Margaret Gardner

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Margaret Gardner

Margaret Gardner 2017.jpg
Gardner in 2017
Vice-Chancellor of Monash University
Assumed office
1 September 2014
Preceded byEd Byrne
Vice-Chancellor and President of Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
In office
Preceded byRuth Dunkin
Succeeded byMartin G. Bean
Personal details
Born (1954-01-19) 19 January 1954 (age 65)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Spouse(s)Glyn Davis
Alma materUniversity of Sydney

Margaret Elaine Gardner AO (born 19 January 1954) is an Australian academic who is the current Vice-Chancellor of Monash University, in office since 2014.[1] She was previously Vice-Chancellor and President of RMIT University from 2005 to 2014, and has a background in economics.


Gardner earned a Bachelor of Economics with first class honours from the University of Sydney, and later a PhD with a thesis on Australian industrial relations. Following the completion of her PhD, she was awarded a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellowship and studied in the United States at the University of California, Berkeley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell University.[2]

Career as an academic[edit]

Gardner has had a prominent career as an academic, and has served in executive positions with Deakin University, Griffith University and Queensland University of Technology.[2]

Prior to her appointment as the Vice-Chancellor of RMIT, she was the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Queensland.[2] Gardner was appointed Vice-Chancellor of RMIT on 4 April 2005, taking over from care-taker Vice-Chancellor Chris Whitaker.

She has been Vice-Chancellor of Monash University since 1 September 2014.

Vice-chancellor of RMIT[edit]

At the time of Gardner's appointment as vice-chancellor, RMIT was at a crucial point in its 118-year history.[3] RMIT's previous vice-chancellor, Ruth Dunkin, resigned after only four years in the position[4] and the university was fighting to overcome a A$24 million budget shortfall in 2004 that left it teetering on the edge of disaster.[3][4]

By the end of her first year as vice-chancellor, RMIT had posted a A$23.2 million surplus for 2005 which increased to a A$50.1 million surplus by 2007.[5] The fast turn around in finances at RMIT was achieved through the sale of property in the university's extensive real estate portfolio, a 9% increase in student fees and cutting 180 staff positions.[5]

Other current leadership roles[edit]



Professional works[edit]

Gardner has authored, co-authored and edited a number of texts in the fields of industrial relations and human resource management,[8] which have been widely used as course texts in Australian universities. She's also a regular contributor to a wide range of international journals and speaker at various academic and government conferences.

Between 1998 and 2002, as Chair of two major Queensland Government taskforces, Prof. Gardner also authored three government reviews: Queensland Industrial Relations Legislation, Pathways Articulation Through the Post-Compulsory Years of School to Further Education Training and Labour Market Participation.

A selection of Gardner's research is available from the RMIT Research Repository.[9]


In 2011 whilst Vice-Chancellor of RMIT, Gardner overturned the findings of an internal RMIT Redundancy Review Committee (RRC) and unlawfully terminated the employment of Social Sciences Professor Judith Bessant. The RRC found that fair process had been not been followed by the University and that there had been a failure of natural justice. Despite these findings, Gardner decided to proceed to make Professor Bessant redundant.

On behalf of Bessant, the National Tertiary Education Union launched an "adverse action" claim against RMIT and Gardner in the Federal Court of Australia. The presiding judge, Justice Gray, was critical of Gardner's management of the case, especially given her considerable experience in industrial relations.[10] In deciding the case, Gray also said he took into consideration the "apparent determination" by Gardner to "ignore her knowledge of Professor Hayward's animosity towards Professor Bessant". He also found that Gardner displayed a lack of contrition for what the court found to be a blatant contravention of workplace laws.

The Federal Court reinstated Bessant, and indicated that she would be entitled to approximately $2 million in compensation if she was not reinstated. The Court also ordered RMIT to pay a civil penalty of $37,000 for two contraventions of the Fair Work Act 2009, as a warning to employers of the risks of using "sham" redundancies as a means for dismissing difficult employees. The case was reported in the national media, in addition to becoming an important case study that is widely discussed on legal websites.[11][12][13][14]

Bessant later published a personal account of the case.[15]


In 2007, Gardner was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day Honours, for her "service to tertiary education, particularly in the areas of university governance and gender equity; and to industrial relations in Queensland".[16] She is also an Honorary Doctor of Griffith University, and in September 2018 was elected as a Fellow to the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia for distinguished contribution to discipline and to society.[17]

Personal life[edit]

When her husband Professor Glyn Davis, AC, was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, together they were regularly referred to as "Melbourne's top academic couple".[18]


  1. ^ Preiss, Benjamin (18 December 2013). "RMIT University vice-chancellor Margaret Gardner set to be first woman to lead Monash University". The Age.
  2. ^ a b c d Professor Margaret Gardner, AO - RMIT University
  3. ^ a b RMIT's new chief one of a vice-chancellor pair (David Rood) - The Age, 22 January 2005
  4. ^ a b Picking up the poisoned chalice (David Rood) - The Age, 9 April 2005
  5. ^ a b RMIT is back in the black (Lisa MacNamara) - The Australian, 2 May 2007
  6. ^ "Professor Margaret Gardner elected next chair of Universities Australia".
  7. ^ "Universities Australia".
  8. ^ Author: Gardner, Margaret Elaine - National Library of Australia
  9. ^ Author: Gardner, M - RMIT Research Repository
  10. ^ "National Tertiary Education Union v Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology [2013] FCA 451". Federal Court of Australia. 16 May 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  11. ^ "RMIT professor unfairly sacked". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  12. ^ "RMIT ordered to reinstate Professor Judith Bessant". The Australian. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  13. ^ "What a shame it's a sham". Hunt and Hunt. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  14. ^ "Sham Redundancies". Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  15. ^ Margaret Thornton, ed. (2014). "'Smoking Guns': Reflections on Truth and Politics in the University" (PDF). Through a Glass Darkly: The Social Sciences Look at the Neoliberal University". Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  16. ^ 2007 Australia Day Honours: Media Notes Archived 27 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine - Office of the Governor-General of Australia
  17. ^ "Top scholars honoured: Academy of Social Sciences elects new fellows in 2018" (PDF). Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. 26 September 2018. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 September 2018.
  18. ^ The thinking Australian's Posh and Becks (David Cohen), The Guardian - 10 January 2006
Academic offices
Preceded by
Ruth Dunkin
Vice-Chancellor of RMIT University
Succeeded by
Martin Bean
Preceded by
Ed Byrne
Vice-Chancellor of Monash University