Hilary Winchester


MME_Winchester_Hilary-(1).jpgEmeritus Professor Hilary Winchester specializes in Higher Education Quality Assurance following her academic career which culminated in her role as Provost of Central Queensland University 2012-2016 and Interim Vice-Chancellor July-Oct 2016. She is a highly experienced Board member, quality auditor and reviewer, a finalist in the Queensland Telstra Business Women's Awards 2016 and winner of the Australian Higher Education Quality Award 2011. Her integrity and independence of thought have seen her elected to significant roles within the University sector, including Chair of Executive Women (Universities Australia), member of the register of experts of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, and reviewer for international agencies. Her background is in urban and cultural geography and her roles in academia and quality assurance have provided her with broad and deep expertise and experience in the education and training sector, research, and regulation and compliance.

What boards do you sit on?

I'm Chair of the Academic Board of the Australian Institute of Business, and a member of their Board of Directors.

When and why did you decide to become a director?

I first became a director when I was elected as Chair of the Academic Board at a major University over twenty years ago. In that role, I was an ex-officio member of the University Council (governing body). I also became a director of a university technology start-up company at about the same time.

What are your short and medium-term board aspirations?

In the short term to go a good job to assist my current boards, especially with regulatory frameworks. In the medium term, I would like to be an external member of a University Council.

outline your career background.

I have had a typical academic career, but branching into governance, policy and quality audit as Chair of the Academic Board over twenty years ago. Since 2001, I have been a University Executive in roles such as Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Provost and Interim Vice-Chancellor. I now work full-time running my own consultancy business, specialising in higher education quality assurance.

outline the challenges and hurdles that have presented themselves, either being on or getting onto a board, and how you overcame them?

I have been on Boards for many years and most have been directly or indirectly related to my academic work. Probably the most difficult was a Government Commission, which was very much bound in process rather than outcomes. I only ever had small wins against the bureaucracy but can make a more significant contribution in my current roles.

Are there any directors/leaders you look up to? Why?

I've met a few University Chancellors in my travels and review work. I would say David Gonski is the most impressive, with an amazing grasp of legislative frameworks but also of detail; he also showed himself willing to look at options and innovations.

Have you had mentors and sponsors and how have they helped you in your career?

I haven't ever had a formal mentor or sponsor but have mentored others. I aim to ensure they define their goals and make a realistic plan with some concrete outcomes.

What’s the diversity like on your boards?

They are small boards and the diversity is improving. Gender representation is about 30% female: Australian academia has been working on gender representation for a long time with sector-wide Action Plans for women. There is some cultural diversity, including in the attendees as well as the board members themselves.

How did WOB help you in your journey to the boardroom?

WOB has been an indirect influence. I joined up my University as (I think) the first corporate member (or maybe the first University corporate member) of WOB and a number of women achieved board positions using their expertise, e.g. in IT and marketing. I also met another new WOB member experienced in technology innovation and transfer, who I persuaded the University Council to accept as an 'apprentice'.

Any tips for women starting out in their career?

I think starting a board career requires women to define their goals, use their contacts, know their strengths and act with integrity. But also, to take that first opportunity to get on the ladder to build the experience to take to the next steps.

Interview published: June 2018