Follow-Up on Strategic Positioning
June 3, 2012 4 Comments
I wanted to thank everyone for commenting on the previous blog entry. To pick out some of themes from this:
- I think we do need to think about how we wish to define reputation and this underlies my initial post and a number of the comments. I think the key point for us is that our definition of reputation may not be the same as that for other universities. Sandra Harding at JCU often quoted Coleridge in saying that universities need to “create the taste by which they are to be relished”.
- Our campus network, and our ability to use this well, is a real strength. We do rely on the critical mass generated by distance and online students to maintain healthy disciplines though. It’s not clear to me that we are in fact losing market share to other distance providers yet (in fact the lateset data from Planning and Audit would suggest we aren’t), but there is no room for complacency on this score. I think there is significant challenge from marketing-led providers such as OUA and we need to think how we will respond.
Teaching and Learning:
- An interesting observation regarding whether we value quality teaching and learning. Coming in from outside, it certainly seems that we do and that we have well-developed mechanisms to support it. In particular, the work that has been done around the Discipline Review and the Annual Course Performance Reports is really good and all those involved should give themselves a pat on the back. I recognise that the shift to the 60/30/10 workload model has sent stronger signals around the value of research but that needn’t to my mind necessarily diminish the value of teaching.
- As a sector, we need to be much more thoughtful about what delivers a good quality educational experience. This is not to suggest that we haven’t done a lot of work on this already but one of the frustrations for the Government is that whilst we are prepared to say what we don’t like about suggested ‘quality’ measures, we do not necessarily have better suggestions.
- I think we need to think both about what research we should be doing and how we want to approach that research. As noted, in terms of the ‘what’ I would prefer to couch this in terms of service to our communities and this raises the question of what are the most important needs of our communities? There is never complete clarity about boundaries to research areas because universities are supposed to be about encouraging freedom of inquiry and therefore you always want to leave some room for creativity. In terms of the ‘how’ there were some useful discussions over the last week at the Research Centre Directors’ retreat. It seems to me that the current policy settings are driving improvements but we did discuss the need for the strategic investments via Research Centres and the Faculty Compacts to be amplifying the peaks as well as lifting the general level.
- Finally, good to have the challenge to business speak and economic rationalism. I guess in my view these are a lens through which to view university operations, but not the only one. Personally, I find such language a convenient means to discuss the business aspects of a university and as long as we all want to be paid to attend, those need to be honoured. Having said that, no commercial entity has yet (as far as I’m aware) evolved into a true university so economic rationalism will only get you so far. In my view, that’s why it’s important to understand the intellectual contribution we want to make to our communities, Australia and the world, and the economics and business decisions need to be in support of that. Markets do have seductive power, and one of my concerns is that we not follow where they might lead unthinkingly.
- On that score, a useful challenge about the primacy of ‘marketisation’ and it prompted me to wonder what a better way to phrase the question around student experience might be. Perhaps the question ought to be: “How should we be so that we delight, excite and ignite our staff and students?”