Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A comment from the flying VC

Some of you may have seen the profile piece on me in today’s Higher Education section of The Australian (if you haven’t, here’s a link). I’d like to thank the editor, Julie Hare, for a well-written, fair and honest look at CQUniversity and my time in the Vice-Chancellor role.

Naturally, no journalist can take a fair and balanced look at the history of CQUniversity without mentioning some of the difficulties of the past – and I respect that. However, all universities go through tough times and, like others in the sector, I like to think that we have pushed through those ‘growing pains’ to face a far brighter, far more prosperous future than our past critics could have ever imagined.

To my colleagues, our students, our stakeholders and our friends in the sector, I say this: let’s learn from the past, but let’s not dwell on it. CQUniversity is well on the path towards its aim of being Australia’s most engaged university and, eventually, one of Australia’s truly great universities. There is plenty more ‘good news’ to come.

Industry Engagement

I have just got back from a couple of days at our Gladstone campus. I am very pleased to report that the campus is going from strength to strength under the leadership of Professor Chad Hewitt (picture below). As with all other parts of the university our challenges in Gladstone are challenges of success. We have have seen record student enrollments on the Gladstone campus along with our highest levels of research activity. All this means that we have many more staff based in Gladstone. This in turn means that office space is just about fully occupied. With the industry boom in Gladstone our students and staff are having problems finding accommodation in the town. These are problems that we are going to have to address over the next few months if we are going to make the most of all the opportunities that Gladstone offers. You can hear Chad talking about Gladstone click here.

There is an interesting story in The Australian today about me and the University. It goes over the past quite a bit but does give a good overview of the potential for the region and how we are moving the University forward.

While in Gladstone I also took the opportunity to tour some of the industries based there. Gladstone has $72 billion worth of projects planed over the next few years - yes billion! I understand there is a similar magnitude of projects planned for Mackay!

CQUniversity really is in the right place at the right time. But to make the most of all of this opportunity we will need to engage more fully with industry. Yes I know we are doing a heck of a lot as evidenced by the CQUniversity News page. But we need to do even more.

This is the reason why I have made industry engagement my number one VC priority for 2012. We will be doing a lot more over the next year to partner with industries to help them meet their aspirations. In doing so we will move closer to our goal of being Australia's most engaged university. It will also contribute to building our region - our home.

The Pro Vice Chancellor Engagement Pierre Viljoen (pictured above) has developed one of the most sophisticated models for university/community engagement in Australia. We are also about to start using a great data base to record our community engagement activity - EDNA. All of this will help us to engage with our industry community. Take a look at what we are doing in the
engagement space.

Becoming a dual sector university will also contribute immeasurably to our goal of better industry engagement. Nik Babovik our Deputy Vice Chancellor (Industry and VET) and the pathways team are already spending a lot of time with industry looking for better ways to work with them.

We all have a part to play in making ours the most engaged university in Australia. To this end I hope all of the CQUniversity team will work with me to make industry engagement a top priority.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Student BBQ

It was great to get out this lunch time and meet with some of our students on the Rockhampton campus. The event was organised by the Student Association - many thanks Brendon and team. Also thanks to Sandy and Toni from my office for helping out. We had about 300 students turn up for lunch.

You cannot help but be impressed when you meet our students. All are keen to engage with the University and make their mark on the world. They were full of praise for our programs and staff. It is good to get out and about to hear all this positive feedback - sometimes all I hear in my office is the bad news.

Of course there was some positive critism about how we are operating. This included quite a lot of advice on how we can be more environmentally sustainable. Thanks - this will be taken on board.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, July 18, 2011

VC's Priorities for 2012

As part of our strategic planning process I set priorities for the coming year. Here are my priorities for 2012. Over next few days I will talk about each of these on this blog.

