Uwa Futures: The Response - The University of ...

 
Uwa Futures: The Response - The University of ...
Uwa Futures:
The Response
Uwa Futures: The Response - The University of ...
Colleagues
This document is a collation of responses from across the University in response to my discussion paper
distributed on 3 September, UWA Futures. Comments on this paper have been received via email, in person
and on the discussion forum, all of which I have been grateful for. In this document, I have sought to group this
feedback under the headings of the original paper. It is provided to each staff member that formally provided
feedback and all Heads of Areas as a representation of how colleagues are thinking.

As the next step, each Faculty and Institute is invited to compile any specific responses on all or any of the
proposals in the UWA Futures paper, and submit them to inform a discussion of the paper at a special meeting of
Academic Board in early February. Submissions are due by 18 January and should be directed to the incoming
Chair of Academic Board, John Cordery. At this meeting I will present a schedule for further development of
these proposals over the remainder of the 2013 session.

Paul Johnson
Vice-Chancellor

November 2012

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Uwa Futures: The Response - The University of ...
INTRODUCTION
‘I concur with what I see as the main point you make: that UWA must keep developing its own distinctive value
proposition, one that balances its particular advantages as a provider of high-quality face-to-face education with
responsiveness to changing circumstances. The challenge, of course, is to promote this development in a way
that is not perceived as coercive.’

‘One of the biggest challenges facing the University is cultural change. There is a prevailing attitude that UWA
is the oldest and, therefore, the best – while some might consider this to be true within Western Australia, it is
essential that the “big fish in a small pond” mentality be addressed. International excellence is not based on
such notions.’

‘If we are to influence the future we will need to have strong support and leadership throughout the University.’

‘I think it would be helpful to break the “50 by 50” objective into stages. What do we need to be by 2015, 2020,
2025, etc? Many now working at the University will not still be here in 2050, and intermediate goals would help
keep people engaged. It would also allow us to see if we are on track.
It might also be useful to ask “What does a top 50 University look like”? Are there any in that group currently of our
size? Our age? Where their endowment is not their largest asset? Where income from alumni support is less than
X% of total revenue, or where postgrad enrolments are less than Y% of the total? That are both small and fully
comprehensive?’

‘The top 50 by 2050 will be by very different measures than the currently crude ARWU, and ensuring that
the message is made clear to our academic staff that we are including teaching excellence in this top 50 mix
is important.’

1. Context: The changing world of higher
education
‘I strongly support your views about a rapidly changing “business” environment in which a myriad of physical
and virtual national and multi-international organisations will compete with UWA. In order to compete effectively,
UWA will require a clear strategic vision to grow within such an environment and have buy-in from all its key
stakeholders…. The current edition of the New England Journal of Medicine contains an editorial that…focuses
on the fundamental importance of the strategic question, “What business are we in?” and explores that question
within the context of the healthcare system in the USA. As you would know…corporate history is littered with the
demise of once leading companies who have failed to answer this question correctly over time and consequently
failed to adapt to changing environments.’

Regulation
‘I think you’re right that the current monopoly universities enjoy over degree granting will erode. We’ve done a
good job to date of convincing Governments that an unregulated sector would somehow be “dangerous” to the
public, and hence in need of oversight and strict barriers to entry. I can’t see this lasting. The inherent cross-
subsidisation of research out of teaching revenues also makes us vulnerable.’

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Technology
‘Our group believes that tertiary education will rapidly change to take advantage of massive open online courses
(MOOC) as the primary means to deliver the core curricula. Collaboration with other world leading universities is
essential to achieve the best outcomes.’

‘MOOC is a real issue. No responsible university today would let faculty members spend time writing a “purpose
built” textbook for their individual units, given books are already widely and cheaply available. It will get hard to
justify letting them work up the lecture content for traditional delivery of Econ 101 or Calculus 101 when it’s also
available on-line for free, there are only so many ways the material can be taught, and students are already voting
with their feet (attendance at some lectures in the Business School is often below 50% by about week 3
of classes).’

‘A major tech firm that specialises in high-quality hardware and delivery (Apple, via iTunes U?) could link up with
professional assessors (a group of former Harvard/MIT professors?) working with a major test provider (Pearson?)
to offer virtual degrees, especially given low barriers to entry to the university “market” in the US and elsewhere.
Business School Deans I’ve met from mid-tier US schools (especially cash-strapped public ones where the State
Government owner is effectively insolvent due to crushing pension and other liabilities) are seriously worried
about this.’

‘What you don’t address here is to what extent we might review the question of becoming an “alternative provider”
ourselves. That is, can a review of our pedagogy also identify those areas in which we deliver a top class learning
experience for our students and one that might be made more available to a wider community? We have a
comparative advantage in:
1) being a research intensive university in which most teachers are themselves research active;
2) having unique areas of expertise and areas of study (often grounded in local circumstances, e.g. a botanical
diversity born of ancient depleted soils, relatively untouched and unique tropical reefs, innovative technologies of
energy and minerals exploration and exploitation etc.);
3) holding a strong top-100 brand.
Should/can we join the ranks of MOOC providers, in some capacity, and what would be the costs/benefits of
doing so?’

‘The university should start to negotiate with other universities both in Australia and overseas to accredit [online]
courses run by other universities…. UWA should negotiate with owners of such courses to guarantee the standard
and then to accept such teaching as part of a UWA qualification on terms acceptable to both institutions.
Likewise, the university should set up an advanced production unit for the proper production of its own online
courses… lectures accompanied by online instruction, tests, assessments and tutorials…. This is not a trivial task,
but once performed gives a continuing resource for new students and for off-campus teaching.’

