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Next Vice-Chancellor meets the team

Professor Wellings, who will become UOW&rsquos fourth Vice-Chancellor on January 1, 2012, is visiting Wollongong this week to meet current Vice-Chancellor Professor Gerard Sutton, the executive team, senior staff and the Academic Senate and attend the University&rsquos annual planning conference.

He has also been conducting interviews with the Illawarra media.

Chancellor Jillian Broadbent announced UK-born Professor Wellings&rsquo appointment in April. He is currently Vice-Chancellor at Lancaster University in northern England, a position he has held since 2002. Prior to that he spent 21 years in Australia at the CSIRO, joining in 1981 as a research ecologist and rising to Deputy Chief Executive Officer.

Ms Broadbent, who headed the ion committee that chose Professor Wellings, said his strong research credentials both with the CSIRO and the way he developed Lancaster into a leading research institution in the United Kingdom played a key part in his appointment.

Professor Wellings will join UOW in December, so that he can spend a few weeks with Professor Sutton before he officially retires on 31 December. He also plans to visit UOW again in October.

In interviews after his appointment, Professor Wellings said he and his Australian wife were excited about the prospect of returning to Australia and joining UOW. He was attracted by the University&rsquos size, which is similar to Lancaster&rsquos, and its commitment to quality in both research and teaching.

&ldquoIt&rsquos a testament to the current Vice-Chancellor and his predecessors at Wollongong who have built a very strong international profile and have at the same time maintained an outstanding teaching environment,&rdquo Professor Wellings said. &ldquoThat for me was one of the great attractions - that UOW has managed to combine both while being one of the leading research universities and caring about the teaching environment.

&ldquoGetting that intersection as effective as possible is a relatively unusual thing among leading universities. Many are thoroughly focused on research and not on the students. Wollongong is an example, certainly in the Australian context, (of a university) which has solved that complex problem.&rdquo

Professor Wellings said he was looking forward to building on UOW&rsquos research credentials. &ldquoHopefully with my background as a researcher and in research policy I&rsquoll bring something to UOW that helps it move forward. It already has a set of international assets in terms of the infrastructure and people that is a fantastic base to work from,&rdquo he said.

Professor Wellings will be UOW&rsquos fourth Vice-Chancellor since the University gained autonomy from the University of NSW in 1975. He follows the late Professor Michael Birt (1975-1981), Professor Ken McKinnon (1981-1995) and Professor Sutton who is the longest-serving of the trio having succeeded Professor McKinnon in early 1995.

Professor Wellings believes continuity and stability is important. &ldquoI&rsquom currently the fifth Vice-Chancellor at Lancaster and there is something to be said for continuity of leadership, not just the Vice-Chancellor but also the academic process in faculties and at the top of the institution. That is one of the strengths of UOW that the turnover rate of staff is relatively low and people stay and make major contributions to the institution.&rdquo

Professor Sutton said he was extremely pleased with Professor Wellings&rsquo appointment. &ldquoIt gives me great personal satisfaction to see such an eminent and experienced person appointed as my successor,&rdquo he said. &ldquoI am sure Paul will bring the same level of commitment to the University that I have felt and ensure that the University continues to increase its international standing and reputation.&rdquo

Ms Broadbent believes Professor Wellings will continue to build UOW&rsquos reputation and performance, while maintaining its long-standing focus on regional development.

&ldquoWe are absolutely delighted to have secured Professor Wellings as our next Vice-Chancellor. He is an experienced Vice-Chancellor with an exceptional track record and a deep understanding of policies influencing research and higher education globally,&rdquo Ms Broadbent said. &ldquoPaul was attracted to UOW because he believes we are a university on the rise, not one that is content to stand still. And having led a regional university in the UK, he is well aware of the contribution a university can make to regional development.&rdquo

Report by Nick Hartgerink

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