En route to China

This post is being written on a plane to China to visit our university partners there and attend the 110th anniversary of Yangzhou university.  I’m very pleased to be travelling on an Airbus 380 for the first time as my father was part of the design team for the wings on the very first Airbus at the beginning of the 1970s.  Yes, I do know they have cracks in these ones; I’m sure he would be mortified if he were still alive (and appreciate the irony of the last part of that sentence).

Highlights since the last blog post include:

  • A visit to Goulburn campus to visit the NSW Police Academy.  Fantastic facilities there and really interesting staff.  Rosemary Woolston asks me which is the best School in the University and I tell her I’m not going to argue with the one that has guns.
  • Hosting NSW Legislative Council Members Steve Whan and Mick Veitch at the Orange Campus – a great opportunity to show off the Dental and Physio labs and talk to them about our plans.
  • The opening of the Port Macquarie Campus by Senator the Hon Chris Evans. This was a fabulous event with tremendous support from the community and my congratulations to all those involved in organising it.  [A particular thank you to the St Columba School Band who introduced the notion of having the Academic Procession arrive to some excellently played tracks from Miles Davis’ ‘Kind of Blue’.  This is a tradition I think we should continue (although I wouldn’t want to displace Don Alexander’s bagpipes in Bathurst).  On checking the track listing I think it was ‘All Blues’ although it might have been ‘Freddie Freeloader’ in which case perhaps they were being more ironic than I thought.]
  • Travelling to Nyngan to present our case for a medical school to the Western NSW Local Health District.
  • A Bathurst Regional Council hosted welcome for me with members of the local community at the Somerville Collection.
  • Opening the Environmental Boardwalk at Albury, attending the Albury Regional Consultative Committee meeting and having dinner with community leaders from Albury, Wodonga and Wangaratta.
  • Interviewing for the DVC (Academic) to replace Ross Chambers.
  • Attending the Universities Australia Plenary Meeting of Vice-Chancellors and Chancellors in Adelaide.
  • Attending my first Academic Senate meeting.

This has been further very useful information gathering and in particular it was good to finally meet staff at Goulburn and Albury.

As I mentioned in the last post, I am now past the three months of familiarisation and intend to move into the next phase.  Part of that will be to transmit more of my thoughts on our strategic positioning, and our future, to the university community and stakeholders.  This blog is part of that communication process and we will be promoting this more widely through the university community. I would welcome comments on these blog posts as the conversation develops.

A Quick Catch Up

It has been far too long since my last blog post, although I have been putting out intermittent tweets as well.  It is in the nature of being in a new role that while it is ‘only’ about a month and a half since the last post, it feels like a lifetime.  The intervening period has been filled with a lot of travel and some more solid thinking about strategy for CSU.  To give some of the highlights through that time:

Canada

Towards the end of March I was invited to the Wellington Group meeting in Vancouver which is a semi-regular meeting of senior government officials and higher education leaders from English-speaking countries.  This was really interesting and it would be fair to say that all of those countries are facing the same issues of an ageing population and ensuring that education can promote innovation, social equity and economic productivity.  They are also struggling with resourcing higher education from the public purse to achieve those aims.  Another strong theme was the need for innovation in higher education and the question of whether this would come from public institutions or hungrier for-profit providers.  I think the key takeaway for me was that whilst there is a diversity of approach to higher education, no-one thinks they have a perfect system.  Australia is not doing too badly and people were particularly interested to hear about TEQSA and our national approach to quality.

As a side-trip before Vancouver I visited CSU Ontario in Burlington and really enjoyed meeting both staff and students there.  The students are a highly-motivated group and it was great to talk to some of them who will be undertaking placements in Dubbo later in the year.

Another positive was that Vancouver gave me an opportunity to practise acclimatising to the Bathurst winter by laying on sleet. Also interesting to note that Blockbuster in Canada has gone out of business because, with better broadband, everyone is renting movies online.

Technology in Tertiary Education

I was invited to speak to the Tech in Tertiary Ed Conference at the end of March at which I talked about technology and innovation generally, and how educational technology might serve, following Clayton Christensen’s work, as a disruptive innovation in higher education.  As noted above, it will be interesting to see where the private sector and international players go with this and what impact this has on traditional universities.  It does strike me that too often we have used technology to add work to the teaching and learning process, although I think we are getting more mature in our approach to this.

EIF Bid

Our Education Investment Fund bid for improved health facilities at Orange and Bathurst went through to the next round of application.  We were very appreciative of State Government support for this bid and of the work of our local members, and particularly Paul Toole from Bathurst, in achieving this outcome.

Port Macquarie

Operations at Port Macquarie are gaining momentum under the stewardship of Head of Campus Dr Muyesser Durer.  We are investigating site options for the permanent campus, as well as finalising the full course profile that we will offer there in the next few years.

PBE Summit

I spoke at the Practice Based Education Summit organised by our Education for Practice Institute in Sydney on the theme of standards and regulations and the challenges they provide.  Here I mused on the parallels between standards as used in engineering practice and as applied to higher education.  Overall I believe standards are neither inherently good nor bad, but that we need to ensure we use them appropriately to support quality but not drive out innovation.

Menindee

Two weekends ago I was fortunate to be invited along with other CSU staff to Menindee for a camp with Aunty Beryl Carmichael, an elder of the Ngiyeempaa people.  The country out to Menindee was spectacular after the rains, and listening to Aunty Beryl talk about her life and her culture was a very special experience.  Sunsets over Lake Pamamaroo and the view of the Milky Way from the campsite were magical.  We are very fortunate to have our focus on Indigenous culture as a university, and it seems to me there is much we could learn from the depth and resilience of Indigenous society.  If nothing else it gave me a chance to reflect on the importance of stories and traditions in cultural transmission and what that might mean for leadership at CSU.

Looking to the future

I think that brings things more or less up to date.  I have had a couple of weeks mostly in Bathurst which has given me the opportunity to catch up.  In particular, I have completed the three months I said I would take to familiarise myself with CSU and its processes.  As I have signalled at various gatherings, I do not think we need to make a left or right turn as an institution and for the most part we know our issues and are working on them.  I have shared some thoughts about tweaks we might make with the Senior Executive Committee and will be sharing those more broadly over the coming weeks.

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