From the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Delivering 'world-ready' graduates
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
Universities are unique organisations, concerned with the dual purpose of manufacturing and distributing knowledge.
Evaluating our performance in producing knowledge has just become more transparent, thanks to the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative. How do we ensure that our capacity to distribute knowledge, the very purpose of education, matches our capacity to produce it? And what does distributing knowledge actually mean?
The Australian Higher Education sector has struggled with this notion for some decades. Recent governments appear to want universities to operate as both a tool for social engineering and a commercially driven, export revenue-earning sector, while employers and society at large judge us on our capacity to add value to our graduates.
To satisfy the most basic needs of students and employers, we must first ensure that knowledge transfer actually occurs. This is best done by focusing on learning outcomes, as opposed to teaching practices. In other words, universities must demonstrate a degree of flexibility and be willing to enhance the students' capacity to absorb, interpret and comprehend the discipline-based information we offer them.
Many have argued that our purpose, as a university, should not be just to make students job-ready. I agree. This is too restrictive, amounting to little more than the imparting of skills soon to become obsolete in a fast changing world.
What we should aim to do, what we should thrive for, is to make our graduates 'world-ready'.
Knowledge is a global construct. Countries are no longer economically independent. The future wealth and wellbeing of Australia depends on what happens in China. In this context, our mission, our contribution, our value proposition to society as well as to our students should be that graduates from the University of Adelaide are not only job-ready, not only life-ready, but absolutely world-ready.
To achieve this, we must embrace internationalisation in a more proactive way. Internationalisation is not about welcoming as many international students as we can, although creating a multicultural community of staff and students is very much part of the equation. To succeed in making our graduates truly world-ready, we must ensure that our curriculum is not only internationalised but also modular, so blocks of study can be taken by foreign students, just as courses offered by our international university partners should become 'modules', that local students can use to build their own pathway of learning.
Educational experiences abroad, be they study tours or whole semesters, should become the norm for University of Adelaide students rather than a challenge filled with unfamiliarity and uncertainty as they are widely perceived today.
We shall know we have achieved our objectives when students do not question 'if' but ask 'when' they will study abroad as part of their degree. Australia lags far behind the rest of the world when it comes to student mobility. Yet to equip our students as tomorrow's global citizens, we must take the lead in developing relevant international learning experiences, thereby delivering genuine excellence in global education.
PROFESSOR PASCALE QUESTER
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Academic)