OPINION: Future-proofed education

GOING AHEAD: Funding has been approved for the NeW Space precinct.IN two years, NeW Space will open its doors to students: the first generation of University of Newcastle students to benefit from our ‘‘next-generation’’ facility, which was approved this week by the NSW government.

As the new dean of the Newcastle Business School, which will be at the heart of the NeW Space precinct, this is an exciting time to join the university.

At the business school, our students join us from more than 100countries and from all walks of life, and will go on to careers that are just as diverse in business, industry, government and not-for-profit sectors.

In a highly competitive global job market, a modern business school education should not only reflect this diversity but also ensure our graduates have the skills they need to be active, thoughtful and productive members of our workforce.

This is the driving force behind the innovations in teaching and learning at NeW Space. While we certainly hope the striking angles, bold design and cutting-edge technology will inspire talented people to experience the transformation that higher education can deliver, underpinning this physical change is a fundamental change to what and how we teach our students.

Our students will justifiably expect a future-proofed qualification from a world-class university that not only anticipates but helps them to shape the business trends of the coming decades.

We have already introduced blended learning, which mixes the ease of online content delivery with the in-depth learning experience of face-to-face engagement with lecturers and peers.

Building skills in entrepreneurship – both traditional and social – and harnessing the energy of co-operative organisations is also a central platform, as is leveraging the tangible creative zeal across Newcastle to help students shape their own careers in areas that may not yet exist.

Our students will also need to understand and navigate the complex ethical questions that shape modern business decisions and corporate governance.

Students increasingly see themselves as creators, not consumers, particularly in relation to their future careers. Whatever their own vision for their career – entrepreneur, chief executive, financial leader, risk specialist, community leader, social innovator, or a combination of these and others – their education will need to equip them to be flexible and adapt to change.

Our specialist management disciplines and professional programs will focus on entrepreneurship as well as on unique features of the region’s business landscape such as co-operative management. We will teach students how to understand, analyse and manage risk and harness the energy of co-operation and community in the real world of business. These issues are at the core of contemporary business practice and will be a central feature of our curriculum, underpinned by engagement from regional business to build our students’ capacity to think creatively and succeed in the ‘‘real world’’.

Business success relies on a portfolio of skills and at NeW Space, our students will have the opportunity to master them, including the practicalities of decision making across sectors. Technology-enabled ‘‘decision-making labs’’ will teach students about business, community and household decisions, as well as their risk and impact, so our graduates will be equipped to make a difference in the workplace from day one.

When completed, NeW Space will be located on one of the most prominent streets in the city, at the heart of our growing education precinct and close to the city’s central business hub. It will be a global beacon for Newcastle, attracting ever more world-class academics to our business school, generating cutting-edge teaching and research, and a resource for our community, hosting public lectures, community events, business forums and networking meetings.

But most importantly, it will help build what every economically sustainable, world-class city needs: a population with a diversity of high-quality, practical and innovative skills. It is vital that we do. As the Hunter’s economy transitions, our graduates will be the building blocks of a vibrant, sustainable regional economy and a resilient community ready to take its place on the world stage.

Professor Morris Altman is Dean and Head of School, Newcastle Business School

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