The Vice-Chancellor Professor S Bruce Dowton updates staff on matters discussed at his recent Town Hall on 20 November.
Thank you to all staff who attended the Town Hall I hosted on 20 November. These events are an important part of my commitment to regular staff communication, ensuring you are kept up to date with the progress of strategic priorities for our University.
Town Hall events also provide me with the opportunity to hear what’s on your mind, and for you to find out more about the issues affecting the higher education sector globally, and those that impact your day-to-day work.
Reiterating the changing landscape in which we operate
As I mentioned in our previous Town Hall in June, it is important we are clear about how Macquarie is faring, and how we compare to other universities in Australia on important indices such as quality of learning engagement, quality of student support services, student experience and building research renown around real and measurable performance. This is why we continue to focus on our student success framework, why we are so heavily engaged in the curriculum transformation, and why we have refreshed our Learning and Teaching Plan and will revisit our Research Strategy.
Some other important enabling work that continues includes our campus masterplan, brand identity, external engagement and philanthropy programs. All of this is critical work for the future of Macquarie, and I thank everyone working in these programs to help prepare the University for the changing landscape ahead.
Adjusting to external market forces
The landscape is shifting, and this brings challenges. Last time, I foreshadowed complexity around domestic growth into the future with the re-election of the Federal Government and capped places. Slow growth in CSP places is predicted; 7.5% of performance-based funding is also at risk over the ensuing five years.
I spoke about our changing international markets and steps taken to meet the changing patterns of demand, particularly diversifying into other parts of the world, including other parts of Asia. Domestically, there is an increased emphasis on contribution of universities to national economic prosperity and government priorities, for example job growth.
These changes have intensified at pace, with a flat domestic undergraduate market with no increase in school leavers seeking places at Australian universities, alongside unpredictable external market factors affecting our global marketplace. Whilst we have been aware of these possibilities for a time, we have seen in recent months a further set of confounding external factors such as a recent national policy encouraging international students to attend regional universities across Australia and decisions of foreign governments providing favourable post study work visa programs which draw significant numbers of potential students for Australia to other countries.
These issues are not only factors affecting the financial situation of Macquarie, but all Australian universities. It is our goal to adjust to these market forces and to ensure a sustaining and sustainable future.
Recalibrating for our future
There are several change initiatives and workplace change proposals being considered to address this situation.
Short term initiatives proposed include:
Simplifying our organisational structure
- Restructuring of executive portfolio functions, disestablishing the University Services and Strategy portfolio (complete)
- Restructuring the organisation of faculties, disestablishing the Faculty of Human Sciences and reallocating the disciplines within a four-faculty structure (under consultation)
Pausing hiring of new staff (likely until mid- 2020)
- A Recruitment Exceptions Board has been established
Constraining budget expenditure in 2020
- For example, consulting and travel
Adjusting our building program
- Some campus development plans have been placed on hold
Faculty of Human Sciences
A workplace change proposal was circulated to all staff in the Faculty of Human Sciences, and other key stakeholders, on 25 November 2019. A copy of the workplace change proposal can be requested from Leonie Verzeletti, HR Manager, Faculty of Human Sciences at Leonie.Verzeletti@mq.edu.au.
I also met again last week with members of the Student Representative Council (SRC) prior to the distribution of the workplace change proposal. I welcomed their engagement on the context for change as well as their input on broader student communication.
Questions, feedback and concerns
During the Town Hall, several questions, comments and concerns were raised. These included executive remuneration, including my own; the operation of the University finances across the group, including the hospital; and managing the impact of change on our staff and students.
Executive remuneration is set by a formal committee outside the executive membership of the University. This committee comprises external members of the University’s governing body and bases its decisions on a range of factors, including benchmarking data within the sector. That committee will continue to determine the parameters within which executive and senior staff remuneration is undertaken.
In response to questions around the finances of the University, I will shortly be arranging information sessions on:
- MQ Health Enterprise, including Macquarie University Hospital
- The operation of finances across the University group
It is important for us to reflect on the vision we set in Our University: A Framing of Futures approximately six years ago, about what we want to be as a university and how our students can contribute to the future economic and social prosperity of the nation. Our University: A Framing of Futures continues to ground us in the work we are doing.
In the new year we will look to refocus under Our University: A Framing of Futures. There will be a period of consultation across the University in early 2020 to develop initiatives and plans for 2020 – 2024.
I thank you for the efforts made every day to ensure the success of Macquarie University and its community.
Should you wish to provide feedback or discuss items raised above, please email me at email@example.com.
Professor S Bruce Dowton MD
Vice-Chancellor and President