In a potent affirmation of education and individual effort as the gateway to success – regardless of gender, socio-economic status or family impediments – the UK high school student who left school before sitting A levels, Professor Dawn Freshwater, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Western Australia, has become the first female Chair of Australia’s prestigious Group of Eight Universities.
“The Go8 Board and Directorate are extremely proud to announce Professor Freshwater’s appointment as the Go8’s 2019 Chair,” says Go8 Chief Executive Vicki Thomson. “Professor Freshwater arrived in Australia in 2014 already with a robust reputation for her university leadership in England, and importantly her continuing commitment, as a mental health professional, to reform in that sector.
“She was an active deputy Chair of the Go8 in 2018 and her successful development and implementation of a widespread transformation agenda at UWA augurs well for the success of the Go8’s ambitious program of projects and advocacy for 2019,” she said.
Ms Thomson said Professor Freshwater’s back story (* see attached) of having to leave high school before she even knew she was smart, and her determination to then use study and university to carve a successful future for herself, and later her young family also, is powerful reading. “It sends a strong message to every school student that the world is there for them if they can use education to clear the way,” she said.
Professor Freshwater says she is “honoured to be Chair of the Go8.”
“I take seriously the commitment of these eight universities to continue as some of the world’s most highly ranked; their ethos of quality education, equity and importantly to above-world-class research to make the world a better place, both economically and socially,” she said.
“2019 is a vital year for the Go8. The Board has confirmed our strong advocacy position leading up to the Federal election and beyond. We will continue to make the case for a strong and well-funded research system because the fact is investment in research is an investment in the national economy. We will make it clear to Government and Opposition that universities are a nation’s most valuable assets. We are here for the public good.
“We deliver an incredible return on investment and universities should be supported, not plundered,” Professor Freshwater said.
Ms Thomson said the Go8 thanked outgoing Chair Professor Ian Jacobs, Vice Chancellor of UNSW, Sydney. “Under Professor Jacob’s leadership the Go8 has had a strong focus on highlighting the critical role of research intensive universities in today’s society, both socially and economically and that will continue under the leadership team of Professor Freshwater and Deputy Chair, Professor Peter Rathjen, Vice Chancellor of the University of Adelaide.”