Our recent visit to Australia was the opportunity for Chief Executive, Alison Johns, and me to build on the close ties and partnerships Advance HE enjoys with Australia’s world-renowned higher education sector.
The relationship with the sector in Australia, and indeed across Australasia, goes back a long way, through all Advance HE’s legacy agencies. The strength of the relationship is reflective of the strong ties which many Australasian and UK institutions enjoy; we have much to share with each other and, of course, much to learn.
First and foremost the visit was the opportunity to meet our many formal partner institutions through the Australasian Strategic Advisory Board (ASAB) which represents these institutions in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. ASAB was constituted in early 2017 to shape and steer the activity of the HEA – and now Advance HE – in support of learning and teaching. It’s fantastic that there are now more than 23 institutions represented in this group creating a superb network for shaping and sharing ideas, ensuring our member institutions have a voice in Advance HE’s development. That number is mirrored by the growing number of Fellows in the region - over 2,300 - and the numbers of universities with Advance HE accredited programmes in support of initial and continuous professional development.
In this context, we were pleased to be invited by Universities Australia DVC Academic Committee to observe conversations around sector-wide approaches to the professional recognition of teaching. This included discussion around Advance HE’s Professional Standards Framework (PSF) in the context of a ‘global PSF’, and at the same time exploring the PSF’s adaptability for uniquely Australian cultural factors such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ knowledge and perspectives.
At UA, we were pleased to meet up with Anthony McClaran, Chief Executive of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), the independent national quality assurance and regulatory agency for tertiary education in Australia. Advance HE has a Memorandum of Understanding with TEQSA which provides the framework for cooperation in areas to support their enhancement role.
A notable highlight of our visit to UA was their annual conference. The similarities between the Australian and UK sectors were illustrated in the challenges and opportunities in themes such as graduate employability and institutional civic mission; though in development of micro-credentials there appeared to me to be a significant opportunity to learn from the greater experience of the sector in Australia.
We also met representatives of SAGE (Science in Australia Gender Equity), a partnership between the Academy of Science and the Academy of Technology and Engineering who have been piloting Advance HE’s Athena SWAN Charter in Australia. In December 18, 15 Australian institutions were presented with the Athena SWAN Bronze Award, recognising their initiatives to improve gender equity and diversity. The institutions awarded are the first group of a further 45 aiming to complete the Athena SWAN Bronze process this year, accounting for 50 per cent of Australia’s higher education and research sector institutions. The pilot is seen as an important part of the Australian Government’s Women in STEM Strategy and the Women in STEM Decadal Plan.
My overriding reflection from the visit has been to reinforce the benefits of working and learning together through our ever-strengthening partnerships.
Kathryn Harrison-Graves, Advance HE’s Director of Membership and Accreditation
Our sectors are distinct, yet overwhelmingly share the same values and determination to deliver the very best in higher education for the benefit of all. In the coming months, I am really excited about how we can use Advance HE’s incoming new online community platform, Advance HE Connect as a conduit for even closer engagement, especially in subject and discipline areas, priding impetus in building ever more joined-up global networks of practitioners devoted to best practice.
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