AAIR thanks its Life Members for their tireless contributions to the Association over the years.
Without you, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Thank you!
(awarded 30 November 1995)
In late 1988, Professor John Muffo, former President of AIR, contacted Raj to ascertain whether he could assist in the establishment of AAIR within the Australasian region. He accepted and began by setting up an interim Executive Committee, which he chaired.
At the time, Raj was working at CQU, whose then VC, Prof. Arthur Appleton, supported the initiative and agreed to host the first AAIR Forum in 1990 in Rockhampton. At that Forum, the first AAIR Executive Committee was elected, with Raj being the first President and serving two terms.
The important actions taken during this early period were the continuation of annual forums, the establishment of various administrative structures, the implementation of the JIR, and so on.
The second AAIR Forum was hosted by Raj’s then higher education institution (Swinburne) in 1991 with great support from the VC, Prof. Wallace, and Senior DVC, Frank Bannon.
In 2000, Raj was then contacted by AIR and invited to assist in establishing SEAAIR for the South East Asian region. In 1995, Raj was awarded AIR’s Outstanding Service Award, and in 2007 was awarded Emeritus Membership to AIR.
The AAIR Executive Committee thanks Raj Sharma for his contribution to AAIR in its infancy and growing years.
(awarded 6 November 1996)
Ken Doyle has completed 29 consultancies with Australian universities and DFAT both in Australia and overseas, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region and China. He has consulted for most universities in Australia, the last project being with the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Professor Gus Guthrie, reviewing performance indicators for Australian universities.
In Jakarta, Ken was responsible for developing the performance indicators for the new Australian–Indonesian Language Centre, which involved a three month consultancy.
Following retirement, Ken was elected President of Computer Pals for seniors in Turramurra, Sydney; a position that he held until retiring after 17 years. He is also President of (UTS) Kuring-gai Staff Alumni.
Ken has recently been unwell with the progression of multiple sclerosis, and is currently undertaking rehabilitation at Lady Davidson Private Hospital.
(awarded December 2002)
Dennis Ham was born in Whangarei, New Zealand, and after completing his secondary education there he moved to Perth, Western Australia in 1972 hoping to make a career in the resources industry. His timing wasn’t the best because the sector was experiencing one of its cyclical slumps. After many unsuccessful job applications Dennis happily accepted the first job offer that eventually came along, as a trainee chartered accountant. That led him to enrolling in night classes in accountancy at the Western Australian Institute of Technology (WAIT, now Curtin University), the start of a very long and happy association with that institution.
A change of study direction to mathematics in 1978, together with his accountancy training and studies, proved a fortuitous combination when in 1979, WAIT advertised for a Statistical Assistant. Dennis was successful with his application, and so in September of 1979 his career at WAIT began. After progressing on to Research Officer and then Assistant Statistician, Dennis became University Statistician in 1987, and subsequently Director, University Planning and Statistics in 1996.
A highlight of Dennis’ career was his appointment in January 1999 as the foundation Administration Director of Curtin University’s new campus at Miri in Sarawak, Malaysia, where Dennis had the responsibility for establishing the administrative and infrastructure operations of the campus. Program delivery commenced in temporary facilities in February 1999 and continued during construction of the first stage of a permanent campus, which was commissioned in February 2002. Backed by a consortium of Sarawak State Government enterprises, private industry companies and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, and with a State Government land grant of over 1,000 acres (400 hectares), the objective was to develop educational and research facilities to accommodate 5,000 students. Curtin University, Malaysia, achieved that first objective and is now a thriving campus.
On his return to Perth in 2002, Dennis took on the roles of Faculty Manager of Resources and Environment (2002 to 2006) and Science and Engineering (2007 to 2013). Retirement in July 2013 lasted two days, whereupon he was invited to take on a new role of Director, Research and Graduate Studies in the Faculty of Humanities, and subsequently School Business Manager for the School of Built Environment. After 38 wonderful years at WAIT/Curtin, Dennis retired properly in January 2018.
Dennis’ involvement in AAIR began in 1988 when Dr Raj Sharma invited him to join the team establishing this new professional association. He served on the executive committee from 1988 to 1999, including roles as Treasurer (1990–1994) and President (1995–1998). He was awarded life membership of AAIR in 2002.
