Notes from the VC’s Desk: Direct from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brigid Heywood this week

Published On January 31, 2020 | By Amy | Latest News, News, Notes from the VC's Desk
It seems that we have moved quickly from one set of environmental challenges to a medical emergency. Overnight the World Health Organisation has determined the spread of the novel coronavirus has reached global epidemic proportions. We have been active all week in securing expert briefings and ensuring UNE develops situation and management response processes for each of our sites. I do urge staff and students to look at the guidance being offered and take suitable precautions. There is now a direct link on the UNE home page for quick access to information and updates.

Interestingly my week started not with consideration of how to keep people apart and safe, but how to bring people together to celebrate. The amazing Burrumbuttock Hay Runners arrived in Armidale over the Australia Day weekend and many were on hand to assist with the distribution of $1M worth of hay before joining the somewhat damp but very enjoyable celebrations afterwards. It was heartening to experience Australians helping Australians at a time of need.

The rest of my week has been consumed with meetings (what a surprise!) across a spectrum of issues. Some staff leaving UNE asked for exit interviews and it was most informative to hear their experiences as part of the UNE community; I would like to acknowledge their generosity and honesty.

I spent time with various groups that are focusing on our academic performance, most especially our retention data. It is quite challenging to see the data, which highlights how attractive our academic offerings are and how capable our students are, and then analyse attrition. Given UNE’s mission as an institution is to serve those in ‘need’ of the benefits which education offers and the quantum of public funding we receive, there is clearly much for us to consider around how we hone our support for students who have stepped up to the challenge of tertiary education.

This week also provided an opportunity to see an early draft of the emerging UNE Model proposal which will underpin our approach going forward. It is no small challenge to aggregate what we do well and focus on what needs to be shape shifted to create an educational template for our future. The adoption of the flipped classroom, the embedding of digital tools to enhance support, the design of the curriculum offer, both in terms of content and construct to serve a diverse student body, and the embedding of experiential learning into our programmes are all critical discussion points which sit alongside consideration of the design of the next Learning Management System and the overarching ambitions of UNE to be a distinctive tertiary education provider. What kind of educational partnerships we develop and why is another piece of the puzzle. I was also involved in conversation with our colleagues from NOUS Group about progress with the Tamworth campus review and our growth plans for this location.

Running alongside all of these meetings was the business of hosting Apricot Consulting who were here to work with Senior Executive members on designing the Senior Leadership Development programme for 2020. We hope to offer a thematic programme which provides both information relating to key areas of the business, as well as deeper leadership developmental support.

Another focus of this week’s planning discussions was the work currently underway to develop the UNE 2021+ Strategic Plan framework, which will be refined over the coming months. I am determined that our new Strategic Plan will be developed through a collaborative dialogue across staff, students, alumni and key stakeholders. At a time of great change in the education sector here in Australia (for example consider the implication of the Coldrake Review) and the shifting demographics of the population, there can be little doubt that UNE must progress with refining its strategic drivers and develop a distinctive competitive response to serve us over the next decade and beyond.

Portrait of Dr R.B. Madgwick, First Vice Chancellor 1954-1966 by Judy Cassab 1962
Many of you will already know that UNE has a significant collection of cultural artefacts and artworks which have been purchased or donated over many years. This week I was able to visit the storage facilities which house many of the physical objects we hold and review the structure of our collections. The word ‘eclectic’ is appropriate, and I am delighted that we are now able to start framing a holistic collections strategy which will help define how UNE makes a contribution to education and societal dialogues through the managed acquisition and curation of a culturally relevant UNE collection for both the New England region and Australia.

Another highlight of this week was the opportunity to spend a day with Academic Board and members of Council who all gathered for the Governance Summit in Madgwick Hall. Despite the rising temperature of the day, we completed an impressive body of work to inform our discussions about embedding a good governance model across the institution. The involvement of our student representative was especially pleasing as it means we are using an open, engaged mode of working which should be a hallmark of this university.

I completed my cybersecurity training modules this week and whilst I did not always agree with the scenario outcomes posited by the developmental tool kit, it did make me reflect and consider my own practice. So a big tick for the VC.

Council today – first meeting of the year with a lot to discuss, followed by the new format for lunch; in 2020 Council will be incorporating an outreach programme which will see Council members connecting with different parts of the University and community as a component of each meeting across this year.

And then a quiet weekend I hope; I have seen my diary for next week and it is not pretty… I have an interesting pile of gifted post-holiday reading to entertain me and homework to be done on what kind of e-bike to invest in. I have enjoyed the UNE e-bike experience over the past few months and feel ready to develop my range. Knowing how many bike enthusiasts there are at UNE, I hope this comment will draw advice to assist me in my choices. Given the likely disruption to the campus as the major roadworks for the new roundabout progress, it seems like a good time to ‘gear up’ from recreational cycling and push pedals up the hill instead!

Senior Executive Team (SET) Open Meetings – 14 February 2020

The first SET Open Meeting for 2020 will be held from 9.00am-11.00am on Friday 14 February in the Council Room at Booloominbah.

Please register your attendance via the SET meeting webpage here, ensuring you review the code of conduct before completing your registration. Meeting papers will be loaded the week prior, and minutes will be uploaded soon after each meeting.

By attending the SET Open meetings, you will experience firsthand how decisions are made at the University; I encourage you to attend at least one meeting in 2020 and provide any comments or feedback to my office via email or phone x2004.


Professor Brigid Heywood

Vice-Chancellor & CEO



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