Top uni boss quits mid-term

Tim Pallas Presser
Departing University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell has overseen the initial stages of a $650m infectious diseases institute, announced in late-2020. Picture : NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie

University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell has pulled the pin, leaving the high-paying role effective early next year.

Professor Maskell only began his second five-year term in October.

He told The Australian on Monday a trip to see family in the UK made the 62-year-old think about retirement.

Chancellor Jane Hansen said Professor Maskell ensured the university “survived” the pandemic.

Assignment Freelance Picture University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell and\n Chancellor Jane Hansen AO. Picture: Peter Casamento/University of Melbourne.
University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell and Chancellor Jane Hansen AO. Picture: Peter Casamento/University of Melbourne.

“Professor Maskell’s advocacy for increasing the number of students from under-represented backgrounds through Narrm Scholarships is a hallmark of his time as the University of Melbourne’s vice-chancellor, along with his work to support ongoing investment in research,” she said.

The University of Melbourne jumped 19 places to be named 14th in the QS 2024 World University Rankings, as the highest ranked Australian institution.

Assignment Freelance Picture MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: Newswire Photos: APRIL 29 2024: General views a\n University of Melbourne pro-Palestine encampment. Picture: NCA Newswire /\n Blair Jackson
A pro-Palestine encampment set up at the University of Melbourne this week. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Blair Jackson

Professor Maskell is an infectious diseases expert, and earns $1.2 million per annum as vice-chancellor over 80,000 staff and students.

A key piece of his tenure has been a $650m institute of infectious diseases, backed by the state government to “future-proof the national effort to tackle pandemics and infectious diseases”.

The University of Melbourne beat Caltech, Yale and Princeton in the latest world university rankings. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty

After the Australian Institute of Infectious Disease was launched at the Parkville campus, Canadian philanthropist Geoff Cumming gifted $250m for a pandemic therapeutics centre.

During his vice-chancellorship, the university also set up two investment funds, with at least $115m combined, to commercialise projects; from a projects infancy, through start-up and into initial public offering.

The funds had private capital firm back, as well as contributions from the state and external investors.

Finding Professor Maskell’s replacement will be subject of a global search.