Caroline McMillen

Caroline McMillen: from the VC's Desk

Over the past few weeks, I have been out to faculties and schools, and meeting with the community to continue road testing the 2025 Vision and discuss the NeW Directions planning process. Today, I am in steamy Singapore talking to our staff here particularly about the international context of NeW Directions. I have to say that to date the feedback from staff and students on our draft Vision and the analysis of our current strengths and potential challenges has been positive, thoughtful and constructive. I am delighted that there is a clear sense of energy and enthusiasm about taking our University to the next level.

The planning groups for our two 'core' plans in Education, and Research and Innovation, have made great progress developing a set of draft strategic objectives and possible lead strategies for 2013 – 2015. These draft plans will be made available on the NeW Directions webpage in the coming weeks for staff and students to review, and I look forward to feedback from all parts of the University. As I have discussed, focussing on our priorities across the University will be critical if we are to realise our 2025 Vision. Education, and Research and Innovation are our 'core business' and once these plans are in place we can then move to develop the set of three 'supporting plans'- Future Workforce; Campuses, Capital and IT; and Finance. The intent will be to ensure that we are clear about where and how we will invest our resources in order to achieve our aspirational goals.

The leadership team from across the University came together two weeks ago for a very productive couple of days. We discussed the global context of higher education – the need to keep pace with rapid digital advances, the international war for talented staff and students, and the impact of emerging new knowledge-based economies in our region. Discussion was lively and informed, and there was good robust debate on how the opportunities and challenges in our external and internal environments should inform our strategic directions. The leadership group reviewed the draft strategic objectives and worked hard on identifying lead strategies, and these ideas and insights will be important in the planning process.

There are pictures from the days of the leadership team hard at work!

As well as a sense of anticipation about the NeW Directions Strategic Plan, there is also a sense of some apprehension - this is to be expected when changes in direction are foreshadowed. I can be clear that our motivation for engaging in this planning process is not to drastically 'reduce budgets' for particular areas or positions. There will of course be changes required in the University as, over time, we realign our investment in people and areas with the strategic goals. Change is a necessary part of institutional life – we are not the same organisation that we were in 2000 and we will be different again in 2025. It would be an excellent outcome if through this current process we develop more confidence in our institutional capacity to be adaptive and responsive to changes in our external environment.

I have received lots of emails and engaged in many conversations with staff and students about the 2025 Vision and NeW Directions when I am out and about. The core ideas from all contributions are being forwarded to the planning groups to help inform their thinking, so please keep them coming - and feel free to email me directly or forward to newdirections@newcastle.edu.au

Best wishes

Caroline McMillen