§ Engagement with Local, National and International Industry - Engagement and the power of place underpin CQUniversity’s connections with industry in Central Queensland. In 2012, as CQUniversity moves to become Queensland’s first dual-sector University, we will forge closer alliances with key industry partners to better understand and exploit factors around learning and teaching, research and community engagement which contribute toward sustainable Central Queensland cities. Through CQUniversity’s Institute for Resources Industries and Sustainability and our Bundaberg, Mackay, Rockhampton and Gladstone campuses, we will share our physical and intellectual space with stakeholders to explore social, economic and environmental aspects of Central Queensland’s increased industrial development, especially as it pertains to mining, minerals processing, energy, agriculture, tourism, health and education. We will also work with our industry partners to develop new program and course offerings, delivery modes, delivery locations (on-campus and distance education), and decisions about future program areas. Workplace-based learning models – such as our engineering co-op program – are contextualising knowledge, preparing graduates for the workplace, utilising dispersed resources, building on current good practice, and providing excellent outcomes for students. With partners such as Anglo Coal, BHP Billiton and John Holland Group, CQUniversity learning and teaching provides real world context.

§ The First Year Experience with special emphasis on attrition - CQUniversity is committed to enhancing our students’ First Year Experience which is critical to their continued learning success. Students who achieve positive outcomes in their first year of study are more likely to reinforce their commitment to the University, have a positive program experience and complete their program of study. Attrition figures for CQUniversity for first year students have remained above the sector average for the past five years (DEEWR 2010). However, CQUniversity traditionally attracts a larger proportion of students who fall within one or more of the identified equity groups. Studies have shown attrition rates are often higher within these groups. The 2012 priority is to continue to work towards and develop strategies to improve student retention particularly in curriculum development and in connecting to the lives of our students. This signals to our students the importance of their success in their learning journey particularly the First Year Experience. CQUniversity is committed to the gains already made in supporting increased student responses and feedback on programs, courses, teaching and research supervision. The 2012 priority is to focus on the student voice to further enrich curriculum and professional development activities and to close the loop in terms of reflective practice in the quality enhancement process.

§ Building Research Capacity - CQUniversity is committed to research that contributes knowledge and innovation through fundamental and applied research in selected priority areas. Our research activity has been aligned to the relevant State and national priorities and funding and is directed to these priority areas to support development and growth. The 2012 priority is to implement the Engaged Research Chairs program, focus the Faculties, Divisions (through service engagement), Campuses, Institutes, and Centres on research growth not only to participate in external funding ventures, but also to increase our RHD students and completions. Building research capacity is central to our vision and mission as a University.

§ Engaging with our communities and stakeholders - CQUniversity is committed to becoming one of Australia’s most engaged universities. It is at the forefront of providing access to higher education for all individuals. The solution to many of the challenges facing CQUniversity is at its heart – its communities and its “power of place. The “power of place” has not yet been fully realised within the University. It is through engaging with our communities and stakeholders that this priority will be addressed. More specifically, the 2012 priority is to continue to strengthen and build our relationships, promote participation of our students and staff in engagement activities and provide a high level of engaged service to our communities and stakeholders and within the University.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I know that working at CQUniversity we all have to work on weekends from time to time. However it is always good to spend the weekend doing something completely different.

I have many hobbies. Most of you would know I am into aviation and have plane based at Rocky airport. My other main pastime is pottery.

I have set up a workshop in the shed at the VC residence which includes a wheel and kiln. This weekend I have done a glaze firing. Here is a picture of some of the items that came out of the kiln earlier today - I did not say I was any good at it!

One of my pottery projects at the moment is to use clay from Central Queensland to make pots. There is an old clay pit down by the Rocky airport. It would be good if I could find clay from each of the communities where we are based. Let me know if you know of any clay on or near the other campuses. Here is an example of a small dish made from clay from Rocky.

This is made with the raw clay direct from the ground. I am looking at ways to refine the clay to make it more workable. This pot was fired in the kiln then put into a fire pit in the garden with metal oxides around it. I am hopeful that I will be able to refine this kind of work so that I can give it as presents to university visitors. I like the idea of visitors taking a small part of C Q away with them.

