Co-creating a stronger future

A message from the Acting Provost Professor Zlatko Skrbis:  

Over the past few weeks, every member of our university community has contributed to our swift adaptation to online learning and teaching. Thank you.

As we are preparing for Semester 2 to include a significant online component, our focus is on enhancing the overall student experience, including online. We will provide further professional development opportunities for all teaching staff, increased opportunities for collaboration and support, and improved quality assurance.

Student insights will help inform these enhancements. ACU’s National Student Association (ACUNSA), together with MER, recently surveyed students about their transition to online learning. SELT surveys also opened on Monday 4 May, so we will be able to triangulate this feedback and share it with academic staff.

Education-centred innovation

In the shifting landscape of COVID-19, we’ve gained fresh perspectives on our institutional opportunity horizon. There is a newfound sense of energy and determination to increase our reach, relevance, viability and expression as a modern Catholic university. But we must act fast before this window closes.

To this end, and to ensure innovation is embedded in the core business of ACU, each Executive Dean will be a key lead on our four innovation objectives:

  1. Course innovation: A contemporary course product portfolio that is future-proofed and responsive to evolving market and community needs.
  2. Digital innovation: A robust and comprehensive digital education offer, and delivery mechanisms to broaden reach and access to education.
  3. Student experience innovation: A student experience that is relevant, satisfying and focused on students achieving their potential.
  4. Financial innovation: A strategic and holistic financial model that diversifies the overall revenue mix, incorporating both traditional and new revenue streams.

The direct leadership and involvement of our Executive Deans will ensure we innovate from the engine room of a university: our schools and faculties. Their success is the key to our institutional success.

On a related note, I want to commend the Peter Faber Business School for achieving an important milestone towards AACSB accreditation, a key recognition that it is on the path to becoming a world-class business school. This is a significant feat and the result of much hard work.

Global conversations

With the closure of international borders, ACU’s International Relations and Partnerships team has worked quickly to develop new ‘virtual’ international learning experiences for our students – many of whom have been unable to take up study abroad and exchange programs this year.

One of the first initiatives to be launched is a series of ‘Global Conversations’ in collaboration with DePaul University in Chicago, US. These interactive Zoom conversations will be facilitated on how COVID-19 has impacted on a specific aspect of our lives, from education to public health, human rights to communication, data modelling to geopolitics. Seven ACU academics will co-facilitate these sessions with peers from the US, Brazil, the Netherlands and India.

Our students can join these discussions with experts and other students worldwide from 5-16 May. I look forward to hearing feedback from students who embrace this opportunity.

The initiative builds on the highly active existing collaboration between ACU and DePaul University, that have seen our two universities exchange over 70 students since 2015. Semester 2 will see the launch of the next stage of the initiative, involving shared global classrooms, groupwork and comparative research projects for undergraduate students here and in the US.

I encourage you to learn more about these Global Conversations.

Student Urgent Relief Fund update

After launching the Student Urgent Relief Fund on 17 April, we have seen the most inspiring generosity from you, our partners and our past students. ACU has matched every dollar raised.

This opportunity for students to apply for grants was announced last Monday and we have received hundreds of applications to date. We are working hard to process these and have started communicating the outcomes to students. Their responses include messages such as this: “Thank you so much! [This grant] is really helpful for me in this critical situation, and it is heart-warming knowing that someone cares for us in this moment.”

Thank you for supporting so many students in need. We anticipate we will be supporting over 300 students in the first round.

Out-of-hours crisis counselling line

Another initiative to announce is the ACU Out-of-Hours Crisis Counselling Line, a phone-based service that allows us to extend our usual hours of counselling. Students may be particularly vulnerable at this time, and I encourage staff to refer at-risk individuals to our counselling services.

Best wishes,
Professor Zlatko Skrbis
Acting Provost


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