‘I do not know how many UWA students enrol in courses from Coursera or edX…. However, I presume that UWA
would not wish to be seen solely as a consumer in this field, and that there are groups on campus considering
active contribution to these initiatives.
The Centre for Teaching and Learning is current focused on delivery of the SPICE project (secondary teachers’
enrichment program). Whilst SPICE funding is secure until April 2012, there are no guarantees beyond that
point…. CLT is therefore looking for opportunities to diversify its activities, and the area of MOOCs is one where
we believe we are equipped….SPICE resources…emphasize student-centred learning along constructivist
principles…. We have strong connections to all science Schools at UWA, and…staff with considerable
experience in all areas of production: writing, editing, graphic design, programming, video production and
instructional design.’

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‘There is significant potential to collaborate with other institutions on developing teaching materials…. Authors of
undergraduate textbooks at UWA could be stimulated to develop online resources to share with other universities,
which will increase UWA’s web-presence as well as the sale of their textbooks…. For postgraduate units, it
would be worthwhile exploring opportunities for co-taught units at the Masters or PhD level…. Where UWA has a
comparative advantage in a certain field, it is worthwhile exploring the possibilities to widely advertise specialists
units and open those up for enrolment from other universities. Such a possibility should be reciprocal, so that our
Postgraduate students can get credits for units taken at other universities.’

‘You expressed an opinion that we shouldn’t grant credit for content studied with free providers such as
Coursera…. My concern is that the current advanced standing policy is silent on this point, and that I’d estimate
that there are 30 or so people across campus who assess and approve credit (of whom I’m one) and who might
well form their own diverse opinions in the absence of policy guidance. Thus, there’s a risk of an unintended
precedent being established by an individual’s decision, which might be eliminated by the circulation of appropriate
guidance to these staff members.’

‘To the extent that entry into, and completion of, a degree program from a highly regarded, academically rigorous
university is a strong signal of a student’s quality in the job market (independent of what he or she may actually
learn while there) top students may still prefer to enrol in “traditional” programs at highly regarded schools. If so, we
need to be especially vigilant with regard to standards and reputation. I agree that “Quality, quality, quality” is the
way to go if we are to prosper in future.’

2. Education
‘We advocate that the University strive to achieve international best practice in terms of our educators and to
continue to provide opportunities through professional development and the teaching-research nexus. We therefore
recommend the inclusion of an additional proposal to recognise, recruit and retain high quality educators as a
strategic component in the attainment of best student education.’

‘Is there anything we want to say about the teaching-research nexus? We have built research skill development
explicitly into the UG curriculum under NC2012 and we claim to distinguish ourselves from other kinds of institution
by the nature of learning in a research-intensive environment. Do we still believe this? Should it figure in the next
iteration of our Strategic Plan? I would suggest it should but there are skeptics.’

Proposal 1: That the University conduct a full review of pedagogic purpose and practice in 2013, with
the aim of introducing new pedagogies from the beginning of 2015. The review will consider, among
other factors:
ÌÌ the effectiveness of different teaching styles;

ÌÌ the preferences of students for different combinations of on-line and face-to-face learning;

ÌÌ the technological and infrastructure requirements of different approaches to teaching and learning;

ÌÌ the skills and capabilities required of teaching and support staff.

General reactions:
‘The challenge will be to provide for a diversity of approaches, which will be required across different disciplines,
whilst maintaining overall coordination. Our current exploration of alternate pedagogy has been very piecemeal,
often driven by the interests of the lecturer at the individual unit level. This has produced some very worthwhile
initiatives, but meant that student experience varies widely from unit to unit…we need to ensure uniform
engagement.’

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‘There will need to be some really strong communication if changes are to be adopted quickly by teaching staff.’

‘I believe that a revision of the pedagogy is essential so that we keep students engaged in the subjects that we
teach…. Who are the people in the university who are going to conduct this review? I would be very interested to
be part of this review process if possible.’

‘I am not sure there is quite such a sharp delineation between our review of course structures and a review of
pedagogy. Issues of generic skill development – for research, for communication – and the service learning
elements for NC2012, and the focus on learning outcomes, have crossed the line from structure, to content and
pedagogy. Perhaps this is more of a continuum?’

‘I suggest…that…important lessons from the very successful NC2012 process of course revision should be kept
in mind:
1. We didn’t set out with a presumption that UWA must change its courses. … We carefully identified issues
    and options before eventually making some decisions. In contrast, your statement about introducing new
    pedagogies [may be] seen by some as jumping to a conclusion without due preparatory analysis.
2. To initiate now an ambitious further enquiry with the declared intention of rapidly introducing new ways of doing
    things may be to invite resistance born of change fatigue.
3. The tendency to characterise recent reforms here as “structural” shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that they’re
    confined merely to curriculum matters, as distinct from pedagogy and assessment…. One can’t rethink
    curriculum structures (the shape of what is to be learnt) without also rethinking the pedagogic relationship
    (how students learn) and the assessment procedures (how the University gauges what has been learnt). Such
    interconnections have been rigorously incorporated into the work of Boards of Studies etc. Structural change
    was the lever for exerting pressure on other things.’

