He leaves the university better run but exposed to a China downturn
Michael Spence will leave the University of Sydney in December – becoming president and provost of UCL, “disruptive thinking since 1826” (formerly University College, London) in January 2021.
This is an early exit in his present term, which runs to 2022, (CMM April 4 2019). He became VC in 2008.
When Dr Spence took over the university was ready, if not all willing, for change. The student record system was cumbersome, admin services sclerotic, and the undergraduate degree structure dated. Dr Spence took-on improving or transforming all of them.
He also built – and built – with a dozen or so developments on the university’s Camperdown-Darlington campus. He leaves the university shinier in structure, more competitive in research and better focused on the front-end, where the students and teaching staff are.
But the university relies on international students, many, many from China, for more revenue than it does locals. As the NSW Audit Office warns, “universities should assess their student market concentration risk where they rely heavily on students from a single country of origin. This increases their sensitivity to economic or political changes in that country,” (CMM June 12 2018).