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.