La Trobe unveils reform plan

La Trobe University has unveiled details of plans to revitalise and renew its teaching and research activities.

In a broad range of reforms, first detailed to some staff today, the University will include a new simpler suite of courses, a range of curriculum reforms, a focus on existing research strengths and innovation in teaching, including a greater emphasis on blending face-to face with online learning.

La Trobe Vice Chancellor Professor John Dewar said the package was the single largest set of reforms proposed for the University in its 50 year history.

He said many of the changes were first flagged in the University's 2012 strategic document Future Ready and have been several years in the planning. The need for change was also flagged with staff last year, due to factors including a Federal Government efficiency dividend, rising costs and lower than expected rate of student enrolments.

'La Trobe is a quality University that has since its inception been making a real difference to students and communities on issues that matter,' Professor Dewar said.

'We will continue to deliver in our areas of strength in teaching, research and community engagement, but we will also modernise what we do and how we do it, so we remain relevant and efficient.

'La Trobe will continue to be a great University and these reforms will set us on a path to a stronger future in a new era. We are revitalising ourselves for another 50 years of teaching, intellectual enquiry and excellence.'

Some of the other changes being proposed include:

  • The creation of five flagship Arts Degrees and new Education courses
  • A closer connection between  health sciences teaching and clinical placements
  • A greater focus on student support services
  • Stronger teaching links with business and industry
  • More use of technology to foster learning teaching innovation and flexibility
  • The merger of five faculties to two colleges, 15 Schools to 11, and 48 Departments to 29
  • The streamlining and simplification of administrative functions such as IT and Finance

Other strategy initiatives already in place at the University include the creation of early access student entry schemes, updated curriculum, new student excellence scholarships and building refurbishments.

Professor Dewar said the reforms were well-considered and timely, given recent announcements by the Federal Government.

'The Australian university sector is entering a period of radical reform. We must adapt to the likely reality of market de-regulation, reduced federal funding and much greater competition both between universities and other tertiary education providers – both public and private,' he said.

'In addition, we need to assure our students that we are not passing on to them the costs of our own inefficiencies.'

He said some of the proposals would mean a reduction in overall staff due to a combination of factors, including efficiency improvements and a need for different skills.

While most of the proposed changes are subject to staff consultation, it is planned the vast bulk of staff will be retained. Some staff may have different roles and responsibilities and clearer performance expectations that more closely aligned to the University's strategy.

Some details of the reforms are being put to staff for consultation over the next two weeks as part of industrial requirements. Staff will then have up to a month to provide feedback and make suggestions on the plans, which could ultimately change as a result.

It is hoped the bulk of reforms will be in place before the 2015 university year. Teaching, research activities and general university business continue throughout this period.

Professor Dewar said the University was committed to following all industrial processes as set out in the University's Collective Agreement.

'We remain committed to our presence in regional Victoria, to offering our students a quality education, producing the highest standards of research and intellectual inquiry, and encouraging equitable access to a university education for Victorians from all walks of life,' he said.

The University's goals for change are set out at:

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