Welcome to 2015

Welcome Back

This is the first blog post for 2015 and a very warm welcome back to the New Year. Of course, the first month of 2015 is nearly over and it already feels like a lot has happened. With graduation week, the end of 2014 got very busy and I didn’t manage to get a blog post up so I wanted to begin by closing off a few 2014 issues and celebrating some aspects of that.

2014 Retrospective

First, in December we appointed our new Chancellor Dr Michele Allan. Michele has a significant background in agribusiness, rural and regional industry and engagement with Indigenous issues all of which are an excellent fit for the interests of Charles Sturt University. She also has extensive board and governance experience which will be of enormous benefit to the University given the changeable external environment, on which more later. We also farewelled the outgoing Chancellor Dr Lawrie Willett, AO in December after 12 years service. During Lawrie’s tenure the university grew substantially and he was a tireless advocate for CSU’s interests. I owe a particular debt to Lawrie, first for chairing the selection panel that appointed me but also for mentoring me through my first three years as Vice-Chancellor. I will really miss Lawrie, but equally am very much looking forward to working with Michele. Michele chaired her first University Council meeting in December at which we reviewed performance for the year. We have achieved a lot. Particular highlights that I raised were:

  • We turned 25 years old as a university.
  • Figures released in 2014 showed that in 2013 CSU had the largest number of Indigenous higher education enrolments in Australia and also the largest number of completions, overtaking the University of Newcastle which has traditionally held this spot.
  • The Kajulu advertising students team won the national competition for the sixth straight year.
  • The Centre for Customs and Excise Studies came on board which means that CSU is apparently now the largest provider of policing and security higher education in the world.
  • Chris Blanchard gained $2.15M in funding for the Industrial Transformation Training Centre on Functional Grains.
  • The Institute for Land, Water and Society was successful in winning $6.9M of funding over five years to monitor water flows in the Murray-Darling.
  • We won four Office of Learning and Teaching Citations and an OLT Program award for the School of Community Health Overseas Workplace Learning Program.
  • Thanks to the success of the NSW Country Eagles Rugby team which we sponsored, and the sporting nature of my fellow Vice-Chancellors, the CSU flag flew over the University of Sydney, Bond University, Southern Cross and Macquarie. We were lucky only to be beaten by Melbourne’s team and (oddly) Melbourne doesn’t have a university flag.

A very significant achievement is that we controlled costs really well in 2014 – not without pain – and actually underspent the budget slightly for the year. This is a terrific result and the University Council specifically asked me to thank everyone for the effort that went into this.

Graduation week was very enjoyable – when I officiate I really enjoy meeting the students as they cross the stage and the families afterwards.  Someone floated the idea of ‘Gumption Awards’ for students and alumni who have created significant change and I wanted to give a couple of special mentions on this from last year. The first was to Daniella Greenwood who spoke at our Bathurst Arts graduation. She has made some real innovations in Aged Care and my favourite quote from Daniella “I’m still waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and say ‘what the hell do you think you’re doing?’” The second was to our Veterinary Science student Cassandra MacDonald who helped to bring Coles to account on milk pricing.

Strategy Reload

(External readers, please note that some of these documents are behind the CSU firewall).
You will recall that we reworked the Strategy in 2012 when I took on the Vice-Chancellor’s role.  Last year we recognised that the external situation was becoming very unpredictable with the political impasse over the Federal Government’s higher education reforms.  We also recognised that competition in the higher education sector has increased dramatically and that we still had a sense that we were trying to do to much.
At the Senior Executive Committee level we agreed that we should go through a process to distil the Strategy further.  With a nod to The Matrix series of movies, I suggested that we call this Strategy Reloaded and it has become known as the ‘Strategy Reload’ – an overhaul focusing on page 3 of the existing Strategy document. The reload content and the process is based on a Program Logic Model approach.  We have also decided that given the unpredictability in the funding environment, we need to shorten our timelines to a two-year cycle. The page at this link below shows the University Council approved outcomes across 8 refined themes for the period 2015-2016.
While still settling the final versions, draft subplans including outputs and activities for each of the eight themes are provided in the relevant links from that page.  Each plan still has a Senior Executive Committee owner who will be tasked with implementation and delivery of the outputs and outcomes.  Our efforts in the first quarter of 2015 will be to ‘fettle’ these plans, work through integration and dependencies, detail delivery dates and responsibilities and make it happen.

2015 Admissions Numbers

One of the critical issues of course is what this year’s student load will be.  We anticipated that there might be some effect from the uncertainty around student fees and federal funding – certainly this is a question that was asked by the media in relation to the offer rounds.  It is always uncertain at this point of the year because as the sector has become more competitive, the ratios between applications, offers and acceptances have changed.  We have also made various changes to our practice along with other universities including everyone making earlier offers.
We were hoping to lift student numbers in 2015 but at this stage that looks unlikely.  We appear to be somewhat down on direct undergraduate DE offers (these are the students we would expect to be most worried about increased fees), up on direct internal offers, down on offers through the NSW and Victorian admission centres, down on Commonwealth-supported postgraduate offers (which we have deliberately restricted due to caps on funding), up on full fee paying postgraduate (which we have moved students to because of the previous category), down on international students on regional campuses (although numbers at our Study Centres in Melbourne and Sydney have been growing strongly), and up on higher degree by research students.  All in all, we expect to come in somewhat below our target but there is a lot of work going on before term starts to contact potential students so we will have to wait and see.  I would like to thank the many staff involved in the admissions process, not least the Course Directors, who have been working very hard on this over the last couple of months.
I hope everyone is enjoying the start to the year, if things become clearer on the Federal Government reforms I will publish a further blog post in the next week or two.

About andrewvann
Vice-Chancellor and President at Charles Sturt University

One Response to Welcome to 2015

  1. SABA NABI says:

    Enjoyed reading your Blog .

    Dr.Michele Allan is a great leader and I am sure all will learn a lot from her leadership skills.Met her once at Engagement Australia Conference and realized she is a great Mentor .
    CSU will miss Dr.Lawrie Willett & Kathryn Pitkin a lot and I really thank both of them from the core of my heart for helping and nurturing me during my initial days at Council.

    Consider myself lucky to see CSU turning 25 last year.

    Its great achievement that figures released in 2014 showed that in 2013 CSU had the largest number of Indigenous higher education enrollments in Australia and also the largest number of completions, overtaking the University of Newcastle which has traditionally held this spot.

    Last year for superb for me as well as for CSU 🙂 and I wish loads of success to our Chancellor,VC & the entire CSU Management team in 2015

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