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Stephen Willis profile picture University of Otago

Stephen Willis

Chief Operating Officer
University of Otago

University of Otago logo

Stephen has been the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the University of Otago since April 2016.

As the Chief Operating Officer Stephen provides strategic leadership, planning and management across the University’s property, operational, transactional and infrastructure functions. This includes responsibility for the Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Southland Campuses of the University of Otago.

Stephen leads a team responsible for a wide range of services and infrastructure. These include Campus and Collegiate Life, Residential Colleges, Information Technology Services, Property Services, Campus Development, Sustainability, Enterprise Portfolio Management Office, Risk, Assurance and Compliance, Health and Safety, the Enabling Excellence Programme and the University’s new Shared Services which incorporates HR, Finance, Student Experience, Purchasing, Administration, IT and AV functions). Student Services The capital programme Stephen’s portfolio is responsible for is circa $1Billon NZ over a 10 year period.

Prior to New Zealand, Stephen had a long history with Mater Health Services Brisbane – one of Australia’s largest, oldest and most esteemed health care companies – a privately owned and operated not-for-profit organisation providing healthcare, research and education services. During his tenure he delivered the largest capital program in the organisation’s history and some of its most strategic projects and was responsible for the a range of diverse departments and services that supported and provided amenity and security for the 7 hospitals, 7,000 plus staff and millions of visitors each year. This involved a $1.3 Billion+ property and asset portfolio over several campuses, a major capital works program of several hundred million dollars and all the ancillary businesses and services typical of major hospital campuses.

In 2018, Stephen was appointed by the Joint Ministers of Health and Finance to the Southern Partnership Group, which is the board that provides oversight of the New Dunedin Hospital Redevelopment Project – NZ’s largest, most complex and most expensive construction project.

Prior to making a move into the world of operations management, capital works, property & support services Stephen spent several years working in a number of positions as a Clinical Project Officer, Hospital Nurse Manager and Registered Nurse throughout Australia and overseas, and prior to that served in the Australian Army.

Stephen holds a Master’s Degree in Project Management, a Master’s Degree in Health Science majoring in Health Service Management, an Advanced Diploma in Project Management and a Bachelor of Nursing with Distinction.

In 2013 Stephen was awarded a Commendation Award in Business and Law from the University of Southern Queensland and in 2002 was nominated by QUT and subsequently awarded the Ian Brand Prize from the Australian College of Health Service Executives for achieving the highest grade point average (GPA) in a Masters of Health Services Management in Australia.

Stephen is a Member of the Institute of Directors New Zealand and the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM).

Phil Ker profile image Otago Polytechnic

Phil Ker

Chief Executive
Otago Polytechnic

Otago Polytechnic logo

Phil took up his appointment as Chief Executive of Otago Polytechnic in 2004. He has a diverse set of experiences and has developed a broad portfolio of expertise as both an academic and an administrator in both university and polytechnic environments.

He is a successful tertiary leader and teacher, with expertise in curriculum development, assessment of student learning and leadership. He has had a lengthy teaching career including teaching economics, accounting, management and tertiary teaching practice; and has had a career long interest in leadership and leadership development, in the professional development of tertiary educators and in the recognition of prior learning.

Phil’s particular interest is in business education, education for sustainability, staff development generally and leadership development specifically; and in the recognition of prior experiential learning.

Phil is a member of the following Boards: 

  • Director – TANZ (Tertiary Accord of New Zealand)
  • Director – TANZ eCampus Ltd
  • Director JBA Ltd
  • Executive Director – Post Secondary international Network (PIN)
  • Director – Malcam Charitable Trust
  • Director World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics.

Phil enjoys cycling, and especially long-distance road cycling now that his marathon running days are behind him. He is also a motorcycling enthusiast who takes every opportunity to ride his Harley Davidson through beautiful Central Otago. Travel, movies and reading crime and suspense novels are favourite pastimes he shares with his wife Glenys.


  • MEd (Administration) – First Class Honours, Massey University, 1995
  • Bachelor of Commerce, The University of Auckland, 1973
  • Management and Leadership in Education, Harvard University, 2001
  • Trained Teachers Certificate, Auckland College of Education, 1973