Hilary Winchester’s academic background is in social geography and migration, though she shifted gears after an ‘aha’ moment more than 20 years into her career. Currently, she is Director and Principal of Hilary Winchester Pty Ltd and specialises in Higher Education Quality Assurance.
Hilary grew up in England, where she completed a PhD in Social Geography and Migration. During this time, she did a number of teaching jobs, then held a range of short contracts at universities including Oxford, Cheltenham and Plymouth. Her first 'real' job as an academic was at Plymouth in 1984.
In 1987 she got married, and came to Australia with her husband. Her first role in Australia was a three-week contract at The University of Wollongong, and in 1991 she won a role as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Newcastle, where she climbed the ranks for 10 years. In her most senior role at Newcastle, Hilary became President of the Academic Senate (Chair of the Academic Board), which gave her great insight and responsibility within the areas of policy and quality.
Juggling family and work became a challenge after her son was born in 1992, and due to location of their jobs, she and her husband lived apart. In many ways, this meant that Hilary raised her child like a single parent, and feelings of guilt about not spending enough time with her son and with work began to creep in. This was a losing battle, and Hilary soon decided the thing she most needed to give up was feeling guilty.
Seeking executive roles, Hilary took a role at Flinders University as Pro Vice Chancellor (Academic), and after only a couple of years was strategically poached by the University of South Australia to run their quality audits. This put Hilary in an awkward position, as Flinders had asked her to see out her notice, simultaneously not wanting her to be involved in decisions or confidential discussions. She had her 'aha' moment after completing the UniSA audit in 2009, realising that what she enjoyed best was supporting organisations to improve. Following this revelation, Hilary went into consulting.
In 2012, she took a short-term contract as Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic and Research) at Central Queensland University with the intention to fill in the role for a few weeks, though ended up staying for four and a half years. Not long after she commenced, CQU discovered a significant multi-million dollar deficit and Hilary was tasked with reducing her portfolio by about $12.5 million, which involved a formal restructure process and job cuts.
In 2016, she returned to Adelaide to again engage in consulting, which she loves and is fortunate to have found success both in Australia and overseas.
Hilary’s drive and ambition is just as apparent in her interests outside of her career. She has always been a serious competitive runner, which helps to clear her head and provide focus. Hilary has done a great deal of mentoring in the past and is currently involved in mentoring Early Career Researchers. She has most enjoyed working with mentees whose goals are somewhat aligned with those she has had throughout her career, in particular, around research and teaching.