Professional Staff Conference Address 2018

Professional Staff Conference Address 2018


It my pleasure to welcome you to the 9th Professional Staff Conference. What a great event. I am speaking with you today on behalf of the Vice-Chancellor Professor Barney Glover. Professor Glover is currently in China and sends his apologises for being unable to address you personally today.

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and pay my respects to Elders both past and present. I would like to thank Kerry Stubbs for her address that has helped to set the scene for today’s conference as we discuss the theme ‘Working Together, Succeeding Together’. The Professional Staff Conference helps to showcase and acknowledge the commitment and dedication that our professional staff bring to not only their roles but to the University as whole. We are often so busy delivering our core business of teaching and research that we fail to take the time to acknowledge the work of professional staff in making our core business possible. Today provides us with an opportunity make that acknowledgement. This year we have over 350 staff attending the conference as either delegates or speakers, from across various Schools, Divisions and Institutes. But imagine if the whole University came together there would be 10 times this many people and our University is about our people. I would like to thank Susan Hudson and the HR team for their work in preparing today’s conference. I would also like to thank the 29 sponsors that are supporting today’s event.

This year’s theme of Working Together, Succeeding Together, is very important in an organisation the size of Western Sydney University. We have over 2,500 permanent and fixed-term staff members spread across over 10 campuses. Today, I ask you to take the opportunity to consider the University as a whole. We often work within our team, our unit, our division, our school or our institute. But the University is more than just the sum of these parts. We frequently cross over institutional boundaries to seek advice, help a colleague or help a student. These connections strengthen the work we do as individuals, and bring us closer to achieving the University’s mission. Throughout the conference, I urge you to think about how the structures we work in and the people we work with combine to make this university a success. The conference will provide you with networking opportunities and showcase new and leading initiatives from across the University. Later this morning, you will hear from members of the Senior Executive Group. In the early afternoon, the concurrent sessions will provide an opportunity to hear about key projects and achievements across different areas of the University. Finally, to conclude the formal events of the day, an address from Daniel Saffioti. I encourage you to take the opportunity today to engage with your professional staff colleagues and to participate actively in the sessions.

In my introduction I will provide a brief update on the external environment in which we find ourselves operating and then reflect on a number of the key developments ad activities underway at Western Sydney university. There will be time for questions and conversations at the end. But let me assure you change is a constant.

Higher Education Policy

2018 represents another challenging year for the higher education sector. In December last year, the Commonwealth Government froze Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding for university enrolments in 2018 and 2018, capping funding at 2017 levels. The freeze provides no relief for indexation, and is strongly opposed by the University and the Higher Education sector as a whole. Ultimately our community may miss out on a place at our University because of this narrow view. The University, both individually and through our membership on the IRU and Universities Australia, continues to lobby the Government to have the freeze lifted. The Labor Government has provided some indication that they will return the demand driven system if elected to Government. Given the pending Federal election, we will work closely with Labor to ensure that higher education becomes a key election platform, and we will continue to advocate for open access to tertiary education with Minister Birmingham and the Turnbull government.


In response to the funding challenges facing domestic student load, it is important that we continue our commitment to internationalising the University. Our international cohort is small and our aim is to grow. We need a colossal lift to 20% or more. Growing our international numbers will be a challenge in an increasingly competitive marketplace. We are seeing many more of our competitors shifting their dependence on key markets such as China and looking to diversify into other markets such as India. But we have made significant improvements in recruitment processes and our international scholarship scheme is gaining traction in the market. We need to couple this improvement with diverse and flexible course offerings, particularly in the postgraduate coursework degrees.

Internal Developments

Over the past two years change has been a constant – and, in the context of increasing competition, changing government policy and volatile student load – necessary. There have been challenges, but we have come a long way in successfully positioning the University to weather these changes in the external environment. I acknowledge the professionalism and goodwill with which our staff have adapted to new structures and ways of working. This has been fundamental to the success of the University reforms. I know it is never simple or easy and we need to adapt. As many of you would be aware, since 2017, we have introduced number of major initiatives. I want to provide you with an update on these initiatives to guide today’s discussion

Revised Strategic Plan

The University has recently released a revised Securing Success Strategic Plan for 2018 - 2020. I would like to acknowledge and thank Professor Sharon Bell for her work on the Strategic Plan. Since the Securing Success Strategic Plan was first released in 2015, the University has undergone a period of rapid change and transformation, including:

  • rebranding from the University of Western Sydney to Western Sydney University;
  • new campuses, learning spaces and way of teaching and service delivery at the Peter Shergold Building and the Ngara Ngura Building; and
  • changes to our staffing profile through EVRS and Shared Services.

