Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Great times

I have to apologise for not blogging – a very discreet reader has prompted me to get my act together and post. Indeed it’s been a while and admittedly I’ve been less than great when it comes to sitting down to write even though I am attached to two great devices: my iPad and iPhone…
Great as they are --- and they are --- I’m not convinced that I’m working any better. I’m doing things differently for sure. But better? The jury’s still out.
On a larger scale I’m struggling with that question on an organisational level as we progress through a Renewal Plan and make changes --- are we doing it better? Will the changes we’re making lead to ‘greatness’?
We’re seeing evidence of new ways of working together which has resulted in new programs in Law and Medical Science and so on; we’re employing different mechanisms to engage with our communities; we’re trying to be more consultative and transparent; and perhaps – most importantly – there’s a level of involvement from staff and stakeholders at CQUniversity that I have not experienced in other learning environments.
These, to me, seem to be great things. But I’m not the arbitrator of this. Our students, staff and partners are. They are the ones who will show us/me --- through enrolments and research activity, for example – if our rhetoric is matching up to what we are doing.
In 2011 the University will investigate improving, at all levels, the student learning experience. Our researchers, too, are taking on a challenge to develop new, talented, up-and-coming researchers and build on the quality and quantity of research output that already has CQUniversity operating – in terms of the global impact of our research – in the top 10% among all universities.
The sense I have is that greatness is coming. I am very pleased to be able to acknowledge known greatness later this month when the University presents awards in numerous categories to staff. I know, for a fact, we’re a better University because of their efforts and accomplishments.
Still, I admit that I remain challenged by the idea of defining and measuring greatness in ways that just don’t just tick boxes but are truly inclusive and reflective of other people’s perceptions of success and achievement, not just mine. I think I’ll add that my e-Task List --- in the meantime maybe someone out there can develop a simple Ap I could use?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sharing our gratitude

Well I have been back in Australia for over two weeks. How soon you get over holidays. It has been a hectic couple of weeks. On Sunday Anita and I were invited to the Chinese Association Moon Festival on campus in Rocky. We had fun. Yes fun. We met up with all our Chinese staff, students and their families. Played games and ate Moon Cake - fun!

The first week back was spent on the road attending the Metropolitan Campus graduations. They were fantastic, as always. The best bit for me is meeting with the students and their parents after the graduation. We have so many proud parents traveling from across the globe. It really is quite humbling to meet these parents and hear how they have in many cases trusted us with their children and the future of their family.

Yesterday and today I am in Mackay, tomorrow in Rocky, Thursday in Gladstone and Friday back in Mackay. So hopefully I will be able to catch up with many of you.

Rockhampton graduation was also a great event - one that the Chancellor called the best Rockhampton graduation ever. I was particularly keen to see so many staff on stage and so many helping out in the centre. Well done to you all. We also have lots of back room people working to make the event a success such as the IT and security folk. They also did a great job.

And that brings me on to the point of this blog. We all love recognition. I am very lucky to have a boss - the Chancellor who is very generous with his praise. There is nothing better for me (well maybe one or two things!) than when he makes a positive comment about me or the University. I try and say thanks and well done as much as I can. I try and recognise a job well done or a person that goes beyond the call of duty. I know I don't do it was often as I should but I do.

I would ask you all to say well done to someone who has done a good job in the next week or so. Use the email to do it. Copy in their boss and copy in me. I want to hear about all the great work that is going on. I have heard it said in some parts of the University that we should not be doing this and it is only trying to seek praise. What utter rubbish. Let's all give praise where praise is due and let me know about it.

Let's make this CQUniversity recognition week!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Thoughts of home

Well it has been a hectic week. I am writing this sitting on a delayed airplane in Xian airport. We were told it had been delayed for an hour but there has just been an announcement that they do not know when it will take off. Oh well, no stress. We are in holiday mode.

A great day was had at the Forbidden City. There was more politics going on in pre-Revolutionary China than in modern day CQUniversity and that is saying something. One evening we went out to one of of Beijing's famous Peking Duck restaurants. We got a little carried away and ate ducks liver with scorpions. I have to say that for the past few days I have felt a little under the weather - I am not sure if this is due to the scorpions or not.

We travelled by China Eastern Airlines to Xian. Our main reason for the visit to this city was to see the Terracotta Warriors. These lived up to all the expectations. Our guide said that there were 8000 warriors that had been made by 720,000 slaves over 2000 years ago. I upset him a little when I pointed out that the slaves were not that productive - about ten thousand slaves to make each warrior!

Until visiting I had not realised that Xian was such an historic city in it's own right. It has an incredible city wall which encloses a fascinating Muslim area. There are enough replica terracotta warriors to form your own army.

Only a couple of days left and then back to work. I am on the road next week traveling to graduations around the country. I do enjoy the international graduations. I love meeting our graduates from overseas and their parents. Many of these graduates want to return to their own country and who can blame them when you look at the economic growth rates in China and India.

Just as many want to stay and make a life for themselves in Australia. What a fantastic resource they are for our country. At the moment we seem to make it very hard for people to come and join us in Australia. I truly believe that in the future with an ageing population countries will be competing to bring young talented people to their shores. If we get it wrong now we are going to find it very hard to compete in the future.

I hear people say that Australia cannot support many more people. Get real - there are cities in China that have more people than the population of Australia. What is driving economic growth in China and India is a large domestic population. I believe that we need to grow the population of Australia. What better way to do this than to bring in clever young people who are willing to pay for their own education, teach them in English and then keep then here to have a great life and to contribute towards Australia and help support it's ageing population?

International education has got a bit of bad name in recent years. To some extent criticism has been focused on the VET sector. I have heard a lot of scorn poured on back street colleges that have set up to train hair dressers and commercial cooks. This has culminated in these disciplines being taken off the migration list. But go to any tourist area or mining town in Australia and you will find a massive shortage of - you have guessed it cooks. I think that regional universities and TAFEs (or a dual sector university!) could play a very productive role in this area. Why not keep commercial cookery and the like on the migration list for students that had trained in regional universities or TAFEs and then require graduates from such programs to have to work in their discipline area for two or three years.

We have got to stop seeing international education and international students as some kind of threat. It is a sector that should be supported and international students should be encouraged to join us as Australians.

Some would argue that that it makes more sense to recruit people from overseas who have already qualified in their own country. But is this morally sustainable. By doing this we are taking talent away from some of the poorest countries in the world after their countries have invested scarce resources in them. With our migration points system we tend to take young people who have not had a chance to give any kind of return on the investment that has been made in them. This may be attractive to us - but does it make us good global citizens?

I guess I have some personal experience in all of this. I came to Australia for a better life about twelve years ago. I do sometimes feel uncomfortable that the UK invested in my education and I then left. I did leave after 15 years of service to the UK health and education sectors - that makes me feel better. I now feel more Australian than British in everything, with the possible exception of cricket!

So over the next week I look forward to meeting all our graduating international students and reflecting on how they will contribute to their own or our country.

We are now off to Shanghai where Anita is threatening to go into a shopping frenzy. I am looking forward to getting back home. I will be really interested to see if we have a government. Strange times!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Off the wall

We have just got back from the Great Wall of China. Truly awesome. It is one of those places that lives up to all expectations. How could human beings build it? The term wall does not do it justice - it is a series of forts linked by the steepest set of stairs you can imagine.

The experience got me reflecting on walls and CQUniversity. I know I am really very sad and I should not be doing this on holiday - but I can't help it. I think we can truly claim to be a University without walls. We are the most accessible University in Australia.

I am confident that we can become one of Australia's great Universities. We are going to do this through engagement. We are also going to do this through expanding our program offerings. In doing so we will provide some of the more popular programs. Some would call them elite programs. In doing so we are going to have to take care that we do not start to build walls around these programs and hence our University. That is not what we are about. It might be quite appropriate for some universities to have walls - but not ours. I think this is going to be another challenge for us as we move forward. It maybe that we have higher entry requirements for some of our programs but we still need to give people pathways to meet these requirements.

