In­no­vate or stag­nate: lev­er­ag­ing struc­tural change for ca­reer de­vel­op­ment

“In­no­vate or stag­nate” is a well-used phrase in busi­ness, and it’s fast be­com­ing a pre-req­ui­site for ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, and pro­fes­sion­als, seek­ing to stay one step ahead of what em­ploy­ers want writes Pro­fes­sor Fred Mcdougall.

Business First - - CONTENTS - by Pro­fes­sor Fred McDougall

Just as com­pa­nies big and small must adapt, evolve and em­brace change to re­main rel­e­vant, higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions need to be equally ag­ile. For pro­fes­sion­als, the story is no dif­fer­ent: be­ing able to adapt and re­spond to change is key.

The num­ber of Aus­tralian in­dus­tries un­der­go­ing a pe­riod of ma­jor eco­nomic and struc­tural change is grow­ing. While the me­dia and man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tors have been in tran­si­tion for some time, we can now add min­ing, ed­u­ca­tion and avi­a­tion to the list of sec­tors with an ever-in­creas­ing em­pha­sis on struc­tural change and man­ag­ing fi­nan­cial risk.

And while CEOs, unions and govern­ment are at­tempt­ing to work their way through the chang­ing cor­po­rate land­scape, the work­force is un­der­stand­ably anx­ious and talk of re­struc­ture and re­dun­dan­cies has many pro­fes­sion­als tak­ing ac­tion to se­cure their em­ploy­ment prospects for the fu­ture.

In the wake of job losses at a num­ber of com­pa­nies - Qan­tas, GM Holden, Sen­sis and Toy­ota to high­light a few - in­ter­est in fur­ther study is an­tic­i­pated to grow ex­po­nen­tially.

In fact, there’s a well-doc­u­mented prece­dent of a spike in de­mand for post­grad­u­ate study dur­ing, or im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing, pe­ri­ods of eco­nomic un­cer­tainty, as dur­ing the Global Fi­nan­cial Cri­sis (GFC).

Data from IBIS World sub­stan­ti­ates that on­line ed­u­ca­tion en­rol­ments rose dur­ing the GFC as many de­ferred en­try into the labour mar­ket, some took up study post-re­dun­dancy and oth­ers in the work­force sought to up­grade their qual­i­fi­ca­tions in a weaker jobs mar­ket.

And while the cur­rent cli­mate is of a dif­fer­ent scale, it’s likely the in­creas­ing level of struc­tural change across mul­ti­ple Aus­tralian in­dus­try sec­tors will act as a driver for post­grad­u­ate study as pro­fes­sion­als seek to ‘up­skill’ or ‘reskill’ – whether to gain a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage in the job mar­ket or to shore up their cur­rent em­ploy­ment by adding value through en­hanced ex­per­tise in ar­eas such as de­ci­sion-mak­ing, strate­gic plan­ning, en­trepreneur­ship, sus­tain­abil­ity and con­duct­ing busi­ness in the Asia Pa­cific mar­ket.

The num­ber of people com­plet­ing a post­grad­u­ate de­gree has al­most dou­bled in the past decade, with more than 90 per cent of post­grad­u­ates in full-time em­ploy­ment soon af­ter grad­u­a­tion.

Ca­reer pro­gres­sion within the same in­dus­try isn’t the only rea­son mo­ti­vat­ing post­grad­u­ate study. In an era where the ‘jobs for life’ con­cept has been con­fined to the his­tory books many more are pur­su­ing post­grad­u­ate qual­i­fi­ca­tions – and knowl­edge – to give im­pe­tus to a change in ca­reer path or in­dus­try al­to­gether.

Al­though it’s cer­tainly only one of the mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tors, there’s no ig­nor­ing the fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits of post­grad­u­ate study, with post­grad­u­ate salaries higher than equiv­a­lent salaries for Bach­e­lor de­gree grad­u­ates in ev­ery em­ploy­ment sec­tor and post­grad­u­ate me­dian salaries ris­ing year on year, with a seven per cent jump be­tween 2010 and 2012 alone.

