Australian higher education is in a period of significant and sustained change and disruption.

The Universities Accord process is contemplating changes to oversight and funding for HE. The Australian Research Council review is presenting opportunities for better advice to government on research priorities and demonstrating the effectiveness of public funding for research.

Global rankings are celebrating significant milestones and updating their methodologies, whilst universities are questioning the incentives and misalignments between university missions and rankings success.

Increases to loan indexation and student contributions have potential students questioning the value of further study. Artificial intelligence advances are accelerating the emergence of risks associated with academic integrity, cybersecurity and employability.

As universities are contemplating these changes, discussion frequently returns to the value proposition of higher education and research. As publicly funded institutions, are universities doing enough to justify their social licence to operate?

In our previous instalments we outlined how the University of Wollongong conceived a Strategy and Assurance portfolio, which brought together enabling functions focused on governance and policy, legal services, integrity, risk and assurance, academic quality and standards, data and analytics, and strategy.

This work was driven by an imperative to become more agile and resilient as part of the university’s short-term roadmap strategy. As we turn our thoughts to the next strategy cycle, this will position us well to achieve our ambition to be recognised as an anchor institution in the communities in which we operate.

An anchor institution is an organisation that is widely regarded for the value it generates through education, research, employment, community engagement and thought leadership. The prominence of environmental, social, and corporate governance frameworksAdd New in the private and public sectors speaks to the ethical lens through which institutions are now frequently being judged.

Universities, which  have contributed the intellectual underpinnings of these frameworks, have been relatively slow to adopt them more broadly across their strategies and operations despite the obvious relevance to the public who fund us and potential students who place significant value on their ethics.

The rise of global rankings that examine sustainability and contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals indicate a strong appetite in the sector, but the measure of success for anchor institutions goes deeper than rankings methodologies.

For University of Wollongong, we are developing this approach mindful of our societal responsibilities. We have started with an organisation design that builds capability to adapt strategy and adopt robust assurance processes as the needs of the communities we serve evolve. With this structure now in place, we are generating thematic strategies that explore some of our most important challenges. These will form the intellectual basis of our institutional vision and strategy – all in time for the university’s fiftieth anniversary.

This is our final instalment in the series. We are grateful for the opportunity to share our journey over the past months and for the many years we have benefited from the news and views of colleagues across the sector in Campus Morning Mail.

Trish Davidson is Vice-Chancellor, Sean Brawley is DVC (Strategy and Assurance) and Richard Cook is Chief Strategy Officer at the University of Wollongong

This is the last in a seven-part CMM series on how Uni Wollongong is restructuring services (search Sean Brawley)



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