What Matters to You …
Earlier this year I asked you to join me in developing a strategic plan for the Faculty and said I would be back to you soon with information about how the plan was progressing. This is an important step for the Faculty and I am grateful to everyone who has taken the time to be involved.
Nearly 2000 people participated in the first round of surveys, including good representation right across the faculty from undergraduate and postgraduate students, and academic, honorary and professional staff.
Hundreds also opted to take part in more detailed, follow-up surveys, and many roundtable meetings, helping us dive a bit deeper into what you care about and why. Without covering the full range of subjects canvassed and issues raised, I am pleased to report on a few matters evident from your feedback.
It is clear that we are united in our purpose: we are motivated overwhelmingly by a desire to improve the health and wellbeing of the individuals and communities we serve. There was a clear recognition that the way we achieve this is by educating a health workforce and carrying out world-class research; but not just stopping there. There was support for us to work with our healthcare partners in translation, to work with our governments to advise them on policy and advocate on important health issues; and to work with our communities, engaging them on this journey.
We are distinguished by the research we do. However, there is active debate on how many “pillars” and “platforms” there are and should be. In choosing these pillars and platforms we will need to balance the reality that we can world class in only a limited number of areas. At the same time we need to respond to emerging areas and opportunity and need to be relevant to our local communities. Thus, we will identify our world-class pillars, our cross cutting platforms and ensure relevance to the needs and challenges of Melbourne and Victoria.
While recognizing the value of research, some felt that teaching may not receive the attention it deserves. That would be unfortunate. Teaching is absolutely core business for this Faculty and will be at the forefront of our thinking and planning. Students come to us because of our reputation for offering exceptional research-informed education. They want to be stimulated and challenged to reach their full potential and their interactions with their teachers are central to this experience. Integrating these personal interactions with innovative technologies and opportunities for ‘real world’ engagement will be central to our educational offerings in the future. And to achieve this, those teachers who excel and lead this must be recognized and rewarded.
Some staff were concerned for the stability of their careers, especially in the context of low funding rates for grants and Fellowships. Colleagues are looking for a clearer articulation of academic expectations, effective mentoring programs and more information and clarity regarding promotion pathways – and this will be a part of our “People and Culture” workstream.
Your feedback has also clarified what opportunities we should be seeking to maximise.
There is broad recognition across the Faculty that better connected and better use of data will be integral to making significant improvements in health and wellbeing in the future. Better coordination of our many activities in health data would enable us to draw more effectively on our multidisciplinary academic strengths and advance our expertise in this area.
There is a strong appetite throughout the Faculty for increasing interdisciplinary research and developing new models of collaboration. As competition for the limited pool of research funding grows, the wisdom of positioning ourselves and our partners to take full advantage of new types of research funding is also widely acknowledged. There is support for a greater focus on the opportunities that lie in the Asia-Pacific region as a way of increasing international experience opportunities for students and staff. Many also expressed deep commitment to our social responsibility to share our knowledge where it is most needed to improve health and wellbeing.
The next step in our planning is to set some priorities based on a consolidation of all we have learned. Before long, we will distribute a ‘Green’ paper. It won’t be green in colour, but, keeping with the parliamentary tradition it reflects the green shoots of early ideas, to be further refined in the next two months. This paper will consolidate your input and our collective thinking about the opportunities and challenges ahead and what action we believe the Faculty should take over the next five years.
I am keen that you continue to be involved in further discussions about the development of our plans. We will be holding a series of town hall meetings to help with this and I look forward to meeting and talking with many of you then.
With my thanks, again, for your participation,
Professor Shitij Kapur
Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences
Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Health)