August 2019

Open Days come to a close

First of all, a huge thank you to all staff who contributed so much to another successful round of campus Open Days. We put on a great display for the many thousands of prospective students and their families who visited our campuses, in numbers either similar to last year or higher.

I thoroughly enjoyed the carnival atmospheres, each of which reflected the unique character of the different campuses. I was almost persuaded to enrol in at least three degrees by enthusiastic advocates! It was particularly encouraging to see so many Years 9 and 10 students taking a close look at what we have to offer. Once again, thank you to everyone involved.

Khan La Trobe!

In the same vein, thank you also to the staff who worked tirelessly to put on one of the most successful (and spectacular) events ever held at La Trobe - when we awarded Indian philanthropist and actor Shah Rukh Khan (or SRK, as he is known) with an Honorary Doctorate in August. Brilliantly co-ordinated by our University Events team (who have had a very busy August – see above and below), other contributors included operations, facilities and security staff, digital content, graphic design, sponsorship, marketing, student communications and media staff, the graduations team, La Trobe International and the Graduate Research School. It was a truly magnificent team effort that exhibited every one of the La Trobe cultural qualities. The memory of the graduation procession exiting the hall in a hail of confetti fired from a cannon will live on for many; and the decision to bring a koala for SRK to pat was simply a stroke of genius.

The event created an extraordinary profile for the University in India. There were 2.3 million likes on SRK’s Twitter post saying he was on his way to La Trobe from his hotel, and in India there were 128 print articles, 206 online articles and 8 TV news reports about the day. Overall, we had audience reach of more than 27 million on La Trobe’s social media channels, as well as widespread media coverage in Australia. This is great promotion of La Trobe in general, as well as the scholarship that we launched on the day to support young Indian women to undertake a La Trobe PhD.

Bendigo Writers Festival a smashing success

This was the eighth year of the Bendigo Writers Festival and it was, by all accounts, the best one yet! This year’s theme was ‘All That Glitters’ and the program featured a dazzling array of ideas and discussions showcasing creativity, imagination and the power of the written word.

La Trobe’s continued partnership with the Bendigo Writers Festival highlights our commitment to the cultural and social life of our communities. Many La Trobe staff helped to make this Festival such a success, through their involvement as presenters, authors, hosts, volunteers or as attendees. It’s fantastic to see such a high level of engagement from across the University, particularly from our Bendigo team. Even our buildings played an important part, with La Trobe Art Institute one of the key Festival venues.

My congratulations to Festival Director Rosemary Sorensen for assembling such a rich and varied Festival program, and my thanks to everyone who contributed to this important community event.

Building on our success

I was delighted to be at our Bendigo campus in mid-August with Chancellor John Brumby to watch Jacinta Allan, Member for Bendigo East, Minister for Transport Infrastructure and – most importantly – La Trobe alumna, open our new Engineering and Technology Building. The building is part of our $50m Bendigo campus transformation project and will support teaching and research programs in engineering, technology, maths and science for undergraduate and higher degree research students, as well as collaboration and joint projects by La Trobe researchers and industry partners. It’s also a perfect home for the Bendigo Tech School, which occupies an entire floor of the new building. This wonderful new building will strengthen La Trobe’s Bendigo campus as the leading centre for STEM education in regional Victoria.

Shining lights

I’m very proud of our commitment to become the first University in Victoria to reduce our carbon emissions to zero by 2029.

Every part of the community needs to think about how to address the shared challenge of global warming. We believe that a University like La Trobe should play a leadership role in this – just as we did when we became the first University in Australia in 2016 to commit to divesting from our fossil fuel investments.

Our regional campuses have led the way, with solar cells already in place and reducing our reliance on coal intensive energy generation. Solar cells are now being installed on our Melbourne campus, and low energy lightbulbs will be progressively installed across all campuses in order to reduce consumption. You can read about our full plan on the website and watch our video summary.

It also makes good economic sense – the money we will save on carbon based fuel to run our campuses will more than pay for the cost of installing the renewable alternatives and demand reduction measures.

PBF Framework

You may have heard about the performance-based funding scheme that Minister Tehan intends to introduce when the current caps on domestic undergraduate Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs) are lifted in 2020.

I attended a briefing in Wollongong on 7 August where the Minister outlined the proposals developed by an expert panel led by Professor Paul Wellings, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wollongong. While the model is being refined in response to feedback from the sector, we know it will comprise measures of performance across four areas of activity: student success, equity group participation, graduate employment outcomes, and student experience.

For 2020 the contestable amount under the program is relatively modest (around $80 million across the sector, about $2.5m for La Trobe), but this will grow over time until it reaches 7.5 per cent of an institution’s Maximum Basic Grant Amount, after which it will be distributed equally in line with growth in the nation’s 18 to 64 year old population.

The sector has responded positively to the proposed measures. It will help to bring some modest additional resource into the sector; and will reward institutions that deliver employment outcomes, a positive student experience, and university access for all. The inclusion of measures relating to rural, low socioeconomic status and Indigenous groups is especially welcomed, given La Trobe’s rural and regional footprint.

It will be important that we continue to focus on improving the measures that feed into the funding formula.

New PIPU dashboards

One way of tracking our performance on these (and other) key measures is to take a look at the new performance dashboards that the University’s Planning and Institutional Performance Unit (PIPU) has developed to show how we are progressing against our Strategic Plan KPIs and to assess our performance on measures including load and enrolments, student experience, research income, and graduate outcomes.

The dashboards, which are updated regularly with new data, will help us to identify and celebrate good performance and identify areas for improvement. Several new dashboards are being developed, and PIPU is keen to hear what you think about the dashboards and how they might be refined and used across the University.

La Trobe Asia

We established La Trobe Asia in 2014 to provide leadership in all aspects of the University’s engagement with Asia. It’s a unique effort by an Australian university to focus on Asia with a 'whole of university' perspective and to make Asia a key part of our teaching, research and external engagement. Asia’s importance for our international engagement and academic collaboration activity only continues to grow and, under Euan Graham’s leadership, La Trobe Asia has advanced its role in facilitating our engagement with the region.

La Trobe Asia is both external and internal facing, and I’d like to remind you to make use of its “here-to-help” role as a source of expert information, advice and support for Asia-facing activities. I also encourage you to attend the regular events presented by La Trobe Asia including prominent speakers on Asian themes, listen to its excellent podcast series, or read the La Trobe Asia Brief, the latest issue of which explores the polarising topic of Australia's relationship with China. To keep up to date on all things La Trobe Asia, you can also send an email to be added to their mailing list.

‘Tomorrow Man’ Mental Health workshop

The Tomorrow Man organisation that facilitates workshops addressing mental health issues for men will be running a two-hour Men’s Mental Health workshop for male staff at our Melbourne (Bundoora) campus on 10 September. Tomorrow Man’s work aims to disrupt stereotypes of masculinity, support resilience and self-confidence, build peer support, and create a healthier version of what it means to be a man today. We have already run well-received Tomorrow Man workshops with our male students. I encourage all interested male staff to attend.

Recognising and celebrating cultural qualities in action

Our annual Staff Awards program recognises and rewards our people for the contributions they are making. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on the many achievements and accomplishments across the University, and how these help us in the advancement of our strategic plan. This year, the four award categories directly align with each of La Trobe’s cultural qualities: accountable, innovative, connected and care. I encourage you to start thinking about an individual or team you may like to nominate so that you’re ready to get involved when nominations open next Monday.

That’s all for now, have a great September