Posted 24/06/2021 by: Professor David Lloyd

Imagine my utter geeky delight when I discovered recently that one widely accepted definition of a ‘generation’ is thirty years. Think about it. Australia’s University of Enterprise. Thirty years old.

Wouldn’t that mean we are now gearing up for UniSA:The Next Generation™?

I doubt we’d get that trademark past Paramount though. And of course that sent me down the rabbit-hole of whether TNG would demand a more Picard-esque style of leadership, would baldness be involved, would a noble self-sacrifice be required to save the entire population of an imperilled star system (the Veridian system, fact-checkers) from the evil machinations of an over-acting British villain while heavy-handedly signalling the baton passing from one leader to the next without drawing the ire of legions of fans? Would the Enterprise crash-land and re-emerge as a much cooler incarnation the next time around? Does anyone still say cool? So many questions. I digress. 

If that entire introduction baffles you, apologies. A search engine might help. Maybe you know a middle-aged geek of your own that you can ask. Regardless, thinking of this current time as a manifestation of generational change has been an interesting exercise. Putting aside thoughts of Logan’s Run (uh-oh, he’s at it again - warning: another ancient movie reference) – and remembering that UniSA has never run from any challenge – generational shifts are indeed times of reflection and of change.

Our generational shift is occurring against a backdrop of external change – at both national and global levels. Talk of ‘new normal’ means that old normal has been significantly disrupted.  I’ve talked in these blogs previously about looming icebergs and about sharks that come back to bite you. No such metaphors here. Alright. There’s a Star Trek one – but that’s ever been so – looking to the future, exploring new horizons, crossing them, being bold, being optimistic and caring on the way through.

UniSA is all of those things and more. Our commitment these past challenging 18 months has been to sustain levels of employment. Our staff collectively put their shoulder to the wheel to pivot and pivot again. I know we have all felt the impact of loss of control at every level – the cruel impost of pandemic is writ large in every family separated from loved ones abroad, every border closure that shreds long-made plans, every restriction on liberty no matter how well intended to protect us all. We rail against change where it is foisted upon us – and clamour for a semblance of control wherever possible. Despite the ever-present pressures of inevitable entropy – as people, we crave certainty.

In a few weeks’ time UniSA’s 2020 annual report will be tabled in the South Australian Parliament. Spoiler Alert – we performed exceptionally well. Our balanced and measured efforts to control costs while sustaining employment and conditions yielded dividend – our institution weathered year one of COVID19 better than most. You don’t need reminding of the fact that this is a multi-movie saga – 2021, 2022 and 2023 are all yet to play out.

There are undoubtedly leaner years ahead in the short term, in its simplest terms, recovery in our sector will be significantly lagged as our continuing load bottoms out without timely or sufficient replenishment from commencing students. However, our commitment will remain unchanged – even in these lean times we will do all we can to maintain employment levels and conditions. Working pragmatically to sustain our greatest asset – our staffing base. To enable our staff to focus on the delivery and support of our teaching and research programs, to ensure they are the very best they can be so that our partners and our students get what they so rightly deserve from their investment in higher education – advancement, careers, competitive advantage, employment – core foundations for their future certainty.

There is always blue sky above the clouds (well during the daytime, at least). Ours is a solid university of scale, and with impact beyond its years. A university of choice for students and partners. A university that has been unafraid to try new things and a university that has excelled in their delivery.

We have never stood still. I don’t think any university in Australia today can afford to stand still – that’s one of my certainties.

Have we lost something of ourselves in the last 18 months? I fear we may have, but understandably so. Life lived through an uncertain lens can tend to over-compensate through constraint, and through constraining, can inadvertently curtail innovation. Recognising this externally influenced tendency, pausing to reflect, on why we do what we do, on how we have gone about doing things up to now and thinking on why things work on this particular ship, will ease us back onto a sustainable, enabled, self-determined course.

History has shown that through the last 30 years, the original series, our first generation, UniSA has ever been innovating, going boldly. This next generation of us will, I firmly believe, see that continue, will make it so – you see, it's in our DNA – and hence, Unstoppable. 

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Professor David Lloyd

Through The Big Picture, I hope that our whole community gains a greater and current appreciation of what is going on, how it fits together and how our activities connect and reinforce each other at a whole of enterprise level.

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