Staff updated on COVID-19 recovery
Vice-Chancellor thanks staff and unveils institution-wide transformation
University of Wollongong (UOW) Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings CBE, has today updated staff on the University’s response to the impacts of COVID-19 and its progress towards financial sustainability.
In an online briefing Professor Wellings outlined progress on implementation of the University’s 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, including the three recently-established enabling strategies underpinning it, before thanking and congratulating staff for their efforts when making the rapid transition to remote working and teaching earlier this year.
The rapid pivot from on campus to online course delivery resulted in 80% of students reporting satisfaction with UOW’s online learning platform and 75% indicating the resources provided on it were supporting their learning.
Staff were also updated on the support provided to students since the outbreak of COVID-19, with more than 5,200 individual grants paid to students who were facing financial hardship—85% of them international students—totalling approximately $4M under UOW’s Financial Assistance Grants Scheme.
New opportunities emerging
The Vice-Chancellor also summarised some of the new opportunities emerging for UOW.
He thanked those staff across the University who have worked hard to prepare a 2021 timetable that enables a mix of face-to-face and remote learning, maximising the number of on campus classes while protecting the safety of students and staff.
Staff were appraised of opportunities arising from new teaching and research facilities at the Wollongong Campus; new course offerings at UOW’s South Western Sydney and Sydney CBD campuses; and progress on the Health and Wellbeing Precinct planned for its North Wollongong Innovation Campus. The Vice-Chancellor also referred to opportunities associated with its new purpose-built Dubai campus and from closer integration of its Malaysia and Hong Kong operations.
Also discussed were new opportunities arising from recent public policy changes such as the Career Ready Graduates legislation, which will provide more university places for domestic students in growth areas such as teaching, nursing, agriculture, STEM and IT and deliver greater support for programs that assist students from regional communities, low socioeconomic backgrounds and Indigenous students.
The University is also pursuing opportunities arising from changes to research funding, which will see more research money directed to collaborations between universities and business that are driving innovation and supporting Australia’s COVID-19 recovery.
Financial recovery progress and new operating model
Professor Wellings reported to staff on steps taken to restore the University to financial sustainability, including expenditure controls, cost savings, executive pay reductions, a Voluntary Early Retirement scheme and the Enterprise Agreement variations agreed to by staff and their local campus unions earlier this year.
“We have made positive progress together since our original $90 million budget shortfall for 2020 was forecast in March. Our Enterprise Agreement variations and cost controls have contributed significantly, but we need to continue to adapt to secure the University’s ongoing financial sustainability,” Professor Wellings said.
The Vice-Chancellor unveiled ‘One-UOW’, a new operating model designed to reduce costs by eliminating duplication of resources, functions and processes across faculties and central divisions. The model will also improve alignment of activities and accountability with strategic goals, provide clearer definition of responsibility and lines of authority, simplify operations and optimise the use of technology.
“This operating model is increasingly common in universities across the world and is set to reshape UOW ready for a post-pandemic world.
“Again, I want to thank you for your dedication to our University and for all the many ways you have supported each other, our students and our communities throughout 2020. As we confront the challenge of organisational change together, please carefully consider how you can positively contribute to shaping our future in the weeks and months ahead,” Professor Wellings said to staff.
UOW will now embark on a five-week-long workplace change consultation and implementation program, in keeping with the change management process set down in its Enterprise Agreements.
During this period UOW management will engage with staff and their union representatives, obtain feedback on the changes to organisational structures necessary to implement the new operating model and provide support to staff impacted by the changes.