Like most walls the Great Wall was build to keep people out - that is the last thing we want to do.

Tomorrow we are off the the Forbidden City. I have not seen it yet but already it sounds like a few universities that I can all think of!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

China on track

Iam writing this blog on a train somewhere between Shanghai and Beijing after an interesting night on the train. I mentioned in my last blog that half the population of China were at the world expo yesterday. Well, last evening I found out where the other half were. They were at the Shanghai train station waiting for the T104 to Beijing. And that's a lot of people! You will see from the picture that the waiting room was "quite" full.

We seem to be the only non Chinese people on the train. People here are very friendly -- always ready with a kind smile and help when the silly Australians do something else stupid or don't understand some simple request.

We had sleepers in a compartment made up of two triple bunks. I had the top bunk and Anita the bottom one. The middle one was taken by a Father and his rather large son. Anita was the only female in our compartment of seven. She did not seem to mind too much.

My top bunk was interesting. It was about 60cm wide, which would have been good except that I am about 62cm wide. I had another 60cm of head room. That put my ears about 20cm from the speaker which came on full volume at exactly 7am with the sounds of some demented birds singing. This was followed by light classics and the Carpenters. The music was interspersed with a very nice sounding young woman chatting away in Mandarin. I am fairly confident that she was wishing me the best for the day ahead.

Guys come along the train every few minutes offering all manner of food. If I wanted snake chow main for breakfast - no problem. About an hour ago we saw a man with coffee. Anita almost fell out of her bunk trying to catch him but alas she let him get away. Since then we have not seen the coffee man. Obviously the sight of the Westerner crawling after him down the train scared him off. If he comes back we are both going to jump on him.

So we are traveling rather than being transported. Cecilia from CMS helped us to book our travel and accommodation in China. What a star she is. She was, however, worried when we said we wanted to travel on trains rather than fly within China. She really should not have worried. Anita and I have backpacked all over the world. To be honest the trains in China are comfortable and very clean. We have always been of the opinion that we are happy to be transported for work but for pleasure you need to travel.

Travelling in China

I am away from CQUniversity at the moment on holiday in China. I travelled to China a lot when I was a DVC International but I have never been here on holiday. When you travel with work you tend to see the airport, the hotel and maybe one or two Universities. Anita has never been to China so it is great to be here doing all the touristy "stuff" with her.

We have had a good look round Shanghai which must be one of the most futuristic cities in the world. It is like a scene out of one of those old sci-fi movies from the sixties. On the other hand there are still some very traditional sights. There still seems to be many bicycles on the road. The city is very safe and very clean. Yesterday we walked for miles around Shanghai. This was a bit much even for someone of my extreme fitness.

Today we went to the world expo (pictured). Not the greatest experience of my life. Don't get me wrong the national buildings were nothing short of spectacular. However half of the Chinese population decided to turn up there today - and that's a lot of people. Most of them joined queues for the pavilions we wanted to see. The queue for the China pavilion was 7 hours! It was 6 hours for the German one!

We walked for miles around the site. During this time I was yet again left to reflect on the fact that women seem to buy shoes for what they look like rather than for comfort. Anita's feet got covered in blisters - I rather graciously let her have my socks which helped. This is maybe the first time in recorded history that a pair of my worn socks had been good for anything. When we got back to the hotel however, I found it is almost impossible to remove a pair of RM Williams boots which have been walked in for hours in 45 degrees of heat when you have not worn socks. I now have a pair of boots lined with human skin.

I am writing this in a hotel lobby drinking coke which is about 10 times the cost of the same drink in the local shop across the road. The price is however worth it to sit in the air conditioning. It really is very hot and humid here.

We are catching a train this evening which will take us to Beijing. This will be a 15 hour trip. We have a sleeper so that should be fun. We will get a chance to see a bit of the countryside tomorrow morning before we arrive in the capital at about mid day.

This is an interesting time to be away from the University. When I booked the time off in the new year it looked like a two week window when there wouldn't be much going on. As it turns out we have the dual sector negotiations with the State Government, the compact documentation to write for the federal government, the AUQA visit to prepare for and the SAF bid to write. I know that Professor Kyd will be doing a great job as acting VC but it is a difficult time to be away (or on reflection a good time!). As you can imagine I am checking emails each day.

It is also an interesting time politically in Oz and I am a little sorry to be missing out on the "goings on" back home. This is an important time for us at the moment so I hope we get a government that understands the importance of Regional Universities and CQUniversity in particular. I am keeping up to date on the TV and web.

China is a great country to visit. I would recommend it to everyone. The people are friendly and there is so much history and culture learn about. With that in mind I think I will order a Chinese beer.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Senior Leadership Conference -- Day 1

We – about 25 staff and I – rode the bus this morning at 630 from Rockhampton to Gladstone, perhaps a little sleepy-eyed but that wore off quickly as the sky grew brighter and the coffee kicked in. We met up with some 60 of our colleagues at CQUniversity Gladstone for our 2nd Annual Leadership Conference which began with a series of conversations and workshops about our relationships with each other and our stakeholders. They involved participation from ‘outsiders’ as well as those of us inside CQUniversity. Perhaps more than anything, can I say how impressed I was with a very articulate Bachelor of Learning Management student and a local school representative, both of whom made very constructive and thought provoking contributions to our exchange on the ‘student life experience’. I was equally impressed with the response and interaction they generated among staff. We learned a fair amount about what ‘s driving school leavers to University and other education providers, and how we as an organisation, need to respond to the pace at which our communities expect , in fact demand, change. In areas of program development and service provision, time and time again the messages – from our external stakeholders and from our 80 CQUni leaders -- were you (CQUni) have great people working here but you have to listen better and follow up with specific actions. No big decisions were made today, but I can say that I feel very strongly – even only after a few hours into the day --- that CQUni is not a uni that will succeed based on the action of the 80 or 90 people drawn together here in Gladstone for a 48 hour conference. We will succeed because we are --- or will be --- an organisation of 1000 leaders or more. We will reach that point when each of us acknowledge, believe and understand the role each of us have, indeed, in the success of our students.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

What I learned this week

I relearned that communication – interpersonal and organisational – is tough work…. That good communications can identify, alleviate and address problems before they get out of hand and that poor communications can lead to a downward spiral that – among other things – can damage or end relationships, dishearten otherwise committed people, and simply turn individuals off… Of course there’s more to ‘communications’ than that but what became obvious to me this week as I engaged with at least 175 students face to face on campuses and approximately 500 via a webcast/blogging session (the I’m All Ears Tour) is that there is, generally speaking, a communications problem.
I have a sense from listening and talking to our learners that there could and should be better communications (embedded in our operations) between students and staff, especially those who lecture, teach or otherwise advise them on their courses and programs.
Even though I have the blog and I talk to students during O week, Graduation and when I walkabout, the Tour was really the first time in 10 or 11 months that I really sought after students and asked them to provide me with some feedback. That’s my shortcoming; I should have done it sooner. I count it as among my best CQUni experiences to date. Why? Not because it was all champagne and roses --- not by a long shot --- but because students told me it made them feel valued, listened to and important. And they are.
I’m VERY interested in what students have to say about the University and made a commitment to them this week that I – through our Exec Deans, Deans, Directors and so on – would follow up transparently to the points they raised by posting their issues and our responses to them on the University’s website (available soon at www.cqu.edu.au/studentforum). I know there are other pathways and venues where students can raise issues, but to be frank, it appears to me that some students, at least, feel they are not being listened to and/or some of us are not being timely or consistent in our responses.
I don’t want you to misconstrue what I’m saying here. CQUniversity is doing a great job: enrolments in CQ are stronger than they have been in a long time; new programs are on the way; we are engaging and making a positive difference and we have some of the best teaching staff in the country no question…. I’m more confident than ever that we truly will have that ‘great’ University we all want in 10 years or less.
That being said, though, I end this week believing that each one of us needs to take more responsibility for the student experience; we need to encourage open and honest communication with our students; we need to be as responsive as we can to their queries, suggestions and feedback; and we need to hold each other accountable.
Let me just share with you some of issues, forum after forum, that kept popping up:
• The support staff – in the Library, Communications and Mathematics centre, and student centres especially – are very friendly and helpful
• The Moodle experience is inconsistent – the learning experience in some courses is excellent with lecturers exploiting the medium, adding value and really engaging students; other courses, however, don’t follow through or significantly leverage the technology; Some CQUni lecturers/course coordinators need to be “brought up to speed” on how to best use Moodle
• Why can’t more/all lectures be recorded and downloadable as opposed to streaming? Student said they needed their learning material to be more portable and accessible to them
• More courses need to be available in Term 3, especially in SEH programs
• More complete programs need to be offered on campus, not just 1st and 2nd years
• We aren’t informed enough about the entitlements and benefits of being a student and don’t know enough about how uni works before we start…
Listen, I’m running the risk of sounding negative here. That’s not my intention. We’re going in the right direction. The fact is, however, that only 3.8% of our students responded to the last round of satisfaction surveys. And no matter how you look at that, that’s not good. I think we all want an environment here that engenders communication, debate, continuous learning and a free flow of ideas from which we can all benefit. We want to be told when, how and why things are working and when they aren’t and make real steps to constantly improve our courses, ourselves and the student experience.
One Bundaberg student said it really well and, I think, best represented a sentiment that is likely shared by all of our 20-thousand students:
“I’m a customer too. I expect professional standards and I expect that back from CQUniversity.”
Sounds fair and reasonable to me.
I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I was all ears

