Preparing for the higher education reset
Professor Brooks is the Strategic Initiative Coordinator for the New ways of working initiative, a key component of the UTS strategy, UTS 2027. This blog is part of a series to create a continuing conversation and help you understand what ‘new ways of working’ means, both at UTS and across the higher education sector.
Global macro events serve as catalysts for trends already in play, and the impact of COVID-19 on the higher education sector is no exception. Aside from the immediate financial challenges and the national and international repositioning to online modes of learning, we were already seeing more demand being placed on the higher education industry to reposition our relationship to external stakeholders. In particular, an increased urgency for the sector to be more engaged with the needs of industry, to deliver more impactful research and to provide lifelong educational opportunities for our community of students.
In my first blog on New ways of working (prior to COVID-19) I called for the higher education sector to pay attention to the structure and function of its own workforce, or risk high levels of burnout.
I also highlighted that the increasing complexity of the academic endeavour has not only stretched the workload of academics but is demanding a set of capabilities that is becoming increasingly impossible to be found in one person. COVID-19 has increased the speed and intensity of these challenges as our academic and professional staff have rapidly needed to pivot core business models to successfully deliver teaching and learning and conduct our programs of research in very different ways.
Adapting for the future
As current trends are further accelerated, the future of universities will be defined by how we transition to different modes of teaching, how we adapt the student experience, and how we engage with industry and other key stakeholders to grow new forms of revenue.
Our future will also be shaped by the conversations we have with our communities and stakeholders, including discussions about the value of universities in the public mind. While responding to the immediacy of the issues created by the pandemic, we also need to ask, ‘How do we really lean into and deliver on the values of our universities as public service institutions, during a time of increased human need?’
Now, more than ever, we need to create a renewed conversation within our sector and with our stakeholders, be they students, collaborators or industry partners, about the value of our contribution and what ‘good looks like’ in terms of academic activity.
Fundamentally we need to work out how to leverage our disciplinary expertise in order to be successful in a changed economic and social landscape. In many senses, it will be through leveraging what we have always done best, namely; our role in new discovery, our creativity and knowledge leadership that needs to be re-positioned to solve the emerging challenges of the current decade.
Moreover, these solutions will need to embrace academics ability to be critical, disruptive thinkers who not only engage in new discovery, but who also actively contribute alternative ways of thinking about challenges. The reset in what we do will largely be about how we deploy and leverage that.
What we're doing
At UTS we are doing exactly that. A core part of the UTS 2027 strategy is re-thinking roles, activities and support for academia. Under the New ways of working element of the strategy, academics, professional colleagues, faculties and divisions from the whole of UTS have come together to work on concrete solutions to the challenges faced by our academic and professional staff communities. We’re looking at our culture, behaviours and core processes across eight areas like work allocation tools and models, and reward and recognition frameworks. This work will inform how we support the development of our workforce across the university and revitalise the career paths of all our staff.
Professor Fiona Brooks ADVCR
- Academic Excellence: What does good look like?
- Professional Staff: Traditional, hybrid/ third spacer and partner
- Capability: Development of our academic workforce
- Leadership: Moving from the ‘I to the We.’
- Organisation Policy: Supporting workforce change
- Location: Implications of multi-mode working
- Culture: Trust, autonomy
Have your say
What positive changes can we make to foster academic excellence? Join the conversation and share your ideas at UTS2027@uts.edu.au