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Professor Karen Nelson

Professor Karen Nelson


The Provost has responsibility for leading and driving strategic directions and building organisational wide capacity and capability to deliver the University’s commitment to educational quality and excellence.  As head of the Academic Division, the leadership portfolio encompasses line management of the UniSQ College, Library Services, Academic Transformation Portfolio and the Students Portfolio, in addition to providing executive academic leadership and strategic direction for the Schools to create a cohesive UniSQ wide academic environment that is evidence driven, digitally enabled, high quality and contemporary.


Karen commenced at UniSQ in February 2019 in the position of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic).  In January 2022, Karen was appointed to the position of Provost. Prior to joining UniSQ, she was Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) and in this role she was responsible for transforming USC’s approach to student learning engagement, success and retention. Previously, Professor Nelson was Director of Student Success and Retention, and Director of First Year Experience and held a series of traditional faculty-based academic roles at the Queensland University of Technology. 

A recognised authority in student engagement and retention and first-year experience, Professor Nelson’s research into the complex nature of the student experience has been instrumental in uncovering the factors influencing attrition and has advanced policy and practice nationally and internationally.  

Her contributions to higher education have been recognised by three national awards and in 2016 she was made Principal Fellow of the UK based Higher Education Academy.

Memberships and affiliations

As Provost, Professor Nelson represents UniSQ on the Universities Australia DVC (Academic) group and is also a member of the Universities Australia Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s (Academic) Executive. Professor Nelson is the chief editor of Student Success, an open access journal exploring the experiences of students in tertiary education. She has been a member of the organising committee, Chair or Co-chair of the annual Students, Transitions, Achievement, Retention & Success (STARS) Conference (and its predecessor FYHE conferences) for more than 12 years. Professor Nelson also serves the sector as an external expert for the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA).

Contact details

Phone: +61 7 4631 1160
Executive Assistant: 
Senior Executive Officer: