Our differences are what unite us as we seek to learn
By Peter Nikoletatos
Global Industry, Director - Education, TechnologyOne
A global community for best practice and collaborative thought leadership has never been so important, especially now. Recently, I accompanied an Australian Higher Education delegation from Swinburne University and the Queensland University of Technology on the TechnologyOne Global Mobility Program #OneEduTour. We visited four outstanding education providers in the United Kingdom - the London School of Economics and Political Science, the University of Sussex, the University of Lincoln, and the University of Hertfordshire.
We found deep inspiration in the site visits. We were able to compare how the institutions were using our global ERP solution OneEducation, undertake campus tours with a chance to really experience the differences in education environments, and meet with senior leadership across the universities to understand their institutional strategies, goals and aspirations. As I reflect, these were the big narratives that fuelled conversation throughout.
A strong theme has been the much closer links and role requirement for technology, IT, and estate management and development in the UK. At the London School of Economics and Political Science, we were given a tour of the estate’s redevelopment programme, and at the University of Sussex we discussed the development of the University’s estates and IT roadmaps. We all found the focus on the convergence of the physical and digital to ensure an optimum student experience very interesting.
Collectively, we have a common aspiration for attracting, retaining, educating and ensuring graduates are best positioned to gain employment in their discipline of study. Some of the pathways to arrive there diverge – for example, Australian policy on resitting examinations is very different to the UK, and the fact that many Australians attend university in their home towns rather than residing in a new place for three to four years. But the end goal is the same – strong student experience, success and recognition.
Funding and the learner’s journey revealed real differences. In Australia, the funding follows the student, leaving them free to change smoothly and without recourse. Not so in the UK. We discussed the impacts that these different strategies had on an institution’s ability to manage students and fulfil its strategies, whilst implementing transformation and technology innovations across both campus and faculty life.
One of the eye-openers for me personally was discussing the importance of university libraries and their place in the student experience. Libraries, despite a shift to the digitisation of books and online content, remain a fundamental part of a student’s journey through education. From the way they are designed and delivered, to the location of student services right there, physically in the heart of the university. In some ways, libraries have been the exemplar in terms of adapting to change.
As we face the social distancing challenge of COVID-19 across the world, the thought of being unable to access this integral facility is a real problem we know institutions are battling to solve. They serve an important role in social engagement inter alia but the lockdown rules prevent this from happening. Therefore, institutions will need to look at other digital tools to improve the student experience in the current period.
What the pandemic has taught us is that collaboration completely validates the importance of these types of programmes. A vision to create a global community of best practice, where ideas, challenges, successes and hopes for the future of digitally-driven Higher Education transformation has been realised, and is needed more than ever in these extraordinary times.