Former Vice-Chancellor Professor John Hay, AC after being awarded an honorary doctorate with Professor Paul Greenfield AO
Former Vice-Chancellor Professor John Hay, AC after being awarded an honorary doctorate with Professor Paul Greenfield AO

I would summarise John Hay’s numerous achievements as UQ Vice-Chancellor under two main themes: focus and balance.

By focus, I mean that John has identified and invested in UQ’s areas of proven strength, as well as areas of demonstrated prospective opportunity. The balance has been achieved between excellence in research on the one hand, and excellence in teaching and learning on the other.

In research, the establishment of six internationally-recognised institutes and the exceptional staff and students they have attracted are easily characterised as the epitome of John’s achievements; but his impact spreads much more widely, and a culture of recognising and then backing research excellence permeates throughout the seven faculties and six institutes.

Under John’s stewardship UQ established Australia’s first annual awards for early career researchers, the UQ Foundation Research Excellence Awards, and then instigated annual awards for outstanding teaching and supervision. These awards are emblematic of his flair for matching a focus on research with a focus on teaching and the learning process.

The key to ensuring that teaching and learning share equal billing with research was the creation of the position of full-time Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic).

Since January 2001, this portfolio has complemented the long-standing office of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and enabled teaching and learning to be systematically championed from the lecture theatre through to the chancellery. Our innovative and passionate teachers have every reason for confidence that issues of importance to them, such as teaching and learning spaces and materials, rate as priorities at the very top of the University.

Additionally, John’s commitment to excellence in teaching and learning (which is internationally recognised and reflected in his long-term chairmanship of the Carrick Institute) has ensured that UQ’s teaching is enriched by its research – and vice versa. He has led a strategy to integrate research with teaching and learning practice, and this has proven absolutely essential to UQ.

Where it has been strategically advantageous, the University has invested many millions of dollars in capital, not only for research and teaching and learning purposes, but also to advance commercialisation, the arts and cultural values. John’s relationship with Chuck Feeney of The Atlantic Philanthropies has made a great start to a tradition which had little precedent in Australia, let alone in Queensland. His ability to attract philanthropic and matching funds has become legendary in Australian higher education, government and business circles.

A common thread to UQ’s success during the past 12 years is that our Vice-Chancellor has rewarded excellence, and that people who strive for and value excellence have responded positively.

John is often heard to say that he likes to make room for people with ideas. Personal experience allows me to vouch for this. I feel very lucky to be inheriting his legacy.