COVID-19 may have brought great disruption to the economy and shifted the needs of industries and employers, but Professor Michael Gilding – new Vice-President and Executive Dean of the College of Business, Government and Law – also sees great opportunity ahead for the different disciplines within his College that are well placed to benefit from such change. “COVID-19 has taught us that dynamic change is now a constant,” he says, “and it’s a necessity to adapt.”
Still riding a whirlwind of activity since his arrival at Flinders University early this month – most of his library is still in his previous home in Melbourne – Professor Gilding faces immediate tasks including completing the Business School accreditation, but he is already looking further afield, to see how the College can best engage in a changing professional and academic environment.
Viewing his College structure as a relatively new entity, he is looking at how to strengthen inter-connections between the different disciplines of Law, Government, Business and Criminology. “I think there is a lot of room to figure out how these disciplines best fit and work together, and to promote that through a cohesive message of what is special about Business, Government, Law and Criminology at Flinders,” says Professor Gilding. “I haven’t come here with a set view of how we should evolve. I have to meet all the people here and learn what our existing strengths are, because what we do depends on the people we’ve got.”
He looks at great strengths that already exist within the College – pointing to Criminology having especially strong national research and industry connectedness, the Jeff Bleich Centre’s timely geo-political positioning, the strongest Government discipline of any SA university, the innovative Law curricula, and the best student experience of any higher education business course in the state. Now he aims to open fresh lines of communication between different disciplines within the College to explore more innovative collaborative endeavours.
Integral to this exploration of fresh possibilities are monthly DataBlitz events that Professor Gilding has initiated, presenting a speaker from each of four disciplines to collective college meetings. These began last week and will become a regular feature of college life. “The aim in the first instance is to forge a clearer and more cohesive message about our value proposition. The first DataBlitz theme is Innovation, Technology and Industry 4.0 and how that affects each discipline. Being able to address these themes will help us to identify what we stand for and what makes us unique.”
Professor Gilding sees new opportunities with industry engagement. While defence is already recognised as a powerful and growing industry within South Australia, he also identifies other important SA industries – wine, tourism, events – and is delighted that Flinders has innovative courses engaging specifically with these industries. “Perhaps we reach further, offering executive education and micro-units that are relevant for people who want to upskill or reskill, and that aggregate into graduate certificates, diplomas and Masters qualifications.”
He sees industry-focused courses expanding further. In Business, this will equate to a new pre-experience MBA being offered, with a fast track option of completion within 12 months, that he wants to see in place by next year. “We must look at what is missing from our suite of course offerings, and make sure that we have the right products to ensure relevance and growth.”
In Law, he believes Flinders’ refreshed undergraduate program is now amongst the most innovative law degrees in Australia but says there’s currently a lag in public understanding of this development. “Promotion is the key, so that the value of these courses being unique is understood and makes them sought after.”
He also sees it as crucial to bring teaching, research and industry engagement into equal balance within the College. He looks at the success of programs at Tonsley in this area, and also the uniqueness of the facility across university campuses in Australia – for engaging with business and addressing how jobs are evolving in the new economy. He wants BGL to also tap into this rich vein of possibility. “We have to be talking with industry, government and stakeholders from the moment we start thinking and designing a new course, so that we can be co-creating and co-delivering with them,” says Professor Gilding. “I think there is huge scope for growth across all the disciplines – especially Business. And to grow we need the right courses, that meet student demand, industry and community needs.”