Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Growth, engagement & grandchildren

I am typing this at 30,000 feet somewhere between Sydney and Brisbane on my way back to Central Queensland. I have been in Sydney for the Universities Australia Vice-Chancellors Plenary. These meetings are always interesting. About 38 Vice Chancellors in the same room - I will leave it to your imagination as to what that is like.

Before the plenary we discussed a couple of important issues at a workshop: the sector’s response to the demand-led system, and the public profile of universities.

The sector has grown very quickly in the lead up to the uncapping of places next year. Many universities have become over-enrolled in advance of the new system. As reported in The Australian recently, CQUniversity is only about 1% above its student cap. I think that most people in the sector agree that the caps on student numbers will not be ‘off’ forever. I have always thought that caps would be put back on once the Government’s target of 40% participation was met.

What this means for CQUniversity is that if we want to grow the university (as we do), we need to do this in the next couple of years. This is why we have all been working so hard to put in place new programs that our communities want and need. This hard work will continue next year. The uncapping of places has allowed us to offer new programs such as law, accident forensics, aviation and health. Without the extra student places this would not have been possible. So the new system is working very well for us, but we need to work very hard to get all the new programs we need up and running over the next few years.

The other interesting discussion we had was about the public profile of universities. All the research indicates that universities are very well thought of by the public. However it is thought that there is a feeling amongst many politicians that there are not a lot of votes in universities. Other public issues such as health, disabilities and school education seem to be of a higher priority when people are considering how to vote. I think this may be true.

The way we become more influential is not to see universities competing with these other priorities - but demonstrating how universities are contributing to these other important priorities. Where would health care, schooling, and solving problems faced by those with disabilities be without universities? I think we have a stronger case than most because of our great emphasis on engagement. Everything we do is linked with our communities and how we can partner with them to help meet their aspirations. I think there is no better way to develop the profile of universities than pursuing an engagement agenda. This will lead to third party endorsements of our university which are much more powerful than us telling those in power how good we are!

On a personal note, last week was a wonderful one for me and my wife Anita. Our daughter Anneka and our grandson Owen visited for the week. We all had a ball! Here is a picture of him glazing some pots.

I think I had forgotten just how much hard work there is in bringing up a toddler (Owen is 19 months old). I do admire all of our team at the university who are doing such a fantastic job building the university and bringing up a family. I am not sure how you cope - but well done!


Anonymous said...

Dear Scott,
Great that you are thinking about families, and the amazing work that raising young children and contributing to a growing university requires. How might the university better demonstrate support for staff and students with families? And especially young children under ten.

I watched this youtube clip recently and it resonated with me in terms of the university's ongoing and increasing expectations of staff and the impact that this does have on staff with young families. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1x97Rn56OP4
The message about one minute in is that caring for children is 'everyone's responsibility', particularly large organisations.

It would be great if CQUniversity could take a really proactive role in supporting staff and students with families. Could the university look at how family friendly its policies are - are families and children considered? Working from home? Children on-campus policies? University calendars that consider school holidays and take care with how often classes are scheduled during school holiday periods? Child care on site? Promotion of the absolute importance of work/life balance for everyone? Affirmations that it is alright to not work on weekends, that twelve hour days are not expected or acceptable, that staff should only work the EBA agreed hours.

Thanks Scott for your time.

Vice Chancellor - CQUniversity said...

Thank you for taking the time to write. I believe CQUniversity is a very supportive environment – for both staff and students – however, as an institution, I guess there are always areas for improvement.

With regards to your ‘family friendly’ suggestions, I’d be very happy to give this further consideration. Please feel free to email me direct to discuss further. Scott

Anonymous said...

Dear Scott
I read with interest your communications regarding the enormous investment and growth in CQUs teaching and research areas of health and sciences. These achievements are fantastic, indeed. Is it now appropriate, do you think, to make similar kinds of investments in the areas of social research and the teaching of social studies? The 'liberal arts' and social research areas of the university (as distinctive from the behavioural and 'allied health' disciplines)have been decimated and marginalised for many years, starved of funds and not given an equal voice in the plans for growth at this university.
Currently CQU has little capacity to undertake social research, and so it struggles to be innovative and progressive in the social disciplines. Of the ten 'engaged' research leadership positions, how many are dedicated to social research? Or will we have yet more 'engagement' in the health, technology and sciences? What sort of university will CQU be without chairs in any of the disciplines of politics, economics, history sociology, philosophy? Or have we decided that there is no need to 'engage' the community in these areas?

Vice Chancellor - CQUniversity said...

I believe CQUniversity is undertaking some great work already in the social research field; two examples that spring to mind are our Population Research Laboratory in Rockhampton, and our Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research in Mackay. Yes, we can always do more and I agree there is some need for rejuvenation. The University is always exploring available funding opportunities and we are hopeful additional government funds will be received next year which we will use to improve some of our existing facilities.

At a recent planning day with our Deans of School, we discussed a variety of new degree programs planned for 2012 and beyond – many in the areas you suggest. The University will be carefully considering these with the aim to introduce more new programs in the coming years.

With respect to the Engaged Research Chairs, CQUniversity is looking to appoint up to 10 such positions, and it is my aim to have those positions cover as broad a range of disciplines as possible – humanities included. I want to see an Engaged Research Chair lineup, that reflects the academic diversity of this university, driving our ambitious research agenda. We are looking for top researchers in their fields whatever they may be.

Thank you for sending through your suggestions. Scott.