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

5. A diverse student population with new priorities and expectations

There is no doubt that the changing nature of the student population is impacting universities.[38] [39] Higher education is becoming a more complex, crowded, and mobile market and students are looking for quality educational experiences with the flexibility to fit their personal and professional objectives.[40]  Many students have different needs to the traditional school leaver and universities are having to adapt to the varied needs, interests, and differences of individuals to create a personalised, flexible and adaptive learning experience that engages all students.[41] Universities must now provide students with quality ‘just in time’ and ‘just for me’ services.

Technology can support this shift for an ‘anywhere, anytime, anyone’ approach to learning. However, one of the biggest challenges today is to determine the optimal mix of online and on-campus teaching and learning and how best to deliver this effectively.[42] To support more nuanced student profiles, universities are investing in online and blended learning pedagogies and resources and learning analytics systems,[43] [44] and reshaping aspects of their academic workforce.[45]  

Such a diverse market is challenging the one-size-fits-all model and the current academic calendar.  Across the United States, many universities have adopted a quarter system and some provide a block plan that allows a student to attend only selected periods during a term. For example, Purdue University is one of many U.S. institutions that have adopted a quarter system for the academic year, stating that ‘the trimester is an effort designed to enhance students' academic opportunities as well as help them move more quickly toward graduation’.[46] Reconceptualising the academic calendar in this way gives students greater autonomy over when, how and where their learning takes place.

With the ‘massification’ of higher education in Australia, many universities are also looking for ways to provide quality options that enable flexibility at scale. Although there are diverse opinions on the sustainability and best use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), they have undeniably enabled large populations of students to engage in learning at their own pace.[47] A new report in the Harvard Business Review,[48] highlights the flexible utility of MOOCs and suggests that, whereas many of the benefits of completing a MOOC are intangible, many learners credit MOOCs directly for pay raises, promotions and academic progress.[49]

MOOCs are seen as forcing a rapidly evolving technology-enabled revolution in higher education that will likely see more interactive online degrees and traditional place-based universities further integrating technology into everything they do.[50] For example, starting in February 2016, Massachusetts Institute of Technology will make its qualifications available via MOOC study for a six month ‘micromasters’ in supply chain management that will be awarded on passing a comprehensive examination. The micromasters will also count for a semester’s credit towards the year-long on-campus masters degree in supply chain management.[51]

Trends in the unbundling of university degrees, such as those that occur through certification of MOOCs, recognition of prior (and workplace) learning (see, for example, www.deakindigital.com), competency-based education, and micro-credentialing present a challenge to the ideas of which student experiences should constitute a distinctive UQ degree. Micro-credentialing, through the awarding of certificates or ‘badges’, is increasingly being recognised as a record of achievement for learners within and beyond universities. As knowledge and professional learning is disaggregated, students and employers are valuing smaller, accessible, focused and often online learning experiences. Higher education is tasked with resolving the question of recognition of students’ micro-credentials and/or the extent to which they will become providers of micro-credentials.

With the current and foreseeable policy settings in Australia, UQ will continue as a large, comprehensive university with a diverse student body. Thus, strategies that we adopt must be scalable and suit students with diverse backgrounds.

Challenge 2:

How can UQ support flexible learning options that attract, empower and guide a diverse student population to choose when and how they best engage in their own learning?

Key strategies to consider

2.1 Develop options for students to design their learning across a year-round academic calendar (e.g., intensive blocks, trimesters, MOOCs and online programs)

2.2 Recognise prior learning for program acceleration and enrichment


[38] Altback, P.G., Reisberg, L., & Rumbley, L.E. (2009). Trends in global higher education: Tracking an academic revolution. Report prepared for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 2009 Conference on Higher Education. Paris, France: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

[39] 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.

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

[41] Barack, L. (2014). Higher education in the 21st century: Meeting real-world demands. New York, NY: The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited.

[42] Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2015). New Media Consortium horizon report: 2015 higher education edition. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium.

[43] Lowendahl, J.-M. (2015). Hype cycle for education. Stamford, CT: Gartner Research.

[44] Siemens, G., Gašević, D., & Dawson, S. (2015). Preparing for the digital university: A review of the history, and current state of distance, blended and online learning. Athabasca, Canada: Athabasca University.

[45]Coates, H., & Goedegebuure, L. (2010). The real academic revolution: Why we need to reconceptualise Australia’s future academic workforce, and eight possible strategies for how to go about this. Carlton, Australia: LH Martin Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Management.

[46] Kirkwood, H. (2015). University trimesters. Retrieved from http://guides.lib.purdue.edu/trimesters

[47] Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2015). New Media Consortium horizon report: 2015 higher education edition. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium.

[48] Koller, D., & Ng, A. (2015). Impact revealed: Learner outcomes in open online courses [Powerpoint slides]. Coursera, University of Pennsylvania and University of Washington.

[49] Straumsheim, C. (2015, September 23). Do MOOCs Help? Retrieved fromhttps://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/09/23/study-finds-tangible-benefits-learners-courseras-massive-open-online-courses

[50] Gallagher, S., & Garrett, G. (2013). Disruptive education: Technology-enabled universities. Sydney, Australia: The United States Studies Centre at The University of Sydney.

[51] Matchett, S. (2015, October 9). MIT’s major MOOC move. Retrieved from http://campusmorningmail.com.au/mits-major-mooc-move/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=sendpress&utm_campaign