Will Retail Investment Improve Student Experience?

Following a year of budget cuts and financial concern, UNSW announced the establishment of a new division last October.

 In the same month, the university confirmed that new retailers, including an IGA, Boost Juice, National Newsagency and Subway, would begin operating on campus this year. Months before, in May, the Faculty of Engineering announced cuts to almost 20 per cent of its staff in the School of Computer Science and Engineering.
Most universities have been recording an overall fall in revenue over the last several years, with Sydney University also announcing staff cuts last year.
Despite this, Arc and SRC funding has not decreased, due to an agreement which is re-negotiated every five years.
In an unusual move, the UNSW Chancellery decided to establish the Division of Advancement, which is now responsible for all the external functions of the University.
These functions include relations with Alumni and the Community, Fundraising and Development as well as Media, Communications and Marketing, which was transferred in January. They were all previously performed by and adopted from other parts of the university and, rather than creating new jobs and departments, they were merely moved around.
Jennie Lang, the former Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) of UNSW, was appointed as the Vice President of the Division of Advancement, and is therefore part of the Chancellery. In this position, she is also the Chief Executive of UNSW Foundation Limited, which promotes philanthropy and receives contribution to the University.
When asked if the benefits of this move outweigh the costs of a new division, Ms Lang insists that “there hasn’t really been any additional costs … in fact there’s probably savings coming from the establishment of the division. It’s been done in a way where it’s not increasing costs.”
The Chancellery is using the strategy of grouping these departments into one division to combine all the functions to do with external relations together, increasing their effectiveness and making them more efficient by getting rid of overlap between departments. This means that no job is done twice by people in different departments.
This is a similar approach to that of American Universities, which also have integrated external relations departments. The Chancellery believes that they are more beneficial to the University than segmented departments.
As to the purpose of the Division of Advancement, Ms Lang speaks of its principal responsibility, of “lifting the profile of the University and also improving our position for fundraising and building our base of donors.”
“Government funding is not increasing at the moment, and so we have to work twice as hard.”
The Division exists primarily to encourage funding and philanthropy to the University and to increase overall revenue. The specific financial details of expected revenue has not been disclosed, however the Chancellery believes it could be enough to provide significant funding to programs around the University.
As a result of the increased revenue and recognition to come out of the Division’s work, Ms Lang reports that “you will be able to see significant investment in the on-campus accommodation and also in precincts around the university that provide increased opportunities for students to interact and engage on campus.”
This year’s Student Representative Council president, Ross Willing, thinks that students won’t see any improvement unless the division raises substantial revenue, which needs work and improvement in the quality of education and experience students receive.
“The University can’t expect ex-students to donate unless they have a positive experience while they’re here — which, overwhelmingly, comes from investment in teaching and learning, as well as student services.”
Ms Lang says that the Division will be holding a lot of exciting events, including building openings and fundraising opportunities with Alumni and the corporate industry.
A large part of the University’s strategy is engaging with Alumni, and the Division seems to be focussed on this — the Alumni Awards Dinner in March recognises outstanding Alumni and the Make your Mark on Alumni Park fundraiser is being launched by the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor, which is expected to raise revenue for the University.
The funds would be used to continue building and improving the campus, providing more scholarships to students with financial difficulties and generally improving the experience of students and scholars of the University. The latter has become more of a priority this year, as last year’s international rankings were released and UNSW had moved down the board.
One target for the Division is to strengthen links with the corporate industry to funnel more research funding into UNSW from these sources.
Ms Lang describes the Tail and Gown dinner, to be held in September, as “a major fundraising opportunity”, in which major partners are invited to a showcase of UNSW’s cutting-edge research and areas where additional funding is required to ensure research continues.
Ms Lang believes that the Division is being launched at a good time, as more Alumni want to engage with the university and money for new research is coming in. The campus, she says, is changing focus to meet the needs of staff and students and being developed as a 24/7 “uni town”.
She even mentions the introduction of light-rail as an issue, which concerns the Division and the University at the moment, and as a potential program to fund. Before this, Ms Lang was successful in her position as the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International), almost doubling international student revenue and student exchange rates. She also represented UNSW on several external committees, including the Group of Eight International Deputy Vice-Chancellors and Directors Committee and was a Foundation Member of the State of New South Wales Premier’s Council on International Education.

More information on the organisational structure and purpose of the Division of Advancement will be released in March.

-Elena Assargiotis   

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