The University of Newcastle, Australia

Turning to our students - Dec 2018

Monday, 3 December 2018

As the year draws to a close, I’d like to thank colleagues across the Division, and the University, who have worked hard to establish so many important new initiatives, and refine existing initiatives as part of the Education Redesign Project, while also keeping the ‘business as usual’ element on track. This important ground work has set the scene for the next phase of change, which will be a focus in 2019.

The NeW Education Framework and the Student Journey Map have been well and truly embedded as our guides in transforming our course and program offerings, the ways in which we enable learning and teaching and how we best support all our students.

We have initiated more than 60 projects using NeW Education Framework funding, which has seen our approach to Open Days transformed, new program prototypes initiated (four of which are now in development), a program of University-wide course enhancement that is supported by increased education design capacity, and investment in developing the skills of our educators, as well as the launch of a range of recognition opportunities and other smaller strategic investments.

I am pleased to see the large posters of our Student Journey Map at locations across our campuses, connecting each of us to our role in the student experience. We are working with Meld to place the Map in the hands of our students in a very literal sense, through an abridged version that can be circulated and scribbled on. We are also giving Creative Industries students the opportunities to bring elements of the Map to life in order to highlight the diversity of our University and the ways in which students can engage with aspects of the UON experience.

I’m aware that there is much anticipation about how these developments relate to the change process we are calling “Turning to Our Students”, and the way in the way we will organise ourselves in future. Turning to Our Students is about reimagining the student experience in line with the NeW Education Framework and the Student Journey Map with the aim of achieving better integration within the Division and across the University whilst achieving operational solutions.

The approach we have taken to realising this vision comprises two parallel streams of work focusing on functions in the first stream and processes in the second. The aim is not to simply restructure the Academic Division, but to reimagine the way in which the University delivers services and systems in the future. This function-based approach has been developed using two domains – Learning Futures and Student First.

In the first phase of Turning to Our Students, we will align our functions within these two domains. Functions under the Learning Futures domain will focus on enabling learning and teaching transformation and delivery, whilst functions under the Student First domain will focus on supporting the student journey and enriching the student experience. Each domain will feature distinct but interconnecting functional areas, with clearly articulated roles and responsibilities, connections to faculties and other divisions, and associated IT implications.

In the second stream of work, functional areas will work together and across the university to challenge our current delivery models and reimagine the approaches we take to support the student experience. We will all be involved in developing strategies as well as operational solutions that are in alignment with the Student Journey Map and the NeW Education Framework. This will be a co-design process in which staff participation will be critical. I will be calling on colleagues to bring their expertise and experience, as well ideas and creativity so we can think outside the usual constraints.

We will all work together across the University as we refine functions and process improvements. I am very aware that we need to keep major systems and processes functioning as possible IT solutions are developed to support new approaches. We mustn’t be frightened of exploring opportunities for automation and ways in which we can streamline processes that are cumbersome. This will enable us to focus on other areas of support and respond proactively to the changing needs of students.

The timing of the change has been considered in the context of the arrival of Professor Alex Zelinsky AO, our new Vice-Chancellor and President. It is appropriate that Professor Zelinsky has oversight of the process, and that it aligns with his vision for UON. The next phase of Turning to Our Students is planned to commence in March 2019. This will ensure that we all take the break we need and are ready for the peaks (and troughs) of the New Year.

I thank you all for your patience and for your enthusiasm with the new initiatives, and reaffirm that Turning to Our Students will be an iterative process that allows us to maintain the great work we already do, as well as develop even more exciting and innovative approaches to enabling education at UON. I anticipate that the second stream of work will commence after teams have settled under the new reporting lines, and will be ongoing throughout 2019 and into 2020.

We still have a lot of work ahead of us and it is important that we take the appropriate time to get things right. As we collaborate and innovate in the upcoming co-design process, we need to ensure that we don’t lose our focus on our core activities and continue to work positively together to achieving a great experience for our students.

Thanks all for your contributions this year.

Best for now


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