Having retired from active involvement in AAIR as well as institutional research and planning more than a decade ago, I offer this ‘bio’ from the bias of my personal perspective. Hopefully it will still be of interest.
I spent the first quarter century of my life in Canada, and arrived in Australia in 1968 to undertake further postgraduate study at the University of Queensland. After several years’ doctoral research and study and teaching as tutor/demonstrator in the Department of Geography, I left to undertake overseas travel.
After returning to Australia, in 1974, I joined the planning section of the Research and Curriculum branch of the Queensland Department of Education, undertaking demographic studies and analyses related to planning the expansion of school facilities and teacher provision.
In 1977, newly married, my wife and I embarked on a year of international travel before returning to Australia and relocating in Melbourne. I undertook a two year contract as an academic officer with the Victoria Institute of Colleges, the former body responsible for the state-wide planning and coordination of institutes of technology and colleges of advanced education. I left this organisation (replaced by the Victorian Post-Secondary Education Commission), to commence in 1979 as a planning officer with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. I worked there until 1986, undertaking diverse planning projects – helping establish RMIT’s corporate and strategic planning, drafting triennial funding submissions, and undertaking various other analyses and studies.
In 1986, I commenced as Planning Manager at Darwin Institute of Technology (now Charles Darwin University) on the cusp of its transition from regional CAE to university. Whilst there, I was contacted in 1988 by my ex-RMIT colleague Raj Sharma, who was engaged in setting up an Australasian AIR. Raj invited me to join him on the interim management committee and I agreed that it was time indeed for establishing AAIR.
This was the era of the ‘Dawkins’ reforms and establishment of the ‘Unified National System’; a time of major change and upheaval within Australian tertiary education. Most institutions were strengthening their planning and management support systems. There was a need for a focussed professional association for staff supporting these processes, whereby they could share and further develop the skills and knowledge needed to perform their responsibilities. AAIR had the potential to meet this need, and Raj and colleagues set themselves the task of achieving its potential.
A year later I moved to Rockhampton to work at the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education, just as it began its transition to the University College of Central Queensland and ultimately, CQ University. I had the enigmatically named, multi-purpose planning support role of Executive Assistant (Chancellery). Inter alia, I inherited from previous incumbent Raj Sharma, the role of local organiser for the inaugural AAIR Forum, to be hosted there in September 1990. I found myself heavily involved in ensuring the success of the forum and in serving on AAIR’s interim committee. Fortunately, my institution’s top management was highly supportive of the establishment of AAIR and of hosting the forum.
I have enduring memories of those early years during which I contributed to AAIR’s establishment and the groundwork leading to AAIR’s first major milestone – its inaugural, 1990 Forum.
Through the 1990s, AAIR continued to grow, thanks to the energetic leadership of Raj, Dennis Ham, and other committee members. Our membership broadened, and the synergies among members and their diverse contributions made AAIR a success. Successive annual forums brought in additional perspectives and forged links between institutional researchers and practitioners across the diverse components of Australian and New Zealand tertiary education.
In 1998, I took up the challenge of serving as AAIR’s President. After two eventful terms I stepped down, to be ably succeeded by Wendy Marchment in 2002.
In 2001, I served once more as AAIR Forum convener, when CQ University again hosted our annual conference. The Australian and New Zealand tertiary education systems, as well as their component institutions, had become larger and more complex. Funding bodies and stakeholders held higher expectations. Institutional researchers faced greater challenges than in 1990. AAIR had matured and evolved with the times – and our Forum program reflected this.
AAIR has provided me with many professional development experiences and opportunities. I participated in every annual forum between 1990 and 2004, presented several forum papers, took part in numerous workshops and seminars as attendee and presenter, and on rare occasions presented at overseas conferences. I took advantage of AAIR’s informal networking during conferences, workshops and other get-togethers. These experiences strengthened and broadened my skills, and improved my understanding of how to use them to best advantage in performing my job.
I’ve enjoyed playing a continuous part in AAIR’s formative years, serving successively as committee member, Secretary, Vice President, President, and finally Immediate Past President over a total of 17 years.