Hi. I want to thank all the students who took part in the web cast this evening. I had a great time. It was all part of the I'm All Ears tour. It was good to hear what was on your mind. By getting your feedback we can make things better. I am hoping that we can do this again around Christmas. I will get your comments up on a web site and will give you feedback on how we are addressing your comments.

It was a little strange talking away to myself for an hour - but I have to say it was fun to have an interaction with a group of students I do not normally get a chance to engage with prior to graduation.

I wish you all the very best for your studies and look forward to talking to you again soon.



Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Live Video - Student Forum

Please join me for this webcast to discuss your future and the future of CQuni…. I’ll consider comments/questions that you post to the blog during the webcast or at any stage before or after the event.

Look forward to hearing from you,

The Student Forum will be broadcast live over the Internet.

When: 7.00pm AEST Wednesday 21 July

Click here to watch/listen

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

Friday, July 9, 2010

Educating international students will always be core…

I’ve done a lot of talking and writing in my first year at CQUniversity (okay, it’s one year officially on 3 August) about prioritising Central Queensland and making our engagement with stakeholders in Central Queensland a top priority. That remains the case – for CQUniversity to be considered a truly ‘great’ university in Australia we must be excellent at servicing the diverse needs of Central Queenslanders, foremost.

That being said, however, we can not overlook the work that CQUniversity does in educating international students. That “side” of our University, for well over a decade, has been responsible for most of our growth and has enabled this University to maintain its Central
Queensland resources.

It will continue to have a central role in our growth a development.

So, as part of our ongoing Renewal Program, we’re looking at the possibility of making CQUniversity accessible to a wider audience by opening up more programs across the University in area such as Mining Engineering, Nursing, Education and Health to students from such countries as Africa, South America, the Mideast and Austral-Asia….

Opportunities abound in this space, but just a hint of caution: it’s going to be a challenging next twelve months.

Visa delays, issues with private colleges and training providers, the value of the Australian dollar and other factors are putting immediate and sector-changing pressure on the international student university environment in Australia. By most accounts universities are going to feel it this year, with expectations for -- as economists like to say – negative growth.

Negative growth will reverberate through and challenge every facet of higher education in Australia, not just Universities. What’s happening in Chennai or Nanjing will influence what’s happening here.

That’s the nature of global higher education and one of the things that intrigues and fascinates me. It’s dynamic, ever-changing and always forces one to look well beyond the next term, the next year even the next decade.

We have a ten year plan to build CQUniversity into one of Australia’s greatest universities. To do that, we will –among other things – have to be able to absorb, shift and effectively respond to external forces, whether those forces are international market variables, local preferences or new government policy.

Are we ready?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

It all started here

I like to think that we inspired Julia Gillard… A month ago, in Mackay, when the now PM graciously opened our new Technology and Information Resources Centre we encouraged her to seize the moment and be what she wanted to be….

The sudden shift in leadership, of course, reminds me of how things can quite literally change overnight… I expect, however, little will differ in policy on the higher education front. Chatter is that Steven Smith – the current Foreign Minister and former Shadow Minister for Education and Training in the last years of the Howard Government – could take over the Education portfolio. We’ll know for sure, I expect in the coming days…
Despite, or perhaps in spite of these and other unknowns, I’m resolved that CQUniversity determine its own future; that we seize the moment, as it were, and go where we want to go and be what we want to be. Clearly – after talking to people all over the uni for the last 10 months and people outside the organisation who have an interest in our development – all of us we want to be of more service to our communities and have more mutually beneficial relationships with individuals and organisations in the places in which we live and work.
I was in Gladstone twice this week interviewing candidates for the Dean of Engineering & Built Environment and the PVC Research/Head of Campus positions, both of whom will be posted in Gladstone. Clearly these two positions are largely about increasing our level of services to industry and building more robust research capability within the organisation. From my estimation, these appointments and all Deans of Schools and Heads of Campus across CQUni have the most crucial leadership and engagement roles in our organisation. Deans and HOCs if you’re reading this blog -- no pressure at all…
I continue to believe that one of the best ways to service our communities and have more mutually beneficial relationships with individuals and organisations is to expand down the Dual Sector path. I’ve spoken again this week with many government officials and representatives, central Queensland industry and community stakeholder, members of the media and university colleagues… There’s seems to be momentum developing and a consensus forming that Dual Sector operations here would be enormously beneficial to Central Queenslanders. It’s reassuring to me that we’re getting support from many corners…
For now, we’ll continue down this path and I’ll keep you posted on our progress. Stay tuned. As we know, thing can develop overnight….


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

When you see a fork in the road, take it

That’s sage advice, I think. There’s no doubt that the higher education road ahead will be pock-marked with “under construction” signs, with more on-and-off ramps being built, increased areas of merging traffic , and more Driver Reviver spots installed as the Australian government moves to increase traffic flow, accommodate different vehicles and enable more “drivers” to access higher education during their education journey.

The fork ahead of which I write, however, is not a fork that diverges and directs traffic in separate ways. My GPS tells me it’s not a bypass or a run-around, but a different pathway that could extend our University beyond its main part; adding, developing and multiplying what we do to enable more Central Queenslanders to get where they want to go and be what they want to be.

The term used in Australia for this structure is dual sector higher education, which I believe, will become more common and desirable among Australian universities. Five universities already operate in this fashion (Charles Darwin, Swinburne, RMIT, Ballarat and Victoria University.) And dual-sector seems, to me, an area in which federal and state governments, given common goals of increased access and participation, would welcome more activity.

Think of it as a cross-over uni – our University could be more flexible, less conventional and better tuned for the evolving work requirements and lifestyle of Central Queenslanders.

Dual sector means we could give more Central Queenslanders manoeuvring in and out of careers more optimism, more options, and more opportunities.

And, if you excuse the continuing automotive analogy, we could put more, better-skilled drivers on the road.

So, what makes a dual sector entity? The five I mentioned here teach and have large numbers of students in each Vocational Education & Training and Uni – some hovering around 50/50 in terms of student load; they conduct research and they offer awards up to PhDs. Other universities, too, have offered vocation-level educational programs for decades including English language preparation, on a smaller scale. There are different models too, here and overseas, in which traditional VET providers and private operators offer degrees.

To some extent we operate in this space around the fringes, through partnerships with other organisations, our own enabling programs and Pathways, the federally funded projects designed to get people into mining careers based at Gladstone and Mackay. Professional Development, an area in which we operated in years ago (Direct Edge) is back on the agenda, too.

