National acclaim for innovative student learning experience
UTS’s Creative Intelligence and Innovation degree has been recognised at Australia’s highest awards for university teaching.
The team behind the world’s first transdisciplinary degree, the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation (BCII), has been honoured with a national higher education award recognising UTS’s pioneering vision to bring industry collaboration into the classroom.
As part of the prestigious Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT), the BCII was honoured with the 2019 Award for Programs that Enhance Learning. The award recognises outstanding programs that make innovative or outstanding contributions to student learning and the quality of the student experience.
Six members of the BCII teaching and engagement team, including Associate Professor Bem Le Hunte, Amanda McGregor, Dr Alex Baumer, Dr Paul Brown, Dr Betty O’Neill and Beth Wilson, were honoured at a ceremony in Canberra for outstanding leadership in Educational Partnerships and Collaboration with Other Organisations.
Bringing the real world into the classroom
Launched in 2014, the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation is a combined degree that brings together students from 25 different disciplines across all seven of UTS’s faculties. BCII students explore a future-oriented, industry-engaged curriculum through a unique transdisciplinary approach – where diverse perspectives are applied to complex and dynamic challenges – helping students develop high-level critical and creative thinking skills which are highly valued in the workforce.
The AAUT judges praised both the quality and impact of the BCII: “The program is truly innovative and leads the way, in this space, in Australia… [it] has been an outstanding success in terms of student learning, engagement and experience.
During the degree, students are tasked with finding innovative, creative and entrepreneurial outcomes to complex real-world challenges, working with more than 600 partner organisations, such as Google, the Royal Australian Air Force, PwC, Commonwealth Bank, Breville, NSW Health, as well as a range of community organisations and social businesses.
This has seen students explore the future of digital transactions and global payments for Visa; tomorrow’s smart cities for Accenture; alcohol-fuelled violence with the City of Sydney; and helped foodtech start up v2foods investigate opportunities for plant-based meat products in Australia.
Creating a ‘third space’ for collaboration
Professor Louise McWhinnie, Dean of the Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation at UTS, says the BCII embodies UTS’s vision of creating a porous ‘third space’ environment where industry and university boundaries merge.
“With a focus on continually evolving the BCII program through the co-creation of subjects and educational experiences with industry partners, this is a shining example of what future-focused education can become,” she says.
The degree’s partner organisations participate in a broad range of collaborative activities – from innovative workshops with students, multi-team transdisciplinary internships, delivering live briefs to more than 300 students to work on, right up to transdisciplinary teams of 4-5 students taking a deep dive into an industry problem with an organisation over 4-5 months.
“This type of deep engagement and collaboration also provides our industry partners with access to a new generation of innovative thinkers in a program that challenges both students and partners to think in new and creative ways, for a very different, and complex future,” Professor McWhinnie says.
For industry partners, the impact of exploring new ways of thinking about tomorrow’s complex challenges has proven so valuable, they’ve also expressed a desire to start using these unique transdisciplinary approaches in-house to solve their own business challenges.
This has seen the team behind the BCII undergraduate program develop a new postgraduate program – the Master of Creative Intelligence and Strategic Innovation (MCISI) – designed specifically to help organisations upskill their teams in thinking differently and generating innovative, actionable approaches to complex problems. Launching this year, the MCISI program has been co-created with industry to deliver practical and flexible learning opportunities to help organisations boost their innovation capacity.
Amanda: This is a unique partner experience because these students have undergone an accelerated double degree. We have 25 different disciplines. They're innovating between the fields and they're working with open, complex, dynamic and network problems.
Alex: The best partner projects are ones where there's a very clearly defined problem space and the partner can give a very clear account of the challenges they're facing in their industry and it's a real world challenge.
Amartej: The best part of this subject was the relationship you get to form with your client and the resources they have available to you, the environment that they provide for you. You can work in their spaces, which is great.
Nick: What the students have done has actually opened up our eyes a little bit to what what might be possible.
Nathan: I was really surprised with some of the concepts that came out of the project itself.
Charlie: The best part of the experience for the project for me was probably watching the students throughout it and their enthusiasm.
James: Incredibly bright bunch.
James: It's pushed us a bit.
Charlie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Anandini: It let us make real impact and offer what we had from our core disciplines in in a space that really fostered in a real collaboration.
Martin: The imagination that they brought to our problems or our solutions, it was really, really refreshing. They work in autonomy, they work as a group. They're very much looking for insights. They're engaging. They want to ask questions. They question you and your responses. And that is really quite refreshing because from a professional perspective as well, it's good to be challenged.
Belinda: It's been more than what we could have expected and I think a lot of the professional relationships that we've had with the students and the friendships that we've developed will continue on. So it's definitely more than a five out of five.
Nathan: I'd recommend for people that are considering either maintaining their relationship with UTS and the BCII or thinking about joining it. Absolutely, it's a value. Importantly though, it's to recognize some of the intangible value that's going to come from that process because these students are going to bring a really different perspective.
Amanda: I would strongly recommend it because these are our future leaders. They have had award winning education and they will hold a mirror up to your organization, which our partners find surprising, delighting, adding a lot of value.
Work-ready graduates with future-focused skills
The opportunity to work so closely with industry has also proven popular with students – with the BCII program attracting strong competition for around 450 commencing places this year, making it one of UTS’s most popular study programs.
And while the BCII provides a dynamic, challenging program of study, the degree’s successful focus on creating work-ready graduates has seen more than 40% of the course’s students offered employment with their industry partners after their studies.
BCII course director, Associate Professor Bem Le Hunte, says the award affirms the critical need to create thriving environments for new ways of thinking to address the complex challenges of the future.
"This award is a tribute to all our true believers – our caring BCII academics, our tireless industry engagement team, our supportive partners across the global innovation ecosystem and our wonderful students, who inspire us every day to offer the best of ourselves so that they can achieve and contribute in extraordinary ways,” says Le Hunte.
For all those people in our world who help shape and support this creative, connected environment for thriving and transformation – thank you... this award is for you.