All these experiences improved my perspective on how institutional research can contribute to our tertiary education systems and how AAIR can help its members make their own contributions more effective. Hopefully, I gave something back in return.
In 2005, after 15 years at CQ University, including a decade as its Manager, Analysis and Planning, it was time for me to end 30 years’ involvement in institutional planning and management and take a new direction. I left Australia to spend a couple of years overseas and pursue a new focus – teaching English as a foreign language. It was also time to end my active participation in AAIR. Upon returning to Australia, I worked for several years as a community-based volunteer tutor in adult literacy and numeracy to English to migrants.
I now enjoy blissful retirement and University of the Third Age activities. Recent links with AAIR have been limited to personal contact with colleagues and participation in the 2011 and 2015 forums. My busy life in the hectic world of institutional management and planning seems light years ago. But my time exchanging ideas and perspectives with AAIR colleagues remains a strong memory.
Since 1990, AAIR has been operating as a professional association for those working in institutional research and kindred fields across the tertiary education sectors of Australia and New Zealand. Over this time, it has matured in profile and outlook, evolved in focus to match the ever-changing tertiary education scene, and diversified its modes of operation to take advantage of new technologies. It has developed strong links with sister IR organisations internationally.
As a member since its inception, I’ve gained much professionally by actively participating in AAIR – attending and presenting papers at conferences, seminars and workshops, and involving myself in the organisational and planning work of the executive committee. I’ve also gained great satisfaction from doing so.
I heartily recommend that you participate actively in AAIR. Its annual conferences (both Forum and SIG), workshops, seminars, and special events can make valuable contributions to your professional development. AAIR can do so both through its formal programs, and through opportunities for informal networking with colleagues in other institutions doing similar work and encountering similar challenges; exchanging ideas, perspectives, and ways of overcoming shared problems.
I urge you to support its activities and contribute your own skills, expertise and experience to its seminars, conferences and workshops. Take advantage of the opportunities AAIR offers to expand your knowledge, develop your expertise, and benefit from the perspectives and experiences of colleagues. I’ve benefitted greatly from doing so.
(awarded 12 November 2009)
Nick Booth was born in 1945 in the UK, and emigrated to Australia in 1962 when his father was appointed as the first Director on the Papua New Guinea Blood Transfusion Service.
After some years as a partner in a printing company in Brisbane, he became involved in higher education by being appointed Information & Publications Officer at the University of New England in 1973.
After some far from successful efforts at gaining publicity for UNE, both he and UNE were quite relieved when he left in 1977 to take up a position at the NSW Higher Education Board, which was the State body that attempted to coordinate universities and CAEs. Although the job title was ‘Editor of Publications’, he showed other talents and became the person who drafted most of the Board’s advice to the NSW Minister of Education.
In 1985, Nick was appointed Assistant Secretary of the NSW Conservatorium of Music, responsible for the entire administration of the Conservatorium in Sydney and Newcastle. This included introducing a computer-based student records system, needed so that the Conservatorium could meet the requirement of an electronic student data submission in 1987.
In 1987, he was appointed as Assistant Secretary (Student Administration) at Kuring-gai CAE. This was an interesting and demanding position, especially in 1989 when HECS was introduced. It was not easy when the College was actually enrolling students and at the same time was receiving instructions from Canberra about how to implement the scheme.
This came to an end in 1990, when Kuring-gai CAE merged with the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). UTS already had a very competent Head of Student Administration, and there was a period of limbo until the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (who had been Principal of Kuring-gai) sought assistance in developing a Faculty funding formula based on the student enrolment data sent to Canberra. From this grew a position playing a substantial part in planning future enrolments and funding.
In 1992, he attended the third AAIR Forum in Auckland, which was something of a revelation: it would be quite possible to write papers for an AAIR Forum, with the first presented at the 1993 Forum in Sydney.
In 1998, the then President of AAIR, Dennis Ham, sent out an email seeking nominations for various positions on the AAIR Committee. Nick thought he might be useful as a Committee Member, and sent in a nomination. A few days later, Dennis was on the phone: “Nick, we have one more nomination than we need for ordinary Committee members, but nobody has nominated for Treasurer. I wonder whether…” And so began his eight-year term as Treasurer.
