President’s Message | April 2019

10th April 2019

ALTF news, president's message

Dear Colleagues

I hope everyone is having a happy and productive year so far and that you are looking forward to the Easter break.

Ever since the ALTF was formed in 2011, I imagine that we all suspected that funding to support its ongoing sector-wide engagement and sustainability would dry up at some point. In 2019, we have finally arrived at that place. But we go out with a bang and not a whimper, and remain hopeful that all Fellows will continue to fight the good learning and teaching fight and advocate for excellence and innovation in our sector to the continued benefit of our students and the national interest, in both its social cohesion and national productivity aspects.

In that vein, we have two pieces of particularly good news. First, in our latest Student Success Blog post, Professor Jessica Vanderlelie shares her insights on transforming alumni engagement in Australia.

Secondly, you will see below that our small Secretariat team have been busy over the last couple of months producing a 2019 ALTF Legacy Report. In that wonderful and validating collection, peppered with testimonials contributed by Australian higher education leadership, I write in the first few paras as follows:

A Rich Legacy: The ALTF and Peak Pedagogy

If you’ll excuse my reframing of great Shakespearean dialogue, I come to this bittersweet task not to bury the ALTF, but to praise it. And also to forecast a bright learning and teaching (L&T) future for Australian higher education, which now stands on the pedagogical shoulders of a deeply embedded culture of sector-wide collaboration and innovation for educational excellence, in part ALTF-enabled.

When National Teaching Fellowships were first offered in Australia, briefly by the Council for the Advancement of University Teaching (CAUT) and the Committee for University Teaching and Staff Development (CUTSD) over 1994-1998, and then again with greater determination and longevity over 2006-2016 by the Carrick Institute for L&T in Higher Education (Carrick) and its successors, they were a bold and ambitious experiment. In their Carrick iteration, Fellowships were intended to “complement the teaching awards program” (Centre for the Study of Higher Education, 2005, vi), with an innovative conceptualisation of good L&T deeds being prosecuted by way of a synergistic coalescing of right person, with the right program of change, at the right time.

Specifically, the June 2006 Carrick Fellowship Scheme: Information, Guidelines & Nomination Instructions set out on page 1:

The aim of the Carrick Fellowship Scheme is to advance learning and teaching in higher education by supporting leading educators to undertake strategic, high profile Fellowship activities in areas that support the Mission of the [Carrick] Institute. Fellows are expected to develop a program that explores and addresses a significant educational issue; develop their personal skills and profile and to be ongoing advocates for excellence in learning and teaching. The Fellowships will involve collaborative activities and the building of national and international partnerships. Carrick Fellows will become part of a national group of experts and leaders in learning and teaching in higher education.

Looking at those 2006 Guidelines through 2019 eyes, the prescience of the Scheme’s proponents at that time, and the sectoral leap of capability-building faith they imagined, are matters for which Australian higher education, its teachers and students, will remain forever grateful.

As evidenced in our 2019 ALTF Legacy report, investment in the Fellows’ “significant educational issues”, and their ongoing advocacy as a national collective of pedagogical trustees, has borne a rich educational harvest. Concurrently with other funding schemes managed variously by CAUT, CUTSD, Australian Universities Teaching Committee (AUTC), Carrick and their successors—the Australian Learning & Teaching Council (ALTC) and the Office for Learning & Teaching (OLT)—two decades of modest, but ruthlessly strategic, investment in Australian L&T enhancement have delivered a golden age of pedagogical innovation and educational excellence, which now underpins Australia’s world class reputation for quality. And this is surely as befits a sector that contributes to Australia’s premier services export industry and is crucial to the national weathering of Industry 4.0’s waves of disruptive innovation. 

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Thank you – each and every one individually and collectively – for your passion, dedication, inspiration, pedagogical goodwill, and particularly for your visionary and learning leadership, all of which have been so capably and generously deployed. I also thank the ALTF Executive Committee, especially those who have worked so hard on the Legacy Report – Dawn Bennett, Nicki Lee, Sandy O’Sullivan, Trevor Cullen and Sarah O’Shea – and the wonderful Pip Munckton (who is the Network Secretariat with Dawn) who has kept us on track. On behalf of all Fellows, I am also grateful to our higher education students, advocates and colleagues for the sector’s warm embrace, and to the several governments and various funding bodies over our Fellowship Schemes’ history for their faith in us. It has been a rare honour and privilege to have worked with and for you all.

Yours in learning and teaching

Sally Kift
ALTF President