Why build-up our dual sector presence? I could write a paper on this (in fact we have commissioned a detailed report and analysis by my office which will be available in the coming months) but some of the short reasons are:

  • Dual sector broadens accessibility to CQUni (we want uni to be more attainable), which operates in communities which appear to be more active in training and skilling for requirements of local industry
  • Dual sector maximises ease and opportunities for students to take full advantage of the education /training spectrum
    Dual sector fits within our existing Renewal Plan in which CQUniversity will – within 5 years – become a strong regional university meeting the needs of its communities ; and, within 10 years, a university that is well respected and one that is a role model to other universities throughout the world
The Renewal Plan also specifically refers to strategies that fit with the notion of dual sector:
  • Continue to develop links with local and other TAFEs
  • Move from being a multi-campus university to a multi-city university. Campuses in Mackay, Bundaberg and Gladstone must be developed. They will move from being feeder campuses to being campuses on an equal footing with Rockhampton – delivering to the needs of their communities.
  • Promote engagement at all levels – until CQUniversity becomes known as Australia’s most engaged university.
  • Take a leading role in the development of the HE sector in Australia

I have no doubt that we will be working more in the dual sector space. How we make that transition and what forms a ‘real’ dual sector university in Queensland are unknown factors at this time and areas which we are exploring.

We’ll be looking to our colleagues at other institutions, consulting with government and community stakeholders and learning more from each other as we discuss the challenges and opportunities that dual sector presents.

One option I don’t see is us pulling off the highway and onto the shoulder to watch the traffic go by.


Monday, May 31, 2010

Future needs

CQUniversity has been having conversations with stakeholders, internal and external, about the future role of CQUniversity in meeting the educational needs of Central Queenslanders and the organisations that employ them. As you know, we are very active in the ‘enabling’ space, as well as Outreach (we announced this week an expanded program to increase access and participation among low SES locals) and Pathways (specific programs to facilitate seamless and successful career pathways in mining and engineering) --- all of which are designed to break down barriers and make the transition to higher education as seamless as possible. The same could be said for the numerous articulation agreements and partnerships that we have with other education providers.

Some people in the community feel, as do I, that there’s scope for the University to become better integrated with the community and more active and accessible in terms of the growing training and vocational education needs of Central Queensland.

With the Queensland Government’s Community Cabinet, in Emu Park and Rockhampton, yesterday and today, we will have had meetings with the Premier, Treasurer, the Ministers for Education and Trade as well as representatives from Health and Natural Resources portfolios. I’ll be talking to them about a dual VET/Higher Education role CQUniversity could have in Central Queensland, as well as our plans to build Research and Learning & Teaching capacity at each of our regional campuses, and the investments we’re making in our new medical sciences, engineering, and law programs and facilities.

I just wanted to let you know and hear from you about the possibility of CQUniversity becoming more active in the training space, maybe even becoming Queensland’s first dual-sector University. There are pro’s and con’s and many sides on this issue…

Please put your mind to the possibilities…


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Air speed...

I know, I know… it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. Some things have been up in the air lately and, although that can be unsettling, in at least one case it has turned out to be good news. I discovered, on some routine maintenance, that my plane (I fly a small plane and sometimes use it to get around to CQUniversity campuses) which should be flying on 6 cylinders was actually flying on 4. How I stayed in the air and got from A to B, I’m not sure --- an engineering marvel, I expect. In any event I’m back now on-line, firing on all cylinders…

Lots of talk was in the air leading up to the federal budget announcement. And whilst there hasn’t been an injection of funding into Universities, there have been resources freed-up for investment in training and skilling Australians, which is pleasing to see. Central Queensland, especially, should benefit from this as new and existing natural resources projects appear to be picking-up again. CQUniversity, I expect, will benefit as well from some Health funding which will allow for more clinical placements for allied health professionals. That’s good news for us and other Central Queenslanders, as CQUniversity will deliver Medical Imaging and other medical science programs to approximately 150 new students starting Term 1 2011 in Mackay and elsewhere.

Long-term, the government’s investment in skills development (39,000 training places co-funded with industry) and foundation studies (language, literacy and numeracy programs) means more Central Queenslanders will acquire more skills and knowledge and have increased opportunity to advance their careers and fulfil their aspirations here in Central Queensland. And no doubt, CQUniversity will play in role in their lives.

Already we work in that ‘development’ sphere with outreach and enabling programs (like STEPS), Pathways programs and close links with industry, which makes CQUniversity more accessible to Central Queenslanders. Next Tuesday, 25 May, we’ll launch – with Ian Kimber, Executive Director, Queensland’s Office of Higher education – a new and expanded CQUniversity Experience Outreach Program, (assisted by $1.5m from DEEWRs Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program) which will increase the number of school leavers and others – especially students who are Indigenous, who come from a low-SES background, or who have a disability – benefiting from CQUniversity’s programs and services.

These are areas – inclusion and access – where the sector looks to CQUniversity; where other universities and providers learn from our good practice. When the Deputy Prime Minister and Minster for Education, Julia Gillard MP, and I met on Tuesday this week in Mackay (for the opening of our new $8m Technology and Information Resources Centre) she spoke about the positive difference CQUniversity was making in Mackay in terms of partnerships and collaborations that drew community, industry and University much closer together.

Here’s a picture from Tuesday… I handed Ms Gillard one of our bags emblazoned with the edict “Be What You Want to Be.” It happened to be a day after speculation was raised in the media about Labor party leadership…. The Minister quickly responded with a comment about attaining her dream position as full-forward for the Western Bulldogs AFL team….

It was good to have the Minister visit the University and I am pleased to see such involvement by the Queensland Office of Higher Education in what we’re doing…. There’s certainly a growing understanding and valuing of CQUniversity’s contributions to the sustainability, indeed vibrancy, of Central Queensland. And word is spreading too… Over the last few months we’ve attracted scores of academics from North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and across Australia to lead and contribute the University’s developments in the fields of Medical Science, Psychology, Social Work, Engineering and more. In addition, the University is investing $40m over the next two years to build new Engineering labs, renovate the Library at Rockhampton, install new medical equipment and build new student accommodations in Mackay.

Last time I logged-in and blogged I said that change would ramp up over the next few months.

Well, it has.

Please stay in touch and sorry, again, for the blog lag. I’ll be back next week.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Change happens

I start this blog with a picture of Professor Ken Hawkins and Mr Mike Donahue at recent VCAC planning day. In the interests of transparency I wanted you to know what we get up to on these days. The Village People were the guest artists over dinner.

The only constant in a university is change. I hope that you would agree that the changes made over the past six months or so are very positive. We are certainly starting to get accolades externally for the work that we are doing. I won’t go over all of these changes – but they have set us on the right course for the future. They have set us up on the path from “good to great”!

I think it is fair to say that the pace of change is going to ramp up over the next few months. We are going to be looking at renewing the Rockhampton Campus – this will involve a lot of disruption for staff. We are going to be placing senior academic leaders on the Bundaberg, Gladstone and Mackay campuses. I am going to propose that the Faculty of Arts, Business, IT and Education change its school structure to bring it more in line with the Faculty of Science Engineering and Health. I am sure that you will have noticed massive changes in the Chancellery team. We are starting many new programs next year. We will be renewing our efforts in Learning & Teaching and Research. We are looking to engage with our communities to deliver major projects on all our campuses. The list goes on and on.

This is all very exciting – but it can also be very tiring and worrying. I am sure we are all wondering where we fit in with the changes being made. I am very keen that your voice is heard with regard to the changes that we are making. We need genuine consultation with all our staff. Changes will be taken to the Staff Consultative Committee where your representatives will have an input. I will keep you informed through email, staff forums, school visits and this blog. But this should not be a one way process – I need to hear what you think. I am in the process of setting up some discussion boards on our web site so that staff can have a role in the changes that we are making.

I view all the changes that we are making as positive responding to our success. By the way our mid year 1st preferences are up 17%!

Often the idea for a change comes from one person. So we have one brain working on it. If we all apply ourselves to the change then in this organisation we have 1200 brains working on the issue. This must mean that we get a better result. We won’t always agree but we will get better outcomes if we work together.