It was therefore necessary for the University to refine and realign our aspirations in light of this change. Our strategic objectives remain the same in our revised plan, however, we have revised the sub-objectives, and how we measure those objectives that have been revised. Building a dynamic and innovative culture remains a core objective of Securing Success, and this conference is one way in which we work towards enhancing our organisational culture. The revised strategic plan now places greater emphasis and commitment on:

  • developing early and mid-career staff, and
  • ensuring equity and inclusiveness within the workforce by continuing to be recognised as an Employer of Choice by WGEA and actively engaging in the SAGE initiative.

On this last point, I am proud to say that thanks to the work of Sev Ozdowski and the Equity and Diversity team, Western Sydney University has been recognised as a WGEA Employer of Choice for 13 consecutive years.

People Strategy

The objective of building a dynamic and innovative culture is linked to the recently released People Strategy: our People Strategy – Our People Securing Success. The People Strategy is an in-depth, targeted plan for how we create a dynamic and innovative culture.  At is heart of our People Strategy is enhancing our organisational culture and performance. Attracting and retaining people with a shared purpose and dedication to the University’s mission underpins this aim; our Employee Value Proportion and talent management activities will help us to achieve it. Alongside coming together in a shared purpose, we know that our staff need to benefit from the opportunities created by pursuing the University’s mission. We want to acknowledge and reward the work of our people.

Key Strategic Projects

In 2018, the University will continue to focus on the roll-out and development of a number of key projects that were introduced last year, most notably:

  • The 21st Century Curriculum Project
  • Shared Services
  • Western Growth

These projects are transforming our learning and teaching, our community engagement and our service deliver; and they are providing financial support to assist our research mission and increase our institutional resilience.

21st Century Curriculum Project

To prepare the University for future changes, we are currently undertaking the 21st Century Curriculum Project. Through this project, we are looking at the changing nature of work and future-proofing our curriculum accordingly. Our courses need to be relevant to industry and attractive to prospective students. We have seen an increasing emphasis internationally within higher education on the development of hybrid knowledge and expertise, authentic learning, and the development of more general ‘capabilities’ in addition to discipline expertise. Today’s universities must assist students to develop not only the skills required by graduate employers, but also the skills necessary to be able to navigate and negotiate a volatile work future. Students must be able to think critically while contributing to their rapidly changing communities and societies as engaged and responsible citizens. and thoughtful fashion while contributing to their equally rapidly changing communities and societies as engaged and responsible citizens.
The 21C project had four key strands:

  • Strengthening our current degrees;
  • Developing new curricula to reflect disruptions to the nature of work;
  • Developing alternative credentials; and
  • Building capacity to sustain curriculum renewal.

Our students are our partners in this project. Much like our approaches to teaching, our development of new curricula is collaborative. We are working with students and industry to meet their needs now and in the future.

Shared Services

Throughout the past year, Shared Services would have affected many staff in this room. While it has been challenging, I would to thank everyone for not only helping to implement the Shared Services program but also for the cooperation you have shown towards the Program. Shared Service was introduced to achieve a number of outcomes:

  • improve our service delivery to both staff and students;
  • maximise our efficiency; and
  • ensure financial sustainability into the future.

We have led the sector with our Shared Services program and there are now other universities looking to us as a model for institutional change. We are, as we are seen as, a forward-thinking and innovative institution. But we must always reflect and understand when adjustments are required. At the same time – particularly in combination with EVRS – we have lost organisational memory. People have left roles in which they have years of experience and taken other roles with which they are unfamiliar. I acknowledge the extent of the change and the sense of displacement. But, there are also opportunities. There are new teams creating new ways of working together. Much of our corporate knowledge is being applied to new challenges in new areas of work. We are now undertaking the post-implementation review of Shared Services to help address any outstanding issues and concerns. The benefits of Shared Services will be fully realised within the next 12 – 18 months as we build cohesion and apply the diverse talents of our people to the opportunities we can explore as an institution.