‘All good teachers will already be examining and using new pedagogical techniques and technology where it
can help their teaching; for most of us the barrier is not ignorance or resistance, but lack of time and resources.
Repeated staff surveys have highlighted this…. We are still in the midst of changing over to the new course
structures…new units will be added annually as the students progress through the new courses…. To start
introducing new pedagogies in 2015 in the midst of this change and at a time of fixed budgets must be
well justified.’

‘Is the timeframe around this proposal realistic?’

‘As a committed group of experienced teaching academics within a research intensive School, we support
proposals 1 to 5….Our approach is, however, as a partnership so that both teaching and learning requires, in
addition to the inherent rewards, some reciprocal obligation by both teacher and student. This could be reflected
in proposal one by adding to the factors listed, the roles of teachers, support staff and students in providing an
effective learning environment.’

‘Our group believes that Schools are not the best units from which to organise and deliver undergraduate curricula
and education. Instead these should be coordinated by dedicated academic units according to degree streams
(Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Design, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Philosophy).’

‘I believe that the ponderous course/major/unit approvals process has the very real prospect of stifling change
and innovation in our teaching….over the years, multiple layers of approvals have been added, at the School
level (both for new units and via Examiners’ meetings), Faculty, Academic Council and now Board of Studies….
along the way more and more detail is being required for course/unit approval, to the point now where outcomes
and assessment must be approved, including changes requested after the initial approval. In this climate, how is

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course change and innovation ever to occur?....Whatever pedagogic methods are supported through the review
process, there needs to be a sensible process for approving and then overseeing courses, majors and units.’

On evaluating the effectiveness of teaching styles:
‘I am concerned about the appropriateness of your first dot point (review of the effectiveness of different teaching
styles)….There is little agreement about how to measure effectiveness and spending time and energy trying to do
so would be wasteful, in my view….Perhaps a start would be to map current delivery modes (including lecture/
workshop/tutorial/lab/ online/etc) against CEQ responses by unit? Some modes of teaching are more suitable
and more valued than others for particular disciplines. However, I agree that much teaching is totally out of synch
with today’s students’ interests and has to change. Much UG teaching is entirely inappropriate for PG students.’

‘What we perhaps don’t know, except anecdotally, is what proportion of students make use of what is already
on-line. I have spoken to teachers who claim that < 50% of students attend lectures and < 50% regularly access
the on-line lectures, and that the overlap in these two sets is very high. That is, committed students will follow up
on-line the points they missed in the class they attended; the disengaged remain disengaged. Clearly this is a
question the proposed review needs to consider. We have a lot of the data already – system logs from Lectopia
and its predecessors.’

‘UWA is hard to get to as it is poorly serviced by public transport, and parking is hard to find. First and second
year students cannot get parking permits….if it takes 2–3 hours to come in for a 1 hour lecture, what is the
likelihood students will attend? One might…compare attendance rates for lectures when there is also a
(compulsory) lab on that day, versus those days when there is just the lecture. This suggests to me that perhaps
preference for parking spots should be given to first year students, rather than third, as the latter will have worked
out how to integrate their various activities and will generally be better oriented in, and committed to, their
courses. It also suggests that when timetabling units, if at all possible lectures should be placed close to labs.’

‘We pride ourselves on the campus experience and note that “top 50” universities often have a major campus
presence. Introducing lecture recordings has probably set back our attempts to increase student participation in
university life by a decade. We are building more accommodation to get more students on campus at the same
time discouraging them from attendance by providing lectures online. If we want more students to attend lectures
– simply stop recording them, or provide them near the end of semester for those with clashes or illness. Lectures
are about much more than just delivering content, they are live theatre vs watching the Bolshoi on television. They
get students to interact, to come on campus. If we are to build student loyalty for future endowments we have to
make students feel it is “their” university. Watching a You-tube like video, possibly from the US, most likely in the
basement of their parents’ house, does not help a student grow up as a citizen or help them form any allegiance
to UWA. Measuring their impact solely on learning content really misses the point.’

On the preferences of students:
 ‘…people like going shopping. Similarly, students like coming to university and have an expectation of what a
University should look like, particular those whose previous experience is High School. The human business of
education. The social aspect is also particularly important. Retailers are responding with multichannel retail; we
will have multi-channel education.’

‘My son is doing an Engineering/Commerce degree…. What he really does enjoy is small group sessions
where he is challenged, and finds specific lecturers very engaging and stimulating. He was fortunate enough to
experience a semester exchange in Queen’s University, Canada, where he loved that form of teaching.’

‘One area I have noticed which is particularly important to students is the provision of personal computer support.
To remain competitive with alternative educational providers, we really need to enhance the level of computer

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support we offer students (and staff). Forthcoming changes to the service points at the libraries on campus
(which are currently the main help points for student computer support) will dilute the quality of service because…
experienced and qualified IT casuals…will be replaced with library officers after some basic training…. I cannot see
how we can offer this reduction in service and expect to maintain our status as the preferred destination for WA
students, especially when Curtin and Murdoch already offer a better computer support experience.
A UWA-specific solution could utilise the existing resources allocated to the Student Internet Support Office and
broaden the range of IT support currently offered…. We should be aiming at providing comprehensive computer
support and servicing for students including diagnosing, troubleshooting and solving computer hardware and
software issues…. This…would be very popular.’

On technology:
‘My experience in that area [electronic communications] makes me very conscious that UWA still has some way to
go in establishing robust IT infrastructure and T&L support systems before it can contemplate deploying some new
pedagogies reliably.’