I know that at times as VC I will get (and have gotten) things wrong. I hope you will feel comfortable in letting me know when you think I am barking up the wrong tree - or barking mad for that matter. I have always said that we need more accountability in the University – this includes accountability from the VC to the CQUniversity Community.

I have managed to get out of the Chancellery quite a lot in the past few weeks. I have visited a number of schools. As always I have been blown away by the calibre of the staff that we have in the University. I am always impressed by the ideas that are forthcoming. It seems that just about everyone has an idea for a new program or research project. If we can work to implement some of these the University will truly advance spectacularly.

I also hear lots about the bureaucracy that staff endure. I think we need work on this. We really need to remove a lot of the “busy” work from our procedures. I will be working with our new DVC University Services Alistair Dawson and the PVC Faculties to address this issue.

I have also taken on board the feedback about academic workloads and the complexity of these workloads. I think that put quite simply we need more academics. Over the next few months and years we will get them – simple as that!

I have also visited our Australian International Campuses and had a board meeting of CMS. We are just so lucky to have the AICs and CMS. You will not find a more dedicated group of staff anywhere in the University.

They are delivering quality higher education in partnership with the folks from the CQ campuses which I think is second to none. I think that all people who visit the campuses are bowled over by the level of student support that our AICs provide. If you have not visited one of our AICs (and I say this to both our staff and others who might be reading this) do so! I think you will be impressed and maybe even learn some lessons on how we should be delivering programs across the University.

The AICs do deliver a very welcome income stream to the University – but I am working very closely with Professor Ken Hawkins to look at ways that we can have better communication between our domestic and international students. This will be a great help with our internationalisation strategy. Ken will be working with all parts of the University to pursue this strategy.

The AUQA preparations are going very well. As we move towards October I think you are going to be hearing a lot form the team over the next few weeks. Remember this is our chance to show off!

I was also very honored this week be the guest of honor at a lunch held by the Syrian Ambassador His Excellency Tammam Sulaiman in Canberra. Also present were Ambassadors from Kuwait, Iraq, Palestine, and the Lebanon. It was a fascinating lunch and helped to develop our links with the Middle east.

I have also been to the Mackay Campus. I have no doubt that over the coming years Mackay will be our fastest growing campus. I am really looking forward to seeing this campus grow and rival the size of the Rockhampton campus. Last week I just missed out on a visit to the Bundaberg campus. I was going to fly myself down their but Cyclone Ului prevented this flight – I will get to Bundaberg very soon. I am not just off to Gladstone to meet with the Campus Advisory Group.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Yet another good week

“O” week went very well across all our campuses. I really want to thank all of those involved, in particular thanks to Mary and her team from the Student Centres. It was great to catch up with so many new students. We are really very privileged to be able to partner with people who are working so hard for their future.

The highlight of “O” week for me was meeting with parents on Tuesday evening. The evening was a chance for parents to ask questions about their children going to University. I have to admit that I could have answered about 1% of the questions. Thank goodness the staff from the Student Centres were there with all the right answers. I think I learnt more than any of the parents!

This was the week that the medical imaging (radiogrpahy and ultrasound) programs were launched. Cynthia Cowling has done a fantastic job in getting these programs ready. We are getting very positive feedback from the community about these programs. A lot of work has been done with the professional bodies and with the industry. These programs should give us about another 100 students next year in Mackay – this will pipeline up to 300-400 in the longer term. Great news!

Look out for more announcements of new programs in the very near future.

We are now really focusing on the preparation of the AUQA audit. We have already done a lot of work for this. In the next few days I will be announcing the structure and team that will take us on the final part of the journey to the audit. As I have said before we have a lot to be proud of and this is our big chance to show off all that is good in the University. It is also a chance to sort out anything that we could be doing better.

I hope that everyone will have done the Voice staff climate survey. I really want to know what you think of working for the University and how we can make things better – have your say!

Professor Qing-Long Han, Associate Dean of Research in FABIE, has been appointed a prestigious Chair by China’s Ministry of Education, the Chang Jiang (Yangtze River) Scholar Chair Professor in recognition of his outstanding contributions in the field of Control Theory and Control Engineering. What fantastic news. There are very few of these appointments in Australia. This is just another example of how we are attracting the best people to our University.

Today I am interviewing for the DVC University Services and PVC Teaching and Learning. These will be very important positions in our team for making the University great.

Have a really great weekend and get ready for the first teaching week.


Monday, February 22, 2010


I am not sure if folks picked up on this comment by UQQuestioning to my last blog:

"Hi Scott,
Speaking of 'back to the land of OZ' what is CQUni doing in terms of advocacy for our regional communities. As the most engaged university for Central Queensland, are we advocates for our regional and remote areas? It seems that many communities in regional and remote Queensland are highly disadvantaged and vulnerable communities - for instance, results in AEDI and NAPLAN are demonstrating how at risk and vulnerable regional communities/children are.
How might our regional campuses turn this around? Should the role of CQUni include action and visibility in matters of advocacy?

Anna Bligh's Green Paper 'A Flying Start for Queensland' currently is seeking university responses about various proposals. I understand that people in the Education Faculty are preparing a response, but will this response be highlighting the needs and challenges of our regional communities?

Should we see advocacy as an important feature of 'engagement'? Do we care about the kids, youth, families, parents, learners, communities in our footprint? How are we demonstrating this? How are we commmunicating this? How do we make things better for our regional and remote communities"

I thought this was important and was worthy of re-posting. I would be interested in hearing what people have to say about this.

I worry that advocacy can mean that you are acting as the voice for a weaker party. I think engagement should be more about enabling our communities to become strong so that they have their own voice - rather than having another party "advocating" for them. What do you think?


A river ran through it!

“O” week is upon us. This is always a very special week when we see the campuses come back to life after the long Summer break (I know that many of you have been working hard over the break – but there have been few students about). It is great to see all the egger faces waiting to start their programs. They trust us with a great deal of responsibility. They have chosen us over all other universities. About 3000 new students will join us today – I think they have made a good choice. All our campuses are up in the number of students starting today – well done to all those involved in this great success.

Last week saw the graduation in Rockhampton. Over 60 staff were up on stage and many of our professional staff were in the audience. Many thanks to all of you – your presence means a lot to our graduates and their families. I urge all staff to try and attend graduations – it is a chance to see what you have achieved. All staff have made a difference to the lives of those graduating. The stars of the evening were William McInnes and the river running through the marquee. This is a picture of the Director of my office Jenny Roberts with the actor – strange that she has never wanted her picture taken with me!

We are starting to get good response to the Voice climate survey. I am looking forward to hearing how staff feel about working at CQUniversity. I am even more looking forward to working with you to improve the experience of staff. Feedback is important in all aspects of the University’s functioning. I think we need to do a lot of work in embedding feedback and improvement into all our operations. All stake holders need to have a say in what we are doing – and we have to improve based on that feedback. I think this will be another important theme for 2010.

It is a good week for me family wise. My daughter Anneka is here with our seven week old grandson Owen. I had forgotten how much work is involved with a young baby. I really do empathise with all of you who are working for or studying at the University with young children. You are stars!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Back to the land of Oz

Sunday morning was spent at another private University – Yarmouk Private University (YPU). This is a University which is situated about 40 minutes drive from the Centre of Damascus. It is a new University which has only been operating for about a year. It has 500 students and is growing very rapidly. The University has a very impressive campus and has big plans for expansion.

We met with the President, Professor Dr. Mhd. Fayez Kiwan, the Dean of Informatics and Communication Engineering, the Dean of the faculty of Architecture and Civil Engineering and the Manager of Students Affairs.

We discussed a number of ideas for how our two universities can work together. We came away thinking that we would work with the YPU in the future – both within Syria and Australia. I think there is a good chance that we will be seeing academic and professional staff from YPU visiting CQUniversity in the future. I also think that there will be a chance for staff from our University to visit YPU to deliver intensive programs.