Western Growth

Western Growth is building an endowment to support our future and provide the financial stability to deliver on our mission into the next decade. The University is operating in a volatile market space, with the current funding freeze, increased competition in international markets, and a shrinking domestic student market. We must therefore ensure our financial sustainability by positioning ourselves as a future-focused institution that can successfully attract and retain students. Improved engagement through precinct development is a core aspect underpinning each of our campus development. Through Western Growth we are increasing our engagement with the region and industry by placing campuses in CBD locations. The Peter Shergold Building in Parramatta Square will shortly be surrounded by businesses such as NAB. Already, the building is shared with PwC and WaterNSW. Similarly, in our new campus in Liverpool, there is a strong focus on connecting with the local health district through our courses in nursing and midwifery and social sciences.  In Westmead we are focused on research activities that can connect with the existing medical research strengths of the precinct. The NICM Health Research Institute will soon relocate to Westmead, and will be joined by the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development. In addition to improved engagement and industry collaboration, our Western Growth projects are also helping to strengthen – and in some cases transform -  our learning and teaching capabilities and experiences. For example, the learning spaces that have been created in the new campuses at Liverpool and 1PSQ help to support new teaching methods, and prepare students for the disrupted work environment they encounter on graduation. Our students also love learning in new, high tech facilities – we have received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from our students about their learning experiences in our new high rise campuses.

Future of the University

In addition to key projects such as the 21st Century Curriculum Reform and Western Growth, as a University, we are taking a long-term view of how we wish to place ourselves in the Australian and global higher education sector. In 2038, the University will turn 50 years of age and we are aiming to place in the Times Higher Education Young University Rankings:

  • #1 in Australia
  • Top 10 in the world
Decadal Planning

In addition to her work on the Strategic Plan and Academic Structure, Professor Sharon Bell has also been leading new work on the decadal planning for the University. Throughout the next decade, our focus as a University will be on growing and improving our core business, through strategies including:

  • Developing campus precincts around urban growth centres and public transport;
  • Designing and delivering pathways to education that reflect the region’s diversity;
  • Discontinuing redundant unit and course offerings;
  • Expanding our international reach and reputation; and
  • Working closely with local government as the region’s key anchor institution.

We know that the region’s population will grow significantly over the next decade. As an institution, we are faced with a range of choices about how e position ourselves in relation to that growth. In addition, we also face a range of challenges in how we deliver the education opportunities and jobs that this population will need. As a University we need to capitalise on the region’s growth and participate in decisions affecting the region.


As you would all be aware, the University recently conducted the MyVoice survey, and I would like to thank all staff who participated. We achieved a completion rate of 87% of permanent and fixed-term staff, and 29% of casual academics. We are one of the few Universities to include casual academic staff. The outcomes of the 2018 MyVoice Survey will also play an important role in shaping how we do things around the University. Broadly speaking, the survey highlighted a number of positive improvements, particularly around the supervisory role of staff as well as advances we have made in the area of health, safety and wellbeing. Equally so, the survey results have drawn our attention to a number of areas where we have fallen back since the 2015 MyVoice survey. We will need to renew our attention to these areas, including executive leadership and restoring staff confidence in our change management processes and their links to our core strategic mission. We need even more feedback - to listen, explain and respond. For the first time this year we also conducted a separate MyVoice survey for sessional staff. There were some differences in the responses between our fixed term/ongoing staff survey and sessional staff survey, although it was reassuring to see a generally positive response across most questions from our sessional staff. The Vice-Chancellor will conduct a livestream regarding the survey results on 13 July. Following the Vice-Chancellor’s livestream, results will be released to the University community and work will begin with Schools, Divisions and Institutes to improve areas of concern through action plans.


This University is in the top 500 in the world. To put that in perspective, there are around 22,000 universities worldwide. Our region has a growing population and a surging economy, and we are taking a leading role in educating Western Sydney, in providing its future workers, and in research that will extend the benefits of this growth. The changes and challenges we are experiencing are a product of shaping the institution to capitalise on this generational opportunity. They are, in essence, growing pains.
As a top 5000 university, this University is already a great university by world standards. And it is a great University because its staff have made it that way. You are essential to Western’s success. This is a University that we should all be very proud of and in a sense it is only the beginning. I would like to again thank today’s speakers, HR, our sponsors and each staff member that has joined us here today. I wish you all an enjoyable day, and welcome any questions you may have.

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