June 2015

It's only Round 9 and already a coach has lost a job. Our commiserations go to Mick Malthouse, whose departure from Carlton brings an incredibly distinguished coaching career to a close. Mick has been a valued member of the La Trobe community since 2012 as a Vice-Chancellor's Fellow, and we look forward to welcoming him back to our campuses to continue the excellent work he has done for us in school outreach and enlivening our classrooms.There's a lot to tell you about this month, and I want to start with some recent staff successes .

Maths researcher bound for Heidelberg

Dr Phillip Bader from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics  has been selected to attend this year's Heidelberg Laureate Forum in Germany. This is a very prestigious event that recognises the world's most promising young mathematicians. Dr Bader is one of only four Australian postdoctoral researchers to be selected in a group of 100 international researchers to spend a week working with more than 20 laureates in their disciplines, including winners of international awards such as the Abel, Turing and Nevanlinna prizes.

His selection follows our mathematics and computer sciences being ranked 8th in Australia - and 165th globally - in this year's CWTS Leiden rankings.

The multidimensional Leiden rankings are regarded as the 'rankers ranking' and include 23 Australian and 750 major research universities world-wide.

They put La Trobe mathematics and computer sciences ahead of the University of Melbourne, Newcastle, Macquarie, and Monash – a great result for La Trobe. Congratulations to all involved.

NSW Premier's Literary Awards prizes

I also want to recognise and celebrate the success of Dr Lilit Thwaites from the Department of Language and Linguistics who recently won the inaugural Early Career Translator Prize at the 2015 NSW Premier's Literary Awards.

Dr Thwaites won the prize for her translation of two Spanish science fiction works, which has brought these novels to English-speaking audiences for the first time. Well done, Lilit.

La Trobe University alumnus Don Watson also won Book of the Year at the awards for his non-fiction work The Bush.

University Blues sports awards

I recently attended the Uni Blues sports awards. It was great to see so many students recognised for their sporting achievements. While La Trobe students are among the best in the world in a broad range of sports such kayaking, lacrosse, swimming, fencing and cycling, one of the great things about sport is that people at all levels of ability and skill can participate.

Between them, our sports clubs have about 3000 members, not all of them students of the University. This is a great contribution to community health and wellbeing – and there was a real sense of community at the awards. It was clear that sport not only helps our students stay in shape, but also cements friendships that may last a lifetime.

Top score for La Trobe students in India

Still on sport, six of the seven La Trobe sport management and journalism students have just returned home from their seven-week internship with the Kings XI IPL cricket team, based in Chandigarh, India.

You can review their experience and see some amazing photos on the La Trobe Sport Tumblr account.

It is student experiences like this that highlights La Trobe University as a powerhouse in sport research and education.

We can justifiably lay claim to being Australia's number one sport university. We have the most comprehensive range of sport-related tertiary courses of any university in Australia, our research in Human Movement and Sport Science was rated by ERA as world class in 2010 and 2012 and we provide support to over 80 elite athletes, most of whom compete at an international level.

We have just established a new world-class Centre for Sports Medicine and Exercise Research that has attracted leading academics from Monash, UQ and elsewhere.

Our sports researchers such as Hylton Menz, Kate Webster, Kay Crossley, Meg Morris and Russell Hoye are all leaders in their field.

We have formal partnerships with leading sport organisations such as the Melbourne City FC, the Kings XI Punjab IPL franchise, AFL Players' Association, AFL Coaches Association, AFL Sports Ready, Victorian Sports Federation (Vicsport), Football Federation Victoria, Melbourne Cricket Club, Bendigo Spirit WNBL Champions and Netball World Cup 2015. I'm sure you'll agree that is a pretty impressive line-up.

Over the last two years, contrary to trends elsewhere, there has been a significant increase in the popularity of our sport-related undergraduate courses.

To further build on this area of genuine strength, the Director of La Trobe Sport, Professor Russell Hoye, and the Manager, Sports Partnerships, Lisa Hasker, will be working on major projects to strengthen our position as Australia's number one sport university, including helping to  develop new sport related courses with both Colleges.

Higher education policy future remains uncertain

When it comes to policy reform and funding, an uneasy quiet has descended over the sector. Last month's Federal Budget only served to signal ongoing uncertainty. Budget papers confirm that the Government remains committed to fee deregulation and to achieving $8bn of cuts to higher education expenditure over the forward estimates. Yet it remains unclear how this will be achieved.

We can expect to see the Higher Education Reform Bill brought before the Parliament for a third time at some stage in the coming months, yet with every indication from the crossbench Senators that they will continue to oppose the Bill, the likelihood of it passing the Senate appears highly unlikely. For now the impasse remains. We have a system in need of reform, and a political body that seems incapable, for the time being, of arriving at an enduring solution. 

Aspiring towards undergraduate recruitment in 2016

Applications opened this week for our 2016 intake of students interested in our early application Aspire program.

Many of you will remember that we launched the Aspire program last year, inviting Year 12 students who were active in the community in leadership or volunteering activities to apply early for study at La Trobe University.

Well this year, Aspire is back, bigger and better than before. We have increased the number of offers we will make to students and we have signed up with some exciting new community partners who share our values relating to community contribution and volunteering.

I'll be sharing more with you in coming days about the success of the first 2015 intake of Aspire students, as well as details of our plans for 2016. In that context, I want to share a video of one student studying at La Trobe this year thanks to the Aspire program.In the meantime, the more digitally active among you may have already noticed advertising of our Aspire program on websites and via social media.

Save the date: come to the next All Staff Briefing at your campus 

When I introduced the Future Ready strategic plan in 2013 I committed to meeting with staff at all of the University's regional campuses at least twice a year. The first of these all staff briefings for 2015 are taking place this month.

These briefings will include a presentation from myself, along with Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane Long and College Pro Vice-Chancellors, Professors Graham Schaffer and Tony McGrew.

I look forward to speaking with and hearing from many of you at the times, dates and locations detailed below:

  • Melbourne: 12.30pm – 2.00pm Friday 12 June (John Scott Meeting House with video link to ELT 1 and City Campus)
  • Mildura: 12.30pm - 2.00pm Wednesday 17 June (Brian Grogan Lecture Theatre)
  • Bendigo: 10.30pm – 12.00 noon Thursday 18 June (Circular Lecture Theatre)
  • Shepparton: 2.30pm – 4.00pm Thursday 18 June (Learning Space 1)
  • Albury-Wodonga: 12.30pm – 2.00pm Friday 19 June (Rm 3117, Building 3).

Have Your Say – Employee opinion survey 2015

I would also encourage you all to take part in the upcoming employee opinion survey, which will take place from 15 to 26 June 2015.

The survey, which will take about 20 minutes to complete, is open to all continuing and fixed term employees and will really give the organisation important feedback on how staff are thinking and feeling about working at La Trobe.

We last conducted a survey two years ago, in 2013. The results were used to inform a number of changes we have made since, especially to the training and support we offer our senior managers and leaders – so it is really important that we hear from you again.

Have a great month and see you all soon.