Adelaide Vice-Chancellor awarded Honorary AO

Vice-Chancellor and President Professor James McWha

Vice-Chancellor and President Professor James McWha
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Friday, 2 December 2011

The Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Adelaide, Professor James McWha, has been honoured for his services to the higher education sector and awarded an Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).

Professor McWha, who has been Vice-Chancellor at the University for the past decade, is among 13 non-Australians recognised today for their services to Australia.

Under his leadership since 2002, the University of Adelaide has doubled in size to more than 25,000 students and enjoyed significant infrastructure growth and record levels of research funding.

The Irish-born academic is credited with leading the University to a strong financial position, building closer ties with the Government, industry and wider community, and fostering a collaborative student and academic environment.

Highlights of his tenure include a $400 million investment in state-of-the-art facilities over the past four years, including the recent opening of the $42 million Hughes Plaza Learning Hub and the $100 million Innova21 engineering, maths and computer science building - the first six-star Green star university building in Australia.

Professor McWha has an outstanding record as a teacher, researcher, manager of research institutes, academic administrator and communicator.

A native of Northern Ireland, he graduated with a BSc and BAgr (with Honours in Agricultural Botany) from Queen's University Belfast in 1969 and 1970.

He received his PhD from the University of Glasgow in 1973, prior to taking up an appointment at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, where a period as a lecturer in the Department of Botany was followed by a term as Head of the Department of Plant and Microbial Sciences.

He was Vice-Chancellor and President of Massey University in New Zealand from 1996-2002 before moving to Adelaide.

Earlier this year Professor McWha won international praise for taking in 170 University of Canterbury students for a free semester of study following the devastating earthquake in Christchurch which decimated sections of the campus.

This gesture of support earned him a formal vote of thanks from both the Australian Prime Minister the Hon Julia Gillard and New Zealand Prime Minister the Hon John Key.

University of Adelaide Chancellor, the Hon Robert Hill, paid tribute to Professor McWha's leadership.

"This honour is very well-deserved and reflects the high-regard in which Professor McWha is held. For the past decade he has led the University through significant change, reinforcing its position of great strength and commanding respect from staff, students and the wider community alike.

"His willingness to listen and work with his staff, alumni, government and industry has seen the University enjoy record student enrolments and research impact. Most importantly, he has led a rejuvenation of the University as a fundamental part of the city of Adelaide, with students at the very heart of the campus," Mr Hill said.


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