AUSTRALIA: Oxford don to head University of Sydney

An Oxford don and leading international and Australian academic, Dr Michael Spence, has been appointed vice-chancellor of Australia’s oldest university, the University of Sydney. He will succeed Professor Gavin Brown who retires next July after 12 years as Sydney vice-chancellor.

Dr Spence, a Fellow of Oxford’s St Catherine’s College and a Sydney alumnus, is head of the social sciences division which comprises 13 academic departments and their dependent units. He is one of four divisional chiefs who report to Oxford vice-chancellor Dr John Hood (a former New Zealand academic). Spence has also been a member of the university council and has taken part in many university-wide projects.

“Sydney is a world-class institution with an exciting future,” Spence said. “At the heart of the university’s mission is a commitment to excellence in research and research-led teaching. It is a privilege to take on this new role.”

He graduated from Sydney with first class honours in English, Italian and law and has a DPhil from Oxford where he also studied theology. He is internationally regarded as a leader in the field of intellectual property theory. At Oxford, Spence has overseen significant growth of research activity and funding in the social sciences, and the strengthening of links between the departments and between them and the university more broadly.

In the most recent Times Higher Education Supplement rankings, Oxford was placed first in the world for social sciences. Perhaps his achievement in raising funds and substantial sponsorship from benefactors and corporate groups attracted the Sydney selection panel.

Spence has been a driving force behind the establishment and financial support of a number of Oxford's new research centres and institutes, including the Oxford Centre for Educational Assessment and the university’s proposed school of enterprise and the environment.