A new VC
Mal Logan was a leader from a very different mould to those who came before him. He was the first Monash Vice-Chancellor to be educated in government schools. He had attended a rural university. He began his career as a teacher and did not complete his doctorate in geography until his mid-30s.
This background cemented for Logan that university education was key to overcoming social inequality. He never had designs on the top job, but as his academic career progressed he came to see university education as part of a ‘big-picture’ and how to best place Monash within this scene.
These ideas led him to management positions at Monash. His strategic vision for Monash was what won him the vice-chancellorship in 1987 upon Ray Martin’s retirement. As vice-chancellor, Logan made Monash into Australia’s largest and most entrepreneurial university. The University grew exponentially, and by the end of his ten-year term, Monash had merged with three other institutions and founded another Melbourne campuses, with plans underway for two more internationally.
Malcolm Ian Logan was born in 1931. His parents separated when he was young and he and his brother were raised by their father, Alan. After attending Tamworth High School, Logan won a teacher studentship at the University of New England (UNE). He later completed an honours year in geography at the University of Sydney, having been drawn to maps since school. After graduating, he began teaching at Forbes High School in the far west of New South Wales. It wasn’t long though before he was teaching at the tertiary level, first at the local teachers’ college in Armadale and then at the Sydney Teachers’ College. In 1959, he became a lecturer in geography at Sydney University.
Although Logan enjoyed teaching his students and had good scope to develop his interests in urban geography, the factional fighting at Sydney caused him to look elsewhere. In 1967, he left Australia to become a professor at the University of Wisconsin. Here, Logan came to love the large size of the undergraduate cohort and the stimulating academic community. But as Vietnam War protests began to escalate on campus, returning to Australia looked appealing.
Logan joined Monash in 1971, attracted by the ‘newness’ of the university. He began to rise quickly through the administrative ranks and became Pro-Vice-Chancellor in 1982. He was involved with higher education policy throughout the 1980s. In 1987, he was appointed vice-chancellor.
He saw Monash’s potential for growth through its position in Melbourne’s suburbia, and in Australia’s position in the Asia Pacific. Logan’s strategies for Monash involved expansion. The Dawkins Green Paper was released later in 1987, and Monash immediately embraced the idea of mergers. Logan’s plan brought Monash greater numbers of students, locations from Parkville to Gippsland, and set in motion plans for a campus in Malaysia. The numbers of international students, particularly from Asia, increased as the Monash ‘brand’ became well-known. Logan’s tenure as vice-chancellor marked a permanent change in Monash’s direction as a university.
In 1996, Mal Logan was appointed a Champion of the Order of Australia (AC), the highest honour that can be awarded to an Australian citizen. He retired as Vice-Chancellor and President of Monash University at the end of that year.