UOW celebrates research, teaching achievements during challenging year
Annual Stocktake Report highlights connections between university and its communities
Last year brought a litany of challenges for the higher education sector, but throughout it all, the University of Wollongong maintained its focus on undertaking ground-breaking research and providing an outstanding teaching and learning experience for students.
The annual Stocktake Report captures the ways in which UOW has supported students and staff through the trials of 2020, a year that began with devastating bushfires and was severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The University continued to deliver on its implementation of the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan and its 2030 Vision while remaining focused on education, research, innovation and community.
In his final Stocktake Report as Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings CBE reflected on the outstanding work of the University in 2020, which he attributed to the tremendous effort of the UOW’s academic and professional staff.
In particular, the ability of staff to transfer 99.9 per cent of courses online in March, as the pandemic began to take hold around the world, was an impressive feat. That effort was recognised and rewarded in November when UOW was named the winner of the Australian Financial Review 2020 Higher Education Award for Learning Experience.
“Our staff went above and beyond during the shift to remote delivery for our students here in Australia and overseas,” Professor Wellings said.
“The speed at which they made the shift, at what was a stressful time for all, is staggering and remarkable. As the year unfolded, our staff continued to work tirelessly to provide support to students as they navigated the ‘new normal’.
“I am immensely proud that we were able to maintain a first-class learning experience for our students in the midst of a global pandemic.”
UOW continued to build its international standing and reputation in extraordinary circumstances, securing its spot in the Top 1 per cent of the world’s institutions in the 2021 QS World University Rankings.
The University also placed 14th in the 2021 QS Top 50 Under 50 rankings, announced in June, and was named 184th globally in the 2020 compilation of the Aggregate Ranking of Top Universities in December. The annual Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching put UOW in the top spot in NSW for undergraduate studies.
On the research front, the Stocktake Report highlighted how the University has made an impact, with high-performing and diverse teams tackling complex and global problems. One of the highlights came in October when two UOW researchers, Distinguished Professor Zaiping Guo and Distinguished Professor Antoine van Oijen, were honoured in the New South Wales’ Premier’s Prizes for Science and Engineering, at a ceremony at Government House.
UOW researchers were recognised with millions of dollars in national and international funding, to work on quality research that will have an impact on society, the economy, and the environment.
Professor Wellings said he was proud of how UOW researchers had embraced the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and placed those at the heart of their work. The University was 31st in the world for its work on the Sustainable Development Goals.
“UOW is home to an incredible team of diverse, talented, and passionate researchers, who are making an impact on the world. I am thrilled with the focus on research that effects true and meaningful change in our society,” Professor Wellings said.
“I am also proud of commitment to equity and diversity among our academic staff, as we continue to invest in outstanding researchers from a wide range of demographics, career levels, and disciplines.”
While 2020 brought many heartaches, it was also a year in which the University demonstrated its value and commitment to the communities it serves, both in Wollongong and regional areas.
The pandemic, in particular, had disrupted many lives and livelihoods, but UOW had risen to the challenge of supporting students and staff through the uncertainty. UOW’s Food+ With Care Project, in which the University partnered with a number of community organisations, saw more than 4000 students receive pantry packs and fresh food, at a time when many had lost their jobs.
The University also provided crisis accommodation for vulnerable international students in NSW during the pandemic and, under the Financial Assistance Grants Scheme, paid more than 5200 individual grants, worth more than $4 million, to students facing financial hardship.
Professor Wellings said that while the challenges of last year, namely the bushfires that impacted on UOW’s regional campuses as well as the global pandemic, have had an immense impact on the University and the higher education sector, they have also brought the UOW community together.
“UOW has maintained its strong connections with our community partners, demonstrating the economic and social value that higher education brings to society,” Professor Wellings said.
“The challenges are not over as the higher education sector, in Australia and globally, continues to rebuild on the back of the immense financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am incredibly proud of how UOW’s staff and community have responded to the most difficult year we have ever experienced, but the strength of our partnerships and our role as a first-class teaching, learning, and research institution will enable UOW to come out the other side in a stronger position.”
Professor Wellings will retire from his role as Vice-Chancellor in May, and in his final Stocktake Report, he also demonstrated his gratitude for former Chancellor Jillian Broadbent AC, who retired towards the end of last year.
“Under Jillian’s leadership, the University expanded its global research impact, deepened its ties to the world of arts and the humanities, and strengthened its reputation for providing a positive student experience,” he said. “I thank her for her immense contribution to our University.”
In September, NSW Governor Her Excellency the Honorable Margaret Beazley AC QC dedicated the new Jillian Broadbent Building at UOW’s Wollongong campus, home to social sciences and the arts, which will act as a driver of innovation, learning, growth, and skill development in a post-COVID-19 world.
The University of Wollongong 2020 Stocktake Report reports on the University’s progress as it works towards the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan.