Statement by the Chancellor, Mr Robert Champion de Crespigny

Monday, 6 August 2001

Today, I am announcing that Professor Mary O' Kane has tendered her resignation as Vice-Chancellor of Adelaide University with immediate effect. The University's Council has accepted her resignation.

Professor O' Kane's decision follows representations to her last week by members of the senior management group of the University from which it became clear that she could no longer be confident of their full support in the difficult task of managing the University and implementing its reform agenda. It is quite evident that the concerns which have led to this situation relate to questions of management style and not matters of competence, commitment or propriety. However, after discussing the situation with the Deputy Chancellor, Mr Brian Croser, and me, Professor O'Kane has chosen what she believes to be the best course of action to ensure that the process of change and development within the University is maintained.

Both the Deputy Chancellor and I agree with the approach Professor O' Kane has taken to deal with this situation, however, I stress that the decision has been entirely hers. She has not been required to resign and could have expected to serve out her contract.

Since becoming Vice-Chancellor in 1996, Professor O' Kane, amongst her normal duties, has faced the challenge of managing the consequences for Adelaide University of the continuing and significant financial pressure which is impacting on all Australian universities. No university can escape the fact that funding is insufficient to meet all expenditure requirements and satisfy the expectations of industry and the community as to what the tertiary sector should provide. Over the past five years, however, Adelaide University has enjoyed considerable success in generating additional funds through those areas of activity from which it is able to create financial return. As a result, the University's financial position and future outlook is sound.

As Vice-Chancellor at Adelaide University, Professor O' Kane recognised that this level of financial security is the essential basis for academic independence which, in turn, gives real meaning to the ambition of becoming a great university. Consequently, she has worked hard to implement the budget strategy which has been approved by the Council to ensure that the University's financial reserves can be further enhanced. The necessary financial disciplines that underpin this strategy bring with them the difficult decisions which invariably accompany change. These disciplines are central to the future operations of the University and will continue to guide our financial management.

Adelaide University has remained one of Australia's leading research-intensive universities during Professor O' Kane's tenure as Vice-Chancellor while also maintaining one of the lowest student staff ratios of any Australian university. She has forged close links and partnerships with industry and the community that will continue to benefit the University well into the future. Most recently, Professor O' Kane was instrumental in securing the Santos sponsorship of the Petroleum Engineering School which will position Adelaide University in the important petroleum engineering sector within the Asia Pacific region.

Her period of leadership also saw the successful commercialisation of research within the University, most important being the successful floats of Bresagen Ltd and GroPep Ltd . These floats not only delivered direct financial benefits to Adelaide University but also resulted in the establishment of two new publicly listed Australian bio-technology companies based in South Australia. Professor O' Kane promoted the teaching of entrepreneurial skills and also led a process of administrative and financial restructuring which has built into the University's management systems the financial disciplines necessary for the operations of a modern university.

Having made the decision to move on from her position as Vice-Chancellor, Professor O' Kane has indicated that she would like the new arrangements to be put in place as soon as possible. Consequently, earlier today the University Council resolved to move as quickly as possible to appoint a new Vice-Chancellor. That appointment will follow an international search for the best possible candidate. During the transition period the Council also resolved to appoint an acting Vice-Chancellor. We shall move on this as soon as possible but during the interim both the Deputy Chancellor and I shall be more actively involved in the affairs of the University.

These are challenging times for all universities. Management staff who work within them take on an extremely difficult task of leadership and management. Professor O' Kane has made an outstanding contribution to securing the future of one of Australia's oldest and finest universities. Her decision to step aside to ensure that the process of development can continue is one that deserves the respect and admiration of the entire University community.


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