and facilitate earlier treatment.

And in a fitting result for an institution that has so many students who are the first in their family to attend university,our Access and Achievement Research Unit led by Dr Andrew Harvey won more than 10 per cent of the national funding pool available for research that increases awareness and understanding of student equity issues.

La Trobe researchers also won an impressive share of Australian Research Council and National Medical Health and Research Council funding for projects commencing in 2017.

We can expect more great research next year, with ASSC College appointing five scholars this year as its inaugural David Myers Research Fellows after receiving applications from more than 300 scholars from around the globe.

Many excellent researchers and teachers chose to join La Trobe this year, including Professor Lynn Bosetti from the University of British Columbia, Professor Nick Bond from Griffith University, Professor Lisa McKenna from Monash University, Professor Mike Stear from the University of Glasgow, Professor Robin Anderson (a La Trobe graduate) from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and Professor Axel Schulz from Monash University.

Making a difference for our students

2016 has seen many other highlights including significant growth in our Aspire early admissions program, with 2200 applications received for admission in 2017 (an increase of 16.5 per cent since 2015).

We expanded our partnership with Chisholm TAFE to improve educational access in the growing southeast corridor; Dr Sue Gillett, Dr Suzane Vassallo, Dr Sarah Midford and Dr Rhiannon Evans won prestigious OLT citations for outstanding contributions to student learning; and Professor Betty Leask won the Tony Adams Award for excellence in research from the European Association for International Education

Our students also shone on the international stage this year: doctoral student Mr Giles Hamm discovered an ancient Aboriginal site in the northern Flinders Ranges that has transformed our understanding of Indigenous history and the settlement of inland Australia; a documentary web series made by second and third year Media and Communications students won the Outstanding Student Series award at LA Webfest; Ms Lara Bereza-Malcolm, a PhD student in the School of Life Sciences, was part of the winning team in the Australian-French Entrepreneurship Challenge; and Mr James Kirby, a PhD candidate in the Department of Archeology and History, won the Best History Article (Peer Reviewed) at the 2016 Victorian Community History Awards, to name a few.

We also piloted the La Trobe Graduate Development program, employing our own graduates across the University, an initiative that was a great success and will continue in 2017 and beyond.

Embracing innovation and industry engagement

We appointed Dr Dan Grant as our inaugural Pro-Vice Chancellor (Industry Engagement), won $1m in funding from LaunchVic to establish a Regional Accelerator Program with Deakin and Federation Universities, and established a $5m Strategic Investment Fund. We also increased our focus on providing industry experience for our students, including becoming the foundation Australian university partner of US-based mentoring program LifeJourney, which will give 10000 students mentoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.

Investing in our future

We completed a huge number of infrastructure and building projects, and have many more underway, including expanding our CBD presence with additional teaching and event space at our Collins Street Campus.

At the Melbourne Campus, we launched the Shuttle Bus service to and from Reservoir Train Station, opened a Moot Court in the Law School, refurbished the Union Hall, and launched the Agora Big Screen. We also built new data science and engineering labs, opened the Library Research Commons, and are currently refurbishing the Donald Whitehead, Martin, Menzies, Social Sciences and Reid buildings.

Our Flora Hill campus in Bendigo was selected by the State Government as the preferred location for the Bendigo Tech School, and at Bendigo we are also working on new changing room and sport facilities, and are designing a new arrival plaza, library extension and engineering building.  We are developing a new Master Plan for the Albury-Wodonga Campus, working on a Business Case to expand facilities at the Shepparton Campus to accommodate projected student growth, and have released a tender for improvement works for the Brian Grogan Building at Mildura.

We also built seven state-of-the-art One Button Studios, and followed a regional-first strategy in rolling out the studios, with one facility open at each of the Mildura, Shepparton and Albury-Wodonga campuses, two at Bendigo, and two at the Melbourne Campus.

Forging stronger partnerships

The Albury-Wodonga Campus also won the 2016 Wurreker Award for University Pathways from the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated, in recognition of the campus’ holistic approach to improving Indigenous academic inclusion and achievement.

We launched the China Studies Research Centre; signed an MOU for a new research partnership with the Australian Institute for Family Studies; renewed our MOUs with the City of Greater Bendigo and Mildura Rural City Council; and entered into new partnerships with a diverse range of organisations including the Carlton Football Club, Ivanhoe Grammar School and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

We appointed the Bendigo Art Gallery’s Director, Karen Quinlan, as the new Director of the La Trobe Art Institute and its inaugural Professor of Practice, and strengthened our partnerships with the Bendigo Art Festival, National Gallery of Victoria and Shepparton Festival.

Finally, we continued our work to consolidate the University as an anchor for economic development in Melbourne’s north through our work with local industry partners including NORTH Link, our new partnership with Optus, and our plans for the $150m La Trobe Sports Park.

Engaging with our communities

We expanded our public engagement activities with the launch of the Bold Thinking lecture series coordinated by Professor Chris Mackie; hosted the highly successful Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute Wellness Walk and Research Run; began a new partnership with publishing company Black Inc. to establish the La Trobe University Press; and increased activities under our partnership with the State Library of Victoria.

Sustainability success

We became the first Australian university to divest of fossil fuel investments in its managed funds, entered into a partnership with GoGet Carshare, and were finalists in three categories of the Australasian Green Gown Awards in recognition of our commitment to environmental sustainability.

95 days until we turn 50

I hope you are excited about celebrating La Trobe’s 50th anniversary next year. Tickets for the first major anniversary event, the La Trobe Lawn Lunch on Sunday 5 March, are now available.

It has been great to read reflections from staff, students and alumni who have submitted stories as part of the 50th anniversary ‘Share your La Trobe story’ project.The stories show the diversity of our community as well as the ways in which we are united through La Trobe’s distinctive character and ethos.I encourage you to share your experience of the people, places and events that make La Trobe special for you. You can read my story here.

As you can see, it has been a huge year for La Trobe, and I thank all of you for your hard work and dedication in helping us to achieve so much this year.

To our students, staff, alumni and all members of the extended La Trobe community, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support in 2016 and to wish you and your families a happy and safe festive season.

I look forward to seeing you all for our anniversary year in 2017.

John