John Dewar’s new plan for La Trobe U: bold succeeded by bolder

John Dewar’s new plan for La Trobe University is rare among higher education strategies in that it is actually a plan, with hard numbers among the aphorisms. Vice Chancellor Dewar’s strategy commits to LTU becoming a billion-dollar business.

“Compound Annual Growth Rate for Revenue of 7.5% over the five-year period of this strategic plan will double revenue growth, from $135m in 2012-17 to more than $270m in 2018-22); and achieve $1.1B in revenue by 2022.”

Professor Dewar will need all of it to achieve an ambitious plan that addresses the transformative challenges higher education faces to become what he calls, “university 4.0.”

His plan is designed to deliver:

#  “customised, on-demand learning offered in multiple modes,”

# “a mix of degrees and shorter cycle qualifications and credentials,”

# “life-long career management for students and alumni, which will include the ability to ‘top up’ standard university qualifications to address skills gaps throughout a working life”  and

# “physical sites for co-location and collaboration with industry and other partners for research and innovation, including as brokers of relationships.”

While the plan lacks specifics on curricula and employment prep it puts students at the centre and emphasises working to their schedules; “our students increasingly expect to engage with their studies flexibly, including through online and micro-credential options in addition to more traditional degree structures.”

The Dewar manifesto is also realistic about LaTrobe’s research future, pointing to improvements but carefully suggesting the university cannot take the next steps alone; “we have a successful record of local collaboration in research, and now is the moment to increase the level of international collaboration in our research effort. This global perspective will help us achieve greater influence and impact.”

There is, it seems a way to go; “we will transform La Trobe’s existing R&D park into a thriving research and innovation precinct to attract global partners, and world class research and education collaborations.”

The most significant research target Professor Dewar sets is to reach the top 250 in the Academic Ranking of World Universities by 2022. LTU was 336 last year, after failing to make the global 500 in 2014 and ’15.

Uproar accompanied Professor Dewar’s previous plan Future Ready, with the campus branch of the NTEU warning that he was sacrificing jobs to an overly ambitious agenda (CMM August 14 2014). But he is still standing now and manifestly game to have an even bolder go.


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