2008 was another successful and important year for the University of Waikato as we moved forward in the journey towards achieving our Vision of offering an educational experience that is excellent, distinctive and internationally competitive.
Throughout the year the University remained focussed on our primary purpose of delivering excellence in teaching and research. The current global downturn presents a challenging operating environment for tertiary institutions worldwide. Prudent financial planning, coupled with strategic investments in ourselves, have underpinned our commitment to provide a solid foundation for the long term. Our decisions are carefully considered to ensure that the University of Waikato keeps pace with best practice in the New Zealand and international tertiary education sectors. I am proud of the passion and the commitment of our staff across the University as we strive to become one of the best universities in Australasia.
In 2008 we introduced a range of new degrees, majors and specialisations – including the Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Business and Management and Doctor of Musical Arts. We developed partnerships focussed on teaching, introduced a range of new quality assurance measures, and developed significant innovations in key areas of teaching-related �activities, including school support services and the award-winning "Science Education" hub in our School of Education.
The University was pleased to once again have major successes in the highly competitive Marsden funding round. Grants totalling over $4m were awarded to University of Waikato researchers, including the funding of three sub-contracts with other tertiary education organisations. During 2008 the University also celebrated its success with the awarding of a major Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST) grant for research on titanium alloys. The University is currently engaged in more than 400 externally funded research projects, and the significant diversity and quality of our research is reflected in the growing numbers of our publications and outputs.
Our determination to facilitate collaborative research initiatives saw the commissioning of the new Research Hub, the University's 'one stop shop' for research and development. The Hub was opened by former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright in line with our demonstrated role in New Zealand's drive for sustainable development, in both domestic and international arenas. The Research Hub brings together staff from UniLink, WaikatoLink Ltd, and the Scholarships and Postgraduate Studies office. Its role is to encourage synergistic benefits between the various research-related activities across the University and form a single contact point for providing research and commercial services to business and the community.
WaikatoLink Ltd, the University's commercial arm, continued to transfer commercially useful technologies to industry. Key successes included leading a university consortium that secured $4.9million in Pre-Seed funding from FRST to commercialise technologies. Five new start-up companies received venture funding in late 2007, and also achieved key development milestones. WaikatoLink Ltd's Hothouse achieved official iPhone Application Developer status and its international reach was extended through cooperative agreements with China and Singapore.� A highlight was opening the successful WaikatoLink Ltd venture incubator to local entrepreneurs, at the request of the Hamilton City Council, to serve as the official incubator for the region.
At a regional level we both supported and were recognised in the Hamilton Science Excellence Awards (Kudos Awards) with a number of finalists and three category winners. The University's Digital Library Research Group, headed by Professor Ian Witten and Dr David Bainbridge, won the Information and Computer Technology Science award. Associate Professor Kim Pickering won the Environmental Science award for her work on developing sustainable materials from natural fibres, and Dr Roberta Farrell won the Entrepreneur Scientist category for her work in helping commercialise scientific research. Associate Professor Vic Arcus was awarded the New Zealand Bio Accolade.
2008 saw the University redefine our aspirations in internationalisation. Specific academic and commercialisation projects aligned with our strategy began in China, Thailand, Viet Nam, Hawai'i, and South Africa.
The Chancellor, the Rt. Honourable Jim Bolger and I travelled to alumni events in Sydney and Melbourne, and had successful meetings with a range of alumni and friends of the University as we continued to enhance our international connectedness through the global successes of our graduates.
The Development Office and Alumni Association also engaged with alumni at a regional and national level, including the organisation of our second annual Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner. At this event we acknowledged some of our outstanding graduates by presenting awards to the Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae, ONZM, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Dr Derek Sikua, and businessman Peter Vela, ONZM.
During 2008 we bestowed our most prestigious award of an honorary doctorate on three highly respected local businessmen and University supporters - John Gallagher, Bill Gallagher and Brian Perry. Honorary Doctorates were also awarded to 'the Bugman'- science communicator and media personality, Ruud Kleinpaste, founding professor of Māori at this University, Dr Timoti Kāretu, and award winning author, Tessa Duder.
We were also pleased to increase our engagement with our Tauranga alumni through a number of special events, and to demonstrate our commitment to provide research-led education to meet the growing needs of the Bay of Plenty region. Our alliance with the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic has progressed considerably, and facilities and services are now being shared to provide the best possible service to students. In response to this highly successful and unique relationship, the Tertiary Education Commission agreed to fund further enrolment growth in the Western Bay of Plenty region. To facilitate this growth, a new building on the Windermere Campus was commissioned and new programmes are being introduced on the basis of stakeholder views of their distinctive regional needs.
Our capital works programme is integral to our development and our commitment to enhancing the Waikato student experience. Milestones during the year included completion of the bulk of the work on the redevelopment of our retail area, and the redevelopment of the Pathways College - vital for community learning programmes and for students who need to up-skill before taking university programmes.
We also began work on the new Student Centre - a $30 million building project to create a sustainable and state-of-the-art student learning facility. When completed, it will be among the best in Australasia and will provide a focal point for our Hamilton campus. In line with our commitment to sustainability, this building has many innovative features which will minimise its use of energy.
As we move forward we have continued to develop our understanding and application of our distinctiveness as a university in the areas of leadership, sustainability and our commitment to Māori. The University is considerably strengthened by its relationships with Te Rōpū Manukura, Tainui and the Kīngitanga. During 2008, former Treaty negotiator the Hon. Sir Douglas Graham and former Minister of Māori Affairs, Koro Wetere, were among panellists, along with King Tuheitia, to celebrate 150 years of the Kīngitanga movement. Following this forum we were pleased to announce the launch of an annual Kīngitanga Day at the University.
It was with great sadness that we recorded the passing of a significant contributor to the life of the University in 2008. Dr Hare Puke had been the University's Kaumātua since 2000 and his contribution to the community reflected a lifetime of commitment and service which was recognised and appreciated at the highest levels. A strong believer in the value of education for Māori, his selfless work gained him much acclaim from organisations throughout New Zealand, but it is for his steadfast commitment to the University of Waikato that he will be most fondly remembered by staff.
Our showcase performance facility – The Wel Energy Trust Academy of Performing Arts hosted more than 1000 events in 2008, including a full complement of classes and performances from the University's Music, Theatre Studies, Dance and Māori performing arts programmes, as well as a wide range of concerts, shows and social functions. Together these attracted almost 50,000 visitors from Hamilton and the surrounding Waikato region.
I have no doubt that our staff are among the most talented in any university in Australasia. My personal thanks to the support I receive from all the staff of the University, and from my senior management team.
We are passionate about providing excellence in teaching and research to our students, our community and our region. We are committed to bringing the best knowledge from around the world to benefit our region. I am confident that we have the capacity and the desire to continue to invest in ourselves, strengthen external relationships, maximise the quality of teaching and research, develop commercial activity and ensure that infrastructure and administrative support operate at internationally benchmarked standards of excellence.
Professor Roy Crawford