Vice-Chancellor Ian Young AO announced on Wednesday morning that, after 12 months of deliberation, he will not be seeking a further term when his current term as Vice-Chancellor ends in February 2016. In just over a year from now, Vice-Chancellor Young will be taking an academic and research position at Swinburne University, where he served as Vice-Chancellor from 2003 to 2010.
“This is a particularly important area in a time of significant climate change and I am keen to be able to devote more time to this critical issue. I plan to join the Centre for Ocean Engineering, Science and Technology at Swinburne University in a research and teaching role, and in addition return to acting as a specialist consultant,” he said.
In an interview with Woroni, Vice-Chancellor Young confirmed that his resignation is unrelated to his advocacy for the deregulation of university fees.
“I’ve still got another 12 months in the role and I will continue to advocate for deregulation.”
“I appreciate that it is not necessarily a popular position, but it is one in which I have not taken a backwards step. I don’t think that you will see any change in my rhetoric in the near future,” he said.
In an interview with ABC Canberra local radio, Young reiterated that “for the ANU to succeed … we’ve got to be out there competing with the best universities in the world and that’s the real challenge for us; not just to be a good Australian university but to be world class on that international stage”
The Vice-Chancellor also spoke of his role as the Chair of the Group of Eight during the interview, noting “my term as Chair of the Group of Eight actually also finishes at the end of 2015…I will move on from both roles at the same time”
In conversation with Woroni, Vice-Chancellor Young expressed great pride in the achievements of the Australian National University during the time that he has been in the position. He cites the quality of ANU’s students as the University’s greatest attribute, and is very pleased with the ANU expanding its operations in the area of Philanthropy, citing the Tuckwell Scholarship Program as a significant accomplishment.
In reference to the hardships that he’s had to face since his appointment in 2011, Vice-Chancellor Young notes “significant cuts to our funding, particularly in 2013 and 2014, as a result of government decisions”.
“We had to go into a process of bringing our resources into control through voluntary retirements. We had to shed a few more than 200 staff during that period of time.” Professor Young also mentioned the debate surrounding the ANU School of Music as one of the more challenging periods of his tenure. In his interview with ABC Canberra local radio, the Vice Chancellor stood by the drastic funding cuts as “the best thing for education”.
“What we did with the School of Music I think is something which was necessary. We changed the style of education within the School of Music [to] a style of education which is very much more fitting for a university like ANU.”
“We still have tremendous performance students … anyone who has been to a concert by the students of [the School] will know that the quality of their performance is simply outstanding. But in addition to that, we now have students who are also gifted academically as well”.
Vice-Chancellor Young confirmed he would not be involved in the selection process for his successor. He reiterated that the University would embark in an international search for a suitable candidate.
When asked how he would characterise his time as Vice-Chancellor, Professor Young expressed that “those sorts of assessments are better done by others.”
“What is important for this institution is to ensure that you’ve got a sound financial base for a university. You can’t pretend to be excellent if you don’t have the resources to be able to invest,” he said.
“People have criticised me for being too focused on the finances, and I don’t apologise for that one little bit.”
Illustration by Janis Lejins