After the visit to YPU we travelled to our hotel to pick up our bags and travelled to the airport. Damascus airport has to be one of the most chaotic places on the face of the earth. The airport was a queue free zone – the scrum was the order of the day. There was failure in the airports electricity system – and they had great problems printing out our boarding passes! We left Damascus about three hours late. We arrived back in Dubai at past midnight. We were up early on Monday to get to the airport for our flights.

So on Monday I said goodbye to Ken, Geoff and Ali. It really had been a pleasure travelling with these three colleagues – and I had learnt a lot about the CMS operations.

I spent most of Monday on a flight to Singapore – arriving at about 10.30pm.

Tuesday started with two breakfast meetings (time for a big diet when I get back). The first of these was with a group of our Alumni. The leader of the Alumni group is Dr Vincent Wee. I have known Vincent for a long time – he used to work for JCU Singapore – so it was good to catch up with him. Other Alumni at the meeting included Tina Shum, Valerie Wee and Chris Pan. We discussed ways in which we can interact with Alumni in Singapore. The group were keen to form a proper Chapter. If academic staff are passing through Singapore they should, if possible, meet with the Alumni group and consider giving a lecture. We also discussed the possibility of a group coming out to Rockhampton for the next University Ball. This will be a chance to show off the University. I will be discussing these plans with the Development Unit when I get back to Rocky.

After this meeting I visited the CQUniversity campus in Singapore which is operated by Melior Education Group. I was very impressed with the professionalism of the operation. I was shown around by the Melior CEO Patrick Loke. Along with other members of staff I also met with another Director of Melior – Mr S. K. Cheng. We discussed ways in which we could grow the operation in Singapore. There is potential to do more. I am very keen to see Melior Group and CMS working more closely together in the future – there are great synergies between the operations.

I then had a lunch meeting with the Melior Academic Board. This Board is chaired by Dr Mathew Yap. The other members are Dr Carol Balhetchet and Dr Tan Kok Heng. All members of the Board are Alumni of CQUniversity. Dr Balhetchet is a well known personality in Singapore. It was a very pleasant meeting with the Board members explaining their role and their aspirations for CQUniversity in Singapore.

It was then off to the airport to catch a flight to Brisbane. I arrived at my hotel at about 3am. I was then up after about three hours sleep to attend a meeting with the VC at the University of Queensland. I am writing this at Brisbane airport – waiting for my flight to Rocky. I have a full afternoon of meetings and then an official dinner meeting this evening. If you think I am looking for sympathy – you are right!

So was it worth it? From a financial point of view - probably yes. The outcome from the meeting with the UAE Ministry of Education alone should cover the cost of the trip many times over. But it was also worth it to raise the profile of the University and to form links with other Universities. However this will only have benefit to the University if we follow up on all the opportunities which have been identified. I will be reporting back to you in the coming months regarding outcomes.

But that is only my point of view. I would very much appreciate the CQUniversity community’s response to this trip. I hope you have enjoyed this insight into my travels as the VC. I will endeavour to report back to you in this manner whenever I travel.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Looking back, then forward

Friday is our weekend – so we had a day off from visits and meetings. The University of Damascus very kindly provided us with a driver and tour guide to take us out for the morning. We visited Ma’alula. This famous village is some 56 km from Damascus, and is situated at an altitude of more than 1500 metres. Its little houses cling to the face of an enormous rock; they look suspended in mid-air. There are two monasteries here; Saint Sergius and Saint Taqla's.The inhabitants still speak Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ. If you are interested in Ma’alula you can find out more at: http://www.lingolex.com/maalula/maalula.htm. If you ever get to Syria I would strongly recommend that you visit this fascinating city.

On the way back one of us asked our guide "Where is the Road to Damascus” – he simply said “You are on it”. It is strange to think we were on the road that St Paul travelled so long ago. As we drove through the city we stopped by the old city walls. Our guide pointed out a small window in the wall near one of the gates. He told us that this was the window that St Paul had jumped out of to escape the Romans. This is a city where people describe structures that are a thousand years old as “modern”. There is history everywhere going back 4000 years.

In the afternoon Ali kindly took us to the Umayyad Mosque. You can find out more about the Mosque at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umayyad_Mosque. It is one of the largest and oldest Mosques in the world. It was build in 705AD and took 10 years to build. We wandered around inside the Mosque taking in the very special atmosphere.

Syria is a very friendly and safe place to visit. We have walked around the city and at all times have been made to feel welcome. This will come as a surprise to some people – but I can honestly say I have never felt more comfortable or safe in a country. This is in complete contrast to a trip I made to South America a few years ago.

I am sure this visit will generate quite a lot of activity for CQUniversity. If this leads to a chance for you to travel to Syria I would recommend that you take it without hesitation. I know I want to come back here on my “own time” in the near future.

Our one day weekend came to an end and we were back at work on Saturday. On this day we visited one of the largest private universities in Syria – the Arab International University AIU. The University has about 4500 students and five faculties Pharmacy, Civil Engineering, Architecture, Fine Arts and Informatics Engineering. The University is only five years old but is growing very fast.

We visited the University on a very interesting day. They were holding a ceremony to celebrate the start of an intensive workshop entitled “New Challenges in Drug Delivery Systems”. This workshop was being delivered by the Martin Luther University from Germany. So there were a number of German visitors. We attended the ceremony and the Deputy Minister for Higher Education was present. We had a chance to meet him after the ceremony.

During the day we had meetings with the President of the University Professor Dr. rer. Nat. Abdul Ghani Maa Bared. He was very generous with his time and we discussed ways in which our two universities can work together. During the day we also met the Vice President Professor Dr. Faek Diko, Professor Dr. Abdul Razak Cheikh Issa the Vice President for Quality & Academic Accreditation, the Dean of University Requirements Dr T. (Jack) S. Toumajian and the Head of International Office Dr. Dr. h. c. Thomas Teuscher. We asked why Dr Dr – he told us that one PhD was in Arabic and the other was in English.

We came to the conclusion that there were many ways that our two universities could work together. They would like us to run intensive workshops. They would like our staff to visit their university. They are happy to cover the expenses for these trips. We also want to look at the possibility of joint degrees, joint research, and student and staff exchanges. Once I get back to Australia I will be talking to the PVC Faculties and CMS about how we can pursue this relationship. We will be looking to sign a MOU with this University.

In the evening we were invited out to a dinner by the President of the University. At this event we also had the chance to meet with the Chair of the Board of University Trustees Dr. Mohammad Imady. He is also the Chairman of the Syrian Commission on Financial Markets and Securities. The University was very generous with their time and hospitality. I hope we will be able to work with this University in the future.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Road to Damascus (University)

I am writing this entry on my weekend – Friday. Everything is shut here and we have a free day – so we are heading out to the hills. There is some worry that where we are heading will have the roads blocked by snow – we will see. I will report on our day off tomorrow. Saturday and Sunday are working days here and we have appointments booked – so I am going to make the most of my Friday weekend. But before I do let me report on the progress we made yesterday (Thursday).

The day was one of busiest and most important of the trip. We started the day with a meeting with the Minister of Higher Education Dr Ghias Barakat. It was quite exceptional that we managed to get such a high level meeting – it was the equivalent of meeting Minister Julia Gillard in Australia. Our success in getting this meeting was due to the Syrian Ambassador to Australia and New Zealand His Excellency Mr. Tammam Sulaiman. You may remember that he gave a lecturer to the university last year. He has turned out to be a really good friend to the University and has opened many doors here in Syria.

The Minister was very welcoming, giving us a very detailed briefing regarding advances Syria is making in higher education and the part that overseas universities can play. There are certainly a number of opportunities for us to host Syrian students in the future. We also met with the Director of International Cooperation Samer Al Belal and other officials. We came to an agreement with regards to how we can pursue a relationship with the Ministry of Higher Education.

From that meeting we travelled to Damascus University. There are only four State Universities in Syria and Damascus University is the oldest and largest. It has 120,000 students and is over 100 years old. We had a meeting with the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Dr Wael Mualla. Again it was quite rare for a delegation to get access to the Vice Chancellor of such a University.

