He follows in the footsteps of many esteemed predecessors, and newly elected Chancellor Peter Varghese AO is eager to embrace the opportunities and meet the challenges facing the higher education sector.
The University of Queensland ushers in a new era this year as it welcomes one of Australia’s most esteemed public servants and diplomats as its 14th Chancellor.
Peter Varghese AO will join UQ in July when he steps down from his role as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, continuing his strong connection with the University.
Varghese has served as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade since 2012, following positions as High Commissioner to India from 2009 to 2012 and Director-General of the Office of National Assessments from 2004 to 2009.
Prior to that, he was the Senior Adviser (International) to then Prime Minister John Howard and was Australia’s High Commissioner to Malaysia from 2000 to 2002.
Varghese was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2010 for distinguished service to public administration, particularly in leading reform in the Australian intelligence community and as an adviser in the areas of foreign policy and international security.
As a UQ alumnus (Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours ’78)), University medallist in history in 1977, and 2013 recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Letters, Varghese said he was excited to be returning to Brisbane and to the University.
“UQ has been such an important part of my family’s life story,” Varghese said.
“My father taught there and six of my siblings are UQ graduates. I met and courted my wife there, and our only son studied engineering at UQ.
“UQ shaped the intellectual foundation of my career in public service and public policy, so I am honoured to return to this great institution.
“As Chancellor, I look forward to working with the Senate and the Vice-Chancellor in setting the strategic direction of the University.
“There are large challenges facing our universities: finding a sustainable funding model, ensuring UQ continues to grow as a world-class research and teaching university, expanding its international linkages, working closely with the state and federal governments, and playing its part in building the skills and innovation which will be so crucial to our future as a nation and a community.”
UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj said Varghese had a distinguished record for leading highly internationalised organisations and giving critical advice at the highest levels.
“The University is honoured that he has accepted the role of Chancellor, bringing back to his alma mater the wisdom and reputation won through decades of international and national experience.
“He shows that UQ’s vision of knowledge leadership for a better world is indeed achievable, and that its seeds are in students and graduates with a huge range of talents and backgrounds.
“Mr Varghese was born in Kenya of India-born parents, and came to Australia in the 1960s when this nation was very different to its modern self. He and his family have helped make the modern Australia, and we are delighted that he is returning to Queensland to continue former Chancellors’ work of shaping the modern, global UQ.”
The role of Chancellor is an honorary position with strategic, governance and ceremonial responsibilities and wide engagement with a range of internal and external stakeholders.
Varghese will take over from John Story AO, who served as Chancellor from 2009 until 2015.
Deputy Chancellor Dr Jane Wilson took over as acting Chancellor when Story completed his term in December 2015 and will continue in the position until Varghese joins UQ in July.