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

Published On May 8, 2020 | By Amy | Latest News, News, Notes from the VC's Desk
One of the dominant experiences of my week has been working from a campus that feels empty and isolated but knowing I am surrounded by people at various locales, all working hard to make the University a place that is centred on and around people through the glorious power of education. Bravo UNE – the staff, the students, our alumni and the many connected people who help us to do the great things we do.
Creative New England Photo Competition – 1st Place: Teneille Schofield
I have been focused on working through Academic Board recommendations for course changes – a pile of documents some 3 cm tall (only the liquorice bullets got me through it!). I have also been revisiting a range of reports on online assessments (Gartner did a good one a while ago) and pondering changes we need to make to our overall assessment framework. We have been developing an online assessment model to enhance the experience, manage the integrity of the process and create an adaptive and flexible model focused on student success, not just academic engagement. Now is the time to bring UNE policy inline with our technological capabilities. I have also been thinking through the model of online education more broadly; currently the system frames the opportunity to participate within the relatively narrow confines of semesters. Is now the moment to step away from the ‘either or’ model (online/campus) and the conventional rubric of academic timetables that have existed for some 500 years? I would argue we might think differently about the design of an academic degree and the temporal construct of the academic year. Now might be the time to promote the value of robust educational technologies which truly facilitate different modalities of educational engagement and study. Is it time to co-partner with our students, with industry and foreground integrated collaborative models of academic, pedagogic and methodological development to inform curriculum design, delivery and outcomes?
Creative New England Photo Competition – 2nd Place: Romain Pondard
It will come as no surprise to know that much of the rest of my week has been consumed with spread sheets and columns of numbers. No, I have not being doing analytical research, rather working through the different layers of our budget infrastructure to make sure we have sufficient information to complete the work required to resolve the budget deficit which COVID-19 has precipitated as well as build the restructuring framework which will see us go forward on a sustainable resilient footing. I am lucky to have executive colleagues who recognise the nature of our problems and contribute their wise counsel to these deliberations. Whilst our problems mirror, in some form, the issues besetting many institutions, our solutions must be defined by the unique contextual needs of this institution.  

The dreaded Zoom monster has been ever present in my office – interesting how proficient we all now are at posting comments, raising the blue hand and pressing the space bar to mute/unmute. I still find the co-incident chat room activity unbelievably distracting! Dyslexics are not well served by Zoom style technologies and I wonder how many other access issues it creates. In addition to the now usual range of meeting with other VCs, officers of government and community representatives, I participated in an N on N meeting with several UK Vice-Chancellors. It was very informative to hear about their experiences in recent times and the adaptations and accommodations each and all have gone through as the control actions to limit viral spread affected the UK sector. 

And so it is Friday… This morning the Provost hosted our first virtual Senior Leadership Team development event with invited students contributing to a ‘rapid’ engagement on the ‘UNE Student Experience’ – great fun! I am having lunch with the Chancellor and then will be tied to the desk in meeting mode until late this evening. Planning for the easing of restrictions and a staged return is in play, however we have much to work through if we are to get this right (as much as we can).

Creative New England Photo Competition – 3rd Place: Maribeth Hall
Tomorrow I am going to buy a new ebike – all the enthusiasts have bombarded me with advice and the shop has re-opened. The thought of being let loose and free to exercise is energising!

Music options have become something of a challenge now with all the really knowledgeable people working hard to educate me (lucky me). With no apologies – this week’s offerings reflect yet again how impressed (read envious) I am with the examples of community engagement: this one is just lovely, and in ‘times like these’ the fact that some music just makes you tap your feet cannot be ignored!

On the recommendation of a friend, I have reverted back to reading Penelope Fitzgerald’s books (Offshore) given the number which are now available in accessible formats and downloaded one of her movies (The Bookshop) for a fireside watch fest. Picture me riding my new bike and listening to a book tape – talk about efficiency…..

I also unpacked my very best camera, having been inspired by the Creative New England photography competition; I was humbled and inspired by the still beauty of the winning image. I look forward to reading the entries for the short story competition which will close on 28 May.

Now you know the routine, I hardly need to remind you to check the UNE COVID-19 website for updates; enjoy the opportunities which some lifting of the restrictions offers you and your loved ones.

Stay safe and stay healthy.

Sincerely,

Professor Brigid Heywood

Vice-Chancellor & CEO

UNE

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