Learnings from the 2018 HoSA Conference

Posted: 04/10/2018

With the Higher Education sector undergoing a period of significant transformation, both locally and globally, this year’s Heads of Student Administration (HoSA) Conference was focused suitably on Transformation through Effective Leadership.

There were many interesting speakers and quite a few recurrent themes through the conference with the ‘stand out’ being the need to treat students as partners, putting them first during decision-making and planning and being more responsive to how they want to study – something we feel very strongly about at DVE Solutions.

There was also a strong push to put people first through change, with alternative suggestions for cost management and increasing efficiency instead of going down the path of restructures and redundancies. Most of these restructures have resulted in many universities suffering a substantial loss of corporate knowledge over the last six to twelve months.

I thought I would share the happenings and key takeaways I received from the 2018 HoSA Conference as I thoroughly enjoyed the visit to Hobart this year.

After a warm ‘Welcome to Country’ from Aunty Brenda, Professor Rufus Black, Vice Chancellor and President of the University of Tasmania presented the opening address and spoke about how to bring long-term change by creating an outcome-focused team.

It was an insightful presentation that drove home the need to establish a sense of community amongst staff and develop a culture of collaboration or a “highly functional ecosystem”, as Rufus explained, to solve problems, particularly in this period of disruption. Rufus also promoted a people-first approach through change instead of instant restructure and had a great belief in creating highly functional teams to deliver services.

The first keynote presented by Professor Sue Elliott, DVC and VP (Education) at Monash University. Prof Elliot spoke about the importance of students being at the centre of university planning and decision-making, and the need for the administrative teams and academics to work together to provide new ways of learning.

With students becoming more empowered consumers who want to curate their own degrees like they do their own lives, Sue spoke about the need for universities to adapt the educational experience to what students want and need. We heard about the growing desire for students to blockchain their education – to pick and choose what they study to be desirable to an employer – and attain the rest of their degree whilst working.

Next, we heard from the first three recipients of the HoSA Future Leader’s Scholarship.

First was Jodie Davis from the University of Newcastle who spoke about Navigating rough waters for a calm professional future. This presentation reinforced the strong people-first theme of the conference and the need for people to work effectively and efficiently together for greater service delivery.

The second was Daphnee Delvin from the Australian Catholic University (ACU) who spoke about Leading Process Change. Here we heard about ACU’s experience in improving their processes and how they used Lean methodology to reduce double handling and improve efficiencies. Daphnee also shared how the process of continually asking ‘why’ was able to change mindsets and create a culture of continuous improvement.

Lastly, we heard from Ross Hagland at Deakin University about Digital Identity Authentication in Examinations. Ross explained how Deakin is using Android app scanning ID cards to streamline the examination process.

After a delicious morning tea, Maddy McMaster, University of Melbourne and Jon Yorke, Curtin University spoke about Leading change to improve the academic integrity of examinations. Maddie and John spoke about new ways of managing invigilation of exams using a remote invigilation system, CRIS.

Next, we heard from two more recipients of the HoSA Future Leader’s Scholarship.

Jodie Francis from the University of Technology Sydney spoke about With our powers combined, creating a culture of shared commitment in Progressions Results and Conferral. Jodie and her team worked on many improvement activities throughout the year to create efficiencies. They logged 70 improvements in 2017 and had already logged 58 in 2018.

Antonia Lamanna, La Trobe University spoke about Exams: from the 1950s to 2018 in less than 6 months. Antonia shared how La Trobe improved examinations management significantly after noting they had around 100 key pain points. They reformed the process in six months by improving communications, quality assurance and stakeholder engagement, as well as outsourcing invigilation and creating an Exams Advisory Group.

After lunch, Professor Simon Bell, Professor of Marketing, The University of Melbourne presented his keynote address on the importance of students being considered as consumers and the different ways universities can improve at the front line by training staff in customer service.

The biggest take away from this keynote was that a university only has a couple of quick touch points – ‘moments of truth’ – during the student study journey to make an impression with them. Each touch point has to have a positive impact and it is essential that universities provide ongoing and appropriate training for all frontline staff.

Scott Nichols, University of Canberra followed sharing his learnings from the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) Conference.

Three more recipients of the HoSA Future Leaders Scholarship spoke including:

Suzanne Sealey, La Trobe University who spoke on Timetabling: Where Engagement and Systems Meet.

Erin McLeod, Torrens University Australia who spoke on the Safe Access to Essential Services: Supporting Diversity in Australian Higher Education Institutions.

John Hegarty, Swinburne University who spoke about Customer 1 – A new way of managing enquiries. Here John shared how the Swinburne University of Technology is managing enquiries in a new and unique way.

Louise Batchelor, Victoria University spoke about the Victoria University First Year Model. Louise took us through Victoria University’s remarkable approach to changing the delivery of first subjects and more specifically the background changes to classes for the First Year Model. This was a standout presentation as far as transformation is concerned.

One interesting statistic out of the findings was that before changes only 54% of academic staff submitted results on time, whereas after the changes, 100% of staff submitted their results on time. Students attendance at lectures was 100% with greater engagement and increased retention figures. All this was achieved with no specific funding as changes were developed during business as usual activities!

The conference dinner included a visit to the fantastic Museum of Old and New Art (MoNA) with its amazing collection of art and design. The ‘poo machine’ was fascinating, along with numerous other ‘pieces’.

On the second day, the conference focused further on change with Michael Burgess, Chief Student Experience Officer, Western Sydney University speaking on Leadership and Change. Joan Angel, Australian National University (ANU), who spoke about Innovation by Degrees, detailing how the ANU designed, built and implemented their own curriculum management system, followed. This is an innovative space that is attracting many Australian universities as it is an area where significant efficiencies can be found.

Michelle Gillespie and Katie Routley from the Swinburne University of Technology spoke on Uniting the Library and Student Administration. This was an interesting discussion, as many efficient outcomes were realised through the unity of two important and essential units.

Final presentations included Associate Professor Kelly Matthews, University of Queensland speaking on Students as Partners, Jon Kerr, Director of Strategy at DeakinCo who talked about Micro-credentials and Anthony Manahan, University of Melbourne who presented So you want to be a robot overlord? Five steps to world domination.

All in all, it was an informative conference that identified many areas of change and innovation.

Want to find out how you can start implementing some of these lessons in your university or educational institution? Contact us today on 1800 870 677.