Friday, September 25, 2009

Leaders in Universities

Yesterday I met with the Professoriate of the University. What a fantastic bunch of people. It is good to know that we have such academic “grunt” driving CQUniversity. Like all staff that I have met at the University they all have a real passion to drive the University forward. They truly believe in the CQUniversity – and what it can become. All of our professors are academic leaders and are central to our future success.

My meeting with the Professors got me thinking about leadership and management in universities. I think there are two very closely related groups of academic leaders within a university. They are the scholastic leaders and the managerial leaders.

The scholastic leaders are the academic leaders who are exemplified by our professors. They have become leaders through there mastery of their discipline and through research. I think we also have scholastic leaders who have got there through mastery of teaching and learning practice.

The managerial leaders are those who got there through mastery of managerial processes. This group of managers are exemplified by our Directors and Heads of School. The Heads of School also need to have gained academic credibility through scholarship so it could be argued that they are a “blended” leader!

I think that in universities the relationship between managers and leaders is not fully understood. At times I think we sometimes make scholastic leaders managers – just because they are a good scholastic leader. We often take good teachers and researchers and twist their arms to be managers – Heads of School. What we should be doing is finding the people who have a love of management and have academic credibility – the “blended leaders”.

We need to start to track down the “blended” leaders and make them professional academic managers. These should be our Heads of School. They should be given autonomy to become empire builders and be allowed to grow their schools to teach more students and undertake more research. They should be developed so that they can safeguard the welfare of the school staff and develop them into the leaders they want to be. I think they should be seen as senior managers within the university and placed on management contracts.

But what about at the executive management level? Should the PVCs, DVCs and Executive Directors be scholastic managers, managerial leaders or blended leaders? I believe that there is room for each of these types of leaders at the top. In fact you need a mix of all types of leaders to have a successful and balanced university. I think that everyone in a university should able to see a route for them to the top of the university. I will leave it to you to decide what type of leader the VC should be!

By the way a member of staff sent me a really interesting link to a site about motivation in organisations.

Daniel Pink reflects of motivation in organisations. I am very taken by his ideas – if you have time do have a look.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blended teaching and mobile learning

It’s a fact here at CQUniversity, as it is elsewhere: more and more learning material is being put on-line for students to self-select, self-direct and manage their own learning, which is great. It provides flexibility and can overcome the tyranny of distance that so often challenges learners, especially those scattered across Central Queensland’s vastness. The technology provides wider access to the University and enables students, who for many reasons – work, location, personal commitments and otherwise – may not have been able to start, conduct or finish their course or degree without it.

CQUniversity was a pioneer in Australia of this type of learning – then called Distance Education (DE) – decades ago when far-off students would get audio or VHS tapes posted in the mail along with reams of paper-based learning material.

I used to be a DE student (I did my PhD and MBA through DE). It was wonderful in many respects but a downside remains despite all the advancements: limited human interaction or engagement in the learning environment, leaving many students wanting and needing more substance, hands-on learning, and face-to-face encounters with their teachers and peers.
It’s an issue that university administrators and academics struggle with all the time: finding a balance in course delivery that allows us to reach as many students as we can in a format that truly engages, inspires and results in consistently exceptional learning encounters and outcomes.
Over the years DE has taken on different names and nuances, thanks to changes in technology and pedagogy and plain old trial and error. You may have heard of Flex or Dual Mode or Mixed Mode. All over the world today, however, universities are experimenting with and adopting what’s described as Blended Learning.

It’s a methodology or philosophy that’s supposed to increase options for greater quality and quantity of people-to-people interaction in learning. You can read some more about it by Googling the term or reading the wiki entry at

Here’s a relevant paragraph:
Blended learning offers learners the opportunity “to be both together and apart. A community of learners can interact at anytime and anywhere because of the benefits that computer-mediated educational tools provide. Blended learning provides a ‘good’ mix of technologies and interactions, resulting in a socially supported, constructive, learning experience; this is especially significant given the profound affect that it could have on distance learning.

Across CQUniversity we have done and are doing this in most courses and programs, but not all. And not to the extent that I think we need to today to stand out and reclaim our position as a national innovator and leader in the Teaching & Learning space. As part of CQUnversity’s Renewal Plan we’re looking at our current methodologies, technologies and pedagogies so we can provide Learning & Teaching that not only enhances the student’s learning experience but also adds significant value to his/her learning outcomes, whether studies are undertaken on- or off-campus.

“Blend” indeed has numerous meanings: to compound; to coalesce; to merge or combine; to make uniform; etc. Notwithstanding these definitions, in our context I think it most accurately means obtaining a mixture of a particular character, quality, and consistency that is identifiable as uniquely CQUniversity in all of our Learning & Teaching, which adds real value to the course/program and the student experience.

A conversation is already underway presently at the University based on a recently drafted discussion paper. Join us by posting a comment and let me know what you think.

By the way, many thanks for all your participation in my Inaugural Lecture web-cast yesterday. Please continue with your comments and I’ll try to keep-up and respond. If you missed it you can link to it from the CQUniveristy homepage


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Live Video - Vice Chancellor's Inaugural Address

My Inaugural Address will be broadcast live over the Internet.

