Professor relishing return to Tasmania

University of Tasmania Provost Professor Mike Calford says the state has the advantage of attracting very good academics to UTAS. Picture: MARK JESSER

University of Tasmania Provost Professor Mike Calford says the state has the advantage of attracting very good academics to UTAS. Picture: MARK JESSER

Education reporter ROSITA GALLASCH introduces Launceston to newly arrived university chief executive Mike Calford.

UNIVERSITY of Tasmania Provost Professor Mike Calford has returned to a home of his childhood.

Just two months into his five- year contract, his return was not achieved by any long-range career intention but as a move determined by his work interests and having three adult children who had left home.

As the Provost, which is best described as the chief executive of the university, the non-clinical neuroscientist who was most recently the deputy vice-chancellor research at the University of Newcastle, said he was happy to be back.

Originally from Wales, Professor Calford's family first moved to Adelaide and then Launceston after his father became the manager for Phillips in Tasmania.

He attended Brooks High School when it was located at the Newnham campus site, before going on to complete year 11 at the then Launceston Matriculation College.

"It was a really enjoyable experience, Brooks was a tremendous school," Professor Calford said.

"It was a large regional school, and we had boarders - we had all the kids from Flinders Island and from the North-East who boarded at the school, so it was quite a different environment and quite a mature environment, I think because of that."

After completing his PhD at Monash University, he spent postdoctoral periods at both City University, New York and then Oxford.

He returned to Australia for an appointment with the University of Queensland, where he stayed for 13 years.

Then time in Canberra, Newcastle, Wollongong and finally to Tasmania.

"But I've avoided Sydney and Melbourne and some of that was deliberate, but mostly it was because of economics," Professor Calford said.

"I think that's a real advantage we have here, in attracting very good academics to the University of Tasmania."

He said Tasmania was an affordable place and the university would hope to attract more academics to the state.

Professor Calford said the university had just appointed four senior academics in Launceston and seven in Hobart, three of them being part-time.

"We're attractive for the reason that most Tasmanians may not understand - is that we are a world-class university," he said.

"This university is not part of the group eight you hear a lot about of Australian universities - they're very large, very strong financially, but if you think about the next couple of universities in Australian rank order, that's us, we number nine or 10 depending on what measure is used and that's very attractive for academics."

He said the university led the country in some research areas, such as at The Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, The Australian Maritime College and the School of Architecture and Design.

Originally qualifying as a psychologist, Professor Calford said he spent only a bit of time working in the clinical area.

"But I was more interested in the brain, how the brain worked and what it did on a more fundamental basis than psychologists looked at," he said.

"But I never worked with patients, that's not my background, but working on the basics of what goes on in the brain when it's injured and the chemical changes and the pharmacology that goes into that, and also trying to work out some of the fundamental basis for some of the treatments work."

Professor Calford moved into more of an administrative role when he was heavily involved in establishing an animal research ethics approval system at the University of Queensland, before going onto chair the National Animal Welfare Committee, sponsored by the National Health and Medical Research Council, some years later.

"I found that I got as much enjoyment from getting some of those administrative things through like new guidelines for holding monkeys, because we weren't happy with the way they were being held around the country - it is only very small occasions that they would be used in research," he said.

Professor Calford said he was attracted to UTAS for a number of reason but particularly because it was research active and attracted academics who were leaders in their field, as this was important for students to see and learn from.

He also said the Vice- Chancellor Professor Peter Rathjen's approach to taking the university forward, as well as the strategic plan helped make his decision to come to the state easier.

In his role as Provost he hopes to see the further development of the Launceston campuses and said nationally, it was unusual that such regional campuses were populated by staff of the quality found in this state.

Professor Calford said he and others in management were continuing to lobby for funding for the Northern Health Initiative and with the call for more aged care professionals, this was an area the university could be a leader in.

He said if the university knew federal funding was coming, then they would be able to put up some money now to get the initiative underway.

Professor Calford said the university restructure, which started in 2012, was ongoing, however they were "taking stock" of where they were placed at the moment as some the new structures came into play.

He also said the role of some of the institutes, like the AMC, and how that linked into the university would also be looked at during this period.

Professor Calford said the move back to Tasmania with his wife has prompted a number of calls from family and friends who intend to visit for three main reasons - trout fishing, wineries and to enjoy the outdoors.

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