The University of Auckland has officially revealed the university’s next Vice-Chancellor: Professor Dawn Freshwater.
Freshwater, who is currently serving as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Western Australia, is set to take over from Stuart McCutcheon once he reaches the end of his tenure later this year. Her appointment would make her the first female Vice-Chancellor in the university’s history, and only one of four currently serving female Vice-Chancellors across the country.
University of Auckland Chancellor Scott St John announced the decision in an email sent out to students and faculty members. According to St John, Freshwater was chosen because of her “values-based leadership style and commitment to Maori and Pacific development”. Her “understanding of the civic, regional and global relevance of the University of Auckland” were also considered “critical factors” in making the selection, as were her “teaching, research and education experience … [and] strong commitment to role-modelling, equity, diversity and inclusiveness”.
Freshwater, who graduated from the University of Nottingham with a PhD in Public Health, has considerable experience working in a university context, having spent time as the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds before accepting her role at the University of Western Australia. She also remains a prolific academic – contributing to more than 200 research papers since graduating – and has been awarded the Fellowship of the Royal College of Nursing for her contributions to mental health research.
It remains to be seen what kind of impact Freshwater will have on the university’s development. She comes at an unfortunate time – earlier this year, it was announced that the university had fallen down the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings yet again. The University of Auckland has continued to fall down the QS rankings since 2006, when it achieved its highest ever placement (46th place). This year, it ranked 83rd.
The University of Auckland has also disappointed in other polls. In March, the university fell out of Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking’s top 200 list for the first time ever. No doubt Freshwater will attempt to halt the continuous slide – but whether she can remains to be seen.
Freshwater will take over from Stuart McCutcheon in March of 2020. The transition will mark the end of McCutcheon’s fifteen year tenure as Vice-Chancellor.