‘With regard to the impact of technology, new mobile devices also offer an opportunity for the University to “push”
information to current and future students and staff and thereby overcome the static nature of websites, i.e. send
the information to consumers rather than hope the consumer will search and find it. I can imagine that such
applications will help to enhance
the student experience and provide the University an opportunity to deliver a continuous support network to its
student and staff bodies.’

On skills and capabilities:
‘I hear a lot of feedback from teaching and research staff in various parts of the University that they feel they
are under pressure to constantly improve teaching, and yet it is research inputs and outputs that are perceived
to be ‘rewarded’ (by promotion, recognition, etc), giving mixed messages and creating some resentment or
demotivation…. there need to be incentives for people to continue improving teaching which are beyond the
budget level…’

‘I have argued strongly that the ability to teach is critically important ….The main difficulty is to engage academic
staff in this endeavour. The response of most staff is “Yes, I would love to be able to teach better, but I don’t have
time to learn, I have to work on another grant application because that’s what will get my performance indicator up.”
This has been a stumbling block in many other universities.’

‘I have the opinion that Research and Teaching & Learning are siloed, which I think frustrates both those that
are more heavily research-based and those that are more heavily teaching-based….I was wondering if the focus
could be on “Knowledge Development” and “Knowledge Dissemination”, with T&L coming under Knowledge
Dissemination. Knowledge links the two. This would provide a greater focus on developing knowledge that is useful
and at the same time, disseminating this UWA-developed knowledge through all T&L activities as well as to other
stakeholders. Thus those heavily focused on knowledge development would be encouraged to disseminate that
knowledge to other academics who are more involved with the delivery to students; at the same time, those more
involved in the delivery to students should actively seek out knowledge developers to add value to their delivery.’

Specific suggestions/examples for consideration:
‘You might like to refer to the notion of flipped classrooms, a model that is gaining widespread acceptance in higher
ed, where technology is used for transmission of content to large audiences, prior to small group face to face
problem solving interactions.’

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‘UWA seems to be slow in picking up the sort of things I saw at Harvard Business school with the “learning hub”
and students from cross-disciplinary areas working together on innovation, for example.’

‘There is a need to keep practical laboratory classes in science subjects to provide core skills to students and to
engage with them in a positive learning environment.’

‘The research/teaching focus of [the UWA Centre for Sleep Science] makes it quite unique worldwide and
has already been used to obtain a successful NHMRC Grant…and attract Honours, Masters and PhD
students from several Schools across the campus…. The new facility has also allowed me to develop a novel
postgraduate teaching program with a gradually growing number of local, national and international students.
Key to designing this programme was a structure that minimised face-to-face teaching time (in order to permit
the research activities to continue) yet provide efficient, high-quality knowledge transfer. To this end the Sleep
Science Postgraduate Educational Model is based on a combination of intensive block training (run in the first
2 weeks of the mid-year and summer vacation periods) and flexible distance education units (online only, using
WebCT and now LMS). A continuous education model is applied whereby there are multiple exit strategies for
individuals (Certificate, Diploma, Masters) as well as the opportunity to build towards a PhD…. The educational
model is equally suited to local and international students, who may wish to take the course on a full-time or part-
time basis.
I was recently approached by the University of Adelaide to develop a joint Graduate Diploma in Dental Sleep
Medicine. This is now underway, with Sleep expertise being provided by the UWA online units, and the Dental
expertise provided by UA via online units and a 3-day residency in Adelaide.
Development costs for this type of online teaching programme are predominantly ‘up front’ and relate to
development of the online lectures and assessments. Ideally, the University should provide a clear pathway for
those seeking financial support to pursue the development of potentially productive teaching programs that
support research activities.
Inadequate IT support represents the death-knell for this type of online-heavy programme.  In my view UWA’s
transition from WebCT to LMS was handled very poorly. Ideally, the University should develop a mechanism to
provide such specialised IT administrative support. Perhaps it could consider having IT (LMS) staff who could be
temporarily co-opted to specific projects to help with their development.
The intensive block teaching has been well received and is also very cost-effective. Accommodating students
for this type of short-term visit is always challenging. Ideally, residential college accommodation could be made
preferentially available to students participating in such intensive UWA-based block teaching periods which are
held outside of the standard semesters.’

‘Some of the innovations being trialled in the Accelerated Learning Lab have the potential to improve student
experience. Recorded role-plays, interactive case studies and on-line exercises for small groups of students,
combined with the ability to give immediate, accurate feedback on performance has great potential. We intend
having our MBA students spend significant amounts of time in the Lab. This could be a good differentiator for us.’

‘I teach a very large undergraduate marketing unit (1000+ students per year) and am moving towards a model
of lecture/workshop/tutorial. The lectures will eventually be all online. A large workshop in the lecture theatre
replaces the existing lecture….The workshops are not recorded and the activities I run in the workshop are
examinable at the end of the year. The workshops are a clarification of the lecture content (that the students
are expected to have already covered), and then predominantly activities that enhance their understanding of
the content. I get very good turnout to the workshop. I would propose that a model like this gives an online
presence yet still focuses the on-campus experience. Another interesting aspect I am developing is having senior
academics from the UWA marketing discipline give ‘state-of-the-art’ guest lectures during the workshop time,
that are recorded. Ultimately, these UWA-content guest lectures would form the main basis of the online lectures,
to emphasis the research content from UWA. This adds real value that the students can’t get from the text. So

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in a nutshell, this model merges the online and campus components and develops the online content from a
UWA discipline perspective, even in an introductory marketing unit. It maintains good graduate qualities because
students are still expected to attend the workshop and the tutorial; if a student cannot attend the workshop, they
are encouraged to interact with their group members for the answers.’

