September 2016

Hello there,

It’s been another busy month at La Trobe, with very successful open days at all of our campuses and some great news on the rankings front.

Parliament Resumes

Parliament is back after what seems like a long break for the election. We should start to see the government’s approach to higher education take shape following the closing date for consultation on the Options Paper released before the election.

In the meantime, open warfare has broken out in the sector itself over the continuation of the demand driven system. The Executive Director of the GO8, Vicki Thomson, recently gave a speech advocating recapping of the system so that more money can be directed to research. Needless to say, this displeased those universities who see increased access and participation as core to their mission.

You can read La Trobe’s position on this debate in our submission on the Federal Government’s consultation paper Driving Innovation, Fairness and Excellence in Australian Higher Education. Our submission suggests some policy reform principles and addresses issues related to opportunity and choice; fairness and equity; excellence and quality; as well as affordability. It can be accessed here.

Rankings that matter

I am sure you have heard the wonderful news that La Trobe jumped about 200 places in the 2016 ARWU rankings to 336th in the world. This makes La Trobe one of the most improved Australian universities this year, and is our highest ever position in this ranking since it began. It also means that, for the first time ever in our history, La Trobe is now ranked in the top 400 universities in the world on all three of the major global rankings – THES, QS and ARWU.

I congratulate all of the staff that have had a hand in making this happen – our researchers, who have been publishing high quality papers in significantly increasing numbers over the last three years; and Keith Nugent and his team for ensuring our data is in good order for presentation to the rankings agencies. I would particularly like to mention Alistair Duncan, who has done magnificent work to support our improved performance in all of these international rankings.

We should all be very proud of this impressive team result.

Award winning history

Congratulations to Clare Wright on being awarded the prestigious biennial Australian  Society of Women Writers’ Alice Award. Clare’s trophy cabinet must be getting full after the well-deserved accolades she has received for her account of the role of women in the Eureka Rebellion, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, which won the 2014 Stella Prize. The Alice Award recognises Clare’s achievements not only for the book but in making a distinguished and sustained contribution to Australian literature, and inspiring women’s literature.

Why marriage equality matters

Many people chose to work at La Trobe because we are an open and inclusive organisation that supports diversity. This is precisely why we have joined with almost 1,000 other organisations to support the Australian Marriage Equality campaign.

We recognise the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, including LGBTI students and staff, to enjoy the same rights and freedoms as all members of Australian society.

With a plebiscite on marriage equality scheduled to happen in the coming months, there is the potential for divisive debate within the community, and I am proud that La Trobe can show leadership in supporting the rights of LGBTI people.

If you have not done so already, you can read the University’s letter of support.

Research Week starts soon

As I mentioned earlier, our research activity is crucial to our success, so it is timely that we are hosting our inaugural Research Week next week.

There is a full list of events here, so please take the time to check out the program. There are a range of activities, including tours of research labs, lunchtime talks from fellow researchers and the La Trobe final of the Three Minute thesis competition – which is huge fun if you’ve never been to one before. There is just so much going in research at La Trobe and I encourage you to get involved and understand more – there is something for everyone.

Bendigo Writers Festival

We were proud to support the Bendigo Writers Festival again this year for the fifth time and it was  an outstanding success for all those involved. The Festival is one of Bendigo and regional Victoria’s most important intellectual and cultural events, and I’m very proud of the fact that so many La Trobe staff played an important role in developing and delivering such an entertaining three days.

Of particular note was Rob Manne’s interview with Julian Assange, which formed part of our Ideas & Society program. The conversation was held by live video link and attracted one of the most diverse, and by far the youngest, audiences at the Festival. Unfortunately, we weren’t permitted to record the conversation to share with those who were unable to make it.

Michelle Grattan: Whitlam to Turnbull

Rob continues his Ideas and Society program next week. His guest will be one of Australia’s most respected political journalists, Michelle Grattan, who will assess the last 40 years of politics - from Whitlam to Turnbull.

Rob has been commenting on Australian politics for almost as long as Michelle Grattan has been reporting on the inner machinations of Canberra. It’s an impressive pairing, which should produce an  informative, enlightening and entertaining discussion. To attend, just book here.

And if you missed the latest Bold Thinking series event, which featured Professor of Practice Catherine Orwday and Pro Vice Chancellor and Director of La Trobe Sport, Professor Russell Hoye, all is not lost - you can watch it online .

A reminder that the deadline for the 50th anniversary call for projects to receive up to $5,000 in funding, Pitch Your Project, closes on 26 September.

Last month, Dennis Altman, Clare Wright, Patrick Keyzer and I spoke at an all staff forum on the topic of academic freedom and freedom of speech in universities in an era of social media.

If you missed the discussion, please view the video here.

Have a great month ahead.

All the best,