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One of those weeks when most of my time and effort was spent focusing on the likely end of it. An announcement about the much anticipated reform of Higher Education by the Commonwealth Government loomed large across most of the week. Despite knowing it will not be published until Friday, reflections upon the content and intent of it have proved distracting. Grateful therefore for the driving prompts of general business and the opportunity to take time out to grab a much needed haircut!
Planning for the return of staff and students to each of our campuses and the re-opening of our study centres still occupies time in various ways. As does the process of supporting students through the challenge of online exams as they complete Trimester 1 – various technology challenges did create a frisson of anxiety for all of us over the last couple of weeks. The teams in IT and Student Success are to be congratulated for maintaining full service despite several challenging events. 

Post Council retreat catch ups have been running across my diary as work to complete the next stage of the process for the UNE21+ conversation unfolds. The interactive portal through which staff, students and the wider community can engage goes live next week; all the small housekeeping tasks needed some attention to ensure we are ready to launch our first ‘all of community’ conversation. 

The level of engagement with this week’s UNE in Conversation around the Future Campus signals wider participation and a willingness to contribute, which augurs well for the UNE21+ development process.  Another key indicators of improved participation is the level of interest being expressed in our upcoming elections for tier 1 UNE governance committees and the new student consultative model. All those who have contributed to developing the relevant conversations are to be congratulated for stimulating such a high level of interest. 

Incase you were unable to attend on 17 June, please click to watch the Conversation
As the world starts to unlock it has been great to actually share birthday cakes in person (!) and engage in human form with a range of unexpected but welcome visitors who joined me on the Armidale campus this week – students, members of various committees, representatives from several groups that UNE aims to support have all appeared in one guise or another. I have much enjoyed the voices of hope and shared energy of these encounters. 

A small group of colleagues joined me for a teleconference with the Taree Universities Centre steering group to celebrate their success in securing funding. UNE supported the submission and will seek to co-develop the educational offerings for the region building off the success of our own current provision.  

My creative self was given licence in this week’s meeting with the Teaching and Learning Task Force. We are focusing on bringing together the key strands of all the work done to date in a number of places so that we frame the principles and design of a strategy to align with the conversations guiding UNE21+.

Jan McClelland celebrated 20 years on UNE Council this week
As my week closes, the Higher Education Reform package has been published in outline form by Minister Tehan. The arguments are now flowing about who wins and who loses – at this stage difficult to call until we see the detail. What is clear, like it, love it or hate it, is that the reform package focuses on the value of education for the nation, and the redistribution of allocated funds to support young people, those domiciled in rural and regional domains and those disadvantaged by low SES  circumstances. All these goals feature strongly in the reform proposals. Regional universities are anchor institutions and are also recognised with various new models for the allocation of resources to assist in fulfilling our roles in community. It may not be great but at first reading it is something UNE can work with to effect positive change after drought, bushfires and pandemic – a big shift from the announcements of recent years.  I am sure I will spend my weekend working through the details.

Professor Brigid Heywood

Vice-Chancellor & CEO