Suspicious Minds @ Sydney

A new teaching term has begun and I am sure you are energized and raring to go after a refreshing July. It was a stunning month, I have to say, in terms of the scholarly activity on display around the School and Faculty. If one way of judging the intellectual vitality of a place is to look at the events occurring in and round it, then we are very lively bunch indeed. There were workshops, winter schools, master-classes, roundtables, book launches and public fora of all kind with some of the world’s leading scholars across a range of disciplines…Congratulations to all the convenors and organizers who put so much work into them all, and to the SOPHI staff who did so much to support them.

I am delighted to report that SOPHI has yet again achieved a 100% success rate in the most recent promotion round (Level B to C). So congratulations to Ruth Barcan (GCS), Annie Clarke (Archaeology) Clare Corbould (History), Luke Russell (Philosophy) and Julie-Anne Smith (History) on their promotions. All very well-deserved indeed!

The next few months will be a very interesting time in the life of this place, as the VC begins to unveil his masterplan for the future shape of the University….Expect some intense discussions about the possible merging of various Faculties, as well as some new initiatives….Area Studies? Social Sciences? A new brand (‘Active Minds’ – my suggestion was ‘Suspicious Minds’, with a nod towards Elvis and Paul Ricoeur) and domain name (@sydney).   A new economic model is being rolled out in 2010 too, which could have some intriguing consequences for the Faculty (most of which should be positive, barring the complete collapse of global capitalism). We might just be emerging from what some of the old hands around the place will recall has been a rather punitive financial regime for the Faculty to deal with …though experience suggests caution until the detail is finally released. But the basic idea is to move towards distributing almost all of the fee income back out to the Faculties and Schools – instead of taxing it heavily upfront – and then charging back on the basis of various costs and ‘drivers’ – support services, FTE,  space etc. For Faculties like ours, with a large number of  students  (ie. ‘commonwealth supported places’) this should be good news, since we’ll be getting more per student than ever before, along with the fact that we don’t occupy much real estate and have a relatively modest staff load compared to other Faculties. It is the reaction of those other faculties that I am waiting for….especially the ‘golden castle’ (Medicine). The new Provost will have some interesting meetings to chair in the coming weeks.

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