While the country was going through the ‘recession we had to have’, the South Australian Parliament was deliberating the University of South Australia Act. In 1990, legislation was passed to create a third university for the state; a university designed to improve access to tertiary education for all South Australians and to advance teaching, research and scholarship with real-world application. The result has been more than 180,000 work-ready graduates and billions of dollars in research impact since UniSA commenced in 1991.
What is most remarkable is the rapid progress that UniSA managed to achieve, when just a few short months later the State Bank of South Australia collapsed and took a fairly fragile South Australian economy with it. In the 1990s, the world seemed fragile and uncertain, with the end of the Cold War, the rise of the Gulf War and the onset of what would become the ‘digital disruption’. The Australian Stock Exchange, which was only four years old, had converted all stocks to electronic trading and closed its trading floors forever. NASA launched three space shuttles in one year and, for the gamers, the Super Nintendo was released. For other gaming interests, the Adelaide Crows was launched as South Australia’s first team in the Australian Football League.
Adelaide was becoming used to being on the world stage when Ayrton Senna won the controversial 7th Australian Grand Prix which was shortened due to dangerous wet weather conditions. Presumably, spectators made their way down to the newly opened Myer Centre for some family fun at the rooftop Dazzleland Arcade, or if they were early adopters, they may have winched out their new ‘brick’ mobile phone to call a taxi. They would have been crazy to drive because Adelaide City Council parking inspectors were testing ‘mini computers’ to issue parking fines.
In many ways, it was the perfect time to build a new university in South Australia. Everybody’s world was getting bigger. Technology was about to take a monumental leap as the internet moved from being a research tool to a public right. Access to information was opening out to a far broader group of people and with it came an interest in and demand for tertiary education.
In 1991, UniSA’s current Vice Chancellor, Professor David Lloyd, was in his final year of school in Dublin, Ireland, and deciding where to study next; a big decision for the first in his family to attend university. Professor Marie Wilson, the current Pro Vice Chancellor, UniSA Business School, was moving her family across the world from the United States to New Zealand upon deciding to become an academic. She had just left her role as an executive in one of the world’s largest IT companies.
Little did Professor Wilson know that one of the world’s newest IT companies was opening its business doors in Adelaide as Internode Systems Pty Ltd. Internode was the brainchild of Simon Hackett, who was determined to ensure that South Australia’s researchers, IT dabblers and gamers had access to the best possible internet services in the country.
While the task of combining the cultures of UniSA’s antecedent institutions may have seemed daunting, the first University leaders had a rare opportunity to keep the historical expertise and apply it to a brand new canvas. Emeritus Professor Kevin O’Brien, formerly of the South Australian Institute of Technology, was appointed the inaugural Dean of the Faculty of Business and Management. His vision, innovation and entrepreneurship, underpinned the thriving international business school that we have today.
It was a time of unprecedented expansion, according to Professor O’Brien.
“We had the largest number of international students in the University and a rapidly expanding transnational education program,” says O’Brien. “It was a time of huge growth in international activities with about 10,000 international students in the early 2000s.”
While this was true for many Australian business schools, the growth and complexity of the UniSA programs was exceptional. The number of international students coming to Adelaide continued to increase, but the most rapid growth took place in offshore programs.
“We offered bachelor degrees through to MBAs, PhDs and DBAs in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Switzerland. Strategic partnerships were established with several international universities in China.
It was a time of unprecedented expansion. The growth and complexity of our programs was exceptional and our international numbers soared.
“At the same time, our first set of challenges was around building an integrated faculty with a new organisational structure and set of educational programs. Developing a common culture across a diverse group of staff was central to the success of the new faculty and, importantly, shifting to a research culture meant that staff would need support and encouragement to update their qualifications,” says O’Brien. “Assistance for staff undertaking doctorates was introduced, including teaching-free semesters and grants for appropriate publications.”
When Professor Gerry Griffin took over the mantle as Pro Vice Chancellor in 2004, he inherited a thriving Division of Business and Enterprise. “The scale of international activity was immense and the challenges of uniting behind a new, clear vision were evident, but the staff and leadership were so committed. It was an exciting time to join the University,” says Griffin.