In 1999, AAIR decided that the 2000 Forum should be held in Sydney to mark the Sydney Olympics. The Forum Chair was to be the Vice-President, Peter Manass, who was Director of Planning at UWS Macarthur. Back then, UWS was being run as three independent units, based on its three ancestor CAEs. But then a new Vice-Chancellor was appointed who decided that it was rather wasteful to have three separate Planning Departments, and Peter was shown the door.
That left Nick as the only Committee member in Sydney, and he organised the 2000 Forum with very little assistance except from the Admin Assistant in his unit at UTS. The 2000 Forum may not have been the best in terms of the presentations, but the lunches were excellent and the Dinner was at the National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour. Who cares about the papers if the Dinner is good?
Around 1996, AAIR launched its first website. It was run by a staff member of Flinders University on her departmental server. For obscure technical reasons, users had to type in the server’s IP address to get to the site. Not very user-friendly.
By 2001, she had more pressing work tasks and the website was neglected. Nick volunteered to take on the task of Webmaster and established a new website. During his time as Webmaster, all JIR issues and all available Forum Proceedings were scanned, changed to a standard format, and placed on the website.
Nick retired from UTS in 2002, found an innocent to be Treasurer in 2006, and resigned as Webmaster in 2008. He now lives in a retirement village in Sydney.
(awarded 14 November 2012)
Roni McDowell joined the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission on the eve of the Dawkins Reforms to Higher Education. She moved to RMIT in 1986 and assisted with the transition from State to Federal funding, oversaw the implementation of HECS, and led a team to introduce the Student and Staff Collections.
As RMIT made the transition to University status, Roni was responsible for the development of the new Profile submission process, the local implementation of the Relative Funding Model and the major upscaling of Federal and local performance indicators. Being a dual sector organisation, Roni also implemented the AVETMISS collection in TAFE and assisted the University in TAFE budgeting and student planning.
Roni was a founding member of AAIR and a coordinator of the influential Victorian Stats Officers Group, started by Raj Sharma. These two organisations worked closely with Government officers to improve and develop the Student and Staff collections. Roni has a particular interest in the nexus between enrolments and funding, and designed and implemented an online model for RMIT Faculties to manage their enrolments and budgets.
In 2007, Roni moved to CSU to take up a position as Business Manager of a large environmental research centre. She is now retired.
AAIR has played a key role in the development of Australian workers in the field of tertiary education management and institutional research since its inception in the late 1980s. AAIR provided a focus for people in the field to meet, to share issues and solutions, and to interact with government officers. The interaction with other institutional researchers was an invaluable asset to members in the early days of HECS, the Relative Funding Formula and the introduction and development of the reporting collections.
It also gave members the opportunity to explore colleagues’ experiences with new and emerging technological approaches to date collections and presentations, and this is an aspect of AAIR which has expanded and become more important in recent years.
The organisation was founded with so much care and enthusiasm by Dr Raj Sharma and others such as Ken Doyle, Bruce Zimmer, Dennis Ham, Nick Booth, Terry Hand, Lenore Cooper, Wendy Marchment, Angel Calderon, Ian Dobson, and has carried on to the present day by so many others has continued to be a source of new ideas, inspiration and professional development. The annual Forum has also been a lot of fun.
(awarded 2 November 2017)
Becoming an institutional researcher was more by accident than by achieving those career goals I’d set for myself as a youngster, and I dare say that my story isn’t much different to many of my colleagues.
It all started at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in 1972 when, as a recent school leaver, I was offered the role of Statistics Clerk in the Statistics Section of the Registrar’s Division. I’d been good at mathematics at school and this seemed a natural role for me. This wasn’t knowledge management, or even information management; it was arithmetic 101. We prepared tables of frequency counts; we even produced ‘nice charts’ (by hand on graph paper of course; it was before personal computers believe it or not!). We became very proficient at using electric (not electronic you should note) calculators that took fifteen minutes to perform a long division, but were very good at adding up lists of numbers. And there were lots of those.
