Wednesday, July 03, 2013

ANU Plan for Success

In "Australian Universities and the Global Gymnasium" (June 23, 2013) I wrote that the Australian National University (ANU) had embarked on an exercise to save about $50M a year, asking staff and students for suggestions (including myself as an Adjunct Lecturer). Following the consultations, yesterday the Vice Chancellor released the ANU Budget package.

Provided are:
Detailed proposals:
1. Revenue
2. Staffing
3. Non-staffing
4. Major strategic measures
These are provided as very readable web pages (apart from the financial summary, which is a blurry image).

The budget proposals appear moderate and well thought through. These seem reasonable initiatives for improving a university, even if there were no budget pressures.

The most interesting points for me were:
  • Increase domestic undergraduate student numbers by 5% in 2014 and 11.8% in 2015, and international coursework student numbers by 1.5% in 2014 and 2015: The domestic target for 2015 seems overly ambitious, and the target for international students a bit low. I suggest ANU could use the same on-line recruiting material for both domestic and international students, as education is becoming global (or at least regional, in the Asian Century).
  • Implementation of a new enquiry management system using a third party provider, Hobson’s, at a cost of $0.5M per year, with a return of $1.5M: The ANU needs an effective way to communicate with potential and current students. The Student lifecycle relationship management report (JISC, 2008) is a little dated but still relevant. My recommendation would have been for use of a free open source product supported by an Australian IT company, but Hobsons’ Education CRM Suite is a credible choice. It is used already by Australian universities and so is relatively low risk.
  • On-line courses were identified as a major strategic opportunity for ANU, but no specific proposals were put forward: This is an area where I suggest ANU needs a strategy, for training staff in blended and e-learning and encouraging their wider use. This would reduce costs, make better use of existing infrastructure, improve course quality and increase enrollments. Within ten years most university courses will be on-line, supplemented by face-to-face components. A university which has not adjusted to this reality will not be viable.
  • Savings of $2M per year through energy reduction is proposed (at a cost of $1M over two years for equipment and planning). This seems a conservative target, My ICT Sustainability students have conducted energy audits of ANU building and found considerable room for savings.

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