A Beacon for Learning and Teaching
To retain and enhance its attraction to students in the increasingly competitive environment ahead, the University of Adelaide needs to offer a compelling, irresistible educational proposition.
An approach which recaptures the union of teaching and research, features the small-group experience and offers a suite of Advanced Bachelor programs for those ready for more independent work will be key to its differentiation. But there must be more—the approach also needs a distinctive international experience, work experience, and a commitment to enhanced online resources. In 2013 a Beacon of Learning Taskforce will work with each faculty to plan for these changes and their rollout from 2014.
Central to the research university idea is the quality of the student experience. An Adelaide Student Experience Charter will set out the kind of campus experience we shall commit to providing. This will include standards for student: staff ratios and for contact with academic guides and mentors. It will also include a clear statement of the Adelaide Graduate Attributes that sets out the values and skills employers can expect from all Adelaide graduates. The Taskforce will then work with Faculties to embed these values and skills in every program. We will also ensure Adelaide students are ready for graduate employment through a Graduate Career Readiness Program, offering tailored work experience and career mentoring in the workplace.
Another key attribute of the Adelaide experience will be inculcating a sense of global citizenship. The Asian Century is upon us and we will seize learning opportunities arising from Asia’s geographical proximity, combining all that is best from western intellectual traditions with the diverse forms of knowledge of Asia. We will foster intercultural competence, based on participation in Study Abroad or in a new Host Program for international students. Experience abroad will be deemed an essential part of the necessary breadth of skills and knowledge that defines a future leader, and understanding of indigenous issues and culture will also contribute to the sort of intercultural competence the University will aim to foster in its graduates. The Charter will commit to every student completing one of these—graduate work experience/career mentoring, study abroad, or an International Student Host Program.
Each of these innovations involves a new external engagement opportunity—developing multiple alliances with graduate employers willing to participate in the Graduate Career Readiness Program, and recruitment of a cohort of Adelaide families ready to participate in an International Student Host Program. In both of these programs alumni volunteers will be invited to provide the core resource. For the expanded Study Abroad Program, the University will sign strategic partnerships with a small number of key universities, carefully selected in the USA, Asia and Europe to offer specific programs enabling the exchange of sizeable groups of students. These initiatives will be fully operational by 2015, so all students entering from 2013 have the chance to experience them.
Adelaide will remain a campus university, for the scholarship of discovery involves personalised learning which happens best face-to-face. But prospective students need confidence their learning will be better supported by digital learning resources. Where high-quality content can be effectively delivered online with demonstrable pedagogical integrity it will be, to free staff time for small-group discovery where the focus can shift to learning and problem solving. Working students will greatly value the flexibility such multimodal delivery formats bring them. During the Plan period the University will treble its expenditure on IT learning support and e-learning, and ensure that all new and existing teaching staff undertake development to better engage with digital learning.
Meanwhile, the University will build on its founders’ commitment to creating a student body of democratic breadth. A fundraising campaign will be launched to double the number of scholarships for students of disadvantage, for students of ability from remote and regional areas or from backgrounds that would otherwise prevent their aspiring to study at Adelaide. Flexible delivery such as intensive mode and online formats will also help the University meet the needs of students unable to attend the campus for reasons of personal circumstance.
A shift towards the educational proposition described above involves obvious challenges. Creating a menu of Advanced Bachelor programs, embedding graduate career-readiness attributes, and offering small-group discovery across the university will require imaginative planning, detailed attention to disciplinary differences, and some changes to admission requirements. Resources will need redirection from less strategic uses into developing study abroad assistance, needs-based scholarships, enhanced IT and e-learning, and administering the International Student Host and Graduate Career Readiness Programs.
And over time, teaching patterns will alter. As more content becomes delivered online, staff will have more time to devote to students, especially in smallgroup settings. Hours of work will become more flexible as the academic calendar and timetable respond to changing content delivery modes. As staff increasingly focus their specialised interests through leading discovery in core courses rather than in small electives, the total subject offering will likely contract. But this will likely increase rather than diminish the opportunities to explore a staff member’s specific discipline interests, albeit within more focused, more manageable workloads.