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University of South Australia embarks on `revolutionary` growth path to learning excellence



EMPLOYING 100 extra professors, creating a birth to year 12 school and introducing three more regional campuses are a part of an ambitious new, five-year action plan for the state's biggest university.

University of South Australia Vice-chancellor, Professor David Lloyd, who has held the position for less than seven months, said the new plan - which sought input from 8000 current and past students, staff and the business community online - was "ambitious but achievable".

The revolutionary plan aims to make the institution Australia's "university of enterprise" which would position it among the nation's best.

"My goal through this plan is to build our reputation as an institution that is innovative, engaged and enterprising, " Prof Lloyd said.

The five-year blueprint, titled Crossing the Horizon, was officially approved yesterday and also includes plans to build three new regional campuses at yet to be revealed locations, new UniSA-branded accommodation sites and a new sports and cultural complex which would include a gym, pool and theater which would be open to the public and known as the "Great Hall".

It also plans to increase its international student cohort up from 24 per cent currently to 30 per cent in 2018 and expand its presence overseas, particularly in China.

Prof Lloyd said the changes would enrich the student experience and progress each of the university's six SA campuses to a home-like village for students.

"Students are why we exist, so providing the best environment we can for them is core business, " Prof Lloyd said.
He said hiring an extra 100 professors - nearly doubling the amount from 122 already employed - would address a deficit of senior staff at the university.

"The reality is, I don't feel we had enough senior staff for the student cohort we teach, " he said.
The new professors would be hired to match the university's key teaching and research areas, including physical sciences and building a sustainable society.

"We are moving to key themes in research so we need to have a critical mass around those themes, " Prof Lloyd said.
He said this would enable the university to be at the forefront of research and innovation.

The new plan also seeks to appoint more industry and professional leaders on its expert advisory boards, and create competitive internship or work experience opportunities for all students.

"We must ensure that our content and practice and informed by first-hand experience of what is happening on the ground - in health, in business, in government, in the environment and in the professions, " he said.

"That knowledge is invaluable in preparing our students to become successful graduates - work aware and job ready."
Part of the plan for improving graduate teachers includes developing a new birth to Year 12 school at its Magill campus, which would provide an on-campus teaching environment.

It would be run in cooperation with local schools including Magill Primary School, Norwood Morialta High School, local child care centres and the Treetop Autism Specific School.

Prof Lloyd said the university had already begun discussions with those schools and the state government, but the development was likely to come "at the back end" of the five-year plan.

"In locating schools on campus, our education students and researchers will have access to the living laboratory what is the school classroom, " he said.

"We can more closely couple the discipline of education to those of psychology, neuroscience and social work - we can transform the way we educate educators."

Other key ideas include putting a greater emphasis on masters level professional qualifications in line with demand from professional bodies, where students would complete a three-year bachelor degree followed by a two-year professional masters program.

While some of the ideas had been on the radar, Prof Lloyd said many were unleashed in May when UniSA became the first university to use the IBM Jam technology to host a 48-hour international online discussion.

The plan is a turnaround from the informal merger talks which his predecessor, former UniSA vice-chancellor Peter Hoj, held with the University of Adelaide's previous vice chancellor James McWha.

Prof Lloyd said it would be funded through a range of options including private partnerships to establish accommodation facilities, a call for philanthropic support and a new fundraising push to be driven by a new director of advancement.

Prof Lloyd said while recent Federal Government plans to claw back university funding would have an impact, the university had plenty of cash in reserve to fund its bold plans.

"The most fortunate thing is that my predecessors left a lot of cash in the bank, " he said.

"It's been put away for the 'rainy day' and my view is that now is the time to invest

"It's ambitious, but it's achievable and in five years time we will have a really great university."

By Jordanna Schriever
Sourced from The Advertiser


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