Paul Jeans is determined to “look ahead” following his reappointment as Chancellor of the University of Newcastle.
The stunning turnaround comes after former Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile AO opted not to proceed with the role.
He was due to take up the position in July, becoming the establishment’s eighth Chancellor, however his posting – announced this month – met severe public backlash due to his links to a coal company.
A member of the University of Newcastle Council, Prof Jennifer Martin, resigned in protest while the University of Newcastle Students’ Association was planning a rally on Friday to air its concerns.
Only a fortnight ago, the council voted unanimously for Mr Vaile, stating his credentials were exemplary and included strong connections to the region.
He served as Leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister from 2005 to 2007.
His impressive political career started when he entered local government as an Alderman at Greater Taree City Council from 1985.
He was elected to the federal House of Representatives in 1993.
While in government, Mr Vaile held several ministerial positions including Transport and Regional Development, Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
In the pivotal role of Minister for Trade, he negotiated a number of Australia’s key partnerships including the Singapore-Australia Agreement, the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement and the Australia-Thailand Free Trade Agreement.
But, it was his ties to Whitehaven Coal, which caused the latest uproar.
It’s believed his chairmanship with the company did not align with the university’s future plans.
The institution is targeting to be carbon neutral by 2025.
This subsequently opened the door for Mr Jeans’ return.
“I am committed to leading the University of Newcastle to ensure continuity and to maintain the strong momentum in the execution of our strategic plan Looking Ahead,” he said on Tuesday afternoon.
“I look forward to working with our communities, in particular our staff and students, to take our university forward.”