What will 2027 look like? “Nobody really has a crystal ball for the next 10 years,” smiles Provost Andrew Parfitt. “But although the future might not be entirely clear, the future is ours to take.”
This year, Andrew’s been leading the charge in developing the university’s next long-term strategy, and taking an innovative approach in doing so.
Most recently, he’s launched UTS2027, a collaborative ideas platform to enable staff to share ideas around six themes (or challenges, as they’ve been called): ‘Lifetime of learning and the changing nature of work – postgraduate’, ‘An excellent student experience’, ‘Good to do business with’, ‘Transformational research platforms’, ‘Social justice and community’, and ‘An excellent environment for staff’.
“We put forward some ideas and some questions in that space to harness the resource that our 10,000 staff provide.
“Our staff are abreast with where developments are nationally and internally and what the trends are in education and research. So we have an enormous talent pool of expertise.” And although students, alumni, industry and business partners are also being consulted, Andrew says staff consultation is fundamental “because they're the people who live and breathe what we do.
“We have a very clear vision for what we want to achieve as UTS,” he affirms. “A vision for a university of technology that's not just focused on being a science and engineering university, but one that uses technology to improve public benefit and is committed to issues around social justice.”
But, he cautions, there are external pressures we need to be aware of too, for example the uncertainty of government funding and the changing nature of postgraduate education. “We've been watching, for a long time, the change in postgraduate education, what that looks like and the opportunities that are available to people in business for upskilling, for changing career.
“Traditionally we thought about university education as being credentialed, in formal award courses, very largely based on-campus and very significantly associated with a structured curriculum. But at postgraduate level all of those assumptions are being challenged.”
And, that’s why, rather than just writing 'we will reinvent postgraduate education for the future in this dynamic environment', Andrew and the university executive made the decision to engage with the university community to meaningfully affect change.
“So we're not saying, ‘let's just start again with a strategic plan that doesn't have a foundation’, we're saying ‘we've identified six key areas that we think will define us over the next decade. Let's have a conversation about what that might look like’.”
And although the idea generation component of UTS2027 is very focused, that doesn’t mean the work’s done.
Right now, Andrew’s working with the university’s senior executives to test some of the ideas and propositions raised during the initial consultation. By June, their results will be presented to Council before undergoing further development and, if need be, consultation. The new strategic plan is set to be signed off by the senior executive and Council in October.
“For some of the ideas, people will run with them irrespective of us writing them into the strategic plan. Others will be fundamental for us being able to deliver the sort of outcomes we want for students, staff, our graduates and the community.
“And, some ideas might not yet have their time. So it will be great to capture them as well because they may be suitable for helping us adapt to another wave of change and, in the future, differentiating UTS as a leading university of technology.”