Chancellor Cheat Sheet13 July 2017
In November last year, prominent businessman and barrister Allan Myers was named as the new Chancellor of the University of Melbourne. Recently, the team at Farrago had the chance to catch up with him and to find out a little bit more about the man behind the title.
The Life of the Chancellor
Although Myers is currently worth approximately $680 million, 52 years ago, he was just your typical prospective Law and Arts student.
After leaving his family home in Dunkeld, he found himself at Newman College, where he stayed for the next seven years, five as a student and two as a tutor.
“I’m the first of my family and the first of the township of Dunkeld, as far as I know, to ever attend university,” he told Farrago.
After graduating from university, Myers then went on to study Civil Law at the University of Oxford. He later became a barrister, representing prominent figures and organisations such as Gina Rinehart, Kerry Stokes, Andrew Forrest and BHP Billiton.
Some of his other notable achievements include chairing the University of Melbourne’s ‘Believe’ campaign, a philanthropic mission that has raised a whopping $500 million dollars in two and a half years, half of the original allocated time.
While Myers no longer chairs the Believe campaign, he still possesses strong opinions on philanthropy and the level of appropriate access to University administrators that should be given to donors.
“I don’t know what excessive access would be. If someone is going to give some money, they’re entitled to ask exactly how it should be spent,” he says.
Myers sees the involvement of donors as a positive, but acknowledges that their influence changes the University.
On 1 January 2017, he officially became the University’s Chancellor, succeeding businesswoman Elizabeth Alexander.
His role as Chancellor
Myers does not believe that anyone runs the University. Instead, he sees himself being a part of and leading a cohesive University Council.
That said, Myers does want to be a figure that stands for the “best values” of the University.
“The University is involved intimately, inextricably, in all aspects of our society that are touched by education and research”.
As a former college student, he also wants to see an equivalent level of pastoral care provided for every student that needs it, particularly those from regional, interstate and international backgrounds.
“If I hadn’t had the support of living in college, I wouldn’t have survived. No question,” he says.
Heading the council
In terms of his role in the council, Myers wants to emphasise that it is not his ‘one man show.’ Instead, he is a member of a larger team that works together to interact with the students.
As for future improvements, Myers wants the Council to be more culturally diverse and “properly balanced.”
Only by refining the council, can it continue to maintain control and accountability.
“Institutions aren’t for revolution, institutions are for the opposite of revolution. They’re about keeping the foundations of society steady, not blowing them up,” he says.
The HECS and welfare systems
Myers was one of the lucky few who had his education paid for him. He also received a sizable living allowance from the government due to his family’s low socioeconomic background.
“In those days the living allowance enabled one to live a decent life as a student, pay college fees, and not have to worry about taking outside employment,” he said.
He believes that the current HECS model is in dire need of reform, and supports the idea of means testing university fees.
“I don’t see why, if you’ve got the means to pay yourself, you would expect someone else to pay…I don’t see why a billionaire’s son or daughter should have their university fees paid, even if they’re clever.”
Myers wishes to see students from low financial backgrounds to “have all of their fees paid and an allowance so they wouldn’t have to stack shelves 30 hours a week”.
He described government assistance for students as a “balancing issue” which politicians must deal with.