Griffin acknowledged that it was also time to be recognised on the world stage. “Kevin had laid the groundwork for EQUIS accreditation, an important recognition of the quality of our education and research programs. UniSA was the second Australian institution to achieve this recognition and is now the longest-term holder.”
By 2007, Australian universities knew the government was moving to a national benchmarking process to evaluate research. “Excellence in Research for Australia may have felt like moving mountains in the early days, but its timing was perfect,” says Griffin.
“It offered our staff a clear framework against which their research could be ranked. It was a great source of validation and motivation for our researchers.
“The scale of international activity was immense...but the staff and leadership were so committed. It was an exciting time to join the University.”
“I have so many gratifying memories,” reminisces Griffin, “and one that stands out is watching the graduation of the first round of UniSA Law School students in March 2011. We knew that to be a fully-rounded business school, we needed to offer law and business-law double degrees. We worked closely with local law firms to ensure that each of those first graduates found a position. They took a chance on a brand new law school and we wanted to repay their faith. It’s a different situation now, of course, with UniSA Law School being first preference for 80 percent of the students attending.”
It was this capacity for change and the potential for making a real difference through industry engagement that attracted Professor Marie Wilson to become UniSA Business School’s third Pro Vice Chancellor in 2013. “I was excited by a strong business school in an enterprising university, embedded in the South Australian culture which embraces and engages with its universities.
“We must think creatively about collaboration, investing in research that solves current questions in business.
And we need to be prepared to invest in solutions to the industry problems we can anticipate over the next decades,” says Wilson.
Connecting with the business community is at the heart of what motivates Professor Wilson and the Business School.
“South Australia has strength in its sense of community. Never before has there been a time when we can harness the strength of our local businesses and simultaneously tap into the global community. The potential for making a difference to people’s lives through business is phenomenal.”
“Never before has there been a time when we can harness the strength of our local businesses and simultaneously tap into the global community.”
“The ability to support the growth and development of South Australia is fundamental to the Business School, and underpins the success of its graduates.
“We are the preferred Business School in South Australia for many reasons: our global reach, the quality and success of our graduates and alumni, and the impact of our research endeavours and partnerships.
“Now is the time to take all of the amazing activities of the Business School and refine and discern. We want—and need—to create eye-opening, mind-opening experiences for our students and our community.”
All that in just 25 years. Not bad, not bad at all.
A NEW UNIVERSITY
The University of South Australia (UniSA) is founded in January 1991 through the amalgamation of the South Australian Institute of Technology (SAIT), and the Magill, Salisbury and Underdale campuses of the South Australian College of Advanced Education, thereby bringing together 150 years of academic excellence and making us the second oldest business school in Australia.
OUR FOUNDATION DEAN
Professor Kevin O’Brien is appointed the inaugural Dean of the Faculty of Business and Management. The early years of establishment are challenging but through Professor O’Brien’s vision, innovation and entrepreneurship, the Faculty thrives. In 1998, he was appointed the Pro Vice Chancellor of the Division of Business and Enterprise.
In 1993 we pioneer transnational education, commencing with the International MBA in Singapore. Over the next 10–15 years our offshore teaching skyrockets, extending across most of Asia and parts of Europe. We become the leading provider for offshore teaching within UniSA and are awarded the Business SA Export award for education in 1999 (and also in 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2006).
In 1997, our first offshore alumni chapters are established in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Today we have nearly 8000 alumni members currently living in Asia.
A NEW CITY CAMPUS
The new City West campus opens in 1997, becoming the new home of the Division of Business. Located in the heart of the central business district, the campus flourishes. By 2005 two new buildings (Kaurna and Dorrit Black) are completed, followed by the iconic Hawke Building in 2007, marking the completion of a $135 million capital investment across UniSA.
In 2004 we become the second business school in Australia to receive EQUIS accreditation, awarded by the EFMD Quality Improvement System EQUIS, the most prestigious international accreditation for business schools. EQUIS accreditation demonstrates high quality in all our activities, including research, teaching, student services, internationalisation and connections with the corporate world. We are now one of only eight Australian business schools accredited by EQUIS.
OUR NEW PRO VICE CHANCELLOR
Professor Gerry Griffin is appointed the Pro Vice Chancellor and Vice President of the Division of Business in 2004. This era builds on our foundations and marks our ascent as a leading, quality-driven business school. Under Professor Griffin’s leadership we achieve world-class research rankings, international accreditation, foster quality international partnerships, and achieve excellent teaching outcomes.
