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Professor Alan R Nankervis
Professor of Human Resource Management in the School of Management, Curtin Business School, Curtin University, Australia
Alan has more than thirty years’ academic experience at three universities in Australia, and in the UK, Canada, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, together with consultancies in Indonesia, China and Thailand. He was the Director of the Sydney Graduate School of Management, Research Director and Head of HRM at Curtin University. He is currently the Chair of the Australian Human Resources Institute’s (AHRI) National Program Accreditation Committee.
Alan has published more than 150 books, book chapters, international journal articles and conference papers for publishers such as Routledge, Palgrave Macmillan, Cambridge University Press, Pearson Education and Cengage Learning; and journals including Personnel Review, Thunderbird International Business Review, Asia Pacific Business Review and Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources. His research interests include the links between performance review and firm performance, comparative Asian HRM/Management, services management, and skills development in the Asia Pacific.
Alan’s most recent book is New Models of HRM in the Asia Pacific (Routledge), co-authored with Professors Malcolm Warner (Cambridge University), Fang Lee Cooke (Monash University) and Samir Chattejee (Curtin University).
The higher education sector in Australia is facing a host of strategic and operational challenges as the year unfolds, most of which have been largely ignored over the last decade or so. However, throughout 2017 employers, students, and some media commentators have begun to question the relevance, quality and sustainability of universities, prompting serious attention by some (but not all) service-providers.
At the strategic level, government funding (approximately 80 percent of overall funding) is declining, and likely to reduce further depending on federal government priorities. The current coalition government and its education minister have struggled to pass legislation to this effect on the basis that universities should become more self-sufficient. To date, opposition from the Senate has prevented such funding reductions, but it is likely that both parties will pursue this line into the future. Aggravating this financial conundrum, the combination of increasing competition for students from both regional and local private educational institutions is threatening earlier surges in undergraduate and postgraduate enrolments, whether local, international and/or online.
Recent commentary has also questioned the relevance and quality of university qualifications to industry, and society more generally. These critiques have usually been based on the (lack of) perceived graduate work-readiness or employability skills, often attributed to a plethora of inter-connected factors – overly-theoretical course content; a lack (and the de-valuing) of work experience amongst academics; promotional criteria which emphasise research and publications over teaching skills; the use of sessional (casual) staff to undertake much of the face-to-face and online teaching responsibilities; perceptions that enrolment, course content, and student assessment systems have been consciously downgraded in order to raise student completion rates and therefore attract subsequent enrolments and associated institutional income. Such perceptions have harmed the image of reputation of the higher education sector, together with recent accusations of significant incidents of sexual assault in many university campuses.
Many universities have, to their credit, begun to address these negative perceptions in a variety of ways. Some, for example, have aggressively marketed their programs to new overseas markets such as India and Indonesia and/or developed high quality online programs (undergraduate and post-graduate), in an attempt to diversify their funding options. Others have revised their program offerings to incorporate more industry-related activities (industry representatives on program advisory boards, work-integrated projects and internships, business guest lecturers, applied industry projects); or developed ‘teaching only’, ‘teaching and research’ and ‘research only’ classifications, with defined but separate career paths. All of these are encouraging (if somewhat problematic) solutions to intractable sectoral problems.
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