It is an aspiration of The University of Western Australia, reflected in its Motto, to `Seek Wisdom?. We aspire to equip our graduates for that search in a rapidly changing political, economic, technological and cultural environment.
That environment presents new questions for which old answers will not suffice. What we can promise is to equip our graduates with the ability to distinguish the central from the peripheral, the important from the unimportant, the stable from the transient, to adapt to change and to make decisions accordingly. So too, the academic staff of the University face new questions about how best to respond as teachers to changing student expectations and needs and, as researchers, to find the most effective ways to secure and use the resources and develop the collaborations necessary to carry out leading-edge research work.
The search for wisdom engages the University?s Executive and professional staff in looking forward to how the University can best deploy its human, financial and physical resources, maintain a positive organisational culture, and meet the requirements of good governance and compliance with an array of regulatory prescriptions and funding conditions. The restructuring completed in 2017 has been followed in 2018 by a substantial commitment to the development of a new Strategic Plan, associated implementation plans, and a Campus Masterplan. Those developments require the University as a whole to take a hard look at current trends in the Australian and international higher education sectors, to respond boldly and imaginatively to the challenges which they present and, in so doing, to define itself anew. This Annual Report demonstrates a university engaging with those challenges, which include rapid disruption to the traditional campus-based combined education/research business model and competitive offerings, from traditional universities, of online courses providing course-specific credentials without the overhead burdens incurred by physical campuses and research programs. No such offering of course can supply the rich experience of the on-campus experience of students and staff engaging with each other in one of the most beautiful university campuses in Australia, and which contributes to the personal development of our graduates as part of the UWA experience.
Government has been under pressure to reduce costs and adopt a new focus on the costs of teaching and the application of performance-based funding measures. Financial support for research is becoming more competitive with an increased focus on outcomes through relevance, translation and impact. University teaching today requires the support of high quality information technology to meet student demands.
Higher education generally faces an increasing emphasis on work-integrated learning. Employers expect graduates who are not only knowledgeable in their chosen fields of study; they expect graduates to have work-ready skills and the abilities to cross disciplinary boundaries and to adapt to new technologies. UWA has been and will continue, as part of its New Strategic Plan 2020-2025, to increase its investment in digital resources and physical spaces to enhance the student experience and to facilitate the development of workforce capacity.
In this respect in 2018, UWA participated in the Universities Australia, Work Integrated Learning (WIL) Audit. Sixty-seven per cent of the majors offered at UWA contain a WIL component. The objective of the University now is to embed WIL components in all its majors. A WIL Strategy Group has been established for this purpose.
Specific initiatives of importance in 2018 included the groundbreaking event for EZONE UWA, as the Report says, a new era for engineering and mathematical sciences at the University. The Public Policy Institute was established to provide research and advice in the area of public policy development in Western Australia, Australia and beyond our shores. In a related development, the Centre for Human and Cultural Values was created under an ARC linkage grant to establish better links between academic staff, business and government directed to the solution of important social questions. UWA also connected with the State Government and MTP Connect to establish a life sciences hub at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research with a view to creating business opportunities in medicine, health, agriculture and biodiversity.
2018 also saw the opening of Forrest Hall, funded by the generous contributions of Andrew and Nicola Forrest?s Minderoo Foundation. Forrest Hall provides a home for the pursuit of excellence by Forrest Scholars and Fellows, also funded by the philanthropic gift from the Minderoo Foundation for the benefit of all Western Australian universities.
In a notable achievement, UWA researchers developed a new way of monitoring blood cells that allows the detection of leukaemia more rapidly than existing techniques. Other research achievements are set out in the Report.
Engagement with the community has been evidenced in many ways, including the University?s Community Partnerships Plan which supported more than 50 local community initiatives. One example was the Passion Project Music Event which was conducted in Winthrop Hall during WA Mental Health Week, in which 90 high school students participated to raise awareness about youth suicide and health.
The University has also continued to strengthen its relationship with its graduates through Convocation, which works with the University to improve student experience and prepare students for life after graduation as well as being part of the University governance structure in relation to the enactment of University Statutes.
On behalf of the Senate, I take the opportunity to express my appreciation for the efforts of the Vice-Chancellor and senior executive staff of the University with whom the Senate has been dealing in this past year. It has been a challenging time for both the Senate and the Executive facing an array of issues which are common across the sector and which require committed and focused engagement at the institutional level.
The work of the Senate is supported by two key committees: the Strategic Resources Committee, and the Audit and Risk Committee. These comprise members of the Senate and external members whose services, given on a voluntary basis, are deeply appreciated. The expertise they bring to bear from among their membership means there are high levels of appropriate scrutiny and accountability. Members of those committees and of the Senate throughout the reporting year have all contributed to the important work of the governance of the University. I would particularly like to express my appreciation to those who have retired or resigned during the year, including former Pro-Chancellor Penny Flett AO, Sue Boyd, John Inverarity, Hilary Silbert, Quang Ly, Nigel Laing AO, and Professor Cara MacNish, elected by the Academic Board. I thank also the representatives of student bodies, Megan Lee, the President of the Guild of Undergraduates and Peter Watson, elected by postgraduate students for their contributions during the year. I am grateful to Mr Frank Cooper, the Chairman of the Strategic Resources Committee who was elected as Pro-Chancellor following the resignation of Dr Flett. December 2018 also saw the resignation of Deirdre De Souza, who has served the University, the Senate and its committees long and well as University Secretary. I thank her on behalf of the Senate for her great service to the University and wish her well in her future endeavours. I look forward to welcoming the new members of the Senate in the coming year.
The Hon Robert French AC CitWA