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An Academic Leadership Survey of Current Learning and Teaching Challenges and Trends in the Australian University Sector

Australian Higher Education is facing the demands of new and rapidly changing student demographics, an increasingly competitive global environment and tighter funding and accountability constraints. Drawing on survey and interview data from university leaders across Australia, this presentation provides context and insights into the main current learning and teaching challenges and trends influencing the sector and how our universities are responding to these complexities.

Universities of today are fundamentally challenged by the need to educate for both ‘the thinker’ and ‘the worker’ so that current and future students will see value in their university education in a rapidly changing global society. The pressures of a fast evolving global economy and society mean that we are educating students for highly uncertain work and life futures. Adding significant complexities to this current state-of-play is a decade of massified higher education that has seen our domestic and international student body grow to 1.4 million, reduced government funding and commitment to higher education, casualization of the academic workforce and the rise and influence of university’s ‘brand’ power. The ‘Avalanche’ (Barber, Donnelly and Rizvi, 2013) has never felt so near.

At such a pivotal snapshot in time, we were interested in how our university leaders conceived of their key challenges and trends and how they were responding. In 2016, we conducted a survey and follow up interviews with academic leaders at the DVC/PVC level to understand how they prioritised their learning and teaching challenges and influential trends and how they were responding institutionally. This presentation outlines the global and regional context before reporting the main findings of our study.