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Adelaide Uni appoints new chancellor

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The University of Adelaide has appointed deputy chancellor Catherine Branson as chancellor, two months after the abrupt resignation of previous chancellor Kevin Scarce and the announcement of an anti-corruption inquiry into vice chancellor Peter Rathjen.

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Branson, a former SA Crown Solicitor and Federal Court judge, joined the university council in 2013 and became deputy chancellor in 2017.

“Cathy Branson takes on this important role at a particularly challenging time for our state, our university and the higher education sector in general,” said chancellor appointment committee chair Christine Locher.

“But the council had no doubt that they were selecting someone of the highest calibre, proven throughout her outstanding legal and judicial career and in her service to our university,” she said.

Branson said she was honoured to take on the role.

“As a South Australian and graduate of this University, I have long been proud of its global standing and the contribution it has made, and continues to make, to the State over almost 150 years,” she said.

“I am honoured to be overseeing its governance, and helping ensure the university continues to provide the world-class education and research our State needs for its recovery and strong future.”

Acting vice-chancellor Professor Mike Brooks said Branson’ leadership and judgment “coupled with her long-standing connection and support of this university will all be of crucial importance as we continue to respond to COVID-19 and ensure a strong and sustainable future for our university”.

The university has been without a chancellor since May 4, when former Governor Kevin Scarce abruptly resigned from the position six months before the end of his six-year term.

On May 5, vice chancellor Peter Rathjen was granted indefinite leave, and on May 7 Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander announced he had launched an inquiry into Rathjen.

“I have commenced an investigation in respect of allegations of improper conduct by the Vice-Chancellor of The University of Adelaide,” Lander said in a statement.

“I am also investigating the manner in which the University dealt with those allegations.

“The University has committed to providing full cooperation with my investigation. I do not intend to comment further on the nature of the allegations.”

Along with many other universities, Adelaide is also dealing with a financial black hole opened up by the pandemic and its halting the flow of fee-paying international students.

Earlier this year it reported a “$100 million shortfall against its budget for the remainder of 2020 due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

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