|Another week of interesting news and events.. The world remains gripped by the ongoing spread of COVID-19 infections; the unfurling reality of the epidemic both in human and economic terms does not make for pleasant reading. The recent spate of storms have finally doused the fires in NSW – it remains to be seen if the drought is at an end. All of these events have dominated the business of my week in various ways.
With the end of the bushfires, we are now more focused on ensuring that we connect and support those communities affected by loss of property and infrastructure. We can see (not unexpected) evidence in our student data of an impact of regional, rural and remote students both in terms of performance and enrolments. It is important we find ways to assist each cohort. The impact on various UNE research projects affected by the fires must also be resolved.
The Australian education sector is in daily conversation across various portals about the in-country management and consequences of the COVID-19 epidemic; every effort is being expended to assure and support those students affected by the travel constraints and design alternate study pathways for them. The immediate and longer term financial impact is not insignificant for some institutions, including ours, and here again much effort is being expended to resolve the quantum of the problem and how that risk might be offset.
Health matters of a different kind were very much in mind with various meetings this week to discuss progress with the ‘Spinifex’ network, now a truly national consortium of rural and regional health groups all focused on the question of how to develop and provide better local health care. The development of the UNE concept for a Virtual Hospital Network for New England also figured in my work plan – the draft business case has been completed and we are now very much focused on stakeholder dialogues.
I visited our Tamworth Study Centre midweek and also briefed the Mayor and his colleagues on progress with the Tamworth 2022 plans and to agree details of the planned visit to Armidale and the University Council’s upcoming visit to the city. UNE will also contribute to the industry forum ‘State of the City’ being hosted in Tamworth next week so that we can gather more intelligence from the key business cluster to better inform our design dialogue.