As the second year of our NeW Directions Strategic Plan, 2014 was a crucial year for consolidating activities introduced in 2013. This included rolling out a series of new initiatives and casting our minds forward to potential developments in the context of proposed fee deregulation and opportunities arising from a changed funding environment.
A major achievement has been the establishment of our new Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education, a vibrant research and practice hub with a local and global impact. New outreach projects have fostered connections in our immediate vicinity, and our ongoing investment in innovative learning formats continues to increase our ability to inspire our students and reach out to the global community of learners and scholars.
- two Office of Learning and Teaching Awards and four Citations
- top 10 university in Australia for teaching quality and graduate generic skills in the Australian Graduate Survey
- successful completion of the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) Learning Outcome Mapping process for all programs accepting new enrolments in 2015
- commencement of the 'Learning Analytics: assisting universities with student retention' project, which aims to improve retention of at-risk students
- launch of the revised High Performing Students' program in collaboration with the NSW Department of Education and Communities, providing secondary school students with opportunities to fulfil their academic potential and which can lead to credit for university studies
- receipt of National ELT Accreditation Scheme Quality Endorsement under a revised scheme for the Language Centre as one of the first 10 centres to undergo a complete audit.
2014 key figures
- 40,206 students from 117 nations
- 200+ donor-funded scholarships awarded
- 2,062 students participated in the iLead program
- 2.4m library visits
- library satisfaction rating of 82.7 per cent, placing our
- library in the top quartile nationally
- 6 new Professors talks
- 125,000 alumni across more than 120 countries.
The Education Plan strategic priorities for 2014 were:
We are a leader in providing more opportunities for people with ability and determination to enter and succeed in higher education, regardless of their background. The proportion of low socio-economic students (SES) students enrolled at the University is 27 per cent, well above the sector average.
We are also Australia's largest provider of enabling programs. Almost 40,000 students have commenced our enabling programs since they started in 1974, and there is no other institution in the country that holds the breadth and depth of cross-sectional and longitudinal data in the area of progression of students through alternative pathways to higher education. In 2014 we built on this reputation with a number of new initiatives and programs.
Centre of Excellence for Equity for Higher Education
We are committed to excellence and equity and have established the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education (CEEHE) as a national and international hub for equity-focused research, practice and partnerships. In the first year of operations, the CEEHE has built on our established reputation as a national leader in equity and access. We welcomed international scholar Professor Geoff Whitty as Director of the CEEHE, hosted a series of workshops exploring four key research themes, rolled out our CEEHE Research Grant Funding Scheme and cemented our links with the European Access Network.
We continue to make an impact in paving the way for young people to access tertiary education. Our AIM High program challenges social exclusion by supporting positive change through education, offering a suite of tertiary education experiences to students in 67 partner schools at all key learning stages from K–6 through to high school. Each activity engages university students, school students, and family members to create opportunities for the development of insights and understanding around education and career pathways. In 2014 we piloted 'The Next Step' – an on-campus program targeted at Year 10 students, designed to ensure they were equipped with all the information they needed to make sound subject selection decisions for Years 11 and 12 and plan for their future. A key feature of the on-campus visit was collaboration with the Australian Defence Force and Hunter TAFE. The inaugural event was attended by over 600 students from 16 AIM High partner high schools.
In line with our goal to attract and retain students with high academic achievement, we have commenced a pilot program to provide students with specific enrichment opportunities. The Faculty Internships pilot program was rolled out in 2014, and has seen students paired with some of our strongest research groups to gain valuable experience in cutting-edge research, exposure to some aspects of life as an active researcher, to develop their research skills and to begin to think about undertaking a Higher Degree by Research such as a PhD or MPhil.
Indigenous teaching and learning
The 2014 launch of the Wollotuka Institute Cultural Standards: Our Lands Our Places Our Cultures provided an institutional framework to inform relationships between the Institute, students, community and the University more broadly. The Standards constitute a set of principles against which our cultural integrity can be monitored, reviewed and assessed, and have guided the development of a revised approach to Indigenous Tutorial Assistance. Our plan is to introduce the new model of tutorial support in 2015. This builds on activities to provide students with a stronger sense of belonging and sense of a community so that they will feel connected to an empowering environment and an intellectually stimulating space which is defined by the values and principles of a strong Aboriginal community.
