One of Australia's great universities
A new Vice-Chancellor, a determined Chancellor, and the support of the federal and state Ministers for Education were determined not to see three universities where there previously had been one. A review committee (the Committee to Review the Structure, or CRS) chaired by the Hon. Andrew Rogers QC, proposed legislative and organisational changes which brought about a first round that saw tightening of the federation.
After Professor Deryck Schreuder was succeeded by Professor Janice Reid as third Vice Chancellor in 1998, this tighter association was revised with (through 1999-2001) a process of organic unification applied to organisation, academic and support structures. This was a period of considerable turmoil in the University, but one which gave way fairly quickly to new plans and structures that brought the University into alignment with the larger sector.
The emphasis on the period since has been research competition, excellence in teaching and learning, and restoring/strengthening community engagement. As founding administrators retired or through restructuring, the appointment of leaders in research development from other universities (particularly UNSW and Newcastle) led, through the 2000s, to the establishment of focused and highly effective research centres and eventually Institutes.
In the Commonwealth’s 2010 ERA rankings, UWS research into cultural studies and plant physiology/ environmental studies was ‘well above world standard’. Internal efficiencies produced the income required to jump-start new research initiatives and hire the best available staff from around the world. In 2012, the leading research concentrations were elevated to University Institute status.
Giving the address on receiving a doctorate honoris causa in 2011, second Chancellor emeritus John Phillips noted that he was proud to have received a degree from ‘one of Australia’s great universities’.
Enrolling over 40,000 students and ambitious plans to rise to over 50,000 in the coming years was a remarkable achievement in a relatively small amount of time, in a context which many at its founding thought was unpromising. This was testimony to the perseverance, talent and energy of not only its key leaders and staff, but of the communities which continued to support the University of Western Sydney.
For further information on the History of the University of Western, see:
M. Hutchinson, A University of the People: A history of the University of Western Sydney to 2014, North Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2013.