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we are on our own: press reset

The news out of national cabinet last week regarding the prioritising of returning Australians, over pilots of new international students, was hardly a surprise. And the further improvements in Australia-wide pandemic numbers, despite the South Australian cluster outbreak, paint a starker than ever contrast between our island and a wider world that is really feeling the pain of higher numbers of infections, hospitalisations, fatalities and long and hard lockdowns. To some extent, emerging news of a vaccine might make any opening up, before that becomes widely accessible, less rather than more likely. So, we are on our own for a while then?

And the implications of that for Australian university finances offers no comfort for us to reach out for, or clutch at. We are on our own too. The certainty of what we are facing is clearer. We are progressing many of our change management proposals, collecting feedback and commentary, before progressing changes through councils, and making change happen.

But what about the other parts of our change management plans? Where we look for new income streams, change the business model, reset strategy, and pivot? There has had to be so much focus on gaining clarity and certainty, and making emergency responses, that the bandwidth for reset has been in short supply. We know we have to do it, mostly. But is there enough time, energy and courage right now?

At some point, we all have to move out of panic mode and take a big breath before making new starts. It’s called a strategic reset. It needs reflection on the journey travelled to date, assessment of the situation we are now in, evaluation of the people we have around us, consideration of what others are doing, a survey of the opportunities and options, some clear and focused new thinking, and action.

Timing is everything. And ‘not resetting’ is not an option. Agility in moving online got us out of the immediate crisis. And cutting our cloth and changing the shape and size will help us survive the short-term emergency. But nothing short of significant reconsideration of purpose, position, strategy, culture and business model is required, to secure a sustainable future. And now is the time to start the process.

HEDx has been on a really exciting journey to date culminating in Andrew Norton joining us this week. We launched the advisory service and thought leadership activities in the middle of the national lockdown, with the intention of changing higher education for good. We had some great early insights from Debbie Haski-Levanthal, Dennis Gibson and the new GO8 student Ella to give us some context. We were able to follow up with initiatives from Natalie MacDonald at La Trobe and Aleks Subic from RMIT. And the champion of the student experience Sally Kift opened our eyes to the significant equity dimension to what different students are experiencing.

The need to reset, be concerned with culture, and recognise the extraordinary contribution of our staff, was made by Jane den Hollander. She drew from her VC experiences at both Deakin and UWA.

And this week, the wise and thoughtful analysis of the current predicament of the sector, and the need to strategically reset in response to it, was made by the trusted commentator and analyst Andrew Norton. He was our guest on our most recent episode 9 which you can hear on Apple and Spotify here.

This is our ninth episode, but our first with our reset as HEDx in a partnership with the Campus Review. Bringing the HEDx podcast to the Campus Review Radio platform allows us to get our message to a much greater audience of listeners in the sector and help us achieve our mission. There are undoubtedly many individuals, companies and universities in our sector reconsidering what the future holds. They will be reimagining how they present to the sector and market now we know we are on our own for the journey ahead. Recognising the need for change, and the value to be found in others that can help, will be key to be able to survive and thrive. We look forward to more Australian universities seeing, believing and acting in the same way.

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