‘I do think that there are wonderful opportunities to harness new technologies to do what we do best – providing
a stimulating and educational on-campus experience for our students. That is what we need to focus on. Here is
one example. We are experimenting with new first year courses in the engineering faculty involving a much greater
emphasis on face-to-face teaching that we have in the past. Many of the students yearn for interesting lectures:
they have not reacted well to the need to read relatively boring material before coming to classes. We are planning
a small experiment in which we will reward students for finding really exciting and short online lecture and video
material. 500 students trawling the Internet for interesting material is likely to be much more effective than one or
two staff members trying to do the same. We will review the best suggestions and make them available to the
other students.’

Proposal 2: That the University develop its campus facilities and services (including residential colleges)
with the explicit intention of enhancing the learning opportunities of students.

‘Are we brave enough to aim for a residential experience for all first-year students?’

‘I believe the UWA Residential Colleges can offer more to, and be utilised more by, the university than is
currently the case. Whilst a decline in lecture attendance and the growing use of online options is observed, my
observations are that the offerings by colleges such as leadership programs and positions, cultural awareness
programs, community service programs and less formal gatherings of residents have never been more popular
amongst college students. Much of this popularity is because they see real value in the program, it’s personable
and most view it as adding ‘weight’ to their CV…. My recommendation would be that all first year students
entering the university be assigned a college to which they belong (regardless if they live there or not), with the
option of the student taking out an affiliated membership from that year onwards.
To make an affiliated model work I believe that it needs to commence at the start of a student’s tertiary education.
The connection to the college (and ultimately the university) would then commence at orientation (with some
activities based in colleges for all affiliated 1st years) and then the student would continue to be supported and
involved in various activities (with the colleges, student services and faculties working together) over the course
of the year. For example, tutorials, academic dinners and involvement in the social and sporting opportunities
that already exist could be extended to include all students affiliated and not just those in residence. Colleges
are successful because from day one of the first year student entering the college, they are led, engaged, shown
genuine interest, communicated with, and shown care for at a personal and most often face to face level. This can
be done because colleges have both the formal (e.g. tutorial/study rooms) and informal settings (dining halls) to
do so as well as the ‘inbuilt’ social structure. There is no reason (with good coordination) this can’t be extended to
include greater numbers.’

‘Twenty years ago we had a vibrant campus life, but it is ebbing away, and we need to instil in the students a
sense that University is about more than formal education. How to do this isn’t an easy question, but my own
thoughts include:
ÌÌ Some form of college affiliation (non-residential in many/most cases) for all students, with at least minimal

   social obligations.
ÌÌ Encourage a more balanced offering of social activities by central student bodies.

ÌÌ At the micro level, revival of some of the activities that have fallen by the wayside over time. For instance there

   used to be weekly lunchtime outdoor concerts in semester and a regular schedule of economically priced film
   showings in our large lecture theatres.’

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‘Our group believes that using residential colleges as the focal point for more educational, cultural and pastoral
engagement with students is a positive step forward. A cultural home for all students should create a sense of
belonging, and an enduring attachment to the university for graduates, with benefits for future generations of
students (in the Oxbridge tradition).’

‘I think UWA should learn from how independent high schools manage students’ lives at school. My sons are still
very attached to the high school, and the school also remembers them through the alumni programme….The
school has a big endowment fund, mostly from the alumni programme and Parents and Friends programme….This
is a very important issue. The majority of the funding of Harvard and Stanford is from the Endowment, which is from
alumni. They can afford offer scholarships to top students over the world. They can also afford offer competitive
salary for top staff.’

‘UWA grossly under performs in the area of providing a variety of outstanding ‘places’ for student and staff
interaction. Quality food and drinks, including high street style coffee / tea outlets don’t really exist on campus. The
mode of delivery via the Guild in-sourced model is sadly out of date and requires urgent re-working both from a
service and choice model as well as a facilities and options of locations plan that covers everyone and captures the
huge latent market …The Uni Club provides a valuable a quality service but to too few in the overall population and
at a price point not all can afford.’

Proposal 3: That the University develop structures for personalised mentoring and academic support
for, and particularly for first year, students, to enhance their engagement with the learning opportunities
presented by the University.

‘Our group believes that more face-to-face tutoring in small groups is desired to engage with undergraduates in a
positive educational experience.’

‘Student support and mentoring don’t always need to come from the academic sphere. Professional staff at UWA
can offer career advice, provide material for units from ‘real world’ scenarios, build friendships based on cultural
backgrounds and even be a cheap source of shared commuting if car pooling was made more broadly available.’

‘What training and/or selection will take place of those faculty that will be acting as “face to face” mentors of
undergraduate students?
Will the budget be sufficient to provide the level of quality that we need to provide to be successful?’

‘If we are to properly articulate the value of an on-campus experience for students, we need to encompass [the]
much broader perspective of personal development. As long as we continue to focus just on acquiring knowledge,
alternative sources of knowledge such as online courses, even reading books, will all seem to pose a significant
threat to the viability of the on-campus university. The reality is that most students require lots of emotional support
from their peers and teachers as they go through an extremely challenging period of emotional development. I
suspect that many of the teaching staff in the University would only be dimly aware of just how important their
physical presence is for this development.’

