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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.