It seems blogs are like buses. You wait for ages and then two turn up at once.
I figured that a week was a reasonable amount of time to wait though.
There’s a nice little scene near the end of the Jungle Book (the original animated version) where three vultures are sitting on a tree wondering what they’re going to do next. Always makes me smile. I’ve found myself on the receiving end of the question ‘so what are we going to do now then?’ more than a few times this past week.
Well, I know what we aren’t going to do. That much is certain.
And we have a pretty good idea of what we are going to do.
Enact our strategy for People, Programs and Precincts. Just a little later than originally planned.
The next most popular question of the week became ‘so what exactly is Enterprise25?’ Which I guess reflects the fact that Crossing the Horizon was a five year shopping list of actions we were going to take, whereas E25 has higher level headline targets about where we are going to get to over the next seven years, with less detail on the journey. So I understand the motivation behind the question. It’s the ‘what does it mean for me?’ question. And here’s a high-level answer, of sorts.
- We are going to have a smaller number of bigger academic and professional units – reducing the number of operational silos and layers of management
- We are going to orient our organisation, budget and management around Programs – investing in one of our key assets – our curriculum – and how it is delivered
- We are going to invest – significantly – in another key asset – People – to strengthen research and education capacity in the university
- We are going to consolidate our campus footprint – growing the population on City West and in Mawson Lakes and co-locating cognate activities in sectorally-aligned Precincts
- We are going to further differentiate ourselves as Australia’s University of Enterprise
Not a merger, that much is clear, but not without change for us all in the coming year. I recognise that – and the anxiety it can cause. We have talked in public fora about what we want to do and why. The changes we enact will be consultative and constructive. We’ll use our One Team framework to ensure our new structures are truly co-created, that they are embedded across 2019 and that they are geared for success. Curriculum innovation will continue apace and we’ll ramp up recruitment of additional academic staff for teaching and research during 2019 – with a view to building scale and focus, and with our stated ambitions and measures of success front of mind. The physical stuff, the bricks and mortar, they come later, we have until 2025 after all.
People and Programs first. We will wrap the Precincts around them.
Our trajectory together has been exceptional these past few years and our demonstrated culture of enterprise has stood out locally and nationally. It’s one of the key lessons learned in our recent merger exploration – ours is a culture we value, that’s worth preserving and amplifying further. In some of the town halls I described E25 as the ‘difficult second album’. It’s not really. It’s a sequel. It will build on all the best parts from the first one and layer in more – and take us through some interesting character arcs along the way. It’s another step on the journey to UniSA positioning itself among the world’s very best young universities. In this instalment, our heroes will face challenges aplenty – the fickle national political landscape for one, the instability of higher education policy, the freeze on the demand driven system baking in inequity of access to higher education in our state, the risks of anti-intellectualism and ironically, academic snobbery. All of which we shall navigate together, none of which shall deter us from our goal.
But first, a pause.
I pointed out in the blog last week, that regardless of the future direction we took, the present – where we are – is very, very important. And where we are is remarkable. So, before we implement in earnest, before we look to E25 and 2019 and change, for the remainder of 2018, our 27th year as the University of South Australia, I think we should draw breath, enrol our next batch of students, graduate our next group of modern professionals, who’ve experienced the difference and draw the year to a close confident in the knowledge that we are doing well. We can reflect on a year that had its fair share of unexpected twists and turns.
It hasn’t ended on a cliffhanger. It didn’t need to. Everything has turned out ok and has set us up for a great second reel.
I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.