University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Caroline McMillen has announced she will retire in October 2018.
She told Newcastle Herald on Tuesday morning that she would leave the university at the end of next year - 12 months before the end of her contract.
Professor McMillen, who has held the position since 2011, said she felt the time would be right to move on at the end of 2018.
During her time as vice chancellor, she has overseen expansion of the university into Newcastle CBD and was in charge when the institution was named in the top one per cent of the world’s universities in a prestigious global survey.
University of Newcastle Chancellor Paul Jeans said Professor McMillen would leave the institution at a high point in its history.
“Under Caroline’s watch, the University of Newcastle has continued to forge a path as a leader in equity, Indigenous education, research and innovation and has risen strongly in key university rankings in a very competitive global environment,” he said.
“She’s been a wonderful Vice-Chancellor for the university and I think her vision [and] her credibility in the higher education sector has allowed her to position the university very well indeed.”
Professor McMillen said it had been a tremendous privilege to lead the university through a period of growth and achievements.
“Among the many proud moments shared with staff just this year included seeing the university take its place in the top one per cent of the world’s universities, securing a remarkable $26 million contribution by the Jack Ma Foundation for our Ma & Morley Scholarship program, and launching our $95 million NeW Space city campus, which will deliver graduates equipped to shape the future,” she said.
“UON is a remarkable institution founded on the values of equity and excellence, and I have been fortunate to work with talented academic and professional staff over the past six years.
“We’ve had such excellence in terms of education and research and in the past six years. The university and its partners across the region have formed very strong collaborations, which is really supporting the revitalisation and transition of Newcastle and all of the regions we serve.”
Professor McMillen stood her ground against criticism of recent moves to downgrade some fields of study, such as Classics, from “major” status and merge others, like Philosophy, into broader disciplines.
She said the university was focused on “employability of students in the new workforce”.
National Tertiary Education Union Newcastle branch president Tom Griffiths said a reversal of the changes would “enhance” Professor McMillen’s legacy.
“Specifically, we urge the Vice-Chancellor to take action to stop plans to severely downgrade the foundational disciplines,” he said.
“Whatever the planned ‘re-invention’ of programs in the School of Humanities and Arts, there is no sound justification for this assault on the very core of the University of Newcastle.”
The university will start a global search for a new Vice-Chancellor in early 2018, with an appointment to be confirmed by mid 2018.