Paul Wellings

Honorary Doctor of Science and Emeritus Professor

Citation delivered by Professor Joe Chicharo OM, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Paul Wellings as a Doctor of Science (honoris causa) and as an Emeritus Professor of the university on 21 May 2021.


Chancellor, I present Professor Paul Wellings CBE.

Paul Wellings is an extraordinary leader whose remarkable vision and tireless efforts have transformed the futures of the University of Wollongong, the broader higher education sector, and the people and communities they enrich.

Born in England, Paul emigrated to Australia in 1981 as a Research Ecologist in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.  In the subsequent 19 years, he led significant research findings in the field of biological control and excelled in numerous senior roles within the organisation, culminating in his appointment as CSIRO Deputy Chief Executive in 1999. He also served multiple boards, including as Director of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

An esteemed research leader with a diverse world view, Paul transitioned to the higher education sector in 2002, taking on the Vice-Chancellor’s role at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. His nine-year tenure signalled rapid transformation in the University’s ranking, reputation, infrastructure and financial position, and propelled its innovative research, teaching and student experience into the global limelight. This was to foreshadow the astonishing transformation UOW would enjoy under his dynamic leadership.

Since joining UOW in January 2012 as Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Paul has led formidable and exciting progress spanning education, infrastructure, partnerships, philanthropy, world rankings and recognition. From the outset, he articulated a clear vision for UOW as a leading research-intensive university ranked among the world’s top one per cent. Under his leadership, the University has consistently ranked among the world’s best young universities; in 2021, UOW placed 14th in the world in the QS Top 50 Under 50 Rankings.

A hallmark of Paul’s tenure has been the astonishing array of innovative projects advancing our research and teaching and learning capabilities. His strategic $870-million investment in facilities thrust the University into a bold new era, delivering the new Liverpool Campus, Molecular Horizons, iAccelerate, the new Social Sciences and the Arts building, Sustainable Buildings Research Centre, Early Start Research and Discovery Space, a new 820-bed student accommodation facility, and much more.

UOW’s central role in our local communities has prospered with the deliberate expansion and diversification of our campuses and partnerships within the Illawarra, Shoalhaven, South Coast, Southern Highlands and South Western Sydney. Standing proudly among these is the $3.5-million MIND the GaP facility targeting enhanced mental health and wellbeing in the Shoalhaven, and the highly anticipated $500-million Health and Wellbeing Precinct at Innovation Campus.

Paul has been a driving force in the internationalisation of the University. He has diversified UOW’s educational reach into exciting new markets, and today around 18,000 students are pursuing excellence at UOW offshore campuses. He has forged crucial alliances and research collaborations to address complex global problems, empowering UOW researchers to stretch the bounds of innovation to tackle challenges in climate change, clean manufacturing, ageing, population growth and more. In 2020, the Times Higher Education ranked UOW globally for its contribution to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Paul has guided UOW to become known internationally as a leading regional university with ambitious, outward-facing ideas; one that is enterprising, multidisciplinary, collaborative and delivers high-impact education and research that addresses both local and global priorities. A champion for equity, Paul has also steered UOW to national leadership in gender equality, becoming one of the first to receive the prestigious Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE)/Athena Swan Bronze Institution Award.

Highly sought-after across the globe for his professional expertise and knowledge, Paul’s influence extends beyond higher education and into regional development, industry, the arts, community and more. He has served on numerous boards, advisory committees and government reviews – 42 of these since 1991 alone – among them the Regional Development Illawarra Board, ARC Advisory Council, NSW International Education Advisory Board, Bundanoon Trust, Ministerial Advisory Council for Free Trade Agreements, New South Wales Domestic and Family Violence and Sexual Assault Corporate Leadership Group, and the Global Foundation Advisory Council. He has held strategic positions of influence within the New South Wales Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, University of Wollongong USA Foundation, UOW College Hong Kong Board of Governors, the NUW Alliance and the Advisory Committee for the New Colombo Plan.

In 2019, he was appointed Chair of the Federal Government’s Higher Education Performance Funding Working Group, where he drove significant reform in the Higher Education sector and provided the catalyst for the Graduate Job Ready package. In November 2020, he was appointed to the University Research Commercialisation Scheme Taskforce aiming to improve commercialisation and translation of university research.

With a deep understanding of the power of philanthropic partnerships, as Vice-Chancellor he built considerable trust, respect and goodwill during his tenure to usher in over $100 million in philanthropic income. The Early Start initiative and the landmark Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation degree are but two of the many transformative outcomes of these efforts.

Paul has earned numerous accolades for his contributions over four decades, including honorary degrees from Lancaster University and the University of Surrey, and the 2020 Council for Advancement and Support of Education Asia Pacific Leadership Award. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales, and was made a Commander of the British Empire in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to higher education.

Chancellor, Paul Wellings leaves UOW with a remarkable legacy as a forward-thinking, future-focused institution admired worldwide not only for its exceptional research and education, but for its commitment to the local community and global betterment. Today, it is with great honour and privilege that I present him for conferral of the University of Wollongong’s highest honours.

For his outstanding contribution to advancing education and innovation with genuine societal impact, I present Professor Paul Wellings CBE for the award of Doctor of Science (honoris causa).  For his exceptional leadership and indelible impact on the University’s past, present and future, I also present Professor Wellings for admission as an Emeritus Professor of the University of Wollongong.