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Campus News : CONNECT:UOW July 2012
Over the past six months, the University of Wollongong has been engaged in a review of its strategic plan to determine its path over the next few years. This has provided a timely opportunity to reflect on where we are, how far we have come and what we must do to achieve more in the future. The Times Higher Education ranking of UOW as the highest ranking 'new' university in Australia (with Macquarie University) and 33rd in the world is a platform from which to achieve our objective of being in the top 1% of world universities (See report -- Page 3). It is clear that the rise of well- funded new universities in China and the Middle East makes this a challenge, but one that UOW is well placed to take on. Over the past few months, I have conducted over 20 consultation sessions with staff from all parts of the University about objectives for the future and the strategies needed to accomplish them. Many interesting and innovative ideas have emerged which will become central to the new plan, but to me the strongest message to emerge is that it will be our staff and students who will determine our future. Systems, technology and facilities are important but ultimately secondary to the people who make up the University community. In many ways this continues a central theme of the past 20 years. The emphasis under previous Vice-Chancellors was on choosing the right people for the job. This encouraged a culture of performance and a capacity to deliver results which has been the defining characteristic of the University of Wollongong. There has been high staff morale and outstanding co-operation between academic and general staff. However, one theme that emerged from the consultations was that we need to rethink the ways in which we classify staff and enable staff, especially academics, to follow a range of career paths. The one model fits all for teaching and research academics is coming under increasing pressure with larger classes, more pressure for research and the need for quality teaching. More specialisation at different parts of the career cycle was one of the interesting suggestions as well as the need to redefine roles and functions of both academic and general staff to achieve high quality outcomes. This opens up a number of challenges - academically, organisationally and industrially -- but the core of the message is that if we wish to continue to climb up the academic rankings we will have to work smarter in what will certainly be a difficult funding climate over the next few years. One part of working smarter will be in responding to the evolving needs of students for a more flexible learning environment. While UOW has been a leader in blended learning, using the technologies and techniques of distance education in a high quality face to face environment, this has not always been reflected in staff workloads and career development. Students want quality interactions with teachers and to be provided with high quality content, accessible on demand. This will lead to fewer large lectures and more small group and on-line teaching. The campus experience will still be central to the student experience but it needs to be more flexible and interactive. If we can achieve this we will continue to get the high quality students from a diverse range of backgrounds that we need to further develop the reputation of the University. The good opinions of employers are a significant element in ranking systems and this depends on the quality of our graduates. In the same way recognition of the quality of our research and teaching is central to peer evaluation of our performance. We want to be a top ranking research intensive university with an outstanding reputation for teaching and learning. To improve our current position, we need to develop the structures which will release the full potential of our staff and students to take us to a new level of achievement and recognition. RC BEING SMART WITH OUR PEOPLE KEY TO FUTURE SUCCESS BY DEPUTY VICE-CHANCELLOR (ACADEMIC) PROFESSOR ROB CASTLE, who is retiring in July after more than 42 years at UOW. Systems, technology and facilities are important but ultimately secondary to the people who make up the University community 2 CONNECT :UOW JULY 2012 CONNECT: OPINION A LEGACY OF LEARNING When Rob Castle joined the Wollongong University College as an Economics tutor in 1970 it had just 1000 students and 90 staff, and autonomy as an independent university was still five years away. Forty-two years on, the University of Wollongong has more than 26,000 students and 2000 staff and is recognised as a leading university in Australia and internationally. Professor Castle, who is retiring in July, has made a hugely significant contribution to the University's growth in size and reputation as a Lecturer, Department Head, Faculty Dean and Director of International Programs. In 2001 Professor Castle joined the executive team as Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic). He was subsequently appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and International) and in recent years has served as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic). He has spearheaded the University's exemplary record in national teaching and learning rankings, successfully steered the University through two major Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) audits and played a leading role in the development of UOW's network of regional campuses. Professor Castle served as a staff representative on the University Council, chaired the Academic Senate for five years and chaired the Academic Board of the University of Wollongong in Dubai for six years. NH