Professor Bruce Dowton

Framing of Futures

On a balmy spring afternoon in October Vice-Chancellor Professor Bruce Dowton addressed a crowd of Macquarie staff on Macquarie’s long-term strategic framework, Our Universities: A Framing of Futures, and the progress made in the last five years.The Vice-Chancellor’s main themes: the University’s story, what we can learn from its beginnings; securing funding for research; finding our path; the development of the strategic action plan; the actions taken so far; and what work still needs to be done.

The relevant action items for Learning & Teaching include:

  • Improving the student experience
  • The need to develop and focus on diverse student pathways
  • The need for a digital strategy
  • Building on the successes of PACE and working integrated learning
Improving The Student Experience

Professor Dowton expanded on the need to improve the on-campus experience in Macquarie’s unique urban green surroundings, to draw more students to the campus. He briefly outlined new capital works, including an improved campus hub, accommodation in the heart of campus, a new law school building, and using students as consultants in the business process  – as with the new MAZE space, Level 3, 4, 5 of C7A.

Development Of Student Pathways & The Digital Strategy

The VC acknowledged how important it is for our students, both current and future, to be aligned with the values of the university. He also acknowledged that PhD graduates are increasingly unlikely to find long term careers in academia, and that it is therefore our responsibility to prepare them for diversified careers and pathways. The need for a sophisticated digital strategy was also highlighted.

Building On The Success Of PACE And Work Integrated Learning

PACE and work integrated learning have become cornerstones of the Macquarie success, and the VC affirmed the importance of equipping students with real, community based learning and experience to complement their academic study. In the Q&A, Prof. Dowton emphasised that the core responsibility of a university is to model what it means to be part of a community, and that it is programs such as PACE that give students the opportunity to share their knowledge with the community and therefore need to be fostered accordingly.

Unique Opportunities

Prof. Dowton acknowledged the mark of distinction and unique opportunities afforded our community as part of the second largest business park outside the CDB, the Macquarie Park Innovation District – for research collaboration, PACE and WIL opportunities and for Incubator and innovation connections.

As Australia’s first and only university to own and operate a hospital, Prof. Dowton labelled Macquarie a ‘microdisrupter’, positioning us in international sights.

Another question during the Q&A cited Macquarie as ‘lagging’ behind with regard to the pace of technological change outside the university. Prof. Dowton proposed a redesign of our workforce to better meet community needs now and into the future.

He recognised our current systems and processes (Finance, Student and HR) held together with “piano string and chewing gum”, leave us incapable of delivering effective outcomes and these will be updated in 2018. We, as a community, need to ready ourselves for such change, particularly for cultural shift, involving shifting both beliefs and behaviour.

Prof. Dowton also addressed Macquarie’s leadership culture. The Vice-Chancellor acknowledged the pressing need for a leadership academy – a commitment to building up the capability and breadth of the university’s leadership, investing in professional development – and has agreed to head.

The session ended, prompted by LIH Quality Assurance and Professional Development lead Cathy Rytmeister, with the need to reintegrate and rebalance teaching with research priorities, aligning with the founding principles. In response, Prof. Dowton gave the analogy of the University as a clock:

“We are all parts in a complex clock, cogs spinning at different speeds and with different purposes, and with tension in our springs, together we can function effectively but separately we lose momentum and wind down.”

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