Strategic plans and adjunct professorships

Some time ago I was written to by an Australian University asking me to become an Adjunct Professor in Journalism. This is an honorary position so, (paradoxically) it’s not much of an honour!

In any event, this is how the letter I received begins.

The University’s 2012-2016 Strategic Plan seeks to optimize community links to provide real solutions to society’s problems across a broad spectrum of disciplines, and to engage actively in the community to effect social change.

I guess I’m relieved that the solutions that the university intends to provide are real ones.  Like I said on another occasion, “pretend is never good enough”. Anyway, I wonder if anyone could help me out here. What does the sentence mean?  What “social change” is contemplated?  Will it be change I can believe in?

Perhaps even more concerningly, my mind always goes to what is not said. If the solutions are real, what might they not be? Here are some words that don’t appear that may bode ill.

  • “Sustainable”.  This seems to me to suggest that while what will happen will be ‘real’, it will fall by the wayside – as in like not be like … sustained.
  • “Robust”. If it’s not robust it might just be a bit of fairy floss. It might just kind of like, real enough but blow away. Like it won’t be sustainable. See above.
  • “Realistic”. Realistic is different to ‘real’. Hitler’s invasion of Russia was real enough. Why it was so real, it even got it’s own name. Like ‘Operation Barbarossa’. But it was not, like, realistic. If something’s not realistic, well I think we know what the problem is. It won’t lead to change here in the real world. Parallel universe 487B perhaps, but here in the real world, with real jobs – not so much. No thank you!
  • “Enhance”. It doesn’t seem that it will enhance anything. Even if it’s a game-changer, if it’s not a game-enhancer, well we’re all taking a pretty big risk. Pretty obviously, we could end up with a game that is changed but that hasn’t got any better – like ‘enhanced’. It could have got worse. Like worse than the original game – before it was changed. No enhancement? No thanks!
  • “Jobs and growth”. There being no mention of either word borders on a lack of patriotism. Like where are the universities when we need them?

Should I be concerned about any of this?

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14 Responses to Strategic plans and adjunct professorships

  1. Bruce Bradbury says:

    What about an Australian university using “optimiZe” in the Strategic Plan? There’s another can of worms.

    Anyway, I’m just happy that my University has finally stopped using the tagline “Never stand still”. Now we can finally “Stop and think”.

  2. llengib says:

    Call me old fashioned, but this statement lacks a certain … synergy.

  3. Moz of Yarramulla says:

    As someone who longed to graduate from the renamed Victoria University of Wellington, I’m absolutely positive they haven’t covered all their bases on a going-forward basis.

    Their real solutions might be to yesterday’s problems, and only a few of those. They could also be negative solutions, like the bipartisan narrowing of who counts as Australian (and which bits of Australia count, for that matter).

  4. conrad says:

    Where I work, the future strategy dot points were previously so silly they were used as a prop on the Hollowmen (unfortunately I can’t find a link to it now — I assume the next VC thought it best to hide it). The new one is unfortunately not so silly but starts with the humble and very believable: “By 2020 Swinburne will be Australia’s leading university of science, technology and innovation”.

    I wonder if other universities could take them to court for obviously dishonest statements?

    I was thinking of collecting these to see who had the craziest and least humble one. Surely someone has “we will lead the world in blah blah…”.

    • Conrad such a collection could be fun. :-)

    • Nicholas Gruen says:


      I personally take offence on behalf of the Troppo suite of religious offerings the vision being “we will be the greatest source of intellectual enlightenment since Isaac Newton and certainly including Big Albert” and the mission being “to civilise the world – animate and inanimate – in all its aspects – physical and metaphysical”.

      You remember the training day, when people said it was over the top? I pointed out that if we didn’t take on a BHAG we’d be toast in this competitive world. Other blogs are not standing still you know. Anyway, without a BHAG, where’s the burning platform?

      Fortunately the people that matter backed me on it and the rest is history.

  5. Jj says:

    Obviously fake – words “committed to” are missing

  6. paul frijters says:

    you’re on a roll this week, Nick. You are meeting your KPIs, setting the standard, raising the bars in an aesthetic ethical organic undertaking. Or is that an ethereal ethical organic enterprise? Hard to keep them apart nowadays. Unlike the old days.

  7. pablo says:

    …’going forward’ has been omitted here which could be a serious challenge to the ‘real time world’ . This has been given new meaning to me after reading the Newcastle Herald (Wed 1st) and an account of road building/urban renewal which will only be completed by 2300.
    But on adjunctory…if it doesn’t cost the tertiary institution anything is the aim really to corner the ‘market’ by enlisting the max and beating your opposition. Is there a limit to appointments?

  8. Jim says:

    “The University’s 2012-2016 Strategic Plan seeks to optimize community links to provide real solutions to society’s problems across a broad spectrum of disciplines, and to engage actively in the community to effect social change.”

    A (slightly) harsh translation….

    “Comprehensive feedback received is that the university is completely out of touch with the interests and needs of the community and businesses. This is the case across all disciplines. We are now so far removed from reality, that we need to get outsiders that do actually deal with the outside world to help use become relevant again.”

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