WORLD-CLASS MARKETING INSTITUTE
In 2005, we officially launch the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, the world’s largest centre for research into marketing. Renowned for busting pseudo-science and marketing myths, the Institute helps companies all over the world to develop and benefit from a culture of evidence-based marketing.
In 2007, our MBA achieves a top 10 result in the Australian Financial Review BOSS survey of MBA alumni, a ranking we maintain to the current day. In 2009 and every year since, our MBA receives the maximum 5-star rating from the Graduate Management Association of Australia, making our MBA one of only two institutions in Australia to receive this honour.
A NEW LAW SCHOOL
In 2008, we open our new Law School, with 75 students enrolling. In 2011, our first cohort of students graduate.
TOURISM HALL OF FAME
In 2010 our School of Management wins the SA Tourism Award for Tourism Education and Training for the third consecutive year, and the School is inducted into the ‘Tourism Hall of Fame’.
In 2011 our Global Experience program wins the Governor’s Multicultural Award for Youth, for outstanding engagement with multicultural communities and promotion of cultural diversity.
In 2011, the Federal Government’s inaugural Excellence in Research for Australia rankings rank our research as ‘world-class’ in the core areas of business and management, accounting, auditing and accountability, law, and tourism. The outcome confirms both the Division’s status as a leading research business school and the international reach of its research programs.
A NEW ERA
The Division of Business and Enterprise is renamed University of South Australia Business School.
A NEW BRAND OF LEADERSHIP
Attracted by the vibrancy of the University, and the potential to make a real difference to the business and professional communities of South Australia, Professor Marie Wilson is appointed as the new Pro Vice Chancellor (Business and Law) of the University of South Australia Business School. Professor Wilson exemplifies the modern academic leader, combining excellence in research and scholarship with significant achievement in private sector roles, from CEO to Board memberships.
2014 sees UniSA Business School foster key corporate connections through the establishment of the Centre for Business Growth and the Institute for Choice.
The Centre for Business Growth—an innovative new partnership between the University of South Australia and ANZ—gives small-to-medium enterprises the knowledge, tools, and expertise they need to grow their businesses.
The Institute for Choice works with partners in government and private industry, applying economic models to better understand how stakeholders make choices and how this feeds into institutional planning and decision-making.
NEW JEFFREY SMART BUILDING
UniSA officially opens its new $90 million student learning centre, the Jeffrey Smart Building. Based on our City West campus, it provides cutting-edge facilities, integrated learning spaces, library and support services. The following year the building receives three architecture accolades for its design.
20-YEAR PARTNERSHIP WITH HKBU
UniSA celebrates a 20-year partnership with Hong Kong Baptist University, marking the anniversary by launching a suite of jointly offered full-time degrees.
TOP 1% WORLDWIDE
UniSA Business School goes from strength-to-strength, with the MBA awarded five stars in the category Program Strength in the QS Stars Business School rankings. UniSA Business School is also awarded overall five star rating in the 2015 QS Stars Business School rankings—putting us in the top 1% globally.
TOP 50 UNDER 50
UniSA is ranked 25 in the QS Top 50 Worldwide Institutions Aged Under 50 and 288 in the 2015 World University Rankings.
Business growth, and driving innovation and entrepreneurship in South Australia is firmly secured as a focus for the University, with the launch of the Innovation and Collaboration Centre —a strategic partnership between UniSA, the Government of South Australia and anchor industry partner Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
NEW RESEARCH CENTRE
The new Centre for Workplace Excellence is launched (combining the Centre for Human Resource Management and Centre for Work+Life). The Centre researches current and future workplace challenges to enable organisations and employees to be innovative, agile and adaptable in a dynamic, global environment.
RESEARCH EXCELLENCE ASSURED
UniSA Business School is ranked in the top 150 in the world for Accounting and Finance, Top 200 for Business and Management and top 200 for Law, in the QS World Rankings by Subject.
The University of South Australia is selected to establish a King Sejong Institute in Adelaide, as a hub for Korean culture, business and language education. The Institute builds upon already productive research and student exchange relationships with Korea and spearheads a local focus on the language and culture of what is one of the most innovative economies in the world today.