Meeting the challenge
Building performance, building reputation
It is critical to ensure that UoN's remarkable achievements are known by our global peers and that our reputation on the world stage matches our academic performance. In this changing world, the 'company you keep' and 'the champions who speak for you' will underpin the performance, reputation and international reach of Australian universities.
The priorities outlined in our NeW Directions Strategic Plan focus on lifting our performance in the world university ranking systems in the face of fierce national and international competition. We aspire to join the top two per cent of the world's universities as assessed by the QS and Times Higher Education world ranking systems. This will require building scale through collaboration with outstanding partners, recruiting the best staff and students from across the world and maintaining a clear focus on our core areas of strength.
UoN will develop a strong 'Global Partnership Plan' that provides clarity on the nature and purpose of its international education and research partnerships. The Plan will define our international reach in education and research and support bilateral mobility of academic and professional staff and students with our international partners. The Global Partnership Plan will also identify how we can offer greater targeted opportunities for UoN researchers to engage with the world's best in international research centres or alliances to tackle some of the most difficult challenges facing the world.
World-class performance and a reputation as an upwardly mobile institution will ensure we are positioned to work with the world's best universities in our areas of strength - our 'spheres of achievement'.
It is critical in this context that we continue to realise the outcomes of our commitment in establishing the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) and the Newcastle Institute of Energy and Resources (NIER), and that we continue to attract 'global innovation leaders' and competitively funded early and mid-career researchers in our core areas of strength in medicine and engineering. We will build greater capacity in our national centres and collaborations in geosciences and geotechnical engineering, biotechnology, bioinformatics, control systems and mathematics, to engage with the top institutes in the world as valued partners.
We will also support new areas of research strength and innovation in those discipline areas that take on the challenge of building scale and focus, such as creative industries and the humanities.
We will build a number of 'research and innovation clusters' to strengthen multidisciplinary research, and enhance knowledge transfer capability of specific relevance to our Central Coast and Hunter regions. These clusters will offer a one-stop-shop for business, industry and government partners to work with researchers who bring different capabilities to bear in thematic areas such as the creative industries, defence and others.
The next 20 years is likely to be a time of great change in the Hunter region. The 'Hunter Project' is an initiative by the University of Newcastle to work together with partners to build the capacity of this great region, and support its social, environmental and economic development during this time of change.
Building a highly skilled workforce through education is a priority under the University's 'Hunter Project' - but this does not come without its challenges. The region's proportion of 25-34 year olds with a Bachelor degree is approximately 17 per cent, falling well below the national average of 27 per cent, and the Australian Government target of 40 per cent by 2025.
The 'Hunter Project' will allow the many separate UoN projects currently carried out by different researchers in fields as diverse as social sciences, creative arts, architecture, health, engineering, economics and law to be part of an integrated larger scale community focused project.
Such a project aims to bring the collective capacity of the University under the one framework and engage with industry, government and community partners to shape the future of the region.
The Hunter Project will streamline access to expertise and offer our partners one 'entry point' to access the range of knowledge and innovation available in different parts of our own and other organisations.
This is a time of fundamental change in teaching and learning in the global higher education sector, and the possibilities and opportunities for educators are both challenging and exciting. There is significant scope to harness new technologies to support a deeper engagement between student and academic, and deliver a 'next generation' university experience — if we get it right.
This will require some to be brave and experiment with and apply those new technologies across courses, programs and teaching to deliver that added value. As a university, UoN needs to support that change and recruit staff who, backed by our professional experts, are willing to experiment in learning and teaching.
The demands of the creative industries and the services sector, the importance of design and new imaging technologies in all spheres of endeavour, the globalisation of the health, energy and environment sectors, and the blending of previously distinct disciplines such as in 'neuromarketing' and other areas, require us to rethink our traditional approaches to program development as we seek to 'future proof' our graduates and academics. Ensuring our administrative systems and processes support innovation in curricula design, course delivery and assessment processes will be critical in moving forward.
As an institution we will continue to be defined by the 'Engage Newcastle — Our community, Your university' approach with our students engaged in social enterprise and cooperative education activities; and our staff and students will continue to contribute to volunteer, leadership and community engagement programs. We will build on our strong approaches in work-integrated learning placing students nationally and internationally; and we will harness the valuable input and advice of our alumni community to build the competitiveness of all of our graduates.
