Cushway and UNE Part Ways
By Bridgette Glover On the 10th of April 2014, ex-Chief Operating Officer David Cushway left his position at UNE after only 14 months; this was the same day that Vice Chancellor Annabelle Duncan made the announcement that there was to be a restructuring of the senior executive team at the University of New England.
Professor Duncan released a statement explaining that UNE is going through a “period of change” following Jim Barber’s resignation and the international search for his replacement. Duncan described it as their chance to ensure “the roles and responsibility of our senior executives more accurately reflect the core business of the University – teaching and research.”
Duncan did not want to comment on the reasons for Cushway’s departure, but the community of UNE and Armidale have already come to certain conclusions. After being appointed in February 2013, Cushway was already surrounded by controversy a few months later, concerning his private business dealings with former UNE Chancellor, Richard Torbay.
Nucleus of course, has a history with the ex-COO, after he threatened to sue last year’s editors over an article they wrote about Torbay. Cushway was prepared to pay out of his pocket for any legal action he took against Nucleus for supposed defamation, but 2013 editors, Stu Horsfield and Sarita Perston stood by their article, and offered him a right of reply.
Duncan told Nucleus in her own words the reason for undergoing a restructure:
Four years ago UNE was facing some significant financial challenges: student numbers were dropping and income from research was not as strong as it had been. Caps on student numbers were due to be removed in 2012, which meant that universities no longer had guaranteed numbers of students. Essentially, students could enrol in any university that would take them. Given UNE’s position at the time, in particular in light of lower enrolments, there was a feeling that this policy decision could spell disaster for the University.
Over the past four years, there has been a particular focus on ensuring that the UNE not only survived, but came out of uncertain times stronger than ever. This required an emphasis on the ‘business’ side of the University.
It is now time to return our focus to academia, to our students, our academics, our teaching and our research.
To that end, I have implemented a restructure of Senior Executive positions at the University of New England to bring a renewed refocus on our research, teaching and learning role. I believe this was the right moment to reallocate portfolios and responsibilities, allowing time for the restructure to settle into place prior to a new permanent Vice-Chancellor being appointed.
In order to achieve these goals, I have made moves to strengthen UNE’s Senior Executive by adding two senior academic leadership roles to it: the Pro Vice-Chancellor (PVC) Academic and the PVC Research. Previously, these PVCs reported to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor; they will now report directly to the Vice-Chancellor and participate in all Senior Executive discussion and decision-making.
This means we now have four academics within the Senior Executive, and four other members representing the service side of the University: the Chief Financial Officer, the EDO, the PVC External Relations and the Chief Legal and Governance Officer. It is my intention and hope that this structure will ensure that academic ideals, experience and expertise is complemented by innovative business management practices in order to ensure a more holistic decision-making process.
This structure will support the university in its key endeavours: excellence in research and innovative teaching.
We are dedicated to providing all students with the highest-quality education, whether they choose to study on-campus or online. Year after year, UNE has been recognised for its student experience by being awarded ‘five stars’ in the Good Universities Guide. We fully intend to continue to provide a first rate experience for all students.
Already, the new Senior Executive is already working very well together and we are engaging in productive and pragmatic discussion and planning in order to make sure that UNE continues to go from strength to strength into the future, for the benefit of all on-campus and online students, prospective students and staff members.