The Green Paper outlines the challenges we must address to ensure The University of Queensland (UQ) continues to be a destination for the world’s best and brightest students. It also includes proposed strategies that encompass all areas of the student experience from curriculum delivery to campus design and student support.

Peter Høj

Outstanding students, staff and alumni, cross-sectoral partners, imaginative teaching, and supporters in government, industry and philanthropy, have all combined to position The University of Queensland in the top echelons of the world’s universities.

UQ graduates become national and international leaders and contribute to solving some of society’s greatest challenges. They are sought-after employees, valued for their ability to think on their feet, work in cross-cultural settings, and identify opportunities for innovation often overlooked by others. This is in no small part a reflection of the tireless efforts by UQ staff to provide high-quality learning opportunities through student-focused, researchbased teaching. It also reflects the emphasis in the UQ Strategic Plan on student success and the development of ‘must-have’ graduate employees as the first of UQ’s six foundations for the future.

We have already taken a number of steps to welcome students to UQ, enhance online systems and services, develop employability strategies and produce world class online learning materials, and are looking at strategies to free up resources to be re-directed to the academic purpose. There are also many examples of effective, future-oriented practices in student learning across UQ from which we can learn. However, there is a clear view that the University should do more.

Drawing on the perspectives of students, staff and alumni, several data sources have informed this Student Strategy Green Paper, which intends to open a discussion across UQ and its stakeholders on UQ’s distinctive student experience. Following the synthesis of feedback on this Green Paper, a White Paper will be released in early 2016. The next steps will prioritise goals and assess resource implications. In turn, the student strategy will inform UQ’s 2017-2021 Strategic Plan, thereby setting an ambitious, five-year enhancement process that will include all UQ coursework students, staff, and stakeholders and enrich the career and life prospects of graduates. I hope you will engage actively with this process.

Peter Høj

4. An innovative education that prepares graduates for unpredictable futures

There is an urgent need to develop people’s competency to work creatively and innovatively with knowledge[17]as we shift to being knowledge-based societies. The Committee for Economic Development of Australia Report[18]emphasises that it is ‘the ability to deal nimbly with complex and often ambiguous knowledge that is far more important than an accumulation of facts.’ The New Work Order Report 2015[19] highlights the three main forces that will shape future work as automation, globalisation and collaboration, with the disruption brought by technologies influencing all three. As disruptive technologies have swept through entire industries, we have seen an explosion of new opportunities emerge. Tertiary-level educators, therefore, have new kinds of responsibilities along with the need to develop metacognitive, collaborative, interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial skills within their curricula for graduates to successfully participate in the knowledge society. UQ is challenged with deploying the breadth and depth of its intellectual resources to offer students an enriched curriculum that prepares them for unpredictable futures.

Entrepreneurialism

 ‘Design thinking’ can be a powerful vehicle for deeper learning of content, more divergent thinking and building learners’ thinking skills capacity. Through design thinking, students explore opportunities or problems to solve with thinking skills and mindsets that allow them to create early and often, and adjust.[20] This method helps graduates to see gaps in the market, have wild ideas, and create new jobs or products that may not have existed before.[21] Entrepreneurial education, drawing on design thinking, has been shown to be effective in increasing employability, innovation, and company start-ups.[22]

In Australia, about 21% of universities have centres dedicated to entrepreneurship or small business; however, university engagement with small to medium business enterprises is lagging.[23] Australian non-business graduates, in particular, generally lack entrepreneurial skills and the connection between industry, research and education is not strong.[24] The National University of Singapore is active in this space with the Start-Up@Singapore business plan competition attracting 3,600 teams and 11,000 individuals since 1999, leading to more than 100 start-up companies.[25] Similar UQ initiatives could thrive given the University’s unique network of partners.

Liberal interdisciplinarity

Interdisciplinary skills are vital for preparing students for success across a range of future careers[26] and equipping them with the thinking to address complex global challenges[27] that do not recognise disciplinary boundaries. The broad, comprehensive coursework available at UQ can provide all students with access to the advantages of a liberal education that encourages creativity and disruptive ways of thinking.

One way in which interdisciplinarity is being discussed is through the concept of STEAM. Although a solid set of competencies across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is critical to contemporary learning, the pursuit of innovation through STEM alone does not take into account the fundamental human need to integrate function with form. As a result, leading education institutions are thinking about the power of including the arts in STEM (STEAM), challenging students to see the world differently.[28] Through STEAM, students expand their sphere of comfort across discipline boundaries to better equip them to design new products and achieve genuine innovation.[29] However, other ways of thinking prioritise the arts and social sciences as leading the problem-solving enterprise. Bristol University offers a diverse suite of four-year integrated degrees in innovation with in-depth subject specialties, such as History, complemented with Electrical and Electronic Engineering.[30] Bristol University states that their innovation programs are ‘for people who want to pursue their academic specialism in a way that enables them to apply it - to become innovators who can change the world .’

