Vice-Chancellor outlines recent progress and responds to staff questions at town hall forum

27 November 2013

The University has made impressive progress towards rediscovering what it means for so large and disparate an organisation to be a single university, Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence told staff at a packed town hall forum last week.

"What we're talking about is how to support the fine teaching and research of the institution," said Dr Spence, reminding the 300 staff present of the context in which the strategic plan was written.

"The University had essentially become fragmented and that that was having a tremendous impact, not only on our financial position but also on student and staff experience and also on the quality of our research. That's important to remember."

"The work of hundreds of staff across the University … has put us in a better position. We are already seeing that together we can do it better."

Examples include the introduction of collective decision-making that brings together colleagues from right across the University, and greater financial transparency through the University Economic Model that means we are much better placed to plan how best to invest in research and teaching.

Dr Spence also spoke about plans to improve the campus, progress on our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander strategy, and updated staff on work to change how the University engages with its external communities, to recruit students, and to change the services it provides to students once they are enrolled. (More about the Administrative Services Program.)

Responding to questions from the floor, the Vice-Chancellor recognised that the pace of change had been challenging, particularly in the context of this year's difficult enterprise bargaining negotiations, but said colleagues should not lose sight of what we have achieved as an institution.

"There are issues with trust, there are issues with change ennui, there are issues with having had to take an institution that thought it was rich and successful through a process where it said collectively 'actually we've got issues to deal with here and we can only deal with them together'.

"That's tough but we're actually beginning to see it deliver some results and that is a compliment to you all."

Colleagues also asked the Vice-Chancellor about how to reduce the administrative burden on academics, tensions between academic values and the pressures of the corporate world, and his views on entrepreneurship, commercialisation and internationalisation.

He set out some key areas of focus for 2014: the further development of a University-wide research strategy and discussions around whether the University should make more targeted investment in research; support for teaching, including in the areas of online learning and student retention; a more coordinated ICT strategy; and a greater focus on staff development.

"We are already a stronger institution," he told staff. "This change is the product of your work and it's very impressive indeed."

Many thanks to colleagues who attended the all-staff forum. We would would very much appreciate your feedback to help us plan future events. Please email University Communications to let us know what you thought.