Welcome to the start of Session 20230. It has been fantastic to welcome new students onto campus and into our online environment. Meeting them all on Campus in Port Macquarie this week is a great reminder of what we do well! The start of session has not been without its challenges so I am updating you on a few things which may be causing concern:
The global response to the COVID-19 virus, formerly known as the Coronavirus, is causing havoc across the university sector. Most of our Chinese students are offshore in China but they are unable to return to university following their New Year holidays and most remain confined to home. As a result, we have had to completely rethink our teaching into the China Programs. Online teaching in China is challenging due to access issues as well as this being a completely new way of learning for their staff and students. Our staff in the schools of Management and Marketing and Accounting and Finance, as well as our colleagues in OGEP and DIT, have done a great job to enable us to provide online learning for the first time for our 1,800 Chinese students. I am sure we will be still facing a few challenges but my thanks to everyone for a great effort.
Regarding management of the virus in Australia, and in particular our domestic and partner campus locations here in Australia, the Crisis Management Team has been activated and we have been meeting daily for several weeks to closely monitor the situation and plan for all eventualities including managing all of our inbound international students. Regular updates are being issued across the University to staff and students but if you are concerned about anything feel free to contact me and I will make sure issues are being addressed.
Many of you will have seen the recent messages regarding the reduction of travel costs, discretionary spending and recruitment of staff. By way of explanation, the cuts are due to a drop in income because we have a decrease in student numbers across the Faculty. BJBS domestic load is down on last year and last year was not a good year! Study Centres, who are a very large part of our Faculty-student, load are currently at 44% of last year and again last year was not a ‘bumper year’. The reasons are varied but it certainly has not been helped by the impact of the terrible bush fires, the Coronavirus and the UK relaxing their work rights policies for international students. This means a big cut for our Faculty and the University. We will all need to look at where we can build new load and retain our current students. We can bounce back from this and we still have many intake opportunities this year to try to rebuild. In the meantime, it’s vital that we all continue to play our part by delivering a high-quality experience to our current students. All the best for the start of 202030.