One notable feature of the Howard years has been the apparent takeover of the coveted university chancellor positions across the country by corporate players.

Another one is in the spotlight this morning – John Phillips, the chairman of the Foreign Investment Review Board and chancellor of the University of Western Sydney who has 30 days to decide whether the Qantas takeover should pass muster.

While FIRB is well known for being a plaything of the Treasurer and Treasury officials, professional director and former central banker Phillips is there to give it a veneer of independence and corporate respectability.

The most connected and powerful professional directors these days like to have a university chancellor gig in the portfolio. Take these names for example:

John Phillips: former deputy chairman Reserve Bank, chairman AGL, deputy chairman or Woolworths and QBE, director WMC and chancellor University of Western Sydney.

Michael Chaney: NAB chair, Woodside chair-elect, President Business Council, chancellor University of WA.

David Gonski: Coca Cola Amatil chair, Westfield and ANZ director, chancellor University of NSW.

Trevor Rowe: Chairman Queensland Investment Corp and Rothschild Australia, director ASX and Future Fund, chancellor Bond University.

Ian Renard: retired corporate lawyer, director of CSL, Newcrest and SPI Powernet, former director AMP, chancellor Melbourne University.

Robert de Crespigny: former Normandy Mining CEO and former chancellor Adelaide University.

Jerry Ellis: former BHP chairman, chairman Pacifica, director ANZ, chancellor Monash University.

Maurice Newman: ASX and ABC chairman, chancellor Macquarie University.

Sir Llew Edwards: former Queensland Liberal Treasurer, former director Westpac and James Hardie, chancellor University of Queensland.

All this begs the question: who are the prominent non-corporate chancellors out there?

Some university vice-chancellors try very hard to keep the profile of their non-executive chancellor to a minimum so we haven’t got all the names but these are the three most prominent we’ve found so far:

Non-corporate university chancellors:

Dr Allan Hawke: ANU, career public servant

Kim Santow: University of Sydney, retired judge

Prof Vicki Sara: UTS, researcher

It would be interesting to see whether any other country has the same preponderance of corporate leadership of their universities. And what was the mix when the Howard Government first came to office in 1996?

Feedback and additional names of current and past Australian chancellors to [email protected].

Peter Fray

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