We’re poised to blow out the final candle on the final cake from our 25th birthday celebrations and I thought a brief recap would be both a reminder of the great year we had, and something of a prelude to the next few that we’re about to have.

We very consciously chose to celebrate our 25th year because that’s when we let go of our youth and turn our attentions to settling down (only kidding – no fear of that happening). Just like in real life, despite driving at 16 and voting at 18, you aren’t considered fully mature until you reach the age of 25 when your car insurance premiums drop and you’re allowed to rent a car. That’s when you take control of your life. Twenty-five seemed an appropriate time for us to reflect on and celebrate our progress as a university.

On the eve of the birthday year, UniSA was officially recognised as a research powerhouse when 97 per cent of our research was rated at or above world class standard by the Australian Research Council’s 2015 Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) results. In the national ranking of ERA achievement, we popped up at number eight, knocking out one of the Group of Eight research-intensive universities and upending a number of preconceptions and expectations.

Though it might seem like a strange coincidence, one of the world’s foremost academic ratings agencies, Quacarelli Symonds, ranked UniSA as #25 in their list of the world’s top 50 universities under 50 years old. Times Higher Education followed and listed us at #38 in the young universities list. 

While we’re on the subject of standings, UniSA also appeared as the youngest Australian university on Nature Index’s 2016 Rising Stars listing for the Asia Pacific region. This ranking reflects the sophisticated work being done by researchers at our new Future Industries Institute, which was officially opened this year, and at the Centre for Cancer Biology, the Sansom Institute for Health Research and in key areas such as population health and genomics.

To top it off, we were also ranked by Thompson Reuters as one of Asia’s 75 Most Innovative Universities.

All this objectively confirms that in our teaching and in our research we are definitely on the right track. Our contributions to society and to the economy are equally valuable and valued and our students’ preferences continue to grow, with our State-leading graduate outcomes confirming our students as having made the right choice.

Our willingness to engage with end users has paid off during the year, and the partnerships we made will position us for future growth. As you know we are fast becoming the university of choice for industry and professional partnerships and among the many we made in 2016 was one of note with Calvary Hospital, to explore the development of a new UniSA Clinical School as they deliver the new $300 million Calvary Adelaide Hospital in Angas Street, in the city.

While we grew our national and international reputation as smart, enterprising and easy to work with, we celebrated some of the people who have helped us reach this point – former South Australian Premier, The Hon Dean Brown AO; Senator The Hon Penny Wong, Leader of the Opposition in the Australian Senate and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs; Angelica Cheung, Editor-In-Chief of Vogue China and a force behind China’s fashion industry; and Janine Mohamed, Chief Executive Officer of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives – were officially recognised at a special Alumni Award ceremony and banquet in their honour. Their successes and their contributions to the betterment of their communities make us very proud to have had a hand in educating them.

As an institution which graduates modern professionals, we have an expectation that our graduates will be talented people and that they will put their talents to their best use. Another of our alumni, businessman and entrepreneur Andrew Pridham took his Bachelor of Applied Science in Property Resource Management from the old South Australian Institute of Technology and turned it into a phenomenally successful international career in commercial property and investment banking.

Andrew recently returned to UniSA with a cheque for $5 million, a gift that underpins our ambitions for the great hall, an idea suggested at our first Unijam three years ago, and now rapidly rising above the ground next to the Jeffrey Smart Building at City West.  

Andrew’s generous gift, the largest private donation in our university’s history, inspired the State Government to tip in another $1 million to fund new perpetual scholarships for high achieving sports people and high achieving Aboriginal students to further their studies at UniSA.

We head into our next 25 years generating know-ledge through research, transferring knowledge through teaching and engaging meaningfully with our community and with society as a whole. If 2016 is anything to go by, the future looks bright.

Nothing is achieved in isolation. So much of our efforts over the past four years have been toward instilling and living a ‘one team’ ethos across the University. The year 2016 has embodied that in so many ways – thank you all so very much for the part you played in making our first 25 years the success that they have been.