We had a long discussion with the Vice Chancellor about how we could work together. We discussed a possible memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two universities. To be honest I am not keen to sign lots of MOUs all over the place. I want to keep the number of MOUs that CQUniversity has down to a few select universities. This is so that they are meaningful and lead to action. MOUs for the sake of MOUs are a waste of time. I would however like a MOU with Damascus University.

We decided that later in the year we would arrange a virtual conference between the two universities. Two of our researchers and two of Damascus University’s researchers will present papers that will be transmitted by video conference and internet. I will be working on this when I get back.

I will also be looking to provide a travelling scholarship for a member of staff to travel to Syria to work for a short period of time with a Damascus University member of staff on a joint research project. We will then look at staff and student exchanges. But I think we will only get these activities happening if we have contact and cooperation between academics. We went on to discuss other areas of cooperation. I will be talking with a number of our academics when I get back with regard to how we can interact with this important University. We also met with Noubough Yassin the Director of International and Cultural relations at Damascus University. She will be central to any relationship that develops between the two Universities in the future.

After visiting Damascus University we were off to another Ministerial meeting. This time it was with the Minister of State for Environmental Affairs Dr Kawkab Alsabah Dayeh. Also present at the meeting was Eng. Imad Hassoun the Deputy Minister. This was a very important meeting. We discussed in detail how our University and in particular the Centre for Environmental Management can provide assistance to the Ministry. When I get back to Australia I will be having a long chat with Professor Rolf about how we can interact. The Minister was very interested to hear about our plans for a virtual conference and suggested that we may want one of the topics for the conference to be Environmental Management.

From this meeting we were taken on a tour of old Damascus. This had been very generously arranged by Damascus University. Before going on the trip I put on every piece of clothing I had. It is just so cold over here. We then went on an early evening walk with a guide through the old city. Damascus is the oldest continually habituated city in the world – dating back over 4000 years. It is a fascinating city and I am very hopeful that more of my colleagues from CQUniversity will be able to visit.

Our day was not quite over. We were invited to dinner by Professor Dr Wael Mualla. At the meeting we also met with Professor Dr Hyam N. Bashour who is Professor of Epidemiology and Community Medicine at Damascus University. We spent the evening discussing how our Universities can cooperate. It was also interesting to hear that the issues that I am facing are exactly the same as the ones being faced by the VC of Damascus University. For example I was telling the VC that we needed residential accommodation on some of our campuses that do not have it. He told me that he too needed more accommodation. I asked him how many student beds he had at his university – 13,000. Same issues different scale…..

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Syria, Damascus, Snowing??!!

Yes it really is snowing here.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was a travel day. We drove the couple of hours from Abu Dhabi to Dubai and then it was a three hour flight to Damascus in Syria. It was one of those frustrating days you have when you are travelling for work – you get a glance of a place – but have no time to have a really good look. Dubai is somewhere I would really like to spend some time in – but alas it will not be on this trip. Work trips are mainly about airports, hotels and other universities. That is not to say that such trips are not enjoyable – they are!

In terms of holidays and personal travel I think work trips can be helpful “spotting” trips. I get a glance of somewhere and put this on my list of places to go back to on holiday with Anita (my wife). Personally I have never been able to mix business travel with personal travel; hence Anita has very rarely travelled with me on work trips. I know others manage to combine the two – but I never have managed it. I find I cannot concentrate on a meeting knowing that Anita has been left alone. We have always found it better go back to the place that I have spotted – together.
It is really cold here. I have travelled extensively for work over the years. But I never seem to learn the simple fact that not all places have the same climate as the place I live! I have purchased a fleece
jacket – but I am still freezing!

So, yesterday was a travel day. If you are on your own these are wasted days – but not if you are travelling with colleagues. It has been a great pleasure to travel with Ken, Geoff and Ali from the CMS. I feel I have got to know them and to understand the International Campuses much better. This always happens when you travel with people – you have time to talk and get to know the person rather than the position. Just like a personal holiday you have time to dream. So we have been dreaming up lots of ideas of how the University can go forward.

There was also time for Ken to brief me on his recent trip to Saudi Arabia. His feedback was that CQUniversity fared well at the International Exhibition for Higher Education in Riyadh. The CMS team represented the whole of CQUniversity. They put particular emphasis on the Central Queensland campuses as compatible destinations for Saudi students. Significant interest has resulted in applications for engineering, IT, nursing and doctoral programs. I think the University can expect to see these applications coming through in the near future. We all need to work to turn these applications around very quickly. The international market is VERY competitive and the sooner we can get offers out, the better. So I would encourage staff in Faculties and Divisions to work really hard and fast to convert these applications to offers and then on to students. We have a lot to offer – we don’t want these potential students missing out! The great news for and about these students is that they will come with full funding from the Saudi Ministry of Education and /or other sponsors.

It is great to see CMS and the International Office of the University working so closely together. This is leading to some great results.

So why am I so late posting today – well I now have an eight hour time difference between me and home – and only a two hour difference with the UK. That coupled with the snow makes it feel a long way from home.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A University, an Education Council and a Bentley

Tuesday has been another interesting day. We spent the morning at the Abu Dhabi Men’s College (which also has female students). This is part of the Higher Colleges of Technology. We were shown round by Dr Simon Jones, the Director, and Dr Erik Forsberg, the Associate Dean, Research and Innovation. We were also very pleased to be greeted by Dr Tayeb A. Kamali, the Vice Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology whom I had met the previous evening.

In Australia we would call this College a multi-sector University. It awards diplomas through to masters degrees. It has strong links with some of the great Universities of the world including Stanford, Harvard and London. Many of its degrees are being delivered in conjunction with these universities.

The Abu Dhabi Men’s College is impressive to say the least. It is one of the most technically advanced institutions that I have ever visited. We were made to feel very welcome. It was a little disconcerting to find every screen throughout the College displaying a picture of me and a welcome!

The library was particularly advanced with cutting edge learning technology. The library was the learning heart of the College. We were shown how students are using IT to access learning material. We were impressed to find that they were using this blog site to demonstrate their technology. They really had done their homework.

We were shown their new allied health building. They are delivering programs in nursing, medical imaging, medical laboratory science and paramedics. Many of the areas we are looking to start. There was a willingness on the part of the staff in this part of the College to collaborate with us.

The aviation technology section of the university was of interest to me – for obvious reasons! They had three aircraft in one of their workshop. They deliver programs for aviation technicians. They are now looking to put together a program in aviation management. They were interested to learn that we were already doing this. I think there could be some important links in this area. I hope Ron Bishop will be able to follow up on this.

Dr Erik Forsberg is working to consolidate the research efforts of the College. I have invited him to visit CQUniversity to see what we have done this with our research institutes and centres. He will be contacting Jennelle Kyd about this visit.

The College also has a centre for Excellence for applied Research and Training CERT. It would be well worth taking a look at the CERT web site at http://www.certonline.com/ . CERT is the commercial arm of the College. It was stunning to see the equipment in this centre. They have a super computer that is in the top 400 fastest computers in the world. Our researchers could access some time on this computer to deal with large complex data sets. It also has one of the three most advanced simulation centres in the world. When we were there it was running a simulation of an oil refinery. Just think what we could do with one of these in partnership with industries in Central Queensland!

The College is just starting to get into railway engineering. They were very interested to hear that we were a leader in this field. They are very keen to look at a relationship in this area. I will be following up on this when I get home.

There are many possible links that could be made with this College. In particular I think we should be looking to make links with them in railway engineering, allied health, aviation and through our Professional Doctorate program. We have received a letter of intent from the College to follow up on some of these areas. In many ways this College is very similar to us – even if it is better resourced. I think that a relationship with this institution could be considered to be a peer to peer relationship. This could be very important going into our future. I would urge colleagues to take a look at their web site at http://www.hct.ac.ae/ .

