Professor Nicholas Saunders was appointed Vice-Chancellor in 2004.
In October 2011 the University farewelled Vice-Chancellor Professor Nicholas Saunders.
Professor Saunders led the institution to academic, financial and cultural strength. Under his stewardship the University consistently maintained its ranking in Australia's top 10 universities for research, enrolments grew to a record high of 35,998 and Newcastle became a sector leader in providing access to higher education for disadvantaged groups.
Saunders was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2012 for his contributions to Medicine and Higher Education. He now serves part time as Chief Commisioner of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standard Agency of Australia.