Crossing the Horizon: checking out the changes

By Laura Clark

With the release of UniSA’s new strategic plan, Crossing the Horizon, we have some idea of what changes to expect at uni over the next five years. However, like most documents that explain a plan, it’s hard to absorb. So, here is a breakdown of the goals the university is aiming to achieve and what they actually mean.

The key themes within this document are an increased emphasis on infrastructure, creating industry-ready graduates, and becoming a global university. Regardless of whether this program is successful, there are a lot of ideas: some building on existing aspects of the university, while others creating entirely new priorities.

The first and second sections of the booklet are largely concerned with what experience the university will offer to students in the future. This includes:

  • increased opportunities for internships
  • participation in research grant programs
  • an expert advisory board, and
  • increased emphasis on Masters-level qualifications, to improve our chances of actually getting jobs after graduating.

To improve the experience of being at the university, they have planned further connections with other institutions, a buddy system between students and staff members, UniSA merchandise (presumably akin to the American model), flexible curriculums, a blend of face-to-face and online learning, and redeveloping orientation week to have a more whole-of-university approach. The introduction of “core capabilities” is an extension of the idea of graduate qualities and transferable skills. A major new concept in this plan is that of UniSA Research Themes: the idea being that research within the key disciplines at UniSA will focus on specific challenges, creating a cohesive approach to research within the University.

Sections three and seven are concerned with staffing and administration problems. They plan to place greater emphasis on hiring staff who are focused on teaching and are effective communicators. In the next five years there should be 100 new staff members connected to UniSA Research Themes and the key disciplines. To further focus on industry relevance, they will introduce a program of industry professionals as practitioners-in-residence. Administration will be moved wholly online and the number of committees will be reduced.

The fourth section focuses on new infrastructure plans: creating a UniSA Business School at City West; student accommodation in the CBD, Magill and Mawson Lakes; a sports and cultural complex including a ‘Great Hall’ (is JK going to take issue with this?); and improved laboratories for education students at Magill and for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). As part of a general outreach program they will also contribute to the South Australian Health Precinct with a Centre for Cancer Biology, an inter-professional community clinic, and will promote science and research with the ScICEd Studio. The Hawke Research Institute will also be fully accommodated in the Hawke Building.

The other key theme within the document is the university’s desire to reach out to both the local and global community. On the local front the plan is a social entrepreneurship hub, university-wide volunteering programs, three new regional learning hubs (unspecified locations), implementation of the recommendations of the 2012 Disability Action Plan, appointinment of a Director of Equity Services, and a mixture of existing and new mentoring strategies. On the global front there are plans for philanthropic funding, increased offshore educational collaborations, further links with China, international joint-research centres, reconnection with global alumni, postgraduate programs that meet the needs of international professionals and industry, and an increase in international students to 30% of the student population.

As you can see, this is a document full of ideas, plans and promises. However, time will tell whether everything here will be successfully implemented, and what these changes will actually mean for UniSA.

Crossing the Horizon can be viewed online here

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