Dr. Sonal Minocha, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Global Engagement), Bournemouth University, reflects on her experience as a delegate on Global Insights: The Australian Experience, the first in a series of leadership and learning/research excellence dialogues with other global higher education leaders focusing on globally engaged learning & research and academic innovation.
The series has been developed by the HEA, in partnership with Ranmore, for aspiring and new Vice-Chancellors. The next course in the series is in the United States of America (1-5 October)
What a fantastic week we have had with the Higher Education Academy (HEA) in Australia; such a great opportunity to meet with old friends and make new ones!
In a collaborative initiative between the HEA and Ranmore (led by the ever-brilliant Tom Kennie!), I was fortunate to experience the Australian chapter of the programme. Following on from my Vice-Chancellor having undertaken this experience last year I could finally appreciate the many inspirational stories he recounted on his return.
Introduction to the Australian HE Sector
We met all the participants in Melbourne on Sunday evening over dinner, but, thanks to jet lag, all introductions needed a repeat the next morning! The University of Melbourne was our first host, with visitors from TEQSA and Gattan Institute providing context for our trip. This was a good reminder of the scale of Australian HE and how it differs to the UK. Whilst the Australian HE sector has only a quarter of the HE institutions that the UK has (43 in Australia compared to 164 in the UK), they still have 1.31m students, only around a million less than the UK (2.28m)
We also had Paul Duldig, the Head of University Services, talk us through the Melbourne Operating Model (MOP). Only a few years ago, Melbourne became synonymous with its curriculum overhaul project; now they have produced MOP, another sector leading, head-turning project that seeks to corporatise the educational culture whilst still retaining the academic heart of the organisation.
The research, innovation and industry engagement journey was aptly articulated by Professor James McCluskey, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), rounding off a very expansive first day at the top ranked institution in the country (THE’s World University Rankings 2016/17).
Internationalisation and Technology
The second day began with an insightful and inspirational vision for positioning the state of Victoria as a global HE hub; showing how strategic alignment, even within a diverse sector, can achieve a unifying internationalisation strategy. I returned from this discussion even more resolved to develop a Destination Dorset strategy for my region - Global BU is no longer enough for me - a Global Bournemouth is what I'd like to see before retiring from my PVC role!
This was followed by a visit to Monash and RMIT universities, where the group split into two. I joined the RMIT group and was struck by Prof Andrew Macintyre’s exceptional clarity for RMIT's global positioning and its distinctiveness. ‘Skilled hands and connected minds’, the motto of RMIT, resonated strongly with me. This is the essence of the mindsets, skill sets and heartsets agenda which forms the core of the HEA-backed Global Talent Programme – one of Global BU's anchor projects.
The day concluded with a meeting with Professor Richard Speed (PVC Regional) who shared his take on the duality of the regionalism versus internationalism challenge and opportunity at La Trobe University.
Collaboration and Mergers
The Melbourne Polytechnic presentation was fascinating, exploring the contrast and similarities between TAFE and HE provision. There were striking parallels with the evolution of the UK’s post-92's, the very live apprenticeships conversation, and the growing popularity of University Technical Colleges(!?). For example, Melbourne Polytechnic has Skills and Jobs Centres where education and career advisors connect talent with opportunities, offer skills development opportunities and support. Essentially, skills-demand and supply dynamics are at the heart of it all.
Our last stopover in Melbourne was Deakin University - a leading digital University of our times. We were left mesmerised from the moment we stepped in, although I struggled to make myself a cup of tea with the ‘smart’ hot water tap! The presentation from William Confalonieri, the Chief Digital Officer, was a reminder to us all that innovation on our campuses wasn't dead and that we could each take back a slice of imaginative thinking as we shape and deliver our own IT strategies in our sector. ‘Future Learn’ here we come!!
HE in New South Wales
The second half of our insights journey took us to Western Sydney University and UNSW -both institutions at very different stages of their evolution. The former, headed by Barney Glover, Vice-Chancellor and President, Chair of Universities Australia is a leading inspirational figure in global HE who is shaping a modern University that caters to its regional and industry context with the same panache as it does its international reach. With over 44,000 students and more than 3,000 staff, the university has a diverse local and international population. The University is ranked in the top 3% of HEIs worldwide (THE’s World University Rankings), and is also ranked in the top 100 universities in the world under 50 years of age. Particularly impressive was their new learning and teaching facilities.
In contrast, at UNSW we were met by Professor Fiona Doherty, Vice-President (International), who gave us a whistle stop tour of the large change programme the University was going through under its new leadership. It will be fascinating to see the UNSW story unfold in the coming months. Last, but not least, was a visit to Top Education Institute, where Dr Minshen Zhu, Principal and CEO, highlighted the distinctive academic proposition of the Institute.
Of course, in between all these fantastic visits was a line-up of brilliant speakers and visitors from a range of other organisations. The wonderful HEA hosted reception for the delegation on Thursday was a brilliant opportunity to meet my counterparts at other Universities and compare notes. I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to Professor Brian Stoddart and Dr Tom Kennie for leading an excellent immersive programme in partnership with the brilliant team at HEA - Mark Jones, Caroline Ackroyd and William Syms. I have certainly come back energised and, having made the long return journey to Heathrow with colleagues from the programme, I know others have too!
Dr. Sonal Minocha
Pro Vice-Chancellor (Global Engagement)
AUS Student Stats: http://www.australianuniversities.com.au/directory/student-numbers/