It is important that we maintain our world-class reputation for excellence and our graduates continue to be recognised as leaders and innovators. Our aim is to offer our region the best education opportunities in an environment characterised by outstanding teaching and research across a wide range of fields. Our globallycompetitive programs link theoretical understandings with Work Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities, preparing students to be resilient and adaptive learners, and capable of engaging successfully in a work environment that increasingly relies on diverse knowledge, skills, innovation and entrepreneurship.
We have implemented a regular program of reviews in order to ensure that we offer high-quality learning experiences and that we maintain our high academic standards. The intention of these reviews is to provide an externally-referenced and consultative process to consider the performance, resourcing, capability and capacity of organisational units, including Schools. The reviews are undertaken by a panel of external experts and are chaired by a senior University staff member. For more information about internal and external reviews please see p138. We collect benchmarking data through a range of internal and external instruments, including the national Australian Graduate Survey (AGS). The most recent AGS survey places us fifth for Generic Skills, ninth for Good Teaching and fourteenth place for Overall Satisfaction.
We have enhanced opportunities for collaboration and consultation through the implementation of a new structure for our Board of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education and Research, and ongoing engagement with our Ngurakai (elders). We welcomed Professor Peter Radoll as the new Dean, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education, a valuable addition to the already innovative management structure of Wollotuka, which comprises four Directors. This is a traditionally-oriented structure and the only one of its kind in Australia. We continued to work towards accreditation of Wollotuka with the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium and are planning for an international accreditation site visit in early 2015.
The Flagship programs scheme continues to be rolled out, with programs that focus on educating graduates in areas of significant demand, promote cross-Faculty collaboration and showcase the most innovative approaches in the delivery of teaching and learning. Two programs were offered as Flagships in 2014 – the Master of Teaching and the Bachelor of Speech Pathology (Honours) – with a further two under consideration for 2015 and 2016.
OLT Awards and Citations
2014 ended on a high note with recognition of our outstanding educators from the Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT). Awards were received by: * Dr Johanna Macneil, Faculty of Business and Law: Award for Teaching Excellence for Law, Economics, Business and Related Studies in the discipline of Business and Management * Associate Professor Tony Smith, Faculty of Health and Medicine (Team Leader): Award for Programs that Enhance Learning for Innovation in Curricula, Learning and Teaching for the University's Interprofessional Learning Modules: 'Learning Together to Work Together' program.
Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning were received by:
- Associate Professor Shen Chen, School of Education, Faculty of Education and Arts, for developing an innovative approach to supporting international students' learning in a new cultural environment and providing high-quality teaching in second language teacher education
- Associate Professor Brett Nixon, School of Environmental and Life Sciences, Faculty of Science and Information Technology, for promoting student engagement and positively influencing the learning experience by using inspirational teaching strategies centred on science-asdiscovery
- Dr Caroline Webb, School of Humanities and Social Science, Faculty of Education and Arts, for empowering English literature students at a regional campus by drawing on their own responses and experiences and providing a rich understanding of cultural contexts
- The Week Zero Team (Ms Liz Goode, Ms Joyleen Christensen, Ms Angela Henderson, Ms Evonne Irwin, Ms Deanna McCall, Ms Annette Morante and Ms Amanda Valent, Academic Division), for developing an outstanding and innovative online orientation which has significantly enhanced the engagement and experience of students commencing an online enabling program.
Our commitment to an outstanding student experience incorporates on-campus activities as well as student engagement in research, work or community-focused learning. Student feedback is used to inform our commitment to continuous improvement and the development of a cohesive, healthy and engaging environment as part of the overall university experience.
