November 2017

Hello everyone,

November is already upon us. While teaching has well and truly finished, there’s still plenty of work to be done assessing the work of our current students and continuing the task to recruit future students for study in 2018. Meanwhile, there’s been a lot going on at La Trobe, and nationally.

The Government’s funding cuts to Higher Education

The announcement by the Nick Xenophon Team that they will not support the Government’s Higher Education Reform package (aka, funding cuts) in the Senate means that the legislation in its current form is dead for the time being.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. The Minister remains under pressure to deliver significant savings from the HE budget, and has numerous avenues open to him to achieve them without legislation. These include recapping the system, and cutting research and HEPP funding, all of which could have very serious implications for the sector. We won’t know what the Government plans to do until the Treasurer delivers the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) later this month or early December.

Meanwhile, the Government continues its ill-informed attack on the sector. The most recent example of this are the calls by both Minister Birmingham and the Treasurer for greater accountability for performance outcomes, citing the findings of the latest Productivity Commission Report – a Report that merely recycles some baseless claims about Universities’ lack of care for their students and their careers. We can expect more of this sort of treatment from our most senior politicians as they lay the groundwork for some unpleasant messages in MYEFO.

So, we are not out of the woods yet.

Congratulations to Jenny Graves

My heartiest of congratulations to Distinguished Professor Jenny Graves AO who has been awarded the 2017 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. Jenny is the first La Trobe academic, and the first individual woman scientist in Australia, to be recognised in what is unquestionably the nation’s most prestigious science prize.

Jenny has worked for almost fifty years in the fascinating area of genetics. She has genome-mapped a range of mammals including the kangaroo and the platypus. Her work comparing the genomes of our ancient relatives to humans has led to a greater understanding of our own genetics. Her findings will continue to have a significant impact for many years to come.

­­Jenny still holds the record for the University’s most-read (almost a million views) Conversation article speculating on the existence of a ‘gay gene’. Well worth a read.

News of Jenny’s award has captured the community’s imagination and generated widespread media coverage. Jenny’s achievement is also a wonderful inspiration for women researchers in all disciplines, and comes at a time when the University is working hard to improve opportunities and support for women.

Male Champions of Change

I have recently joined Male Champions of Change (MCC), a group of Australian CEOs who are committed to addressing a gender inequity in the workplace.

A recent report published by MCC has revealed the extent of everyday sexism in Australian workplaces. While La Trobe is certainly better than some in this respect, there is always room for improvement. I will be working with the University’s senior leadership group over the next few months to identify how we all can do more to eliminate behaviour of this type.

Sports Writers Festival

Thanks to all who attended the Sports Writers Festival on 28 and 29 October in Melbourne and 3 and 4 November in Sydney.

La Trobe was the Official Learning Partner of the Festival, which celebrated sport through the written word. We are the perfect match given our excellence in sports-related teaching, research, partnerships, performance and infrastructure.

This sporting life

Sticking with the sports theme, you will have no doubt heard news that work is underway on the new La Trobe Sports Park.

This facility has been designed after 18 months of consultation with community, sporting and government groups. When completed it will cater to a wide range of users, from community and grassroots clubs, right up to elite sports clubs and athletes. We estimate up to 10,000 people will be using the sport park each week.

The facility will be bristling with the latest technology, ensuring it will become a living outdoor laboratory for our students, industry partners, elite athletes, sports researchers and scientists.

The project will generate 650 new jobs  - 372 jobs in the construction phase and 279 jobs in sport management, education, event management, hospitality and service industries when operational.

Are you going to soundvision?

We’re hosting soundvision, one of the University’s biggest arts and music events on campus on Saturday 18 November. It’s a massive end-of-year outdoor event on the Academic Lawn of the Melbourne campus and will be a fitting finale to a fantastic year of 50th birthday celebrations.

The feature performance of the event will be “Variations on Leonard French”, a world premiere film piece created by filmmaker Paul W Rankin. The film will be screened at sunset with an accompanying live performance from the Australian Youth Orchestra of a specially commissioned piece of music from composer Tamil Rogeon. The whole composition has been inspired by Leonard French’s stained-glass art work ‘Four Seasons’ which is part of the La Trobe University Sculpture Park. Artist Leonard French is most well-known for creating the stained-glass ceiling at the National Gallery of Victoria’s Great Hall.

The program also includes family activities and kids entertainment in the afternoon, live music throughout the early evening, and a post exam party hosted by the La Trobe Student Union running into the early hours of Sunday morning. The event is the concept of House of Mirrors artists Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney.

Tickets are selling fast so book now to avoid missing out on what’s set to be a memorable event. Staff can get half-price $10 tickets using the promo code ‘ltustaff’.

Employability initiatives gathering pace

We understand most students go to University, in whole or in part, to realise their career aspirations and boost their employment prospects. Our recent commitments to prepare students for successful careers are making a difference.

We are only the second University in Australia to have Unitemps providing an on-campus recruitment consultancy at our Bundoora campus. The service has been in place for much of the year, but was officially launched last month. If you have short term or casual work vacancies in your teams, then it only makes sense that it is our students who should be considered for the work opportunity. The first step is getting in contact with Unitemps.

Another initiative this year, the My La Trobe app, is proving very popular with students, with close to 10,000 downloads so far. The app is a great one stop shop for our students to navigate timetables, LMS and the library, as well as access our employability platform Career Ready Advantage.

We also are partnering with Northlink and local tertiary education providers to run the Northern Industry Student Placement Program (NISPP), which connects local businesses with our students; local industry benefits from their student expertise and students gain valuable workplace experience.

New facilities

We have recently opened some fantastic refurbished spaces at the Bundoora campus. The new Career Ready Hub is now open on Level 2 of the Agora, and the refurbished ground floor of the Library creates a welcoming sense of space and light, as well as excellent facilities for our ASK La Trobe team.

I was also privileged to officiate at the opening of our new performing arts space in the former Menzies College Dining Room, which provides our Theatre Studies students with the latest technology to stage productions.

What is the future for Universities?

I’m looking forward to taking part in the last Bold Thinking Series for the year, which will pose the question - what exactly is the long term future of the University sector?

It’s a timely question as politicians, economists and community currently debate this very important issue – albeit through the narrow and short sighted lens of budget saving, rather than long term policy setting.

As we celebrate our 50th birthday, it is fitting that we bring together the leaders of Victoria’s oldest Universities, La Trobe, Monash and Melbourne, to ask-  where to from here?

On November 22, La Trobe alumni and award winning broadcaster Virginia Trioli will moderate a QandA style discussion with myself, Monash VC Professor Margaret Gardiner and University of Melbourne VC Professor Glyn Davies. You can find out more via our website.

In closing, our updated Strategic Plan is in the final stage of the design and production process and will be available to staff shortly.

Enjoy the rest of November,

All the best

John