September 2017

It’s September already, and the AFL Finals are upon us once again. I hope your club made the cut. Mine didn’t.

Wonderful world of La Trobe

I have just returned from Asia, where I took part in ‘World La Trobe Week’, a celebration of La Trobe’s 50th anniversary with our international alumni. Over 1000 of our graduates attended events in Beijing, Shanghai, Jakarta, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Dubai. Sadly, the event in Hong Kong was cancelled because of the Typhoon activity in the region, but we will be back there in November.

My warmest thanks go to Katie Armitage, Kali Micallef and the alumni team who did a magnificent job of organising the events in many different venues in a short space of time. I’d also like to thank senior colleagues Professor Rob Pike, Professor Tony McGrew and Kelly Smith, Pro Vice-Chancellor (International) for sharing hosting duties around the region.

Our alumni were delighted to have an opportunity to reconnect with their alma mater, and displayed evident pride in, and affection for, La Trobe. If the chat activity in the La Trobe China Alumni WeChat group is anything to go by, they have been very energised by the events. We have also received over 1000 digital postcards from our alumni around the world, which can be viewed at 50years.latrobe/postcard.

While in Beijing, I also helped to launch La Trobe’s new China office, which is co-located in the offices of Navitas. Having this new presence in Beijing is a key part of our future plans in China, and  co-locating  the La Trobe and Navitas offices will help us work collaboratively to increase recruitment and partnership activities.

I also visited the China Scholarship Council, signed an MOU with Zhejiang University (one of the finest Universities in China), visited the Hanban to discuss the future plans of our Confucius Institute, and visited some partner universities in Indonesia. My warmest thanks to the team from LTI who worked so hard to make the visit a productive one – and especially to Nandi Lakshmanan, whose continued professionalism and hard work is an example to us all.

Rankings climb to new heights

Great news on the rankings front - La Trobe is now ranked at 301 in the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). We have improved our positon by more than 200 places in just two years, making us Australia’s most-improved University over that period. We’ve also retained our top 400 position in the 2017 Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

Each and every one of you should be proud of your contribution to this fantastic result. A special thanks to Alistair Duncan and the Research Performance team for collating all of your work to ensure that we continue to be recognised in these international rankings. If we keep working hard, next year we’ll be in the top 300!

There are other challenges, however, that we do need to tackle. The recent Good Universities Guide survey results confirmed what we know from earlier Quality in Learning and Teaching data – we need to do much more to lift our student satisfaction results.

Are you ready for the next Future Ready?

Please take the time to read the latest draft of the University’s refreshed Strategic Plan, which you can download from the intranet. I’m interested in hearing your feedback on the draft – you can provide written comments up to 14 September by emailing stratplan@latrobe.edu.au.

After reviewing comments and finalising the draft, we aim to take a final strategy to University Council for approval in the last quarter of 2017.

Open Days update

Over the past month we’ve welcomed thousands of future students, family and friends to our network of campuses. While unpleasant weather reduced attendances at the Melbourne Campus, there has been good interest at other campuses. A new format, with a greater focus on our discipline offerings and a strong brand expression, has worked well with great feedback from students, parents and teachers.

Events like Open Day are the culmination of months of effort from many people across the University. Your support has ensured its success. With these events now complete, our focus shifts to the lead up to our preferences campaign in which we will position La Trobe as a University of first choice.

Putting equity policy into practice

Congratulations to Dr Ryan Naylor, Dr Andrew Harvey and Matt Brett who will lead three studies funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) for 2017. It’s great to see our researchers secure funding from an organisation focused on closing the gap between equity policy, research and practice.

Congratulations also to Andrew for taking out the Equity Award in this years’ AFR Higher Education awards. Andrew and his team have truly established themselves as one of the country’s leading research groups in higher education.

Research Week success

Well done to the Research Office who put together a truly fascinating Research Week for 2017.

I hope you made the time to attend one of the many Research Showcase lunchtime talks at our campuses in Melbourne, Bendigo and Albury-Wodonga.

La Trobe events challenge and inform

The University recently hosted an Athena Swan Women in Science discussion between distinguished writer Dava Sobel, and Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow and well-known science journalist Dr Elizabeth Finkel. It was great to attend the event which attracted a large crowd to Union Hall where everyone was engrossed by their open conversation about the broader issue of gender equity and women in science.

We continue to be proud sponsors of the Bendigo Writers Festival, which gets bigger and better each and every year. It’s now an established event that attracts some of Australia’s best writers and an audience that travels to the thriving city. Planning for the 2018 event, again in early August, is already underway.

The Bold Thinking Series (BTS) held another sold-out event at the State Library Theatrette last month, hosting a conversation with ‘The La Trobe Three’ - Brian Pola, Fergus Robinson and Barry York. The three former student activists enthralled those present with lively anecdotes and poignant memories from their 1972 imprisonment. You can watch a stream of the lecture here.

The next BTS lecture on social cohesion in the Goulburn Valley will take place on Wednesday 27 September in Shepparton.Another to watch will be a combined Ideas & Society/Bold Thinking Series lunchtime lecture on Thursday 26 October with former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, speaking on China’s rise in the region. Registrations are now open.

In closing, keep an ear out for historian Claire Wright who hosts Shooting the Past an eight-part Australian history series on ABC Radio National. You can either listen live on the wireless or download the series right now via the website, ABC app or iTunes.

All the best

John