The Year at UOW

Highlights in 2019

Closer partnerships with communities, research to solve real-world challenges, and transformative student experiences. 2019 has been a year of impact, with the University of Wollongong striving to meet its strategic goal of transforming people and the world we live in.

Local and national accolades

The year started with accolades, with high-profile Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute researcher and motor neurone disease advocate, Professor Justin Yerbury, named Wollongong Citizen of the Year for 2019 in the lead up to Australia Day.

UOW Chancellor, Ms Jillian Broadbent AC received the nation’s highest honour in recognition of her contribution to community, education and the arts, being named a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in the Australia Day Awards. Three exceptional UOW academics were also recognised; Senior Professor Julie Steele and Professors Judy Raper and Sarah Miller.

Later in the year, several prominent members of the University community were recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Most notably, Distinguished Professor Shi Xue Dou AM was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for his significant service to science education in the field of superconducting and electronic materials.

Ita Buttrose AC OBE, who received her Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) from the University of Wollongong in 2015, was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for “eminent service to the community through leadership in the media, the arts, and the health sector, and as a role model.”

UOW Honorary Doctor of Laws recipient, Nicholas Cowdery AO, QC, was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for “distinguished service to the law, to the protection of human rights, to professional legal bodies, and to the community”, while UOW Fellow Mr Victor Chapman AM PSM was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for “significant service to the Indigenous community, to tertiary education, and to the visual arts.”

Former Engineering and Information Sciences (EIS) Faculty committee member, Dr Peter Tyree AM was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for “significant service to engineering, and to education”.

Indigenous connections

UOW’s connection with the Indigenous community strengthened in 2019 with the launch of its inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan in July during NAIDOC week. The University also recognised the profound impact the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) has had in Indigenous education by bestowing its prestigious Community Fellowship Award on the organisation.

AIME has helped thousands of students achieve their academic dreams. A $75,000 upgrade to the Woolyungah Indigenous Centre opened to enable Indigenous students to be more supported in their studies and better able to connect with each other. A NSW Auditor General’s report revealed UOW’s Indigenous student population had grown by more than 10 per cent from 2016 to 2017 – twice the enrolment growth rate for non-Indigenous students.

Supporting the community

In the 14th round of its annual Community Engagement Grants Scheme (CEGS), UOW granted a total of $50,000 to support four projects addressing key community challenges. The 2019 recipients included a project to obtain opinions from people with severe intellectual disability who are functionally non-verbal to inform council plans for an all abilities playground; an initiative to combat gestational diabetes—the fastest growing type of diabetes

in Australia; Safe Night Out – a training program to help staff in Wollongong’s licensed venues prevent, understand and respond to sexual harassment and sexual assault; and a project to provide independent advice and case work assistance to individuals dealing with social security issues, particularly victims of domestic violence.

The University also hosted a meeting of medical minds. Health professionals, academics and policy-makers came together at the Innovation Campus for the inaugural UOW Health Symposium to discuss patient-centred care. The conversation is set to continue as progress is made towards establishing UOW’s Innovation Campus Health and Wellbeing Precinct.

Research success

The University’s research made national headlines in 2019.

Associate Professor Kerrylee Rogers was honoured with a Eureka Prize for a study she led that found coastal wetlands capture more carbon as sea levels rise. Early childhood researcher Senior Professor Tony Okely, from Early Start, continued to make his mark by contributing to the Australian 24-hour movement guidelines for children released in April by the Federal Minister for Sport. After regularly engaging with the public via the media about her research into the earth’s formation, Doctor Dominique Tanner was named one of the ABC’s Top Five scientists for 2019. Professor Thomas Astell-Burt and Doctor Xiaoqi Feng put mental health in the spotlight with their enlightening and widely-reported research on green space and its impact on public health.

Researchers from Molecular Horizons—UOW’s Molecular Life Sciences Facility—were awarded $1.5 million from the federal Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Frontiers initiative to address the growing medical concern regarding super bugs. The Molecular Horizons team will investigate how superbugs evolve to better understand antimicrobial resistance by the end of the five-year study.

International research collaboration

Collaborating with international partners to search for solutions to the world’s complex challenges remained a priority for UOW during 2019.

In a global collaboration, UOW researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) invented strong, powerful artificial muscles using materials and fabrics that are cheap and readily available.

While leading a delegation to India, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings CBE, announced a research collaboration which will support the country’s freight rail corridor expansion and another to bring UOW’s expertise in 3D bioprinting techniques to Indian medical device manufacturers. While there, he also cemented ties with the Institute of Finance and International Management Business School, presenting six scholarships worth a total of $40,000 for high-performing Indian business students to study at UOW.

