Sharon Pickering named Monash vice-chancellor

Australia’s biggest university appoints from within after ‘rigorous and broad-scale’ executive search

December 6, 2023
Sharon Pickering, Monash University

Australia’s biggest university has named its next leader, with Sharon Pickering set to succeed Margaret Gardner as Monash University vice-chancellor.

Professor Pickering, who has served as deputy vice-chancellor (education) since mid-2021, will commence her new role immediately. Her formal instalment is set for late January.

Her almost unbroken 20-year career with Monash began with her 2003 appointment as a lecturer in criminal justice and criminology. She became head of the school of sciences in 2014 and dean of arts in 2017.

“I am proud of Monash and proudly Monash,” she said. “This is a special place and I understand what makes the university distinctive. When we all come together – the researchers, the educators, the students, alumni and staff – we can do great things.”

Monash’s council said it had approved the appointment on 5 December after a global search by an international executive search firm, Perrett Laver, and a recommendation from the vice-chancellor selection committee.

Chancellor Simon McKeon said Professor Pickering had stood out in a “rigorous and broad-scale executive search”. He hailed her integrity, energy and “fiercely capable” qualities. “Being able to promote from within our community is a proud moment for us all,” he said.

Considered a global expert on migration and human trafficking, Professor Pickering has authored 16 books and claimed international prizes for her publications. She won the 2012 Australian Human Rights Commission media award for a series of articles about asylum seeker issues and served on an expert panel on asylum in the same year. More recently, she joined the Australian Universities Accord’s reference group on gender-based violence.

She was editor of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology and founded a virtual research centre called the Border Crossing Observatory. She has worked across South-east Asia and Northern Ireland on counter-terrorism policing and human rights, and has been a research associate with the University of Oxford’s Centre for Criminology for more than a decade.

Monash said her “defining commitment” to the Indo-Pacific included being a “tireless advocate” for its international campus network. It credited her for introducing the university’s Global Immersion Guarantee, which funds students to undertake field work in the Pacific, India, Indonesia, Italy or Malaysia.

Monash’s establishment of the first Indonesian branch campus of a foreign university has been among its crowning achievements. Domestically, however, the university has been embroiled in a bitter staff pay dispute and lost a recent court case over casual staff workloads.

Professor Pickering’s direct involvement with industrial relations matters has been limited. She has acted as provost since August while incumbent Susan Elliott served as interim vice-chancellor, following Professor Gardner’s instalment as Victorian governor. But, as arts dean, she presided over the axing of drama and musicology courses.

Further north, Western Sydney University vice-chancellor Barney Glover will not seek reappointment when his term ends next year. Professor Glover, who has headed the institution for a decade, is a former vice-chancellor of Charles Darwin University and deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Newcastle.

“Professor Glover has been a fierce and effective advocate for Western Sydney,” said chancellor Jennifer Westacott.

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