While the position of Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor represents a new challenge for Professor Simon Biggs, there’s something very familiar with the environment he’s just joined.
UWA’s new SDVC has an impressive research background, most notably in the areas of novel product formulations and nuclear waste management, with a history of working at research-intensive universities.
In this respect Simon feels at home at UWA.
“Throughout my career my time has been spent at research-intensive universities.
“Initially as a researcher and lecturer, and I gradually moved into leadership roles, starting at the University of Newcastle in NSW as Head of Chemistry,” he says.
Simon, who grew up in southwest England near Glastonbury (and yes you can hear the music from his parent’s house), is no stranger to Australia having first moved here in 1992. After roles at the Universities of Melbourne and Newcastle, Simon headed back to the UK, spending the next eleven years in the Engineering Faculty at the University of Leeds.
“After my Head of School position at Newcastle I started to work more in roles that linked research and leadership. At Leeds I had the opportunity to really further my leadership skills and took on a wide range of roles in my time there.
“Following my time at Leeds, I joined the University of Queensland as Executive Dean for the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and IT. In a university of 55,000 students and just six faculties, each faculty is a significant business in its own right, and it was a very exciting opportunity to help shape the direction of a leading global university.
“The time came for a new challenge at a new level and I’m thrilled to be at UWA, and especially looking forward to working with the Vice-Chancellor and learning from her,” he says.
Simon believes that despite UWA’s strong reputation and international standing, there is potential still to be untapped as we strive to be a top 50 university.
“That’s an exciting prospect and makes it fun getting out of bed in the morning. I’m passionate about the role I play in helping an organisation move forward and optimise its operations to ensure we can deliver on our strategy. I feel ready for the challenges this will bring.
“I’m looking forward to bringing a fresh set of eyes to the organisation to see where we can further improve and build on the excellent foundations that exist.
“I believe in cycles of continuous improvement and this is an important mindset to have as we look to move forward. Nothing is ever perfect, that’s why we’re already onto the iPhone 10 - there are always changes and tweaks that can be made to tease out a more optimal outcome,” he says.
Three weeks in to a new job and city, Simon says that while the natural discipline affinity he has with UWA’s strength in science and technology provides some home comfort, he’s looking forward to developing a greater understanding of arts, social sciences and health and medical sciences.
If given the chance he’d also love to jump back into the lecture theatre but unfortunately time may not allow for that.
“I would enjoy it immensely given the opportunity - my career has been built on a passion for research and teaching and I know that will stay with me always”, he says.