Friday, August 21, 2009

The Engaged University

It’s come to the end of my third week as Vice Chancellor – quite possibly the most unsettling but satisfying three weeks of my professional life as I come to learn new things and discover for myself all the excellent people and projects underway at CQUniversity.

I’ve spoken and met with hundreds of staff and community members – including current students and alumni – and I must say that I’ve found all of these encounters enriching and thought provoking. We’ve talked mostly about CQUniversity’s role in Central Queensland; how the University is perceived and the many things we should and can do together to build-up Central Queensland and make CQUniversity the best regional university and one of Australia’s greatest universities.

I’ve also met with Queensland Minister for Education and Training Geoff Wilson and representatives from DEEWR (the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations) and I have been very encouraged by their interest in our activities.

Much of the conversation has been around access to university, career outcomes for our students, and the relationships that the University has with industry, government and businesses in Central Queensland.

I’ve been listening a lot and talking with people, too, about making CQUniversity the most engaged university in Australia. We’ve been focusing on how CQUniversity engages and will engage and, in turn, how CQ communities will become more learning-orientated. I’ve come away from every one those gatherings believing more firmly that CQUniversity’s transformation can only be achieved when we – with community – define our problems jointly, set common goals, develop measures of success and leverage university, public and private resources.

We must also leverage the “power of place” – the bond that exists between people and Central Queensland; its natural resources, characteristics and geographical location. The role of the University is to make that bond stronger by drawing on the strengths that exist in the communities we serve and our equally giving back to those same communities through research, learning and teaching and other services.

That “power of place” can be applied to how the University approaches its Learning & Teaching, from face-to-face to fully online teaching, as well as our engagement with partners on research projects that involve mutual input and benefit.

We’ll be working closely with State and Federal Governments and consulting widely in Central Queensland, harnessing that “power” to introduce new programs (perhaps in areas such as health, sport and engineering), broaden community access to courses and give our students greater control over their learning environment and outcomes.

Ultimately more Central Queenslanders, who are under-represented in higher education, will become active learners benefiting from their local university. Over the next two-to-three years, more than 10 thousand new students from Central Queensland will come to CQUniversity. Or perhaps more accurately said, we’ll come to them.