Friday, March 18, 2011

New Strategic Direction for ANU

Greetings from the Manning Clarke Centre at ANU where Professor Ian Young, the newly appointed Vice Chancellor is discussing the preparation of a new strategic plan for ANU. The current plan is entitled "ANU by 2010". It was decided not to revise this until the new VC arrived. He is outlining a process where staff will be consulted on clear measurable goals. As an example he displayed a graph of Research Income per FTE (full time equivalent staff). This is an approach I am very comfortable with as should staff from the sciences and engineering: we like numbers.

Professor Young pointed out that in terms of students, ANU is much smaller than other leading Australian universities. In terms of revenue, ANU's is trending downwards, both absolutely and per staff member. More positively, ANU is at the top Australian university on the Shanghai Jiaotong Academic Ranking of World Universities and QS World University Rankings as well as being second on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. ANU ranks top on the ERA.

Overall the metrics show ANU ranks well, with high student satisfaction. But Professor Young asked what is unique about ANU? One feature was the high proportion of students from elsewhere and the number living on campus. In terms of research, ANU lacks the independent medical research institutions around some other major Australian universities.

Professor Young asked how to obtain industry research support. To me the obvious answer is by addressing the needs of Canberra's major industries, which are public administration, education, ICT and defence/aerospace.

Professor Young pointed out that ANU can't use revenue from increasing student numbers to subsidise research. This is because ANU has a relatively small number of students.

Professor Young then outlined the elements of a strategic plan. The key areas are: research, education, revinue, ANU as the national university (alliances), student and staff quality, infrastructure (especially equipment) and recognition by he community.

One point which interested me was in terms of infrastructure. ANU has some impressive buildings, but lacks a large scale conference and learning centre. The Australian Centre for Dialogue and Australia Forum are looking at a building for public meetings in Canberra. In my view, rather than a standard alone centre, this could be combined with a teaching facility at ANU, along the lines of the Learning and Innovation Centre at Royal Roads University.

As my area of interest is in flexible modes of learning, particularly online e-learning and blended learning, I looked trough the existing plan and what the Professor Young has said on this in the past and what the policies of the organisations he has been associated with have been.

The ANU plan mentions "flexible modes of learning". This has been implemented through initiatives such as the Wattle Learning Management System and the Digital Lecture Delivery System.

I looked at the policies and practices of the institutions Professor Young has been associated with:

* Swinburne University of Technology:
Program Approvals - Higher Education, Academic Board, 8 December 2010:
The approvals process for academic programs is committed to and guided by the principles of: ...
▪ Consideration of flexible delivery options, including online and
blended learning ...
International Postgraduate Courses 2008:
You will also be exposed to the latest in flexible delivery options such as: podcasts and video-streamed lectures, video conferences,
simulations, discussion forums and online chats. You will have plenty of study style opportunities to meet and interact with other students to optimise your learning and build professional networks.
* Education Services Australia:
The ICT in Everyday Learning – Teacher Online Toolkit project ... The project aims to change classroom practice by increasing teachers' capacity to incorporate technologies into teaching and learning as they implement the Australian Curriculum. It will assist teachers to access online professional learning with local support to analyse, plan and implement changes to their teaching approaches and to access quality online resources .
edna provides a range of interactive and information resources and
services including

* links to information, research and education and training resources
* discussion lists for educators
* online groups for communities of educators – edna Groups
* online collaborative projects for students
* personalised educator profiles –
* news feeds and a calendar of education events. ...

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