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Plans for the future

The impending change in leadership following Hunt’s resignation as Dean inspired discussion within the Faculty about its future and direction. While meeting to clarify the roles and functions of the future Dean, the professors took the opportunity to clarify the aims of the Faculty as well as their own responsibilities as academic leaders. In September 1974, after a series of meetings, the professors submitted a document to the Vice-Chancellor that summarised their deliberations and asserted their plans for the Faculty’s future.

In their submission the professors acknowledged the growth and expansion of the Hunt years and the solid foundations this had laid for the Faculty. They asserted that it was now time to maintain and consolidate rather than continue to diversify and expand. Of concern to them was a perceived decline in the standard of students seeking admission to the Faculty of Engineering in recent years. The professors agreed that the Faculty needed to focus on improving its academic standards and building its reputation of scholarly excellence.

The foundation professors recommended that the aim of the Faculty under the next Dean should be to consolidate, improve and build on its reputation. In a sense their recommendations were a set of instructions for the new Dean as they outlined the appointee’s key responsibilities. The new Dean would be charged with ensuring that the Faculty received the funding it required to provide excellent teaching and top class research – it was seen as critical that the Dean be able to attract the maximum resources from the University’s budget. Then, the Dean must also be able to distribute these funds equitably, fairly and sensitively among the departments of the Faculty.  

The new Faculty leader would also be concerned ‘with the image which the Faculty presents to the outside world with a view to effecting a dramatic improvement in the scholastic caliber of students who are attracted to it’. To achieve this aim, the Dean would be expected to take a major role in organising and promoting activities with ‘high schools, technical schools, industry and the community generally … it is considered essential that the Dean should be personally involved in this tremendously important work’.

The professors also made some recommendations about their own role within the Faculty. They felt it was time for them to take a more active and positive role in defining academic policy – to provide academic leadership. They felt they needed to ‘be formally constituted as a group concerned with the long-range planning, development and policy of the Faculty’.

With these recommendations, the professors of Engineering effectively mapped out the future of the Faculty as they saw it, refining the focus of the Dean as well as their own part in the academic leadership of the Faculty. They were clear and upfront in pointing out that their recommendations were in no way a criticism of Hunt’s leadership of the Faculty. Rather, their suggestions were a way to help the Faculty transition to its next phase of leadership; one that would focus on consolidation, reputation building, and a continued commitment to academic excellence.