By Bridgette Glover
On Friday 31 January, Jim Barber gave his six months’ notice to the UNE Council for his resignation as UNE’s Vice Chancellor after a term of four years.
Despite following a tradition of short terms by UNE’s Vice Chancellors, Barber accomplished many things, though not all were favoured by UNE and the Armidale community. Among these controversial achievements was the decision to move to a trimester system, which undeniably affected the local community, what with noticeable influxes of students coming and going throughout the year. This movement away from the traditional semester calendar clearly annoyed academics also, and to exacerbate the situation, Barber made the push to online learning.
However, according to Barber this was a step in the right direction, whose well-known notion of the future heavily revolves around digital education. UNE Chancellor John Watkins believes Barber’s move to place UNE in the “vanguard of growth areas such as online education” will now allow the university to compete globally. Watkins also made mention of the improvements in UNE that Barber is responsible for, including the growth in both student and staff numbers, an increase in research funding, surpluses rather than deficits, as well as “the biggest capital works program in the history of the Armidale Campus” now in the works.
Barber stated that the choice to leave his position at UNE was a personal one, explaining that he is ready to return home to Melbourne and, despite the fact that he accepted a second five-year term last February, he believes it is time. Nevertheless, Barber believes that since his appointment in 2009, he has accomplished what he was hired to do, and that in stepping away from executive leadership, he would be able to focus on his interest in online learning.
Barber was Deputy Vice Chancellor at RMIT University before he uprooted to Armidale, and although he is looking forward to retirement with his wife Mary, UNE Chancellor John Watkins explained that they are exploring ways in which Jim can “pursue his interests in association with UNE in an external capacity”.