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Farewelling Vice Chancellor Ian Young

Extract from 2015 Annual ANU Council Dinner, Great Hall, University House, 3 December 2015

All end of year Council dinners are milestone occasions – but this one is very special indeed because it’s our opportunity to farewell someone who has been the heart and soul of this university, and at the heart and centre of everything we as a Council have been about for the last five years, our retiring Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young.
Ian has been an outstandingly successful Vice-Chancellor, who has modernised the operation and enhanced the reputation of this University, leaving it in an even stronger state than that in which he found it notwithstanding relentless financial and budgetary pressures.  Let me count the ways - ten of them in fact -- in which he has earned the affection and respect of the University Council, the university community, the whole higher education sector, and government policymakers.

1.            He has rebuilt the senior administration, with coherent lines of decision making and reporting and the right people in the right place – and leaves a senior management team in rock solid shape.

2.            He has set in train a really major rebuilding of the physical fabric of the University- with major new projects and refurbishment projects, and  a plan for the future which will ensure consistent and effective renewal.

3.            He has initiated some major projects to expand and enhance the campus residential experience that ANU so brilliantly provides – and has laid the foundations for the renewal of the Union Court precinct as the living heart of university student life.

4.            He has overseen same major reforms and transitions in teaching and learning, including beginning the task of sorting out the bewildering overlaps between CAP and CASS.

5.            He has been totally focused on the centrality of traditional research to ANU’s standing – and has been rewarded with a terrific set of numbers to mark his last few weeks in the job: the QS report putting ANU alone among the Australians in the world’s top 20, and the Times Higher report  putting us  No 1 in the country in Life Sciences (despite all Melbourne’s advantage with the Parkville medical precinct), and today’s ERA Outcomes giving our disciplines the highest percentage of level 5 ratings (‘well above world standard’) of any Australian university.

6.            He has maintained an extraordinary level of research output in his own discipline while doing everything else which has earned him extraordinary respect around the campus. His  departure, while unhappy for ANU,  is going to be a huge gain for global ocean engineering research, focusing as he will, as a world recognised leader in his field, on some of the biggest issues of our time – notably how climate change is going to impact on ocean winds and waves and extreme events like  cyclones and coastal flooding.

7.            He  has totally understood the central importance of public policy impact in ANU’s national value added – and worked to position ourselves in that space through the Crawford School as the focal point.

8.            He has totally understood the central importance that philanthropy is going to have to play in guaranteeing our distinctive excellence in the future, and taken all the necessary steps to get us moving in that area, not least overseeing the stewardship of the path breaking Tuckwell gift which has meant so much to us and the whole sector

9.            His election by his peers as Chair of the Go8 – the country’s top universities advocacy body – over the last two years is testament to his outstanding reputation as a higher education and research leader. He is enormously admired throughout the sector for his clear-sighted, strategic commitment to excellence, and capacity to match vision with delivery --- and he did an absolutely superb role in maintaining close cordial and constructive relationships with the ministers and politicians that mattered during the whole agonising deregulation debate.

10.          By no means least, from a University Council’s perspective, he has totally understood and respected the place of good university governance – in his relations with us and in his recreation of the Academic Board.  With his collegiality and open-mindedness, he has been an absolute pleasure for the University Council to work with

And he has been, finally, an absolute pleasure for me personally to work with. The Chancellor -Vice Chancellor relationship can be a bit of an odd couple one – and certainly there have been some pretty interesting couples in this place in the past.  With strong personalities there’s always the possibility that things will end in tears.

But with Ian and me I don’t think there was ever even the possibility of tears.  

Stephen Matchett of the Campus Morning Mail no doubt generates a little bit of a frisson by describing our Vice Chancellor every single time he mentions him in his blog, which is very often, as "Ian ‘The Gent’ Young".

But it as a truly decent gentleman (with a wonderful lady, Heather, as his wife), that I shall certainly remember Ian, as I think we all will.

May I ask you all to join with me in toasting Ian for his magnificent service to ANU, and wishing him the utmost pleasure and success as he leaves us – with a wonderful record behind him – to pursue what is bound to be a stellar conclusion to his already stellar career.