‘In discussions on the difficulties experienced by higher degree research students in writing their theses, several
staff commented on their students’ apparent weaknesses in critical thinking skills. I was finding the same weakness
among undergraduate students. When I introduced some material on critical thinking in my fourth year course,
I was surprised to find that almost none of the students even knew what critical thinking is…. I suspect that it is
in these issues that we will find much better ways to explain the immense value of an on-campus educational
experience to our constituencies.’

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‘I believe that the advantage we have over any online course from edX.org is that we can provide the mentoring
required to develop first years from a school student to a university undergraduate. I am very interested to see how
this can be developed for the first years, especially with the large class sizes. I would be very interested to be involved
in this scheme.’

‘While this is a good intention, I question the feasibility of such a proposal within the current staff support available.
Two existing structures that could be improved to provide mentoring an academic support are the colleges and the
student clubs. College tutors should be available for first year students, and student clubs are a good way to provide
students (particularly new students) with mentoring support – provided that such clubs are supported
by UWA.’

Proposal 4: That the University develop its study abroad program, with the goal of doubling the participation
of undergraduate students by 2020.

‘Are we brave enough to aim for a Study Abroad experience for all Cycle 1 degrees?’

‘We are under some pressure to provide study abroad experiences to our postgraduate students. However,
before we invest heavily in Study Abroad for PG students, we would need to get some indication of the UG
uptake and outcomes.’

‘Many students who take a “gap year” do so not knowing that they can have an overseas learning experience.’

‘As a beneficiary of the UWA Gledden Tour engineers’ trip in 1991, I fully support the international travel and exchange
initiative. Not only the personal growth and networking opportunity, but the ability to see what is being achieved
elsewhere and the motivation that provides to take a glass half full approach to study, work and life is difficult to
replicate so simply.’

‘We need to develop exchange ‘packages’ where students choose from established and carefully chosen sets of units
to suit their field of study, rather than dealing with each application on a case by case basis. This will enhance student
experience as well as our efficiency [by removing the need for completion of multiple study plans].
I think our current application timeframes also reduce opportunities for exchange.’

‘I am highly supportive of the UWA further developing its study abroad program. I would like to point out that the
International Office will need to provide more support for staff members who are keen to set up student exchange
with overseas universities.’

Proposal 5: That the University review, revise and develop its Cycle 2 (Masters) and Cycle 3 (PhD) programs
during 2013, and begin to bring new programs to market in 2015.

‘I suggest that this is expanded to contain a review of appropriate pedagogy for NC2012 Cycle 3 and
Cycle 3 programs.’

‘I wonder if the benchmarking of doctoral programs should be not only with Europe and N America, but also Asia?’

‘We support the benchmarking of our doctoral programs with the best on offer in Europe and North America, and
recommend that there is consideration of the track record of the supervisor when awarding APA scholarships. Good
students should have the opportunity to work with supervisors with an excellent track record for research input,
research output and mentoring.’

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‘With regard to Proposal 5, one suggestion to improve postgraduate education, especially PhDs, is to consider
including a limited amount of coursework. In terms of the biomedical sciences, I think that technology is
evolving so rapidly that PhD candidates are in danger of not being suitably trained in, or aware of, the latest
developments….In addition, the coursework could include discussion of vital social and ethical issues relating to
new technologies (e.g. stem cells, genetic information etc), life within the grant cycle, and alternative careers in
industry rather than academia.’

‘The research environment a PhD candidate finds themselves in has a huge bearing on their experience and future
prospects. Research teams working at the cutting edge often provide an invigorating and dynamic environment
for their PhD students. Importantly, care of each individual candidate, and appropriate mentoring, are essential.
Some research organisations now have a comprehensive plan for their students, outlining a career path from PhD
project design, early publication of data, applications for Fellowships, identification of Postdoctoral opportunities
overseas, together with plans for returning to Australia. Numerous academic staff at UWA appear to “dabble” in
research – nevertheless, they remain able to attract postgraduate students who may have a less-than-fulfilling
experience.’

‘…development of Cycle 2 and Cycle 3 programs is vital; no doubt there are gaps in our array of postgraduate
offerings. But it would be appropriate to acknowledge that this development is well under way as a central part of
the NC2012 implementation. Indeed quite early in the Review of Course Structures process…a subsidiary working
party chaired by David Plowman produced numerous interim recommendations on revising and expanding
postgraduate coursework, which were accepted by Academic Council back in February 2008, were reinforced by
subsequent reports, and have been systematically pursued since then…. It is just a matter of reaffirming that this
is a priority and continuing to build on what UWA has already achieved in the context of
new courses.’

‘Although I welcome a review and revision of UWA’s Masters and PhD course structure, such a review in 2013–
2015 would be ill-timed. Staff members are adapting to the new 2012 courses this year. It will take at least three
years until all staff members completely understand the new course structure. They will need time to develop
new teaching skills (e.g. for new block-taught units), and to develop new quality teaching materials. Undertaking
a review of Postgraduate courses, and proposing a revision in 2015, is likely to result in excessive and undesirable
pressure on staff.’

‘Our group recommends that UWA should very rapidly embrace the 3-year Bachelors, 2 year Masters cycle.
These education cycles should be firmly embedded under the Education portfolio (focusing on coursework)
whereas the Research portfolio should be responsible for PhD training (and potentially also Masters
research projects).’