Re­search shows full-time em­ploy­ees with post­grad­u­ate qual­i­fi­ca­tions earn a me­dian an­nual salary of $85,000, com­pared with $66,000 for full­time Bach­e­lor de­gree grad­u­ates with man­age­ment and com­merce qual­i­fied post­grad­u­ate males earn­ing the high­est me­dian salary of $108,300, com­pared with $92,300 for women in the same field.

As for how all of this additional ed­u­ca­tion is tak­ing place – the an­swer is of­ten on­line.

The rapid ex­pan­sion of on­line post­grad­u­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties is at­tract­ing a di­verse mix of stu­dents to fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion, and ge­og­ra­phy is no longer a bar­rier to se­lect­ing the post­grad­u­ate pro­gram most suited to an in­di­vid­ual’s pas­sion, goals and budget.

In­ter­est­ingly, a 2014 Fi­nan­cial Times rank­ing of global on­line MBA pro­grams found that those study­ing pri­mar­ily on­line were do­ing so to fine tune their man­age­ment and lead­er­ship skills and ex­pand busi­ness net­works rather than be­ing purely fi­nan­cially mo­ti­vated – al­though chas­ing a pro­mo­tion was still a rel­e­vant fac­tor in opt­ing to choose an ad­vanced busi­ness pro­gram.

Just as stu­dents – and big busi­ness - are aug­ment­ing their of­fer­ing and re­assess­ing their struc­ture to add value, savvy higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions are do­ing the same.

As part of the global Lau­re­ate In­ter­na­tional Uni­ver­si­ties net­work, Tor­rens is per­fectly po­si­tioned to take ad­van­tage of this growth and to forge strong links with Asian busi­ness, com­mu­ni­ties and gov­ern­ments.

Lau­re­ate in­sti­tu­tions are well versed in the in­ter­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion of ex­pe­ri­ences, cur­ric­ula and cre­at­ing vi­brant com­mu­ni­ties be­tween both do­mes­tic, for­eign, on-cam­pus and on­line stu­dents.

In an in­creas­ingly borderless mar­ket­place, com­pe­ti­tion for stu­dents is in­ten­si­fy­ing, and while Aus­tralian uni­ver­si­ties are widely re­garded as stay­ing abreast of global mar­ket trends in ed­u­ca­tion, we need to up the ante.

The vast amount of knowl­edge now avail­able on­line – and easy ac­cess to it – is revo­lu­tion­is­ing the role of uni­ver­si­ties as cus­to­di­ans of higher ed­u­ca­tion.

New uni­ver­si­ties, such as Tor­rens, have the agility and abil­ity to meet mar­ket de­mand as de­fined by in­dus­try part­ner­ships cul­ti­vated to help shape pro­grams

that will equally ben­e­fit do­mes­tic stu­dents and at­tract in­ter­na­tional stu­dents from across the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion. So­called ‘tra­di­tional’ es­tab­lished uni­ver­si­ties are of­ten un­able to move as quickly due to their size and struc­ture.

At Tor­rens, we’re max­imis­ing the ad­van­tages in­her­ent in our sta­tus as a new univer­sity that is part of the larger global net­work to con­stantly re­view and adapt our pro­grams – with in­put from lo­cal in­dus­try ex­perts – to quickly re­spond to mar­ket de­mand, which is why cour­ses across our post­grad­u­ate pro­grams have an in­ter­na­tional di­men­sion wher­ever pos­si­ble.

Ma­te­ri­als are selected to high­light con­tex­tual and in­sti­tu­tional dif­fer­ences with elec­tive cour­ses such as Com­pet­ing in a Global Mar­ket­place and Man­ag­ing Businesses in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, as well as a cap­stone course in sus­tain­able busi­ness strate­gies, specif­i­cally de­signed to ad­dress the chal­lenges of man­ag­ing staff and an or­gan­i­sa­tion in a global con­text.

