UNE’s Chancellor Resigns
By Bridgette Glover John Watkins tendered his resignation on 20 June, after 14 months as Chancellor of the University of New England. Watkins was elected Chancellor at a UNE Council meeting on 18 April, 2013, after the early departure of Richard Torbay.
“I took on the position of Chancellor unexpectedly and during a difficult time for the University. Since that time, the University has gone through considerable change, but it is currently stable and flourishing under the leadership of the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Annabelle Duncan.
“The reason I resigned was because I was just incredibly busy. I took the role when Richard left suddenly, and I already had a range of duties on my plate then.”
Watkins is the CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia New South Wales, he Chairs a Catholic healthcare company as well as an overseas aid agency, and was recently appointed by the Premier to an expert panel that examines donation reform.
“But I wasn’t coping with the range of duties, and that’s why this has happened. I’m not pulling back from other things, and something had to give. I’m not as young as I used to be.”
Watkins believes that his departure will enable UNE to find someone with more time to devote to the challenges that lie ahead. Watkins resided in Sydney while he was Chancellor, and felt that his professional responsibilities were preventing him from doing his job.
“The extensive travel required, the intensity of the role and its future needs have convinced me that the University needs a Chancellor who is fully available to fulfil the requirements in the long term”
The concern has been raised as to whether Watkins left at the right time in light of the Federal Budget. Watkins, however, stands by his statement that UNE is doing well.
“The university is in a strong position in financial terms and in morale, and I was faced with the decision of “do I go now, when the place is stable and Annabelle is doing a good job, or do I go through the process of help choosing the new Vice-Chancellor, establish a relationship with them, and then go?”
“But I made the judgement that it would be much better for the University to have the new Chancellor in place before the new Vice-Chancellor, rather than the other way around.”
Watkins was favoured among both the academics and the students.