OUS Victoria - Annual Dinner

The highlight of the Oxford University Society in Victoria’s calendar is the Annual Dinner and this year was no exception. Held on August 8, close to 100 members and guests enjoyed a convivial evening of excellent company, fine food (smoked salmon, lamb Wellington, crème brûlée) , fine wine (shiraz, chardonnay, champagne) and an exceptional, thought-provoking and entertaining presentation by our Guest Speaker, Professor Glyn Davis, AC, Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of Melbourne.

The dinner, hosted by OUSV President Justice John Middleton, was held in the iconic Melbourne Club which was established in 1838, within a few years of the founding of the City of Melbourne itself in 1835.  

Professor Davis became Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne in 2005 after serving as Vice Chancellor and President of Griffith University in Queensland for three years. Professor Davis has had a varied career in academia and the public service, and prior to his appointment at Griffith, was the Director General of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet in the State of Queensland, the most senior public servant in the sunshine state. Among Professor Davis’ other many prestigious awards and appointments locally and internationally, he was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for service to public administration, tertiary education and the community in 2002.

Professor Davis noted that the University of Melbourne was itself founded in 1853, only a few years after the Melbourne Club and was therefore quite old in Australian terms but not when compared with institutions like the University of Oxford. He briefly reviewed how university education in Australia has changed over the years. 

Since becoming Vice Chancellor, Professor Davis has himself been instrumental in making changes by establishing “Melbourne Model” degree programs. Melbourne no longer offers undergraduate degrees in Law, Engineering, Medicine or Dentistry, for example: these are now all postgraduate courses. At the same time, undergraduate degree programs require students to spend generally 25% of curriculum time studying in a discipline and faculty outside their area of specialisation (“breadth” studies). 

Another major change in recent times has been the advent of online learning: students no longer need to attend lectures (a familiar story for Oxford graduates of the writer’s vintage); on the other hand, tutorials, where students interact more closely with academic staff, are becoming much more popular. 

Traditionally in Australia, undergraduates attend a university in the state where they live. Increasingly, students are now living away from home, putting strain on university student accommodation. Melbourne is addressing this issue by making substantial investments in accommodation for students.

A lively question and answer session followed Prof Davis’ presentation, covering topics such as plagiarism and how to detect and stop it, and problems that students from non-English speaking backgrounds have. 

In summary, a good time was had by all!

Richard Thwaites – Wadham, 1960