Work Integrated Learning (WIL)
Among the emerging global trends in learning and teaching is the increasing emphasis on tangible learning outcomes at undergraduate and postgraduate level and fostering work-ready graduates. Throughout 2014 we advanced WIL through institutional, national and international achievements. These achievements continue to drive the momentum of WIL across the University and our reputation worldwide as a rising leader in this field. Active, strategic involvement in the WIL community at a national and international level ensures our position as a leader in the sector. Our commitment to student equity was further demonstrated in 2014 with the allocation of $0.2m of Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme funding for the provision of WIL Placement Grants for identified low SES students to assist them in their participation in WIL courses.
Integration of leading edge research
Our research-led teaching strategy ensures that all programs incorporate detailed elements of discipline-based research. Research methods and key findings from the research of our staff form an important and integral aspect of the teaching program. The key element of our Research Integrated Learning (RIL) strategy is that students should be engaged and active producers of the University's research outcomes. We were delighted to participate in the Australasian Conference of Undergraduate Research in 2014, where three of our students presented at the 'Posters in Parliament' event, an exhibition of undergraduate research at Parliament House, Canberra. Faculties identified the best posters from their top undergraduate researchers who were then offered a $500 scholarship to attend. This event showcased both our research and the high quality of our students.
We believe that collaboration with our communities is the key to sustainable partnerships and futures. In 2014 Engage Newcastle continued to deliver news about how our students, staff, academics and researchers work with communities, industry and government to help grow and strengthen our region. In 2015 we are planning a series of collaborative discussions to develop an agreed model of engagement that will allow Faculties, Schools and Disciplines to work more directly with their alumni in industry and also connect current students with past students at a grass roots level. Plans have also been made towards using our 50th birthday celebrations as an opportunity to invite alumni to re-connect with the University.
In 2014 we undertook a major review of all organisational areas that support the provision of services to students in order to ensure that our operations are world-class and strategically-aligned. The transition to Student Central has occurred, with the leadership team now in place. During the year Student Central participated in external evaluation to benchmark customer service, identify training needs and shape our service delivery plan for 2015.
In the context of a challenging resource environment, we recognise the need for sound, evidence-based decision making processes, planning and delivery models to reflect the needs of our multiple stakeholders, including students, community and industry.
Business planning model
In order to develop a whole-of-institution approach to financial sustainability we recognised the need for an evidence base for understanding the factors influencing the quality and financial position of our academic programs. The Academic Program Viability model presents comprehensive data to key committees and units across the University. It provides a framework for the analysis and understanding of program viability and is a key input into discussions at School, Faculty and University level in relation to how our mix of programs should be developed into the future.
Support strategies for teaching and learning
We are dedicated to supporting academics in activities related to program delivery, including effective consultation, collaboration and support. Our Centre for Teaching and Learning is supporting an increase in the uptake of online tools in the delivery of academic programs and works with both students and staff to identify areas for improved service delivery. Our professional development program ensures that innovative curricula and pedagogy are central to the student experience. A revised suite of professional development courses gave staff opportunities to engage with instructional designers to support the development of online content, as well as opportunities to develop skills in assessment, feedback, and collaboration.
We committed to the establishment of UONline Plus as an initiative to support the expansion and quality of online and blended approaches across 80 per cent of our courses. Flipped Classroom approaches were developed in 2014 as a part of this process – building academic and professional staff capacity and the provision of world-class virtual and physical learning environments.
Our focus in 2015 will be on continuing to deliver an exceptional student experience. Activities will be clustered around five key priorities including:
- making the student experience exceptional by integrating student services, including campus life activities, into a single entity in 2015 to improve the non-academic aspects of the student experience
- supporting outstanding teaching by continuing to deliver well-regarded training for teaching staff
- ensuring our students are sought out by employers by looking to extend the ways in which we provide opportunities for students to develop work-ready skills as well as career advice and preparation
- differentiating our value proposition through our programs and the distinctiveness of our student experience by working with each School to understand its particular needs and support new opportunities for differentiated learning, innovative programs and online support
- broadening opportunities for student and community engagement by continuing to grow opportunities to secure community support for WIL and better support the educational experience of students in this area.