Uni Roles Australia: Moving on from UWA

Moving on from UWA

Posted: 05/09/2016
There are no greater Academic Jobs than that of leading an Australian  University as the  Vice-Chancellor, but it seems as that as far as Academic Jobs go, even this one was too much for Paul Johnson!

The head of the University of Western Australia will walk away from his $1 million-a-year job after a long period of toxic relations with staff.
Vice-chancellor Paul Johnson’s decision to quit comes after plans to axe more than 300 jobs and his aborted push to work with controversial Danish researcher Bjorn Lomborg.

Professor Johnson revealed yesterday he would step down at the end of the year from one of the nation’s most prestigious universities. He said he had declined an offer to renew his contract for a second five-year period and that he wanted to spend more time with his family, particularly his school-aged children.

Professor Johnson enraged many UWA academics last year when he decided to establish an economic think tank in partnership with Dr Lomborg, who has suggested that the dangers of ­climate change have been overstated and that the world faces more pressing challenges.

The vice-chancellor was forced to abandon the move within weeks after a backlash from staff and students, conceding that he lacked the power to force 
his academics to work with Dr Lomborg.

Relations with staff were ­further soured just before Christmas when Professor Johnson ­announced 100 academic jobs and 200 professional staff positions would be cut in a bid to save $40m. That process has been ­delayed after the Fair Work Commission ordered UWA to undergo fair consultations with staff.
Professor Johnson also ­angered staff through his strong backing of the Abbott government’s since-abandoned plans for full fee deregulation.

One senior UWA academic, who asked not to be named, said yesterday many staff could not believe the vice-chancellor would choose to voluntarily leave in the middle of a restructuring process he has championed so strongly.
That process includes the ­establishment of four new faculties and a new professional services structure from next January.

Many staff were highly critical of Professor Johnson’s managerial skills. “His predecessor (Alan Robson) had collegiate ­relationships with his staff and he would remember people’s names,” one academic said. “Paul Johnson hadn’t even started that journey.”

Professor Johnson, who moved to UWA in 2012 after five years as head of La Trobe University, said he planned to stay in Perth and return to academia.
“I think this is an opportune moment to hand over the leadership to someone who can further build on the many achievements of recent years, and carry renewal forward to create new opportunities for this great university,’’ he said.

Professor Johnson said he was proud that UWA had broken into the top 100 of world universities under his watch. He also pointed to the launch of the university’s successful New Centenary Campaign, which included a record-breaking $65m donation from mining magnate Andrew Forrest and his wife, Nicola.

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