Meet Professor Ian Harper, the new Dean of Melbourne Business School

5/03/2015
5/03/2018

Few people have had a greater impact on Australian business and finance in the past three decades than economist Ian Harper.
 
After almost 20 years as a professor at the University of Melbourne and Melbourne Business School, Ian became a public figure as the chairman of the federal government's Competition Policy Review (Harper Review) and currently serves on the board of the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Ian has also been a partner at Deloitte, an Advisory Board member at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch (Australia), and as of this week, returns to lead Melbourne Business School as its sixth Dean.
 

"My favourite memories of Melbourne Business School are from the classroom," he says. "I have terrific memories of sessions in class with great students – interactive discussions, the lively debate."

Ian is returning to the School to cement its place as a cornerstone of Melbourne's booming knowledge economy, which has become the envy of other cities.

"Melbourne is a fantastic example of a knowledge economy working right before your eyes. Victoria is attracting the largest number of internal migrants of any state in Australia, and it has the fastest rate of full-time jobs growth – without any resources boom," he says.

"Most of the jobs being created are in high-value services built on innovation. Melbourne Business School and the University of Melbourne are essential institutions for leading and driving that innovation ecosystem. They're not just important institutions for Victoria, but for Australia as a whole.

"For innovation to thrive, you need creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication and competition – all the skills that are taught in a school like Melbourne Business School. These are the essential drivers of a modern innovation knowledge economy, such as we're developing here in Melbourne."

A new era of collaboration

One of Ian's first priorities in his new position will be to participate in a strategic review of the University of Melbourne's business and economics offerings, including through the Melbourne Business School, with a view to strengthening the partnership between the two institutions.

"The big theme of my deanship will be collaboration," he says. "That means collaboration between Melbourne Business School and the University of Melbourne, and collaboration with other stakeholders including corporate sponsors, our alumni, donors and students.

"Our greatest opportunity is the fact that Melbourne Business School is part of the number one-ranked university in Australia, and both of us are located right here in the centre of the fastest-growing capital city."

Thanks to his time on faculty – first as Ian Potter Professor of International Finance and then as the Sidney Myer Professor of Commerce and Business Administration – Ian already has an intimate understanding of Melbourne Business School.

This time around, however, Ian will bring with him the experience and contacts he has gained from the past decade working with governments, banks, corporates and leading professional services firms at the highest level.

"I'm bringing to this role connections that span the academic world, the business community and the world of government," he says.

'My pride and joy'

Ian's achievements in public life are well known – but what you might not know is how he spends his weekends.

Those often involve time on Port Phillip, aboard a 30-foot classic wooden motor cruiser that was built on the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales and once did a stint in the NSW Water Police.

"She's my pride and joy. She's 40 years old and I've owned her now for a couple of years. I keep her down in Williamstown and, for relaxation, you'll find me down there tinkering and wandering off into the bay," he says.

Another passion of Ian's is pipe organ music, which led to him overseeing reconstruction of the grand organ in Melbourne's Town Hall in 2000.

Ian and his wife Roslyn have two sons and four grandchildren, all of whom are dearly loved.

"Family is important to me. I've got four grandchildren. Three are in the Northern Territory – I've just been up there a few weeks ago," Ian says.

"My older son Geoffrey and his wife Hannah live in Darwin. Geoffrey is a medical practitioner and he has two practices, one in Darwin and the other in an Indigenous community in Bagot.

"Hannah, my daughter in law, is a linguist – trained here at the University of Melbourne – and she specialises in Aboriginal languages. She's involved in the translation and transcription of Aboriginal song lines.

"My younger son Stuart is an architect here in Melbourne, and his wife Julia is studying for her PhD in Literature here at the University of Melbourne. They have our fourth grandchild, a little girl called Holly."

Ian has already begun meeting with Melbourne Business School students, staff, faculty and partners. One of his first public addresses as Dean will be at this year's Leadership Dinner on April 10.