The University of Newcastle, Australia

Moving from NeW Directions to NeW Futures

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

On 24 and 25 July, the University's senior leadership group – including Heads of School, Directors and the Executive Committee - gathered at the Merewether Surfhouse for the 2014 Strategy and Engagement Leadership Retreat.

As we reach the half-way point of the NeW Directions Strategic Plan 2013-2015, the Retreat was a great opportunity for our leadership group to come together to discuss how the University would respond to the significant changes foreshadowed for higher education through the budget reforms, and to start the conversation about moving from NeW Directions to start preparing for our next 10-year strategic plan (provisionally titled NeW Futures 2016-2025).

VC speaks at Leadership Retreat Over the two days, we considered the global trends in education, research and innovation that will impact UON into 2025. We also discussed what the proposed changes to the Australian higher education landscape – including government funding cuts, fee deregulation and the expansion of the demand-driven system to non-university higher education providers – would mean to UON now and in the future.

A critical question – and one which was taken up with gusto by the group – is how UON will differentiate itself in an increasingly crowded and competitive market for higher education. We worked to define what type of university we envisaged UON would be by 2025; we thought through our 'value proposition' based on our established and emerging areas of strength in education and research; and we debated how we might best deliver on our value proposition for students, staff and our communities.

As might be expected, we also considered our financial sustainability and focused our attention on the shared responsibility to ensure that the University can continue to fund and align its core operations with its aspirations. It must be said that there's nothing like a discussion on financial issues to test leadership 'esprit de corps' – and mettle! 

Planning for the next ten years

We are now in the early phase of planning for the transition to the University's next 10-year strategic plan, set to be launched in July 2015, and I look forward to staff across the institution engaging with the planning process as we think hard about what UON will look like at 60.

Following on from the Retreat, we have established a monthly UON Leadership Breakfast, to be chaired by members on the Executive Committee and designed to bring together academic and professional leaders with our senior executive to ensure there continues to be a good dialogue on our strategic responses and priorities in changing times.

The first breakfast meeting was held on Thursday 28 August and was chaired by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), Professor Kevin Hall, who presented the Early Career Researcher and Researcher Leadership Development strategy. There was lively discussion over coffee and toast about the best way to grow and support our emerging research-active academics across the University, and Kevin now has a range of great ideas to work with as this initiative moves forward.

Our capacity as an institution to be resilient and focused in the face of change is built on the hard work of all our Faculties and Divisions. This work, and our investment in NeW Directions 2013-2015, has provided us a strong platform to deliver on our 2025 Vision – I look forward to working with you and building on this foundation as we move to shape our NeW Futures 2016-2025.

Best wishes


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