I then had quite a break from the world of numbers while I served a period at the University of Newcastle, and then the Statistics Officer’s role came up. As I’d had some experience at UNSW, it was not a surprise that I was appointed to this position. And my, how things had changed! We had electronic typewriters to allow tabbing across columns so that numbers could be aligned. We even had rudimentary word processors that unfortunately left most typists with some form of repetitive strain injury at some time or another. We only had one census date and the university didn’t have key performance indicators or even strategic plans. We look back now and wonder how universities ever managed without these, but they did.
My first encounter with the term ‘institutional research’ occurred in the mid-1990s when the former University Secretary, Gem Cheong, restructured both the Management Information Unit and my role to create the ‘Institutional Research Unit’. Neither of us were sure what this meant, but we were soon being asked to provide much more than tables of numbers.
It was in 1999, as the newly appointed Director of Institutional Research, that I was asked to attend the Australasian Association for Institutional Research (AAIR) Forum in Auckland, New Zealand. My initial thought was, ‘There are other people who know what this means.’ I was a newbie and I felt way out of my depth. I met some fantastic characters and learnt that some institutions even had ‘quality units’. This was all foreign to me coming from a small, regional university like the University of Newcastle. And thus was my introduction to AAIR, and I’ve been involved ever since.
In 2006, I joined the AAIR Executive Committee as an Ordinary Member. In 2008, I organised the AAIR Forum in Canberra and took on the role of AAIR Vice-President. In 2012, I was elected President of AAIR, a role I performed until November 2016. I am now semi-retired doing the occasional consulting work or examination supervising at the University of Newcastle.
AAIR is a fantastic network of like-minded people who work in any of the various areas that we refer to as institutional research. AAIR provides two very unique forums for these dedicated researchers. These forums give members and the broader institutional research community the opportunity to present their latest initiatives, which have often been approached in innovative ways, to their peers. These forums also allow AAIRies simply to meet and discuss over dinner or a drink those challenges each is facing in their particular institutions. Whether in Australia or New Zealand, the US, Europe, South Africa or Asia, it is often surprising how similar the challenges are and how varied the solutions. And meeting and discussing these in a warm, social environment, characterises AAIR’s pivotal role in meeting its members’ needs. I know I have been both personally and professionally enriched because of my involvement in AAIR.
(awarded 2 November 2017)
Dean is Strategic Information Manager at Edith Cowan University where he leads a team responsible for government data submissions, strategic analysis, forecasting and decision support.
Dean has around 40 years’ experience in strategic analysis across a broad range of sectors and industries, ranging from public utilities, gas and oil extractive industries, and since 2002, in higher education.
Over his career, Dean has applied quantitative approaches and utilises current technologies to optimise outcomes and support evidence based decision making in the context of real world dynamics and uncertainties. Having been heavily influenced by Herbert Simons and Stafford Beers in the formative years of his career, Dean has always sought to apply operational research methods and the now rapidly evolving decision theory, in the workplace.
Career highlights include working on the transitioning of Western Australia (WA) to a gas intensive economy and supporting the negotiation and administration of key contracts facilitating this transition; supporting the privatisation of key WA State owned assets, all of which significantly exceeded market valuations; developing a range of innovative software systems and models, including complex simulation and corporate planning models; leading a number of legal challenges to Commonwealth laws and regulations, all of which achieved positive outcomes; advising Edith Cowan University on an number of innovative approaches for growth, all of which have been successful and material; and most importantly, developing and mentoring a large number of staff who have advanced personally and professionally.
As an advocate of continuous learning, Dean has participated actively in AAIR as a forum organiser, presenter, Committee Member and Secretary. He sees AAIR as being unique in the Australian higher education landscape, as it is the only association that applies institutional research across all silos, and takes an integrated view of the value of data and interrelationships involved in decision making.
Dean is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Secretaires and Administrators (UK), Governance Institute of Australia, as well as CPA Australia. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce (University of Western Australia) and Master of Business (Distinction) (Western Australian Institute of Technology, now Curtin University). Outside activities include spending time with his wife and inspiration Fahmida, travelling (especially in India, as Dean is a self-declared Indophile), modern art, the history of science, keeping fit and reading.
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