I hope you are having an enjoyable weekend doing whatever you enjoy. If you make pots do send me some pictures of your work.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, July 14, 2011

1st major renewal goal - achieved

Two years ago we started on out path of renewal for CQUniversity. We set the 2 year goal to make the university financially sustainable. I am very pleased to say that we have achieved this goal. CQUniversity’s finances are in a good position. I have been very impressed by the stewardship that out CFO David Turner has provided in this area. But this goal has not been reached by the work of David alone. Everyone in the University can be proud of the work they have done to get us into a such a good position. However I have included a picture of David here because of his hard work, because he is with his partner Barbara who also contributes a lot to the University and because he looks so dapper in black tie!

In the past 24 months we have developed over 20 new programs, we have about the same number in the pipeline and we have removed programs that have run their course. All of this has increased our domestic enrolments by over 10% this year. We are over our government enrolment cap for the first time in many years.

Yes we have had a turn down in international numbers – but this could have been much worse without the hard work and dedication of our fantastic people working on the metropolitan campuses. Let us not forget that even with the turn down in international numbers our CMS operation is still contributing massively to the finances of the university.

We have made savings across the board and seen efficiency gains across the board. We also managed to be one of the first universities to settle its EB negotiations – thanks to the hard work of the university negotiating team and the unions.

We have made massive investments for the future including campus expansions, new laboratories and even new campuses.

So I think we can safely say our first goal has been reached. We now need to work toward our 5 year goal of being a really strong regional university meeting the educational and research needs of our communities and which underpins our national operations. And of course we also need to work in parallel towards our 10 year goal of being one of Australia’s great universities by us becoming Australia’s most engaged University.

Well done to all CQUniversity staff in making such a great start to our renewal process.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Move towards a demand led system

In the past universities such as CQUniversity have had a cap on how many domestic students we can take. This has made it quite difficult to start new programs - we simply did not have the places to assign to those programs. Next year the government will lift these caps and we will be able to take as many students as want to come to the university.

This offers us a great opportunity to grow CQUniversity to a size that best meets the needs of our communities. So our enrollments this year are up about 10% making us one of the fastest growing universities in Queensland. It has also allowed us to start programs such as law and paramedical studies.

Some have worried about the competition that the demand led system would bring. If we can grow so can all the other universities. Would students be attracted away from our region? Personally I do not share these worries. We are offering and developing much needed quality programs and that is why we are growing.

We will all have to work hard over the next few years while the caps are off to make the best use this fantastic opportunity.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Saturday, July 9, 2011

I have become a twit

I have decided to take the next step in digital communication and become a twitterer.

Someone asked me yesterday why I bothered to blog and now twitter. Good question. The simple answer is I really want to work in partnership with all the stakeholders in CQUniversity to build a great university. Now there is a terrible word "stakeholder". It really is management speak. What I mean is people - people who I can work with. This includes students, fellow workers and people from our communities.

Without electronic communication I simply could not get to speak to all of you. This blog gets about 2600 views per month. That's a lot of communication. This communication needs to be two way - so please comment on these blogs and feel free to email me.

So the next step in this communication is twitter. You can follow me as CQUniversityVC. I will get a twitter button added to this site - I will need help - that level of technology is way beyond me.

By the way I was really pleased to hear about the work that our Dr Alison Jones has been doing on the reef. She and colleagues have shed light onto how fish use tools. how cool is that? Read more here. Alison is yet another one of our star researchers. She is making quite a name for herself in observing rare marine phenomena. You may remember her video of the giant puffer fish last year. You can view that here.

This is a picture of Alison out on the reef. Anita and I were very privileged last year to spend a day out on the reef with Alison. What a star!

Friday, July 8, 2011

On the way home

I have spent the past few days in Canberra talking to politicians and their advisors. The main reasons for the visit was to inform people about our renewal plan progress and to talk about our plans to become a dual sector university. I also got the chance to go in the gallery for question time yesterday - it made VCAC and academic board look very tame.

