Leadership strategies for a higher education sector in flux

By Warren Bebbington

The 2020 pandemic experience signals a pivotal opportunity for a transformation in universities, critically through narrowing and sharpening a distinctive mission and aims for each campus. A series of strategies are proposed for university leadership, commencing with a move towards hybrid delivery of teaching and a reconceived support of the student experience, to a rescheduling of teaching semesters to fill the year, a repurposing of existing buildings to a blended-learning, externally-collaborative norm, a reallocation of funds away from new capital works towards investment in staff upskilling in digital tools and online pedagogy,  and towards an array of salaried appointment types rather than casuals contracts for staff.

Ways to address the financial crisis are outlined, focusing on a resizing of the university to fit new, more focused goals. These would also facilitate a revitalised, more purposeful approach to donors and government—to the former for more scholarships, research fellowships and chairs targeted to a university’s individual mission and strengths, and to the latter for urgent funds to save our national research effort from demise, to expand CSP places for the growing domestic  demand, and to refocus and recover some level of recruitment of international students.

Former Vice Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, Professor Warren Bebbington is a Professorial Fellow of the LH Martin Institute at The University of Melbourne.

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Warren Bebbington