UQ welcomes Professor Peter Høj
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In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
And it’s education that has shaped the life of UQ’s incoming Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Høj, from an early age.
“When I was young, my parents’ business failed and they were forced to sell all the family possessions and move into a one-bedroom flat. While my father and grandfather were without a formal education, they firmly believed that a science education would have averted the unfortunate situation with their family business as it would have given them options,” Professor Høj said.
“Life is a journey and you never know where it will lead. But it is experiences, and your ability to overcome fear and take risks, that forge your journey and shape you as a person.”
Professor Høj’s journey has so far taken him to leadership roles within the Australian Research Council, the University of South Australia (UniSA) and now UQ.
The Danish-born and educated biochemist has proudly called Australia home since moving here in 1987 with his late wife, an Australian and fellow scientist, and their two children.
His journey has been influenced by his upbringing, particularly his parents’ beliefs in the value of an education; his own strongly held values; and a determination to not be held back by a fear of taking risks. True to this desire for challenge, he has even been to Mt Everest Base Camp.
After many years in senior roles in science policy and administration, Professor Høj said he had come to realise that organisations could benefit from change.
“UQ is a fantastic organisation in a wonderful part of the world and I think we can make UQ an even better place to study and conduct research. This will in turn make UQ and Queensland better connected globally, more innovative and even more attractive places to be.”
A self-described listener who will hear good arguments before articulating his own views, he emphasises the importance of strong organisational values and direction.
He described the university sector as having three major challenges.
“Firstly, a shrinking resource base has the potential to compromise our ability to attract, retain and provide infrastructure for the very best staff,” he said.
“Secondly, universities need to remain attractive to international students. Greater globalisation and the move towards non-traditional modes of learning mean international students will increasingly be able to find new, emerging, and possibly cheaper education providers.
“Another challenge is that too many students have too great a gap between their intrinsic ability for study and their preparation for it.
“If you want a great state where the brightest want to come to live and work, you must have a world-class education system from birth to graduation.
“In South Australia, I instigated the UniSA College because I didn’t want people to go to our university unprepared and unable to enjoy success. UQ has gone down a similar path with UQ College at Ipswich.”
Another similarity between UniSA and UQ that Professor Høj is keen to expand on is a strong history of leadership in Indigenous education.
“UQ’s appointment last year of a Pro-Vice- Chancellor with responsibility for Indigenous education signalled a significant new strategic direction for UQ, and it’s one I’m passionate about expanding,” he said.
It was his commitment to education and equality that led Professor Høj to establish the John and Johan Høj Rural Reconnect Scholarships at UniSA, in memory of his father and grandfather who lived in rural Denmark.
“I’m a strong believer in universities supporting talent regardless of socio-economic class; it’s about an elite education, not elite admission,” he said.
He said two of his priorities once at UQ would be to engage with the more than 200,000-strong alumni network, and to further grow UQ’s reputation in key areas of research and learning.
“UQ’s alumni network is critical on so many levels. Alumni often find it in themselves to support their alma mater both in-kind and through various other contributions,” he said.
Professor Høj is expected to start at UQ on October 8.
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- marie hayes: loved her loved the discussion and considering she was in her mid eighties her intelligence was still...
- Thomas Anderson: RIP Chris.
- John Brannock: I recently wrote the following email which is self explanatory: “Dear Professor Høj, I would...
- Dr Mary Tan: Hi Prof Peter Hoj I’m Mary from S’pore, graduated from UniSA. Was glad to read updates...
- Dane: Hello. magnificent job. I did not expect this. This is a excellent story. Thanks!