Professor Ian Jacobs’ belief that universities must be servants of society has fostered a dynamic Social Impact portfolio at UNSW.

From the time he was old enough to understand the discrimination that his Jewish forebears had endured, Professor Jacobs has had a strong sense of social justice, an attribute that guided his clinical, research and charity work.

Many of his unashamedly altruistic ideas about a just society and a university’s responsibility to improve lives aligned with the aspirations of UNSW’s students, staff, alumni and supporters. This commitment is reflected in the UNSW 2025 strategic priority of Social Impact, and its three constituent themes of equity, diversity and inclusion; thought leadership; and sustainable development.

Professor Merlin Crossley, DVC Academic and Student Life, remarked on Professor Jacobs’ focus on the little things that matter in having a positive impact.

“Throughout his time Ian always focused on the future, and worked to build a better future that valued inclusivity and sustainability across the globe,” Professor Crossley said. “But he also paid attention to the individuals around him and cared about the little things upon which a community can be built.”

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

From the inception of the UNSW 2025 Strategy, the strategic commitments to advance equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) were clear:

  • Increase the representation of women to 40% in D and E academic levels
  • Increase low socioeconomic status students’ access and enrolment to 13% of undergraduate domestic students
  • Prevent and respond to sexual misconduct
  • Develop and implement a disability inclusion action plan
  • Create a disability innovation institute
  • Create diversity champions
  • Create an Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Board comprising the most senior staff and students to advise the university on pressing EDI matters and require reporting on such matters
  • Join the SAGE Athena Swan program to dramatically increase women in STEMM, and to advance gender equity and diversity in STEMM disciplines in higher education and research.
  • Create a new Division of Equity Diversity and Inclusion to oversee and help instil EDI values and principles across the University community

When Professor Jacobs leaves UNSW in January 2022, all of these EDI goals, and many more, are established or well on the way to being achieved by 2025.

Sustainable Development

UNSW has long shone in the fields of climate change and the environment, sustainable energy, recycling technology and community development. Professor Jacobs’ championing of UNSW’s overt commitment to a socially just and sustainable society has seen research, teaching and community commitment in sustainability expand exponentially.

We have elevated our ambitions to demonstrate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in research, teaching and community partnerships. We launched the SDG Toolkit for academic staff, across disciplines, to incorporate sustainability thinking into their course content.

Our partnerships with communities in Australia and in nations around the world are one of the legacies of Professor Jacobs’ time here and reflect his influence on the University culture. In 2016, for example, UNSW established a new long-term relationship between UNSW, Gulu University and Makerere University in Uganda, creating opportunities for UNSW learning, teaching and research exchange.

Thought Leadership

Through the innovative, impactful research and educational practices conducted throughout the University, UNSW has continued to confront the greatest issues facing humanity. UNSW academics are leading research, policy and public conversations that can change the world.