The Decision Makers in Canberra are very supportive of what we are doing and can see that our dual sector plans will really benefit our community in Central Queensland. It was good to have Nik Babovic our Deputy Vice Chancellor (Vocational Education and Training). He has the knowledge and expertise to demonstrate that we really know what we are doing in this new exciting venture. I am still very hopeful that we will merge with Central Queensland Institute of TAFE. The main benefit of a merger will be teaming up with the CQIT staff team. They will have the expertise to to make the new dual sector merger a success, to really take us forward in the VET area. I really believe that there will be a great synergy between the TAFE and the University. Together we can be much more than the sum of our parts.

I am very pleased to hear that there as been a lot of progress back at base since I have been away. I was particularly pleased to hear about the successful professional accreditation of our property degree specializations.
Read more here.

Yesterday I saw a sign at parliament house - danger icy surface. It will be great get back to sunny Queensland at least our warning signs are only about snakes.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Letter from the Canberra

I am writing this in Canberra. I am down here to meet with politicians to let them know how we are going at CQUniversity. All in all I think I have 17 meetings planned! These visits (which I try and do quite often) also give me a chance to hear how people are perceiving how we are progressing. I am sure the dual sector university plans will be close to the top of the list of discussions with most people. They will also be interested to hear about how we are progressing with the renewal plan in general. There is a lot of progress to report.

Yesterday I attended the women's leadership breakfast organized by Barabara Lawrence. The speaker was Mary Carol from Capricorn Enterprise. What a fascinating life story she has! One of eleven children who has gone from success to success. She is a great supporter of the CQUnivsity. If you ever get the chance to her her speak do take that opportunity. The picture in this post is of Mary and Barbara.

Before I caught the plane I sat on the Audit and Risk committee and Planning and Resources committee. The agenda's of these meetings make you realize just how much we have going on at the moment. New programs, new campuses, new buildings, dual sector negotiations and overseas developments. I believe that we have to do all of this at this time. This really is our time. Our time to build an improved university to meet the needs of all our communities. I know this is meaning a lot of hard work for many in the University - and I thank you for the effort you are putting inat the moment. I think you only have to look around the place to see that your effort is paying off!

It is about zero degrees down here at the moment. It is always good to come down here at this time of year. It reminds you why you choose to live in Queensland.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Science Camp

Last evening I had the pleasure of attending the closing of the CQUniversity Science Camp in Rockhampton. This was a camp we held for local year 12 students who are interested in science. We had a fantastic group of students who came and spent a few days on campus. They did work in our laboratories and had presentations from our scientists and speakers from outside the University. The event ended with them giving presentations on sustainability. It was very clear that they had really enjoyed being part of CQUniversity for a few days.

I really want to thank the staff that were involved in this. You gave up your valuable time in a non-teaching week. You did the University a great service in showing local students and schools what we have to offer at our University. However I think your contribution was even greater than this - you helped to encourage a group of very talented youngsters to seriously consider science and health science!

I am just off to term two student orientation. Our offers for term two are up 40% on last year! If you remember they were also up last year. Yesterday I met with the new International students. What a great bunch they were! All our hard work is really paying off - CQUniversity just gets more and more successful. I am really looking forward to meeting the new students!

Unsung Heroes

Yesterday I spoke at the Australasian Syllabus Plus Reference Group (ASPRG) conference. Syllabus Plus is a major piece of software that is used to time table in universities. This really got me thinking about time tabling - something that I admit I rarely do. The two major (expensive) resources that we have in our university are people and our facilities. It is interesting that we invest a great deal in the management of people through our People and Culture Directorate - but relatively little on the management of our facilities. Yes I know we have our Facilities Management Directorate - but they are mainly concerned with the maintenance and construction of our buildings. The timetablers are the people that manage the utilization of our facilities. These are the guys who make sure the University gets the best return on it's investment on infrastructure.

Like many people in the University they are the unsung heroes of the place. The people who are often forgotten - unless something goes wrong. There are so many people in the University who have difficult complex jobs who keep the place running.

We are moving to recognize these unsung heroes through events such as the professional show case and the professional staff conference. We need to do more of this.

Can I take this opportunity to thank all the unsung heroes in our University. THANKS.