Professor Warren Bebbington

Welcome to my blog: I look forward to hearing from you and reading your comments about our University. I hope this becomes a great melting pot for intellectual ideas, views and debate and I welcome all of your contributions.

Cutting the ribbon

I was delighted to officially open our new $3 million Graduate Clubrooms on Saturday.

The new facility replaces four separate buildings, the newest built way back in the 1950s.

When we think of the great achievements in our University’s history, naturally we tend to focus on the research and education that are part and parcel of University scholarship.

We also think of our great graduates, such as Nobel Prize-winners, the Braggs and Howard Florey.

But sport has been an important part of the life of our University almost since its earliest days…

When you think about William Henry Bragg, you think physics but he was also a keen lacrosse player, who put much of his time and effort into that sport for the University.

And Howard Florey was a renowned tennis player as well as being a gifted student and researcher. He earned a full blue from the Sports Association for his prowess on the tennis court.

Sporting endeavour – along with other non-academic pursuits – has been integral to the lives of some of the greatest academic achievers, helping to provide a sense of balance… and another field in which they can excel.

Whether or not any future Nobel prize winners will use these great new facilities remains to be seen!

But I certainly hope so.


Graduate Clubrooms 2014

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I was nominated by one of our students for the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness and funds for motor neurone disease – a little bit of fun to support serious research, undertaken here at Adelaide led by Dr Ian Johnson, and worldwide, into a devastating illness which currently has no cure.

As part of the challenge, I subsequently nominated my fellow South Australian vice-chancellors to be “iced”: Professor David Lloyd from UniSA and Professor Michael Barber from Flinders University to now take part…

You can watch the video here and I hope you will support this very worthy cause.

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"We seek not to grow, but to return to the small-class experience that universities traditionally offered."

In towns and cities around the world, universities once viewed as costly indulgences are increasingly being recognised as key economic generators—in many places they are now a major local source of population, jobs, and income.

In South Australia, the University of Adelaide is an example of this trend: education is the third largest sector of the State economy, and the University of Adelaide represents over 12% of that in dollar terms.

Last week the State Government released its 10 Economic Priorities.  This blueprint recognises the important role universities have to play in the coming years through enhancing health care and research, attracting an international student population, and enriching opportunities for industry by research commercialisation.

The SA Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (of which I am chair) then met with the Premier to discuss the 10 priorities. We agreed to prepare a proposal on strengthening commercialisation: one possibility discussed was a “connector” company, that would sit between the universities and industry and maximise commercialisation for the benefit of South Australia.

In The Advertiser today, the Premier also suggested that mergers of the three local universities should also be considered: that structural reform might be required of our universities to achieve critical mass and bring products to market.

Meeting with the Premier last week, I explained that our universities are already large by international standards: most of the first-class universities abroad to which we aspire are smaller than Adelaide and offer smaller classes than we can.

Indeed, it is because of the Australia’s impersonal mass education that we have committed in the Beacon to a future of small-group discovery: we seek not to grow, but to return to the small-class experience that universities traditionally offered.  And a model which we believe will prove critical in retaining our appeal to international students.

A merger doubling our student numbers while cutting staff costs would take us in precisely the opposite direction.

To be sure, there is duplication of some courses among SA universities. It is often remarked that the State is not large enough to support “three of everything”.  There have been calls for the universities to look seriously at rationalisation of educational offerings and this is one area that we should respond to positively.

But those who have lived through wholesale university mergers know they always result in years of upheaval and seldom deliver the economies sought.

There is no doubt that our universities need to work together to support the State’s economic objectives. However, the University of Adelaide must also remain an internationally-ranked research-intensive institution of which the South Australian community can be justifiably proud.

We have just achieved our best ever international ranking—making the top 200 in the Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings,

And we are well on the way towards our vision of small-group discovery for our students.

We need to stay the course.


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Good crowds, friendly staff and student volunteers, outstanding displays and blue skies… Another highly successful and well organised Open Day on Sunday 17 August – the atmosphere on campus yesterday was excellent. It was a great day to welcome thousands of prospective students and their families and also to showcase the diversity of education and [...]

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We’re pleased to have improved our ranking and to be named among the top 200 institutions in what is arguably the key global ranking for higher education, the Academic Ranking of World Universities 2014 produced by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The University of Adelaide was the only South Australian institution to make it to [...]

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Great to finally mark the start of construction today on our new $206 million Adelaide Medical and Nursing Schools Project in the West End with Premier Jay Weatherill and Senator Simon Birmingham. –wb    

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Overnight, lights went out across Europe to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War I in 1914.  The most devastating war in human history, every town in Australia paid a price, gutted of its young: at the University of Adelaide when it was over, every school and faculty began the 1919 academic year [...]

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Presented by Professor Warren Bebbington, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Adelaide Address to the Sydney Institute, 8 July 2014 Listen to the podcast In the vast Minnesota cornfields of the American Upper Midwest , sits the little township of Northfield.  Northfield’s tiny population are traditionally wheat, corn or dairy farmers; but their number is greatly [...]

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  I was delighted to join Chancellor, the Honourable Robert Hill AC to welcome His Excellency Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, President of the Republic of Singapore, to his alma mater to be awarded an honorary doctorate last week. Dr Tan graduated with a PhD in Applied Mathematics from the University of Adelaide in the [...]

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Yesterday we welcomed His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd) and Her Excellency Lady Cosgrove to the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI): the Governor-General is the new Patron of the JBI Foundation. The JBI is one of our most prolific and collaborative health/medical research stories driving improved global healthcare solutions, particularly in [...]

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