October Round Up

Service Improvement Program and Faculty Restructure

Over recent months we have been focusing on the change processes surrounding the Service Improvement Program and more recently the Faculty restructure. Change is never easy and there have been a range of comments on the process ranging from it not having happened fast enough, to there not having been enough time for consultation. Clearly, there have also been objections to the nature of the change as well as the process.

As I have stressed in presentations to the University community, while the proposals were crafted as carefully as possible before being released, the consultation process was genuine. We expected that the proposals would be improved by feedback received and in my view this is what has been achieved. In particular, the issues raised around support for research students in the Faculty structures have a lot of merit and the DVCs Academic, Professor Toni Downes and Acting DVC RDI Professor Mary Kelly have been working on proposals to address these concerns. I am also confident that we will have a set of good options for a three Faculty structure to be considered by Academic Senate at the end of October.

The higher education sector is now very much more competitive and we need to ensure we can deliver reliable and consistent service to students. This is what we need to get out of the restructure and we will work through this as rapidly as possible so that we can give certainty to staff, bed down the change and be able to concentrate on our teaching, research and engagement.

Updates to CSU staff on the process will be issued over the next few days.

International Comparisons and Global Rankings

Over the last few months I have attended a number of international conferences and events. These were the World Association of Cooperative Education Conference in Japan, an invited presentation to the South African Regional Universities Association Leadership Dialogue in Cape Town and the Talloires Network Steering Committee in New York.

There are several key messages out of these meetings.

  • Universities around the world are facing the same set of issues. In all countries, there is recognition that a well-educated workforce is critical to delivering economic productivity, good health outcomes and reforming the economy to meet environmental sustainability imperatives.
  • Online education is having a profound impact on pedagogy in all universities. Even if some universities have engaged little in this space, they are taking a very active interest now.
  • As access to higher education has expanded there is an international dialogue about the quality of education and research, and what funding models are required to allow universities to effectively meet social needs.
  • There is concern over whether universities are focused on their own selfish interests or are actually devoted to improving their societies and economies.
  • There is also concern about the place of global rankings systems in this and whether they are driving good outcomes. As noted in the previous blog post, the Talloires Network Call to Action in 2014 challenged the rankings providers to consider community engagement as part of their schema and Times Higher Education is considering how this might be done so hopefully we can see some progress on this front.
  • There is a lot of interest in Australia as a country. This is based on our long tradition of excellence in work integrated learning and distance education (and CSU is seen as a leader and exemplar in this). Other countries are also interested in the higher education policy settings in Australia. The HECS HELP income contingent loan scheme is widely regarded as world leading and of course people are interested in how the demand-driven system has played out and the Government’s fee deregulation proposals.

Out of all this, I continue to believe that CSU is extraordinarily well positioned to succeed over the coming decades. We have expertise and a track record in delivering the very things that governments and communities are asking for – expanded access, educational value-add and deep engagement with communities and industries.

The good news

As it’s been a while since the last blog post, I did want to note that CSU is once again the successful tenderer for the NSW Police Force education contract. This is for a further 5+5 years and means that all new NSW Police Officers will continue to graduate with a CSU Associate Degree in Policing Practice. This maintains CSU’s significant strength in policing and security education where we are one of the world’s largest providers.

Recently, the Centre for Customs and Excise Studies also achieved accreditation from the World Customs Organization, these are the only English language programs to be accredited by WCO.

Last week we received the news that we have accreditation for our new Law program which will be commencing in 2016. Along with Engineering, which will also commence next year, these programs are designed to be flexible and allow students to mix work and study. Both are aimed to be innovative, distinctive and to fill workforce needs in regional Australia. However, the programs will also skill graduates to be successful nationally and internationally. I would like to thank the teams involved in both programs for the enormous amount of work involved in their development.

Deregulation and Policy update

Last week the Minister for Education, the Hon Simon Birmingham announced that the Government will, at least for now, withdraw their legislation to cut government support to universities and deregulate fees and that this will not be reintroduced until after the election. Since it is far too late for the legislation to be implemented for 2016 in any case, this is very welcome news.

Federal Labor have also announced their policy structure for higher education which would guarantee per student funding and maintain the demand-driven system. The Minister for Education has announced that he will engage in consultation with the sector about policy futures.

This week, Universities Australia also released a policy blueprint for Higher Education.  This argues for investment in higher education and research for the future welfare of the nation.

I hope this will now be a chance to have a better debate about the future of the sector and how we can arrive at funding policy that will deliver the education, research and engagement that the country needs. We will be arguing strongly for the needs of regional communities and students over the months to come.

Student Numbers

While the higher education sector continues to be intensely competitive, we expect to finish the year around 2% up on 2014 student numbers. This is a testament to the work that has been done by staff across the University to promote CSU and its courses to students. However, projections still show load plateauing in subsequent years and hence the need to continue to focus on converting offers to acceptances in line with the strategic direction of the University to ensure a sustainable future. In any case, the success in the mid-year round is an encouraging sign for the future and 2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the University and its students.