As the Univer­sity grows, we’ll con­tinue to re­view cur­rent and fore­cast in­dus­try trends to mould our pro­grams, E and add new ones, geared to­wards pre­par­ing stu­dents for the jobs – and skills – of the fu­ture.

Just as dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy has trans­formed the me­dia, re­tail and other in­dus­tries, ed­u­ca­tion is tak­ing its turn. And while phys­i­cal cam­puses will al­ways re­main, the way ed­u­ca­tion is both de­liv­ered and ac­cessed is chang­ing – and that change will con­tinue well be­yond the cur­rent pe­riod of cor­po­rate re­struc­ture.

Through our com­mit­ment to hand­son small classes, us­ing state-of-the-art tech­nol­ogy to lever­age our in­ter­na­tional re­sources, and mak­ing in­tel­li­gent use of dig­i­tal me­dia as­sets to con­nect stu­dents with ex­pert men­tors both do­mes­ti­cally and from through­out the Lau­re­ate global net­work; Tor­rens is demon­strat­ing our com­mit­ment to stay­ing ahead of the curve and cap­i­tal­is­ing on change to ben­e­fit our stu­dents.

As global mo­bil­ity in­creases, not just for stu­dents but for aca­demics and uni­ver­si­ties as brands, op­por­tu­ni­ties to ac­cess broader stu­dent and teach­ing talent will ex­pand. Global part­ner­ships will flour­ish and in­dus­try re­la­tion­ships will need to be deep and deliver mea­sur­able re­sults. Su­per­fi­cial work place­ments won’t deliver the au­then­tic un­der­stand­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence stu­dents need, and to­day’s stu­dents are savvy enough to de­mand more, and rightly so.

duca­tion is a busi­ness, but it also needs to work with busi­ness to dif­fer­en­ti­ate pro­grams, sup­port re­search and re­in­force our role as orig­i­na­tors and driv­ers of in­no­va­tion.

At Tor­rens, we’re pre­par­ing our stu­dents to re­con­fig­ure them­selves to adapt to – and suc­ceed – in rapidly chang­ing mar­kets both in Aus­tralia and abroad. Change is not a pass­ing phase, it’s an evolv­ing state, and those pro­fes­sion­als (and or­gan­i­sa­tions) with the skills and con­fi­dence to em­brace it, and turn it to their ad­van­tage, will rise to the top.

Tor­rens Univer­sity Aus­tralia is cur­rently ex­tend­ing 30 per cent scholarships to all ac­cepted on­line MBA*, Global Project Man­age­ment, Ed­u­ca­tion and Pub­lic Health post­grad­u­ate stu­dents who com­mence study in May 2014.

*Scholarships are also ap­pli­ca­ble to on-cam­pus and hy­brid MBA ap­pli­cants. To ap­ply, visit

As Aus­tralia’s 40th com­pre­hen­sive Univer­sity, Tor­rens Univer­sity Aus­tralia aims to deliver an in­no­va­tive en­vi­ron­ment for learn­ing, schol­ar­ship and re­search that is cul­tur­ally di­verse and ca­reer-ori­ented with a global per­spec­tive. Tor­rens is a part of Lau­re­ate In­ter­na­tional Uni­ver­si­ties, a leading in­ter­na­tional net­work of over 75 in­no­va­tive higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions – teach­ing more than 800.000 stu­dents in 30 coun­tries and on­line. Pro­fes­sor McDougall was Deputy Vice-Chan­cel­lor and Vice-Pres­i­dent (Aca­demic) at the Univer­sity of Ade­laide, an ap­point­ment he held from 2005 un­til 2011. Pre­vi­ously he was the Foun­da­tion Pro­fes­sor of Man­age­ment at the Univer­sity, an ap­point­ment he has held since 1987, and Ex­ec­u­tive Dean of the Fac­ulty of the Pro­fes­sions.

Pro­fes­sor Fred McDougall is Vice-Chan­cel­lor and Pres­i­dent, Tor­rens Univer­sity Aus­tralia.

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