Work integrated learning

Work integrated learning (WIL) and student placements are becoming a critical component of the competitive landscape. Universities here and abroad recognise the importance of engaging students with industry throughout their studies, while at the same time providing the foundations to produce adaptable and globally-engaged graduates. WIL also improves the transition from university to work and productivity outcomes for the employer and the economy.[31] In view of this, UQ has assisted the Australian Collaborative Education Network, Universities Australia, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group, and the Business Council of Australia with the collaborative development of a National Work Integrated Learning (WIL) Strategy. Universities in the Asia-Pacific region are actively implementing WIL programs. For example, a core element of the National University of Singapore’s teaching and learning strategy focuses on nurturing future-ready graduates by leveraging industry attachments and internships.[32]

Although WIL assists graduates to become work-ready and immediately employable, it should also be considered an opportunity to apply academic and disciplinary studies to practice, as opposed to work-based learning or work experience focussed simply on practice.[33] With sophisticated design, WIL has the potential to create self-managing practitioners and self-directed learners, as well as facilitate personal growth and development. However, there should be a focus on developing students’ meta-skills and capabilities rather than just discrete skills and capabilities.[34]

Internationalisation

The rise of the virtual global worker is a new and potentially highly disruptive force. The globalisation of labour is not new, but technological advances and the proliferation of digital business are increasing the capacity for employers and workers to more easily connect, transact, and collaborate across geographies.[35] Not only will Australian graduates be increasingly competing for work opportunities against a global market of talent, they will be collaborating more frequently with international partners. Successful collaboration of this type will require new levels of technological, geopolitical, linguistic, and cultural awareness and acumen, which can be developed through inter-cultural immersion or international learning experiences and environments. The University of Melbourne’s Overseas Subjects initiative allows students to study overseas as part of their major or required ‘breadth’ subjects. Those unable to travel overseas can take a semester online in a virtual study abroad program in partnership with the American firm 2U.[36] The UK’s Higher Education Academy (HEA) states that internationalisation now extends far beyond attracting overseas students and delivering UK programs abroad. Rather, it prepares all UK university graduates to live in, and contribute responsibly to, a globally connected society.[37]

Given the trajectory of work trends, our graduates will be negotiating challenging environments. To ensure resilient, creative and adaptable ‘must have’ UQ graduates who flourish as global citizens, the UQ curriculum must be a sophisticated blend of contemporary experiences and global opportunities that build upon the foundations of a broad education. This may require creating space in every program for students to enrich their learning experiences and systematically embedding opportunities for students to develop future-oriented attributes.

Challenge 1:

How can UQ’s comprehensive breadth of programs provide all students with cutting-edge knowledge and creative enterprise skills that advantage them in ever-changing communities and workplaces?

Key strategies to consider

1.1 Reimagine UQ’s Graduate Attributes to drive program coherence, develop future employability skills and meet graduates’ aspirations and employers’ expectations

1.2 Expand opportunities for extension experiences – including a suite of online and blended flagship courses and experiences – that reflect the comprehensive liberal education UQ is able to provide

1.3 Build significant industry and government partnerships that strengthen and expand opportunities for authentic and attractive WIL experiences across all programs


[17] Lai , K.-W. (2011). Digital technology and the culture of teaching and learning in higher education.Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 27(Special Issue,8), 1263-1275.

[18] Committee for Economic Development of Australia. (2015). Australia's future workforce? Melbourne, Australia: Committee for Economic Development of Australia.

[19] Foundation for Young Australians. (2015). The new work order report: Ensuring young Australians have skills and experience for the jobs of the future, not the past. Melbourne, Australia: Foundation for Young Australians.

[20] McIntosh, E. (2014, May 11). The design thinking school. Retrieved from http://notosh.com/what-we-do/the-design-thinking-school/

[21] Morris, H.E., & Warman, G. (2015, January 12). Using design thinking in higher education. Retrieved fromhttp://er.educause.edu/articles/2015/1/using-design-thinking-in-higher-education

[22] Projects and studies on entrepreneurship education. (2015). Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/sme/promoting-entrepreneurship/education-training-entrepreneurship/higher-education/index_en.htm

[23] Mazzarol , T. (2014). How do Australia’s universities engage with entrepreneurship and small business?(Discussion paper DP1401). Crawley, Australia: Centre for Entrepreneurial Management and Innovation.

[24] Collet, C. (2011). Entrepreneurship education in non-business schools: Best practice for Australian contexts of knowledge and innovation communities final report. Sydney, Australia: Australian Learning and Teaching Council.

[25] National University of Singapore. (2014). Annual report. Singapore: National University of Singapore.

[26] Nutbeam, D. (2013, 12 August). Students can be interdisciplinary too. [The Guardian Higher Education Network Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2013/aug/12/students-interdisciplinary-teaching-research-university

[27] James Jacob, W. (2015). Interdisciplinary trends in higher education. Palgrave Communications, 1, 15001.

[28] Daugherty, M.K. (2013). The prospect of an “A” in STEM education. The Journal of STEM Education, 14(2), 10-15.

[29] Watson, A.D., & Watson, G.H. (2013). Transitioning STEM to STEAM: Reformation of engineering education.Journal for Quality & Participation, 36(3), 1-4.

[30] Bristol Innovation Programmes. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.bristol.ac.uk/innovation/

[31] Brimble , M., & Freudenberg, B. (2010, April 1). Will WIL’ing work? B-HERT Newsletter, 28, p. 2-4.

[32] National University of Singapore. (2014). Annual report. Singapore: National University of Singapore.

[33] Smith , C., & Worsfold, K. (2015). Unpacking the learning – work nexus: ‘Priming’ as lever for high-quality learning outcomes in work-integrated learning curricula. Studies in Higher Education, 40(1), 22-42.

[34] Lester, S., & Costley, C. (2010). Work‐based learning at higher education level: Value, practice and critique.Studies in Higher Education, 35(5), 561-575.

[35] Foundation for Young Australians. (2015). The new work order report: Ensuring young Australians have skills and experience for the jobs of the future, not the past. Melbourne, Australia: Foundation for Young Australians.

[36] The University of Melbourne. (2013). Annual report. Melbourne, Australia: University of Melbourne.

[37] The Higher Education Academy. (2015). Internationalisation. Retrieved from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/enhancement/themes/internationalisation