The University of Newcastle fosters and supports innovation in our teaching and learning. Our education strategies in the NeW Directions Strategic Plan aim to support staff to develop the skills and resources they need to be innovative, and deliver a rewarding and challenging student experience.
Through the Strategic Plan, UoN is committed to introducing UONline Plus — a program that supports the delivery of 80 per cent of our courses through blended (i.e. virtual + face to face) approaches. We are also committed to the development of an ambitious 'NeW Space' facility as a lead project to support the delivery of learning and teaching that harnesses new technologies and tests emerging technologies arising in different disciplinary and knowledge fields. The NeW Space facility will house extensive digital resources in a library of the future and the next generation 'information common'.
New 'Innovation Teaching and Learning Groups' will support excellence in teaching and learning through engagement with national and international partners, including in the NeW Space facility. Benchmarking our innovation in academic or professional practice will give us the confidence to innovate and experiment to support a great student learning experience.
It is time to build on the remarkable success of UoN in supporting students from a diverse range of equity backgrounds to achieve a university education.
While UoN is a national leader in terms of performance in equity in higher education, it is a 'quiet achiever'. We will build a more visible 'Centre of Equity in Higher Education' at UoN to provide greater co-location of students and staff in our enabling and equity programs. The Centre will offer an opportunity to engage in research that will build a strong evidence base for the support of access, retention and success of students from many different backgrounds at university.
Similarly, UoN will take on the challenges laid down in the Behrendt Review to support the next phase in the commitment to Indigenous education and research, which will lead to a further increase in participation of Indigenous peoples in professional areas. UoN will continue to work with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to ensure appropriate graduate attributes are met. We will pursue greater outcomes in Indigenous student access, retention and success; and we will strive to strengthen our cultural inclusion and the embedding of Indigenous knowledges across the University.
The Umulliko Research Centre will develop in its next phase and work to win key Indigenous research projects based on its strong philosophy of 'doing research that is identified by Indigenous communities and makes a difference'.
The contribution of each and every one of our staff members is important if we are to deliver the 2025 Vision. We will recruit academic and professional staff who are committed to the UON Vision and values, and we will provide staff with the opportunities to be innovative and to excel in what they do.
Our collective performance cannot rely on a select few, but will require staff at all levels and parts of the organisation to be actively engaged in the implementation of our NeW Directions strategies and goals. Achieving our goals will not be without challenges, given the ageing demographic of the academic workforce in Australia, predicted shortages in labour market supply and the global 'war for talent'.
Our expectation is that all academic staff will be research-intensive, and deliver high-quality research-integrated learning. They will be networked with colleagues and industries across the globe, and may be engaged in knowledge transfer with regional and global communities. In particular, we will provide support for early career academics to excel in their respective fields.
We aim to lead the sector in developing the 'next generation' of higher education professional staff who have opportunities to gain experience across a number of areas within UoN, and to build a portfolio of skills and awareness of international and national benchmarks for performance. Our professional staff will provide excellent leadership and service, and play an essential role in supporting the delivery of all elements of NeW Directions.
We will devise a distinctive UoN career development process that is sector-leading and provides a competitive advantage. In our policies and our practices we will convey an active commitment to the principles of equity, diversity, and the health and wellbeing of all staff.
NeW Directions provides the path for UoN to do things differently.
We will express clearer futures and directions for each of our campuses and ensure that staff understand the short and long term education and research goals for their campus, wherever they are located.
We will get the settings and structures 'right' to support the great delivery of services to staff and students. Across the period of the NeW Directions Strategic Plan we will systematically improve services and realign resource allocations to achieve the targets and priorities we set ourselves.
We will work out how to use limited resources to achieve our aspirations by using the principle that the activities required to support our NeW Directions Strategic Plan are 'instead of' rather than 'on top of' less productive activities and 'busy work'.
There will be bumps in the road — there will be disruptive global events, changes in external funding policies, great ideas that don't work, times for celebration when we achieve our goals and times for reflection when we miss the mark.
This next phase will require some of us to show great leadership and initiative, some of us to trust in new processes and all of us to support each other.
We will no longer use the expression 'this is the way we have always done things at the university'.
We will be proud to say 'we do things differently at this university – and it works'.