3. Research
‘To attract top researchers to the most isolated capital city in the world, the University needs to have the
best possible physical facilities (buildings, equipment etc), as well as a stimulating and supporting emotional
environment. Like anyone else, researchers need to feel valued and appreciated for their contributions. Young
postdoctoral Fellows and new academic appointees, in particular, need to be nurtured carefully.
Many researchers within the University feel like second class citizens, as serious tensions have developed
between “research-focused” staff and those engaged with teaching. The designations of Winthrop Professors and
Research Professors only heighten these distinctions.’

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‘Our group believes that Institutes and Centres provide the best environment for international level research,
where people can work collaboratively in interdisciplinary teams, in a spirit of common purpose. The group aims to
see environments created in which people come to work with a spirit of collaboration with their colleagues rather
than competition.
The group further observes and recommends:
ÌÌ That   a Vice-Chancellor’s Strategic Fund is created (to replace the VC’s Discretionary Fund). This will allow UWA
   to react rapidly to new opportunities and to create new ones.
ÌÌ Further developing Proposal 7, that continuing academic appointments should be made at University level

   according to strategic priorities and to well-argued cases from Institute Directors. Appointments at this level
   will free Institutes of the financial constraints and conflicts of balancing the books where the bulk of turnover is
   attributed to salaries. Institute Directors can then also be more creative and unencumbered with unnecessary
   administrative load. This move will also engender a culture of researcher mobility and freedom to operate
   between Institutes according to changing research direction or priorities.
ÌÌ That Institute and Centre Directors should report to management at the Vice-Chancellery level, from where

   strategic decisions and leadership emanate.
ÌÌ That Institute and Centre Directors should provide leadership and vision focused on the University’s Top 50

   ambition. Academics with such vision are not likely to welcome a heavy administrative role.
ÌÌ That since ARC and NHMRC are core funders of basic and strategic research of potential world-class quality,

   UWA must appoint academics with a proven track record of success with such RCs or with others of similar
   international standing. Fellowship recipients must be key targets for recruitment, and must be given strong
   support upon arrival.
ÌÌ That UWA acts specifically to enhance its national standing, firstly to help attract more funding from National

   Competitive Grants Schemes, charities, industry and RDCs and secondly to strengthen UWA’s voice on national
   decision-making bodies. The group suggests implementing specific measures to encourage UWA academics to
   establish professional and personal relationships with top academics elsewhere in Australia. We acknowledge
   the importance of Research Collaboration Awards and suggest setting up a working group to consider additional
   initiatives such as joint scholarships, ‘quick-n-easy’ travel funds, a Canberra office, an assessment of the benefits
   of EMBO membership compared to investment in Australia, etc.
ÌÌ That UWA matching funding for ARC Linkage (and similar) applications is agreed centrally as a matter of principle.

   Currently, time is wasted by academics trying to negotiate multiple small pots of money from different Schools
   and Faculties.
ÌÌ That PhD programs should be firmly under the ‘Research’ portfolio. We propose that the university should invest

   in many more PhD scholarships and Fee Waivers for top international students, since such an investment will be
   more than recouped in income from completions, plus increased research output and quality. Such scholarships
   should be strategically targeted according the university’s research priorities.
ÌÌ That academic supervisors should be able to apply to the university for such PhD scholarships. Scholarships

   assigned to specific projects and supervisors should be advertised widely to pro-actively attract the best
   students to UWA. This will help to reverse the current re-active mode of research student recruitment that is
   driven by student preferences. It will get the best research students into the best research environments (‘hot
   spots’) for maximum benefit of both student and university.’

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A representation of a possible academic and administrative structure is given below.

‘The most significant challenge facing UWA’s capacity to attain a top 50 position is the lack of financial support
for research in the face of significant financial competition by other institutions in the Eastern States. There is a
significant disconnect between what the Executive at UWA apparently directs the Faculties and Schools to fund
with respect to research activities in the School and what happens in reality.
In reality, salary on-costs and any additional salary entitlements that arise as a result of enterprise bargaining
agreements are not provided by the School….Schools look for solutions to reduce the financial “burden” of
research. Chief Investigators are advised that they should limit the duration of contracts for research staff paid
from national competitive grants so that all costs are met by the grant. This becomes a vicious cycle of reduced
productivity. In reality the research objectives then cannot be met, publication output is reduced and success with
subsequent grant submissions is limited or ceases altogether.
In the case of administration of a Fellowship, it is typical practice for a Fellow who has been awarded a contract
with a fixed duration of funding (e.g. 2-yr fellowship), to be urged to accept one of 3 options: a reduced duration
of contract, a fractional appointment or the 2-year fellowship with an accumulating debt in the fellowship account.
The debt then attracts persistent communication from School management who insist that the Fellow find a way
to reduce the debt because it is the Fellow’s “responsibility” to do so. This can continue for years. Any additional
funds provided by the funding agency for travel support are never realised because the account is accumulating
debt, thereby limiting the Fellow’s ability to present research at national and international meetings. Given UWA’s
isolation this is a significant impediment.
….Debts associated with research activities are carried from one school to another and not dealt with by Heads
of Schools….Research staff are requested to “find” funds for office computers, office equipment and building of
lab benches that are Institutional/School expenses…. There is little understanding at the level of the School that
research is different from teaching and requires forward planning and budgeting. Other institutions/universities
around Australia are willing to fully fund research salaries and provide additional funds for support staff and
consumables with the explicit intent of attracting Fellows away from the less supportive environments.’

