Michael Spence (academic)
The Reverend Dr
|Vice Chancellor of the|
University of Sydney
|Assumed office |
11 July 2008
|Preceded by||Gavin Brown|
|Born||10 January 1962 (age 57)|
|Residence||Sydney, New South Wales|
|Alma mater||University of Sydney|
University of Oxford
|Profession||University vice-chancellor, academic, priest|
|Website||University of Sydney|
Michael James Spence Vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Sydney, a position he has held since 2008.. Dr Spence is internationally recognised as a leader in the field of intellectual property theory and is also an ordained Anglican priest, one of only two practising ministers of religion to lead the University . He is credited with strengthening the University of Sydney's standing as a leading educator and research powerhouse in Australia and the world, with a focus on multidisciplinary collaboration and engagement with industry and community organisations. The University of Sydney is ranked in the top 50 universities in the world, including first in Australia and fourth in the world for graduate employability  It remains the top preference for school leavers in the state of New South Wales commencing tertiary studies in 2020..(born 10 January 1962) is the
Early life and education
Michael Spence's father was a high-school headmaster and his mother was a manager of the Bjelke–Petersen School of Physical Culture. He attended Knox Grammar and the University of Sydney, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree with first-class honours in English and Italian in 1985 and a Bachelor of Laws degree with honours in 1987. Before leaving for the University of Oxford in 1988 to undertake doctoral studies, Spence lectured in law at the university and worked for the Australian Copyright Council.
At Oxford, Spence obtained his DPhil degree in law and became a fellow of St Catherine's College. In the 20 years he spent at the college, Spence lectured for the University of Oxford from 1992, obtaining a Postgraduate Diploma in Theology from the university as well.
Spence is currently undertaking a Diploma of Language Studies in Korean at the University of Sydney. His other languages include French and Chinese and he also plays the oboe.
At Oxford, Spence worked in the field of intellectual property (IP) theory. His work includes articles and books on both IP law and the law of obligations, with a focus on ethical and economic justifications of the existing regimes. He also worked as a consultant to the London law firm Olswang and served as a World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Arbitration and Mediation Centre Panellist. He lectures on intellectual property-related topics around the world, holding a number of visiting appointments in Boston, Munich and Siena, while also twice being a Parsons Fellow at Sydney Law School. He is an honorary professor at Beijing Normal University .
Spence served as head of the law faculty at the University of Oxford and would eventually head the Social Sciences Division, one of the four divisions that made up that university. He oversaw significant growth of research activity and funding in the social sciences and strengthened links between the various social science departments and between them and the University.
One of Spence's priorities at Oxford was actively to encourage fundraising and sponsorship from benefactors and corporate groups. He was a driving force behind the establishment and financial support of a number of Oxford's new research centres and institutes, such as the Oxford Centre for Educational Assessment and the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment. His responsibilities included oversight of research units, including the James Martin 21st Century School and the Oxford-Man Institute for Quantitative Finance.
In 2008, Dr Spence returned to Australia to take up the position of Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney. At that time, the University was a run-down, complex and unwieldy institution that had lost its strategic focus and faced financial challenges. Over iterative strategic plans, governance and decision-making structures have improved and administrative processes simplified, to achieve efficiencies and to ensure the strategic use of resources. The campus has been transformed with billions of dollars of investment  and the faculty structure simplified from 16 to five.
During his time as Vice-Chancellor, Dr Spence has also embedded diversity, inclusion and cultural competence as bedrocks of a values-driven culture, where respect and disagreeing well are the norm.. In May 2019, the University of Sydney was voted Australia's 13th most attractive employer by Randstad., a testament to the positive culture fostered by the University leadership and workplace policies and programs that support staff and their careers. In September 2019, the University of Sydney was one of 13 Australian institutions recognised for their efforts to improve gender equity and diversity, receiving Athena SWAN Institutional Bronze Awards as part of the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) initiative.. In 2016, Spence began a process of cultural renewal  at the University's residential colleges, led by former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick AO.
Spence leads an academic community that is influential in the important social and cultural debates of our time and himself been a participant in Australia's higher education policy debates. The University has taken an active role with government and in the press to encourage a more measured debate about Australia's relationship with China. Spence has been unapologetic in his support for continued institutional engagement with China and the benefits of more diverse student body.. Similarly, in debates such as those concerning free speech on Australia’s campuses, the University of Sydney has been seen as a reasonable and influential voice in this robust public conversation. .
Spence prioritised philanthropic fundraising and, in May 2013, launched the major INSPIRED fundraising campaign. In early 2019, this campaign reached the unprecedented milestone of $1 billion raised, making it the largest philanthropic campaign in Australian history, and later in 2019 became the winner of the Best Practices in Fundraising Platinum Award from CASE and himself to be considered for the CASE Asia-Pacific Leadership Award.
