Universities Australia, a national peak body for universities, today elected James Cook University Vice-Chancellor Sandra Harding as their new chair.
Professor Harding will replace University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis in May this year.
Professor Harding, an economic sociologist, was previously the deputy chair of Universities Australia, which represents the interests of universities to the federal government.
Professor Davis welcomed Professor Harding to the new role, saying that “her relentless dedication, passion and enthusiasm has helped shape [James Cook University] into one of the world’s leading universities focusing on the tropics.”
Professor Harding said it was an exciting time to be taking on the role.
“With an election announced, and education singled out as a key issue, we will certainly be busy ensuring that policies that strengthen universities are adopted by the next government,” she said.
Jeannie Rea, National President of the National Tertiary Education Union said the academics’ union was happy with Professor Harding’s appointment.
“Universities Australia and the sector will be fortunate if Professor Harding can bring the same enthusiasm and innovation to her role as she has as Vice-Chancellor at James Cook University,” she said.
“I hope she continues the important work of Professor Davis in positively profiling the vital role of higher education to government, business and the community. And it is always good to have another woman leader.”
Dr Andrew Norton, Higher Education Program Director at the Grattan Institute, said the key issue Universities Australia would lobby the federal government on is funding.
“They are going to be asking for more money because they always do. But that’s a waste of time in the current budgetary environment,” said Dr Norton.
“They are worried about cuts to research funding and many of them already built that funding into their budgets,” he said.
“Really, their core problem is that the teaching research employment situation is not working because teaching and research are funded in completely different ways. Teaching funding is driven by student numbers and research funding is driven by past performance.”