In the afternoon we met with the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC). I had met Professor Jim Mienczakowski and Dr Robert Thompson the evening before. This afternoon they were joined by Mona Majed Al Mansoori and Robert Turner. You can find out more about ADEC at http://www.adec.ac.ae/

We discussed many issues – but the main one was the award of ADEC scholarships to UAE students who are studying at our international campuses. We have had a few issues with this in the past. I was very grateful to Mona Majed Al Mansoori for explaining to me the rules regarding these scholarships. It seems that they are only given to students studying in Australian universities which are ranked in the top 200 universities in the world. We are not quite there yet! There is however a chance to get such students if we can show that we are the best place for them to study in Australia. So there is a chance that we could get some of these students studying in our areas of excellence – such as railway engineering. We will explore this.

There are also opportunities to offer study options to the high school students that ADEC sends to Australia each year. This is particularly about English language studies, which will be worth exploring.

We had a very interesting discussion with Bob Turner about VET opportunities. ADEC is just starting to consider sending students overseas for VET. We are starting to have discussions with CQ TAFE about how we can work more closely together. As this relationship develops there could be great opportunities to work with ADEC.

In the evening we had dinner with a former student – and his brother, who is going to attend CQUniveristy Melbourne later in the year. They were fascinating company – and we had a really stimulating discussion about differences between living in Australia and the UAE.

Driving through the UAE is like being on the set of Top Gear. There is just about every super car driving about the streets. On the way back to the hotel we had a competition to see who could spot the most interesting car – Geoff Wessling won with a Bentley Continental GT Speed.

My computer was not downloading email earlier on. I hope this is still the case – it will give me an excuse not to clear emails. So I am off now - to either do emails – or to go bed!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Greetings from the UAE

Over the next few days I intend to write a detailed blog about my first trip overseas for CQUniversity. My reasons for this are many and varied. I want colleagues to understand what I do when I am travelling overseas for the University. It is very easy to see these trips as junkets with senior staff giving themselves an excuse for an all expenses paid holiday. I know I used to think this when I was a lecturer killing myself to get ready for a new term or when I was up to my eyes in marking! So, I want to set out exactly what goes on during one of my trips. I want people to have the information they need to make judgements on the value of this activity. It is up to you to judge – junket or valuable University activity. I also want colleagues to see if there any opportunities to get involved with this fascinating part of the world through my visit.

I do hope to show that there is a lot of difference between a work trip and a holiday. That is not to say that work trips are not enjoyable. I know that I am very privileged to be able to travel and see parts of the world that I would never get a chance to – unless I was in this line of work. And of course there are fun parts of trips!

There are a number of downsides to this kind of travel. You are away from family – and you miss valued “weekend time” with them. It is also hard to stay on top of emails and what is going on back at base.

I am writing this entry from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday at about 10.30pm local time. It has been a busy start to the trip. I left Rockhampton late on Saturday afternoon and arrived in Dubai at 5am local time (11am Queensland time) on Sunday morning. I was met by Dr Ali Abusalem a very close friend of CQUniversity. He has been a great help in promoting the University in the Middle East. We drove the 140km to Abu Dhabi.

Much of Sunday was taken up with meetings with Ken Hawkins and Geoff Wessling from CMS. They gave me feedback on their visit to Saudi Arabia to market the University which they had undertaken the previous week. We also took some time to plan our meetings for the rest of the week.

In the evening we met up with a number former and potential students including Talal Fawal and Ahmed Aldarmaki over dinner at Bab Al Shams. This was one of the fun parts of the trip. Great food and entertainment...

After a lost night's sleep on the plane and a 6 hour time difference I was very happy to be heading back to the hotel after dinner at about 10.30pm. Little did I know that I would not see my bed until well after midnight! Earlier in the evening Egypt had won the African Nations soccer cup. This brought the Egyptian ex-pats out onto the streets of Abu Dhabi in force. There were massive traffic jams throughout the city. It was a very happy city! I can honestly say that I have never been happier to get to bed after such a long day!

Monday was a very rewarding day. I visited the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. I met with Dr Saif AL Mazroui the Executive Director for International and Support Services. I briefed him on the direction that CQUniversity was taking and how we could work together. I am very pleased to report that we have been put onto the list of approved Australian Universities for UAE students. This is very important if we are to get more students studying with us from the UAE.

I also met with Professor Dr. Samir Abdalla Eldessouky an advisor to the Ministry. He gave me a briefing on progress being made by the Universities in the UAE. There is no doubt that these Universities are making great progress. I am hopeful that we will be able to work with the UAE Universities in the future.

I also met with senior staff from the scholarship section of the Ministry. We discussed a number of issues. This was important because the UAE sends many of its young people overseas for higher education. I think our university has a lot to offer these students and I hope to be seeing many more of them at CQUniversity as we move forward.

After my visit to the Ministry I went back to the hotel for a meeting with Ms Gabrielle Troon the Manger, Education Services for “Study Melbourne” from the State Government of Victoria. We discussed issues facing higher education providers in the UAE – in particular those providers (like us) who are bringing students into Victoria.

This evening I had a pre-dinner informal meeting with Professor Jim Mienczakowski from the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) and a former CQUniversity staff member. We were joined by Dr Robert Thompson Head of Special Projects at ADEC. He is also a former CQUniversity member of staff. I briefed them on how we are progressing as a university.

I was then very privileged to be a guest of His Highness Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan. Sheikh Nahayan is the Minister for Higher Education and a member of the Royal family. It was a fascinating event. We ate camel and other UAE delicacies. There were four nobel laureates at the dinner!

Over dinner I had a chance to discuss issues with Dr Tayeb A. Kamali, the Vice Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology. This is a university with 17 campuses 18,000 students. He was very interested to hear that we have an expertise in railway engineering. His university is just starting to get involved in this field. There is a plan to build a national railway across the UAE.
After dinner it was back to the hotel to write this blog. Once I have put this to bed I will try and clear some emails!

The United Arab Emirates is a fascinating place. It has rich mineral wealth (mainly of the black liquid form) and has challenging training and educational needs – does that sound familiar? There are many similarities between the UAE and Central Queensland. I am convinced there are many opportunities to build links with this part of the world. The people here are gracious and generous. There are many alumni of Australian Universities who have a deep love of Australia. This is a great place to come and see the value of international education.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Year of Big Ideas

It was with great sadness that I heard Nitin Garg one of our recent graduates was killed in Melbourne. There has been a lot of commentary about how this tragic event will impact on international student numbers. Let’s just put that aside for the moment. Let us remember one of our graduates we have lost. This young man had the bravery to come to Australia to study in a country far away from home, to study in a language that was not his first. He was a young man who had succeeded with his studies. He had become an Australian resident and would have contributed much to his adopted country. So as a University we remember one of our own and express our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Christmas now seems a long time ago! The year has got off to a very busy start. I have been spending a lot of time looking at our applications. I am very pleased to see that we have a good increase in our applications for both domestic and international programs in Central Queensland. I think we are on track to meet our student targets for 2010 – which is great news. It is particularly gratifying to see so many people progressing from our access programs to full degrees.

We now all need to work to make our new students feel welcome, and part of the University. We need to look into ways of engaging our new students. This will improve our retention rates – and more importantly improve the prospects of our communities. We should be thinking of innovative methods to achieve this – maybe by program and course coordinators setting up face book sites for their new students. We cannot afford to loose one student!

The University is also buzzing with activity to develop new programs for introduction later this year and in 2011. Plans for new programs in health and law are well advanced. These new programs should help us to meet our targets as we move forward. They will also help us to develop our reputation as Australia’s most engaged University.

Personally I have had a great start to the year – I have become a grandfather for the first time. My daughter Anneka and her partner Matt had a baby boy (Owen – 8lb 6oz) on the 2nd of January. Anita and I are very proud grandparents. I could not resist including a picture in this blog.

This will be a year when we will see renewal of our campuses, introduction of new programs, more collaboration with other Universities, a new EBA, greater partnership with the VET sector and many new staff joining us. This will be our year of big ideas. I think these ideas should come from all over the University. Ideas for how we can build this into a great University. I wish you all a very happy New Year – and I look forward to hearing your big ideas.