These philanthropic efforts have funded the Charles Perkins Centre, a research and education centre that aims to tackle obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease; built the John Grill Centre for Project Leadership; brought much needed resources to life-changing medical research; and provided more than 2000 scholarships and education initiatives for new and existing students. This campaign also accepted donations from philanthropist Chau Chak Wing to build a new museum complex for the University. Chau is a Chinese-born Australian citizen with links to the Chinese Communist Party.
The key elements of the University's 2016-20 Strategic Plan include efforts to increase the number of students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, greater participation in the university for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and an overhaul of the University’s undergraduate curriculum and experience. In this final objective, the result has been to reduce an unwieldy mix of 122 undergraduate degrees to variations of 25, create multidisciplinary institutes dedicated to real-world problem-solving (where "ideas come together and rub shoulders"), and seek active collaboration with companies such as Microsoft and universities such as Harvard to provide industry-aligned research projects and active learning. In this spirit, the University of Sydney (through its Westmead APplied Research Centre) was awarded $1 million by Google to develop a customised digital health program powered by artificial intelligence (AI), aimed at reducing the risk of heart attack. The funding is part of Australia’s inaugural Google.org AI Impact Challenge, an open call to non-profits, social enterprises, and research institutions around the world to submit their ideas to use AI to help address social and environmental challenges.
In November 2018, Spence and the Premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, announced that the University of Sydney was in negotiations with the state government to establish a second independent campus as part of a leading international health, education and research precinct in Western Sydney. This campus precinct, including a $1 billion upgrade to Westmead Hospital, is projected to create more than 20,000 new jobs, inject more than $13 billion to the state's economy and generate $3 billion in exports by 2050. It would furthermore generate an additional 450 science and research jobs at the university and 3500 jobs in healthcare, education, biotechnology, manufacturing and other high-value industries.
In March 2019, the 2018 Excellence in Research for Australian evaluation rated all 22 fields of the University of Sydney's research as above or well above world standards. The 2018 Australian Research Council Engagement and Impact Assessment rated 96 percent of the University's research as 'high' or 'medium' for engagement and impact. This result came shortly ahead of the University being ranked 25th in the world in the inaugural April 2019 Times Higher Education University Impact Ranking. More recently, in July 2019, the University of Sydney moved into second place in Australia according to the 2019 Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings.
Vice-Chancellors in Australia and abroad have faced criticism in relation to their salary packages., including from their staff. His aim to improve the University's long-term financial sustainability alienated some students and staff in 2014. Further back, in 2012, Spence led efforts to cut expenditure to address the slowdown in international student enrolments across Australia. Critics claimed that the push for savings was driven by managerial incompetence and indifference, fuelling industrial action during a round of enterprise bargaining in 2013 that reflected Australia-wide concerns about public funding for higher education. An internal staff survey in 2012/13 found widespread dissatisfaction with University management.
In 2014, Spence repeatedly called for maintaining equitable access to the University while arguing for fee deregulation to address consistent underfunding by the government sector in higher education.
In April 2015, Spence established a taskforce on academic misconduct to investigate incidences of cheating and managerial misconduct.
Spence trained for ordination at St Stephen's House, Oxford, an Anglo-Catholic theological college, graduating with a Postgraduate Diploma in Theology. He was ordained in the Church of England as a deacon in 2006 and as a priest in 2007. From 2006 to 2008, he was a non-stipendiary minister in the Parish of Cowley, Oxfordshire in the Diocese of Oxford. He continues to minister part-time as a priest in an honorary capacity. He is fluent in French and Italian.
Spence met Beth Ann Peterson at the University of Oxford, where Spence was reading for a DPhil and Petersen, originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, was reading philosophy and theology after studying and rowing at Smith College in Massachusetts. Spence and Petersen were married and had five children—James, Phillipa, Oliver, Lucinda and Felicity. Beth Spence was also ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate in the Cowley parish, at the churches of St James and St Francis from 2005 to 2008 and at a parish in Waverley, New South Wales, from 2008 until her death in 2012, aged 47, from bowel cancer.
In January 2015, Spence married artist Jenny Ihn at St Philip's, Church Hill, where she had served as an assistant minister. They have three children together.
In 2017, Spence was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia for eminent service to leadership of the tertiary education sector, to the advancement of equitable access to educational opportunities, to developing strategic programs focused on multidisciplinary research, and to the Anglican Church of Australia.
In 2018 the Reverend Dr Spence was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales (Estd 1821) and was gazetted as such in January 2019 by the then Governor, His Excellency the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC(Rtd) in the NSW Government Gazette.
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