Transforming for the better

Throughout 2019, UOW prepared to offer a transformative new Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation in 2020. The degree, which was developed at UOW and positively reviewed by worldleading liberal arts academics, is Australia’s only dedicated liberal arts degree. Thanks to a generous gift from the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, 30 Ramsay Scholars will receive a generous scholarship valued at $30,000 per year to study some of the greatest works of thought and art ever produced, engaging in respectful conversations between Western and non-Western traditions of thought and art while considering answers to the needs of our rapidly changing 21st Century multi-cultural communities and workplaces. The University saw a strong response from high-calibre applicants seeking to become the inaugural Ramsay Scholars. There was also a strong response from exceptional candidates for academic positions in the newly established School of Liberal Arts in the Faculty of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities.

In South Western Sydney, UOW was busy transforming Liverpool both via the classroom and on the street by adding to the city’s already rich urban cultural tapestry a large-scale, eight-storey tall mural. UOW alumna and renowned mural artist Claire Foxton captured the strength and determination of UOW student Adi Holmes in the painting. Adi studied a Bachelor of International Studies and Law at the South Western Sydney Campus.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan visited UOW to present the findings of the higher education sector performance-based funding review led by UOW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings CBE, to a gathering of Vice-Chancellors from almost all Australian universities. The Minister later accepted the review’s recommendations, which will unlock funding for universities which meet the new performance criteria.

Student experience

UOW earth scientists afforded a unique learning experience to 250 school students who journeyed to Lake Mungo in far western NSW for the 2019 Mungo Youth Project Conference. Lake Mungo is an archaeological site of world significance. The oldest known human remains in Australia – “Mungo Lady” and “Mungo Man” – were found here in 1968 and 1974.

Many more students are eager for a UOW student experience if Open Day 2019 was any indication of the level of interest in the University’s degrees. The annual event boomed, drawing the largest crowd of potential students of any Open Day ever held at UOW, with all signs pointing to strong enrolment numbers in 2020.

Outstanding graduates and students

More than 7,200 students graduated with a UOW degree in Australia in 2019, in addition to the students who graduated from UOW in Dubai.

As in previous years, 2019 graduations yielded inspiring stories of perseverance and achievement in the face of adversity, particularly by students who were the first in their family to attend university. There were also plenty of graduates displaying the deep sense of purpose and employability for which UOW students and alumni are renowned.

Three UOW students were recognised among the nation’s brightest young minds, as part of GradConnection’s 2019 Top 100 Future Leaders, published in the Australian Financial Review. Bachelor of Civil Engineering and Bachelor of Environmental Engineering (Honours) student Samantha Law was named the winner of the Jacobs Engineering Consulting Award. Bachelor of Commerce student Kelly Gleeson was a finalist in the Westpac Banking, Insurance and Financial Services Award and Ann Pham, who graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in Supply Chain Management in 2017 and has since been mentoring current students as part of the UOWx program, was a finalist in the BP Sales and Marketing Award.

Honouring achievement and service

Media icon Lisa Wilkinson AM received an honorary doctorate in recognition of her services to journalism and her advocacy for issues affecting young women. Ms Wilkinson was born in Wollongong and began her career at Dolly magazine.

Esteemed political journalist Dennis Shanahan received an honorary doctorate for his distinguished career as a journalist, commentator and editor.

Distinguished public servant, Doctor Ian Watt AC received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters in recognition of his service as Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Head of the Australian Public Service under the Gillard, Rudd and Abbott governments from 2011 and 2014.

Rankings success

The University’s stellar rankings performance continued in 2019.

UOW ranked first in NSW in several categories in the 2020 Good Universities Guide, including Staff Qualifications, Skills Development, Learning Resources and Learner Engagement. UOW’s Master of Business Administration program was ranked 9th in Oceania and in the top 200 in the world in the 2020 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Global MBA rankings.

UOW improved its graduate employability standing, placing in the 171-180 band among world universities according to the QS rankings while the closely-related performance indicator of graduate employment rate remained UOW’s strongest. QS ranked UOW sixth in Australia and 62nd in the world on this measure, while in the 2020 Times Higher Education (THE) World University rankings, UOW rose an estimated five positions, continuing on its ascension path laid in recent years.

UOW researchers were also integral to the University’s 2019 rankings achievements. The University surpassed its best ever Academic Ranking of World Universities result, placing 246th in the world. The rankings also showed strong global performances in measures for highly cited fellows. In the Times Higher Education Young University Rankings, UOW climbed to 29th place, in line with QS World University Rankings where UOW climbed six places to 212th in the world, which in turn reflected UOW’s outstanding QS World Rankings by Subject results.