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‘If UWA truly desires to work towards becoming recognised as a top 50 University by 2050 it needs to:
1. Correctly identify the roles and responsibilities of full time members of research staff. These responsibilities
    include meeting the aims of research projects, producing data of the highest possible quality within the agreed
    timeframe of the project. For Research Fellows, these responsibilities are based on the Deed of Agreement
    associated with the award.
2. Clearly define policies regarding the responsibilities of the University, Faculty and School in supporting full time
    members of research staff.
Once clear definitions have been identified, those in University/Faculty/ School positions need be educated to this
effect.
This will:
1. Avoid misunderstandings between the University/Faculties/School, intentional or otherwise, in relation to the
   responsibilities of the University/Faculty/School in supporting full time members of research staff.
2. Avoid responsibilities of the School being passed on to Research Staff…
3. Allow research staff to focus primarily on meeting the aims of their research projects.
Improved support for existing members of UWA research staff, particularly early career researchers, will set up for
a positive growth spiral towards improving UWA’s research profile over the next 50 years and beyond.’

‘Perth has the opportunity to develop like San Diego, which went from sleepy retirement city to vibrant
biotechnology hub in a short period of time. Are there lessons to be learnt from San Diego’s experience, especially
as it is a sister city to Perth?’

Proposal 6: That the University further concentrate its research effort in areas of recognised national and
international excellence, and in areas of demonstrable research potential.

‘We need to improve the impact and reputation of our research, and connect more strongly to the global research
endeavour. We need to do much better within the Group of Eight.’

‘Concentration is important – I suspect we rarely cease an area of low value research. The graphs you did at the
start of the year on research performance need constant reiteration.’

‘I support the need for concentrating expertise. However, how will the areas of research concentration be
defined? I can envisage underperforming groups finding ways to resist this change, using various criteria to
support their arguments.’

‘Focusing the research effort on areas of proven, or potential, excellence makes sense given resource constraints.
There will inevitably be “losers” from such a strategy, with the obvious morale and other implications. If discipline
area X is seen to be under-appreciated/under-resourced or as just a cash cow, recruiting high quality faculty in
that area could get tough. Teaching only appointments in such areas might be necessary, and perhaps even
desirable if those hired bring a high level of recently obtained, practical experience to the classroom.’

‘UWA has finite resources and it is inevitable that we will have to concentrate our research efforts in areas
of excellence. I support this, but hope you will address the concerns of staff (likely to include myself) whose
research falls outside of those areas. I believe if you take pains to articulate your intention, following through with
implementation of policies to recognise staff contributions to teaching and service, it will go a long way to assuage
staff anxiety and maintain the excellent teaching programs and collegiality within UWA. It will be helpful also if
there are exit mechanisms for staff so that excellence is built upon excellence.’

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‘I wonder what this proposal means for Schools and Faculties that are vital to support ongoing research, but are
not leading institutes in their field. I imagine a lot of anxiety arising from your proposal. Staff may fear for their jobs,
which is unlikely to increase their teaching quality and research productivity.’

‘I would suggest that UWA is very guarded on its role in support of research in the “National Interest”, not
just excellence. Federal funds will often flow to institutions that have a finger on the pulse of what aligns with
Government initiatives and strategic thinking. We are doing well in areas such as the environment, agriculture
and medicine. What are the emerging trends… from what I have been exposed to, massive urbanisation of the
population, transport, resource efficiency and food security will also be national and global challenges of this
century.’

‘I see the peer-review processes afforded by NHMRC and ARC (for example) as being good arbiters of the
national/international quality and importance of proposed research activities. However, even when awarded
such finding, a major challenge is the increasing tendency of these bodies to arbitrarily cut the budget for a given
project. Ideally, the University should provide a mechanism to financially support successful NHMRC/ARC grants
that have had their budget unfairly cut.’

‘…it is in fact a misperception that funding agencies favour concentrations of research expertise. Competitive
granting bodies do not take into consideration whether there are large groupings that are research active. This
has frequently been argued by CEO NHMRC Warwick Anderson. The national competitive funding bodies
want to support the very best research….Centres for Excellence and Program Grants have a finite life and
limited opportunities for renewal whereas many internationally excellent researchers have built their reputations
upon successful and continuous funding from project grants and have done so for decades….UWA received
approximately $20 million in Project Grant funding in 2011.
6 other universities were more successful than UWA with University of Melbourne and University of Sydney
receiving nearly $60 million each. We can do so much better than this with the right support. The challenge for the
university’s Executive is to identify the individuals that are undertaking excellence in research and then ensure that
the researchers are appropriately supported.’

Proposal 7: That all academic recruitment at level B and above be aligned with the workforce and
research plan of the relevant unit; be based on extensive national and international search; and, be
referenced against rigorous objective criteria.

‘Should we look at succession planning due to ageing workforce around proposal 7?’

‘One would hope that the relevant unit was cognisant of the University’s strategic direction and unlikely to go off
on a tangent – how would this be monitored?’

‘Talent management is key – we need to really get this right and support targeted selection and development. Big
opportunity for HR to support.’

‘I believe UWA should not only attract and hire the best staff drawn from the international community, but also put
in place policies and infrastructure to help them become established within the Australian research community.
To ensure success for new hires, we should bring in only those who can integrate and thrive in identified areas of
research excellence, and provide them with mentors, dedicated research time, equipment and research students
in the first couple of years.’

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