17 December 2008

The retirement of UQ Secretary and Registrar Dr Douglas Porter marks the “end of an epoch” for The University and Queensland, according to Chancellor, Sir Llew Edwards, AC.

Dr Porter retires on January 28, 2009, after more than 22 years at the helm of the University’s finances and administration.

In that time he has signed testamurs as proof of graduation for 150,300 UQ alumni – about 90 per cent of all living UQ graduates.

On Monday he received his own UQ degree, an Honorary Doctorate in Economics.

Tonight almost 150 Queensland and national leaders of business and education will farewell him in Brisbane at Customs House – a heritage building that UQ bought and refurbished on his watch.

Sir Llew said Dr Porter had made “immeasurable contributions” to the University since he began as Secretary and Registrar in November 1986.

“A great many of these are linked to his indispensable role as Secretary to the University’s governing body, the Senate,” Sir Llew said.

“He has worked with eight consecutive Senates, including two Chancellors, five Deputy Chancellors and three Vice-Chancellors, and has guided us through a changing and increasingly complex maze of legislation, protocols and regulations impacting on university governance.

“He has also met the demands of being the University’s Registrar and public officer, sitting on numerous corporate and government boards, and undertaking national and international consultancies.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Greenfield said that in almost 100 years, UQ had “never seen another Secretary and Registrar, and was unlikely to ever do so”.

“Douglas’s skill set is unique in Australia and rare on a global scale.”

Professor Greenfield said that when Dr Porter arrived at UQ, in 1986, the University was a $165 million a year enterprise, compared with the billion dollar annual budget of 2008. In 1986 the University had 18,000 students — today there are 38,000.

Dr Porter, originally from England, arrived in Brisbane on the day of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s last re-election as Premier (November 1, 1986), and began at UQ three days later, on Melbourne Cup day.

“Few things can be more satisfying than working on a beautiful campus with very able and friendly colleagues for an organisation which has been as consistently successful as UQ,” Dr Porter said.

“Three gifted and entrepreneurial Vice-Chancellors have applied very different styles and experience to that success and the University has been particularly blessed by two Chancellors, Sir James Foots and Sir Llew Edwards, who have used their commercial expertise and corporate governance savvy to open doors and prompt and guide the University to wonderful effect.”

However, along with the highs there had been a few lows. In 1986 Australian universities were regulated similarly to the UK, with a buffer between the national government and the institutions.

“This buffer disappeared after the Dawkins Review in 1988-89 and the ensuing decades have been characterised by increasing Australian government intervention into university affairs, falling federal funding per student, rising student numbers, and a lack of clear policy to frame what has become a highly diversified system,” he said.

“The regulatory headache has been compounded by a proliferation of compulsory legislative and other regulatory instruments applied by the three layers of government.

“Many of them overlap or duplicate each other, creating a distraction from university core business.”

Dr Porter’s expertise is manifest in many UQ successes, including its research commercialisation framework and modern administrative computer systems.

Dr Porter said that after 43 years working in three universities he particularly wished to thank and recognise his wife, Dr Janet Porter, a UQ PhD graduate, who has made valuable and sustained contributions to the University’s social and cultural networks.

Media: Fiona Kennedy (3365 1384, 0413 380 012) or Jan King (0413 601 248)