The appointment results from a global search after previous Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford retired in March 2022 after eight years at the helm.
A New Zealander who grew up in Auckland, Australia, and Canada, Professor Smith has had extensive experience in leadership roles in the tertiary sector in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia. He is currently Provost at the Queensland University of Technology, a relatively new and highly ranked institution with a student population of almost 40,000 FTEs supported by four and half thousand full time staff.
He took on that role in early 2020 as COVID-19 hit, and during the pandemic successfully developed new revenue streams to offset the loss of earnings from international education while also achieving substantial efficiencies in university operations without impacting academic positions.
Between 2013 and 2020, Professor Smith was Dean of Engineering at the University of Auckland—the same university at which he completed his Bachelor of Engineering (1993) and PhD in Biomedical Engineering (2001).
Professor Smith held the role of Professor of Computational Physiology at Oxford before becoming Head of Biomedical Engineering at Kings College London, a role he held until 2013 when he returned to New Zealand to head the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Auckland.
Professor Smith is a distinguished researcher who is known for the development of integrated multi-scale and multi-physics models, mainly of the heart. He has developed computational techniques that have underpinned novel insights in cardiac physiology and innovations in clinical treatment.
He is the author of many book chapters and academic articles and is regularly sought out as a keynote and plenary speaker at international conferences. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and a Fellow of Engineering New Zealand.
Professor Smith says he is excited by the opportunity to advance the relevance and global mana of Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.
“As Aotearoa’s capital city university, adjacent to the seat of government and embedded in one of the most vibrant cities in the South Pacific, Te Herenga Waka can uniquely embody the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi: partnership, participation, and protection."
“The values and vision of the University align strongly with my own—I believe that high quality research and teaching must be relevant for, and trusted by, the communities we serve. Embracing the diversity of Wellington and Aotearoa New Zealand, I am excited about the University’s ability to create equity of access to unique opportunities, host meaningful debate, and facilitate transformative experiences.”
Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington Chancellor John Allen says the Council is looking forward to welcoming Professor Smith to the University.
“His academic track record and his leadership experience and credentials position him to be an outstanding Vice-Chancellor of our institution.
“We have conducted a rigorous search and Council is delighted to have appointed someone who has the right mix of skills and attributes to ensure a distinctive and sustainable future for our university. In particular, we value his learnings he will bring from addressing the challenges posed by COVID-19 at his current university in Queensland.”
Professor Smith will take up his appointment on 16 January 2023.
The current Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jennifer Windsor, will continue in the role until then.