From student of history to history maker – UQ welcomes new Chancellor

11 Jul 2016

Alumnus, university medallist and honorary doctorate recipient Mr Peter N Varghese AO has returned to The University of Queensland as its 14th Chancellor today (July 11).

Mr Varghese graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours) in 1978, and has spent the past 38 years in the Australian Public Service, occupying senior positions in the fields of foreign and trade policy and intelligence.

He retired as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on July 1.

His previous senior appointments include High Commissioner to India, High Commissioner to Malaysia, Director-General of the Office of National Assessments, and Senior Advisor (International) to the Prime Minister of Australia.

Mr Varghese said he was delighted to return to UQ which had played such an important part in his family’s Australian story.

“My family moved to Brisbane from Kenya in the 1960s, and before long the St Lucia campus became like our second home,” he said.

“We lived nearby, my father taught here, six of my siblings studied here.  I met my wife on campus and our only son began his engineering studies at UQ.

“UQ moulded the intellectual foundation of my career in public service and public policy.

“I am honoured to have this opportunity to work with the Vice-Chancellor and University Senate in setting the strategic agenda for UQ to ensure it remains in the top ranks of universities globally as well as contributing to the future of Queensland and Australia.”

The role of Chancellor is akin to that of chair of a large listed company.

An honorary position, it carries strategic, governance and ceremonial responsibilities and demands extensive engagement with the UQ community and the broader community.

“These are challenging times for all Australian universities,” Mr Varghese said.

“Securing a sustainable funding base, giving our students a broad education as well as the skills needed to secure good jobs and playing a part in the national conversation about the future of Australia are all crucial to UQ’s success.” 

Mr Varghese was a University medallist in history in 1978 and received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters in 2013.

He replaces UQ’s 13th Chancellor, Mr John Story AO, who retired in 2015. Deputy Chancellor Dr Jane Wilson has acted as Chancellor pending Mr Varghese’s arrival.