Mr Paul Jeans was installed as Chancellor of the University of Newcastle on Friday 7 March. This is an edited excerpt of his speech:

TO see such an audience brings home the importance of community in Newcastle. There is a critical nexus between the community, the university and its alumni. They are interdependent and supportive. 

The  community has been shaped by a long history of both good fortune and adversity giving rise to characteristics that are also reflected here in our university: The importance of equity and a fair go, tenacity and hard work, adaptability and ingenuity, valuing friendship and an understated confidence.

The proportion of students enrolled from a low socio-economic background is 26per cent, significantly higher than the sector average of 16per cent. They are equally as successful as their peers. Enrolments of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students is more than double the sector average. The Wollotuka Institute has celebrated its 30th anniversary and has provided support and a community to more than 1000 graduates.  Half of all Aboriginal medical doctors who have graduated in Australia have done so from Newcastle.

The university has well-structured and ambitious plans for its future and an obvious commitment by the vice-chancellor and her team.

I’m impressed with the calibre and commitment of my  University Council colleagues, the executive and the 3000 academic and professional staff. It is a great privilege to learn more of the amazing research and teaching that takes place due to the efforts of  staff.  It is a result of their tenacity and hard work that Newcastle ranks in the top 3per cent of universities in the world and is continuing to build its reputation. 

Tenacity and hard work also characterise our 38,000 students. Today’s student can be juggling a number of jobs and family responsibilities, as well as studies. 

 Adaptability and ingenuity are two of the the community’s strongest traits – the two that we have drawn on to move us forward in times of both hope and struggle.  

It is fantastic to see the successful transition from a “steel city” to an exciting and diversified centre.

When I started as an engineering trainee in Newcastle steelworks, one in 10 of Newcastle’s population  worked at BHP. Newcastle continued to feel a strong psychological dependence on the steel industry, and now, while valuing its history, Newcastle has adapted and moved on and rightly has a positive outlook.

The NeW Space in Newcastle’s CBD will not only change the university’s public profile, it will change the demographic and level of activity in the CBD.  It will give us better access to industry partners and the community.

Such partnerships are very important to the university and  the Hunter’s economy. Our university was founded out of the needs of industry for skilled managers and professional specialists, which in turn drove Newcastle’s development, regional employment and greatly benefited the Hunter and NSW economies.

It is the ingenuity of the Newcastle community – reflected in our university’s researchers across health and medicine, energy and resources, and science and technology – that continues to attract industry and government partners from across the globe.

There are both challenges and opportunities out there for the university – one of which qualifies in both categories is our role internationally. We have a presence in both Singapore and Hong Kong and students in Australia from more than  100 countries. We also have important relationships with a number of overseas universities. 

We are, however, under-represented internationally in relation to our peers and that represents a wonderful opportunity to take that Novocastrian quiet confidence and show the world what we have to offer in teaching and learning, and research.