Friday, August 26, 2011

What a week

What a week it’s been! After travelling back from Sydney earlier in the week, I am delighted to hear of so many CQUniversity ‘success’ stories this week. I am so proud to be VC of such an exciting university – so far this week I’ve heard about:

• Engineers Australia once again accrediting our engineering programs for another five years. Well done to Dean of School, Alan McPhail and all his team for their hard work and commitment in achieving this milestone – it mustn’t have been easy undertaking an accreditation exercise at the same time as managing a major refurbishment of the engineering precinct.

• A group of CQUniversity School of Nursing and Midwifery academics winning a national publishing award, reflecting their contributions to a new Medical-Surgical Nursing Textbook. Congratulations to the CQUniversity contributors - Lorna Moxham, Kerry Reid-Searl, Trudy Dwyer, Judith Applegarth, Sandra Walker, Marc Broadbent and Diane Goldsworthy.

• Anthony Welch, Associate Professor in Mental Health Nursing from our Noosa campus winning a national publishing award for his publication entitled Mental Health Nursing: Dimensions of Praxis. Anthony won the Tertiary Education (wholly Australian) - Teaching and Learning Resource Category in the Australian Educational Publishing Awards.

• ICT Educator of the Year – our very own Steven Pace from CQUniversity Mackay – featured in The Australian this week for his innovative approach to ICT teaching.

• And Lisa Bricknell and Steven Pace receiving their ALTC awards at the Sydney Opera house for their outstanding contributions to student learning.

There are no doubt many more success stories to mention - thank you all for making CQUniversity such a great place to be.

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!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

5 star ratings for CQUniversity

The Good Universities Guide for 2012 is due for release this week and I am extremely proud to say that CQUniversity has leapt into the top three universities in Queensland – and top 14 nationally – for ‘teaching quality’, with an improved four-star rating. Four stars means that CQUniversity graduates rated our teaching quality higher than at 60 per cent of universities in Australia.

This outstanding rating – one of a number of four- and five-star ratings for CQUniversity in the Guide – is a vote of confidence in our ability to attract and retain top academic talent nationally, and I believe we will continue to build on this excellent momentum next year and gain even more plaudits for our quality learning and teaching outcomes.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our students who completed the Course Experience Questionnaire (the survey this category is based on) and our dedicated, hard working staff who provide such a quality educational experience.

Elsewhere in the Good Universities Guide for 2012, CQUniversity has attracted a total of seven five-star ratings – up from six in the 2011 edition. Building on last year’s success, the University has maintained its five-star status in the crucial area of ‘graduate starting salary’. This rating places us in the top 20 per cent of universities nationally for domestic students in their first full-time job, and is testament to the depth and breadth of our degree offerings and their ability to turn out top-quality graduates.

However, the ‘power of place’ remains a crucial factor, and CQUniversity – situated in the resource and agricultural heartland of Queensland – offers real opportunities for graduates to capitalise on the growth industries seeking skilled professionals right here in our own backyard.

The University’s strong social charter is also evident in this year’s Guide, with five-star ratings in ‘gender balance’, ‘access by equity groups’, ‘Indigenous participation’ and ‘cultural diversity’.

This is great news for our students, staff and our wider CQUniversity community.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Talking up our successes

I received an invite to meet with Campbell Newman this week when he was in Yeppoon. I always enjoy any opportunity to talk up our successes with people of influence. And there were quite a few more successes to talk about since my last meeting with Mr Newman in May when he visited our Mackay campus. I was pleased that Mr Newman took a keen interest in the opportunities for the region that a dual-sector university could deliver, and he could see what we were out to achieve with the proposal. It's fantastic to see interest in our dual sector proposal from just about all quarters of government, industry and community. But more importantly it's great that our leaders - whether it be Campbell Newman this week, the Premier last week, or the Minister for Education the week before - are acknowledging the momentum that CQUniversity is building, and are genuinely enthusiastic about our direction. It reassures me that we are on the right path, and our best days are still ahead of us.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dual-sector approval: a great day for Central Queensland

Today was a big day for the University, the Central Queensland Insitute of TAFE, and the community. Huge actually. We passed a very important milestone in our journey to becoming Queensland's first dual-sector university, with Queensland Premier Anna Bligh announcing approval for the merger between CQUniversity and CQIT to proceed. Premier Bligh (pictured above with CQIT Director Kirsti Kee and myself) was at our Rockhampton campus this morning to make the announcement.

This doesn't mean we have merged yet - it's just the starting pistol for negotiations to proceed. The real work starts today. We have to make sure any amalgamation of the two institutions works in the best interest of staff and students of both organisations. We also need to ensure that any amalgamation achieves the best possible outcome for skilling this unique region more effectively; local employers, businesses, industry and the community as a whole will be huge beneficiaries of this dynamic new education and training model if it's done right. And I am confident it will be done right; we simply wouldn't be proceeding with it otherwise.

For the duration of our journey to dual-sector status thus far, we have received strong support from the region's schools, industry, employers, local groups like Capricorn Enterprise and GAPDL in Gladstone, local mayors, staff, students, government, and the wider community. This support has helped us get this far, and the continued support of the community will see us reach our goal in the end. Thanks to everyone involved in getting us to this point, I'm looking forward to keeping you updated as we move forward from here. And to our colleagues at CQIT, I'm excited and energised about working with you to build a stronger institution together.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Engagement with India

I am in India this week. I am here for a number of reasons. On Sunday I took part in the Australian Indian Vice Chancellors Workshop. The senior university executives present discussed ways to better foster engagement between our two countries.

Today (Monday) I was part of the inaugural Australia India Education Council AIEC Our Minister for Tertiary Education Chris Evans attended this meeting along with the Indian Minister for Human resource Development Shri Kapil Sibal. The meeting covered skills development as well as higher education.

The Council discussed how we could work more closely together. One of the projects adopted by the Council was improving student mobility through amongst other things the development of a credit transfer data base. I have been chosen as the Australian lead for this project. I am looking forward to working with colleagues from Australia and India on this project.

I have been looking for ways to further our engagement agenda in India. We have many Indian students and staff and I want to look for ways to engage with Indian communities. On Saturday I think I found a great way of doing this.

I spend the day with an organization called Salaam Baalak .This is an organization that takes street children off the streets of Delhi, gives them a home and an education. I took a tour round the back streets of Delhi with a former street child. I also visited a couple of their children homes.

I am going to meet with the trust later in the week to look at ways in which the University can engage with this fantastic organization. Watch this space!