Communications & Media

University thanks inaugural director for realising Underwood Centre vision

The University of Tasmania has today thanked the Director of the Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment, Professor Elaine Stratford, for her instrumental role in having delivered the vision of the Institute to reality. With the Institute established, Professor Stratford has announced she will leave the role to focus more strongly on her research interests in the field.

The purpose of the Centre – which bears the name of the former Tasmanian Governor and has current Governor Professor the Honourable Kate Warner as its chair – is to drive a process of transformation in Tasmanian education, leading to increased levels of educational attainment and economic and social benefit for the state.

It now has a network of 225 researchers, teachers, NGOs, and community members, is partnering with State Government on education workforce needs, running an energetic program to lift aspiration among primary and secondary school students, and hosting a state-wide monthly seminar on a broad range of issues related to its purpose.

Professor Stratford was appointed to the role in mid-2015.

“I am inspired by the mission and promise of the Underwood Centre so it has been a very great honour to help bring it into being,” Professor Stratford said. “I have a deep-seated belief in the power of education to lift people and the communities in which they live, and a profound commitment to this island place and its young people.”

“Now the Underwood Centre is well established and a great team is delivering on its mission, it is time to focus my energies on related research and continue to have positive impact on Tasmania’s learning future over time. There are several important research projects on which I will work.”

The establishment of the Centre in early 2015 was a unique moment in which Tasmanians came together to address a common purpose, the University Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students and Education) Professor David Sadler said.

“Such an undertaking has required strong leadership and that has been provided by Professor Stratford, with her energy, enthusiasm and drive to consolidate and develop the fledgling partnership between the University, the Government and Government House,” Professor Sadler said.

Professor Stratford was Head of the School of Geography and Environmental Studies and then Deputy Director of the newly established Institute for the Study of Social Change before taking on the role of Director of the Peter Underwood Centre. She has earned an exceptional international reputation in the geographies of children and young people and island studies.

The Centre’s research and activities are supported by funding from the Department of Education and the University, as well as organisations such as the Ian Potter Foundation, and the Commonwealth Bank. Professor Stratford and her team have secured $3.2 million in grants and commissioned work to date, much of it long-term research about what helps drive educational attainment.

The Centre also has carriage of the Children’s University, which in December last year saw 123 graduating students lead the University’s Town and Gown processions in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie. It also runs the Bigger Things program which uses engagement activities to help students see pathways from compulsory to tertiary education and new employment options, and operates in partnership with the Department of Education and the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

In the short term, strategic and management oversight of the Underwood Centre will be carried out by the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students and Education), Professor David Sadler.

Published on: 10 Apr 2017 2:50pm