Who Will Be Our New Thought Leader?

By now we should all be aware that Professor Ian Young AO has announced that he will retire as Vice-Chancellor of ANU at the end of his present term in February 2016. While the announcement itself received plenty of attention, the student body has been rather subdued in discussing the matter since, yet, the appointment of the new VC is a matter worthy of our attention. Not only will the new VC oversee the strategic direction of ANU, they will also have a direct impact on the value of our degrees.

We are fortunate enough to be studying at one of finest universities in Australia and indeed, the world. However, to claim that we have already reached the same status as the world’s most elite universities – places like the Ivy League and Oxbridge institutions – might be a bit of a stretch. This is where the appointment of our new VC could be influential in lifting our global ranking, and the value of our degrees, towards this status. If we could secure a world-renowned scholar as our new VC, someone with the qualifications akin to those who lead the world’s top universities, this would immediately place ANU amongst the best by sending a signal to the world about the quality of our University.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings has ranked Caltech as the world’s top university since 2011. From 1997 to 2006, Nobel laureate David Baltimore served as Caltech’s president. It would be highly unlikely that having a globally renowned scholar as president did not influence Caltech’s later performance. Indeed, studies have shown a relationship between the research ability of a university leader and the later performance of that university.[1] So if we care about the future value of our degrees, we should be engaged in the process of appointing our new VC.

It is equally important that the new VC should understand the University’s vision and is passionate about its future to enhance the student experience. World leading universities such as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale have all appointed their provosts from within their own institutions in recent times. Surely, we would be taking a step in the right direction if we did the same.

The new VC will confer our degrees from 2016. This means that our certificates will all bear the new VC’s signature. The other GO8 universities may have their sandstone buildings to brag about, but we would have the last laugh if our certificates were autographed by a world-famous scholar.

While we should care about the appointment of the new VC because they will influence our student experience, perhaps what we should really be concerned with are the implications the appointment will have on the value of our degrees. With the selection process to find Professor Young’s successor well underway, we can only speculate as to who is in the running for our University’s top job. That said, we are currently home to a Nobel laureate, but that’s just a thought…

Just think, your degree could be valued amongst the most elite in the world.

So who do you want to represent our University?


[1] See Goodall, A 2009, Socrates in the Boardroom: Why Research Universities Should be Led by Top Scholars, Princeton University Press, New Jersey.