Wednesday, February 17, 2010

World standard work for Australia

Greetings from the newly refurbished engineering lecture theatre at the ANU in Canberra (has clever technology to give every seat an inconspicuous power point). The Dean is briefing the faculty on where the university is heading. I have just been at consultations with Standards Australia on their future strategies and there are some common themes. These are to maintain world class standards by better managing resources, work with international partners. Both ANU and SA are directly funded by the Australian Government and do not have to compete for funds in the same way other organisations have to do. These organisations therefore need to have the discipline to use those resources wisely and be seen to achieving results for the community.

SA have issued consultation papers about future processes and invited input. I have been very critical of what as proposed, but at least there is a consultation process. In contrast ANU is consulting internally, as for example the briefing I am at, but is less good at consulting the wider community.

ANU aims to grow at the student postgraduate level, aiming for 50% postgraduate with 25% PHDs.ANU already engages with government , business and the community (you can't tune into SBS news without seeing an ANU Professor), but can't take this for granted. As part of this ANU has an Alumni (which includes the Prime Minister).

A challenge for ANU is to balance teaching with research. This involves performance management of people and recruitment. The business processes needed to run an organisation may be foreign to people selected for their teaching and research skills. So ANU is gradually introducing such processes and editing staff along the way.

There are some common challenges for both ANU and SA. An obvious one to me, because i is what I work on, is the Internet and the web. Like teaching and research, standards development and publishing are moving online. ANU are a leader at researching how to and applying the Internet to research and teaching. Significant resources have been put into reequipping teaching and research facilities and training staff in their use. An example of this is the Engineering ‘Hubs and Spokes’ Project in collaboration with the University of South Australia. But there has been less process at applying this to business processes.

Some of the problems with reaching out, and particularly online, can be subtle. As an example, ANU runs "Summer Schools". However, this is a location specific term. Someone from the northern hemisphere, with seasons at opposite times of the year, will not realise that "Summer" means a different time of year. This would be particularly confusing if the vent is run at a northern hemisphere campus.

SA are still struggling with how to apply the Internet to standards development and publishing, do not currently have a viable plan. Better application of the Internet will enhance ANU and faulre to address it threatens the existence of SA.

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