Tuesday, June 8, 2010

When you see a fork in the road, take it

That’s sage advice, I think. There’s no doubt that the higher education road ahead will be pock-marked with “under construction” signs, with more on-and-off ramps being built, increased areas of merging traffic , and more Driver Reviver spots installed as the Australian government moves to increase traffic flow, accommodate different vehicles and enable more “drivers” to access higher education during their education journey.

The fork ahead of which I write, however, is not a fork that diverges and directs traffic in separate ways. My GPS tells me it’s not a bypass or a run-around, but a different pathway that could extend our University beyond its main part; adding, developing and multiplying what we do to enable more Central Queenslanders to get where they want to go and be what they want to be.

The term used in Australia for this structure is dual sector higher education, which I believe, will become more common and desirable among Australian universities. Five universities already operate in this fashion (Charles Darwin, Swinburne, RMIT, Ballarat and Victoria University.) And dual-sector seems, to me, an area in which federal and state governments, given common goals of increased access and participation, would welcome more activity.

Think of it as a cross-over uni – our University could be more flexible, less conventional and better tuned for the evolving work requirements and lifestyle of Central Queenslanders.

Dual sector means we could give more Central Queenslanders manoeuvring in and out of careers more optimism, more options, and more opportunities.

And, if you excuse the continuing automotive analogy, we could put more, better-skilled drivers on the road.

So, what makes a dual sector entity? The five I mentioned here teach and have large numbers of students in each Vocational Education & Training and Uni – some hovering around 50/50 in terms of student load; they conduct research and they offer awards up to PhDs. Other universities, too, have offered vocation-level educational programs for decades including English language preparation, on a smaller scale. There are different models too, here and overseas, in which traditional VET providers and private operators offer degrees.

To some extent we operate in this space around the fringes, through partnerships with other organisations, our own enabling programs and Pathways, the federally funded projects designed to get people into mining careers based at Gladstone and Mackay. Professional Development, an area in which we operated in years ago (Direct Edge) is back on the agenda, too.

Why build-up our dual sector presence? I could write a paper on this (in fact we have commissioned a detailed report and analysis by my office which will be available in the coming months) but some of the short reasons are:

  • Dual sector broadens accessibility to CQUni (we want uni to be more attainable), which operates in communities which appear to be more active in training and skilling for requirements of local industry
  • Dual sector maximises ease and opportunities for students to take full advantage of the education /training spectrum
    Dual sector fits within our existing Renewal Plan in which CQUniversity will – within 5 years – become a strong regional university meeting the needs of its communities ; and, within 10 years, a university that is well respected and one that is a role model to other universities throughout the world
The Renewal Plan also specifically refers to strategies that fit with the notion of dual sector:
  • Continue to develop links with local and other TAFEs
  • Move from being a multi-campus university to a multi-city university. Campuses in Mackay, Bundaberg and Gladstone must be developed. They will move from being feeder campuses to being campuses on an equal footing with Rockhampton – delivering to the needs of their communities.
  • Promote engagement at all levels – until CQUniversity becomes known as Australia’s most engaged university.
  • Take a leading role in the development of the HE sector in Australia

I have no doubt that we will be working more in the dual sector space. How we make that transition and what forms a ‘real’ dual sector university in Queensland are unknown factors at this time and areas which we are exploring.

We’ll be looking to our colleagues at other institutions, consulting with government and community stakeholders and learning more from each other as we discuss the challenges and opportunities that dual sector presents.

One option I don’t see is us pulling off the highway and onto the shoulder to watch the traffic go by.



Anonymous said...

There was a section called Direct Edge that was folded in 2004/05 under the recommendation of the organisational review at that time. It offered programs that allowed people working in industry the opportunity to complete Certificate, Diploma or Advanced Diploma levels and other training opportunities. It brought many people into the University that would not have normally considered completing or would not normally be accepted into tertiary education. Would be great to see opportunities like this arising again.

Anonymous said...


Why the change from Divisions to Directorates? What is the significance?

Unknown said...

Scot, congratulations on your vision for a stepped approached to learning after High School. Many students are not ready for the higher complexity levels of learning being espoused at university. They need to be brought on through scaffold learning from low to high. It will also provide a different assessment level in requiring students to be "competent" in all areas of the course before going forward. Too often we see at Uni the students who know a lot about one area and nothing on another. By providing such a learning pathway we, as educators, can be assured of the basic understanding and can work towards higher level complexity and deeper understanding. Both the student and industry "win" by being more confident and knowledgeable in their chosen field. Danny W Burton , Casual Academic, Brisbane.

Vice Chancellor - CQUniversity said...

About the changes to Divisions and Directorates....

Historically the University has applied a wide range of different terms to its organisational structure. For example, a number of Divisions used to reported to an Executive Director. There were also Units and Offices at different levels throughout the organisation – which made things, at the very least, confusing.

So, now a Division is the top level of the organisation, and within each Division there are a number of Directorates. For example, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (University Services) has overall responsibility for the Division of University Services, and within that Division there are a range of Directorates such as Facilities Management, Human Resources Directorate and so on.

Other than it looking pretty on paper what does it mean? It helps us, for example, to structure the University so we can deliver an overall budget to a Division; then the relevant Deputy Vice-Chancellor has responsibility for working with each Directorate to distribute those funds throughout the Division. This, in my estimation, allows for better financial accountability at the highest levels of the organization. That’s the real significance….