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.
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 www.tua.com.au
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.