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April 2006 Issue
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Adelaide in strong position as 'university of choice'

 University Meeting

The University of Adelaide is in a strong position to withstand the challenges posed by reforms to higher education, including the Federal Government's new industrial relations framework and quotas, according to Vice-Chancellor, Professor James McWha.

In his opening address to the University Community annual meeting last month, Professor McWha said the huge increase in governance requirements, regulations and reporting demands had placed staff under significant pressure.

"At the same time, our government funding has increased only by about 2.5% per annum," he said.

"Should we miss any government requirement we risk losing even that increase in our funding. This is a very real challenge."

Professor McWha said the University also had to accept that public perception of its standing as a tertiary education provider would increasingly rely on rankings.

But he said the Learning and Teaching Performance Fund, part of the Federal Government's Our Universities: Backing Australia's Future initiative, was a consequence of an "ill-conceived and shoddily implemented process".

"The rankings were based on a Course Experience Questionnaire and Graduate Destination Survey. These self-administered devices with low return rates were misused by the Government in a process criticised by almost every statistician who has examined it, including the Government's own independent review," he said.

"Nevertheless, the University has embarked on a range of initiatives to further improve the quality of teaching and learning as well as the overarching student experience."

The University also had to factor in the emergence of new types of universities, such as Carnegie Mellon, which has opened a campus in Adelaide.

"This opens up opportunities for us to compete with them on one level and co-operate on another," he said. "The main objective should be to ensure that the South Australian community gains an advantage."

Professor McWha said the University of Adelaide remained the "university of choice" for South Australians, with student numbers on the rise and demand for government-subsidised places increasing.

This year, 7914 students listed the University of Adelaide as their first preference, compared to 7013 in 2005.

And more than 7000 people took part in the University's external programs in 2005, answering criticism that the institution fails to engage with the wider community.

Professor McWha praised the Adelaide University Union, describing it as "one of the most forward thinking in Australia" in its efforts in working together with the University to plan for the introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism.

"They have worked to ensure the best possible outcome for students in this difficult time of transition," he said.

Professor McWha and the Chancellor, Mr John Von Doussa, concluded the meeting after answering questions posed by members of the University community.

Story by Candy Gibson

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