When: 5.30pm AEST Wednesday 16 September

Click here to review the Inaugural address

Click here to provide feedback or ask questions during or after the event

Please Note:
  • If you are connecting via a modem or have a slow Internet Connection, you may only receive audio
  • Please see our technical help page if you have any difficulties accessing the video/audio
  • I recommend that you test the link above prior to the event, to ensure that you do not have any technical issues during the event

Monday, September 7, 2009

Merit, need and engagement: The Role of Scholarships in Strategic Enrolment Management

Access to higher education is a long-standing priority of CQUniversity. We have at least five major programs in place that engage so-called non-traditional students, significant support services for international and domestic students (like the First Year Experience program), and access to a couple of million of dollars in various scholarships and grants which make university more affordable and attractive for students – some of which comes from generous private donors and others from government grants and community organisations.

Over the coming months, as we explore numerous strategies to increase enrolments and completion rates among domestic and international students I want for us to consider, among other things, the roles Scholarships and Financial Assistance play (and could play) in recruiting and retaining students.

Scholarships and grants can and do make a difference for a significant number of people, not just those from underrepresented backgrounds, when it comes to choosing a University and completing their degrees. And they’re taking on a more central role in universities’ information sharing with prospective and other students. So much so that six months ago another Queensland university established an Office of Prospective Students and Scholarships which brought together numerous university functions and resources under one umbrella.

I’m not suggesting that we take on that structure; what I am stating is that we need to consider the implications, benefits and risks of engaging students in a support structure that exploits more fully the advantages that scholarships and grants, based on merit and financial need, provide (to the student, the community and the University) at each stage of the Student’s Learning Journey – prospect, student and graduate.

With that in mind I want to look at existing programs, marketing initiatives and incentives which may no longer be relevant to our current and future needs and redirect much needed resources.

One of those programs is our Study with Friends and Family program (SWFF), a referral scheme we have successfully run for more than 10 years for international students. Students who referred other students to the University were able to qualify to accumulate ‘rewards points’ which then could be redeemed mostly for discounts on textbooks, phone cards, even airfare back home.

Whilst SWFF is compliant with ESOS legislation and does not compromise academic integrity, research shows it no longer appears to be relevant to most of our students or as a University marketing and recruitment strategy. Since 2005 it accounted for a total of 6.7% of our commencing students; but for the last two years only 11 students out of 1700 students at CQUniversity Melbourne have benefited from the program, only acquiring textbook discounts or international phone cards.

I have therefore decided it is the best interest of our students and the University to wind down this program and redirect resources, as a first step, to reinvigorate merit scholarship and bursary programs that reward academic excellence and make CQUniversity more accessible to qualified students from all backgrounds and countries.

In doing so, CQUniversity will still continue to benefit from good word-of-mouth among its students and graduates. Studying with family and friends, as a practice, will be something we continue to promote because we believe many students perform better surrounded by people they know and trust in an environment that is close-knit and personally supportive.
And we will still encourage students to share their experience. With or without a ‘reward’, like a textbook or a laptop, our students know that there is no one better than themselves to tell prospective students about the quality of CQUniversity’s programs and academic support services.

I believe a university-wide strategy which uses scholarships to reward academic performance and financial aid to make uni more affordable will increase and stabilise our domestic and international student numbers and enhance the profile and reputation of CQUniversity. It’s one way that we can help more people be what they want to be.


PS. I’m delivering my Inaugural Lecture at CQUniversity on Wednesday 16 September at approximately 545pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST). You'll be able to access the live webcast here at the blog and send me comments/questions during the presentation. Hope you can join me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Building up engagement and trust

Over the next few months and years I will be working with you on a program of renewal for CQUniversity that is reliant on real, meaningful engagement and focused on building-up our reputation based on demonstrated accountability and transparency throughout the University. Staff, students, alumni, community and government expect accountability and transparency from us and we owe that to them – the people and organisations who support us now and into the future, our stakeholders.

It is my role, and that of all of us really, to do a better job of telling people what we are working on and changing that will help us become more engaged with our communities, more efficient and effective in our use of public funds and more responsive to the teaching and learning requirements of our students.

In the current economic, political and regulatory climate, however, we can become easily preoccupied by the complexities of funding, our ‘compacts’ with government and numerous issues around the provision of higher education in regional and international contexts – all worthy and extremely important issues in their own right. Distracted at that level, though, we risk losing sight of issues of primacy that resonate in our communities such as quality and excellence, real choice and diversity, university autonomy and academic integrity.

These are some of the issues, at the core of CQUniversity’s Strategic and Renewal Plans, which – linked to clear performance indicators and targets – will drive accountability and, by extension, drive the direction in which we go.

Equally, this information will be used as our report-card to ourselves and to the community, providing each of us with clear and consistent information about our purpose and performance. It will also help prospective and existing students, staff and other stakeholders (including government) make better informed choices about CQUniversity.

By being more accountable we will build more trust within the University and among our external audiences. Along the way we will stimulate a lot of dialogue (and probably some diatribe, too). What’s important to me is that accountability is comprehensive across the University and that we are engaging each other in a conversation that will create greater understanding of how and why we operate and what we are doing to manage costs and add value to the student experience.

Let’s not view accountability as a Herculean task but as an opportunity to engage and build trust … and renew CQUniversity.