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  Keynote speakers: Professor Shelda Debowski
  Photo of Shelda Debowski

Professor Shelda Debowski BA, Dip Teach., B.Ed., M.Ed., PhD, MAPS, GAICD, AALIA was elected president of HERDSA in July 2005, following two years on the National Executive. As the Director of Organisational and Staff Development at the University of Western Australia she provides oversight of the university’s various development activities which support staff and institutional development. Her role also includes a substantial role in building national collaborations. Most recently, she developed the scoping paper for the Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education on discipline based activities and has worked with other Group of Eight universities on a researcher development strategy.

Shelda has a long history in universities, having previously worked as a business academic at Murdoch University and as a lecturer in library and information science at Edith Cowan University. While working at Murdoch University, she was extensively involved in research management at school, faculty and university level.

She has published widely in the field of learning and development including a recent book titled Knowledge management: A strategic management perspective through Wiley Press. Shelda also sits on the UWA University Extension Advisory Board, and is an active member of a number of professional societies. She is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management and the Association of Tertiary Education Managers.

Shelda will be presenting the inaugural HERDSA Presidential Address which will now be presented at each HERDSA conference. Her topic for 20006 is:

Abstract - Mind the Gap: Universities as employers of choice.

Universities have been greatly unsettled by rapid change and increasing demands from government, community and students. Finances have never been so tight; government policy has never been so targeted in changing university practice, and competition has never been so severe. At the same time, university staff have become much more aware of their own needs as employees and as members of an international higher education community. Poaching of talented staff has escalated and turnover of valued people is more prevalent as the pressure on universities increases.

Many universities are placing staffing issues at the heart of their strategic plans, citing recruitment, selection and retention as a cornerstone of their organisational philosophy. Unfortunately, the gap between rhetoric and reality is growing for many institutions as the reality of working in higher education undermines the concept of traditional academic workplaces.

This address will explore the real context and issues which are emerging in university settings. Five areas will be explored:

  1. How has university work changed? What are our expectations of academics in this new higher education context? What is it like to work as a non-academic?
  2. Are universities corporations or academies?
  3. How are we preparing our university leaders? Are they sufficiently equipped to undertake the roles they must fulfil? What expectations do we have of our leaders?
  4. University demographics highlight the ageing staffing profile of our universities. Are we going to find it easy to recruit younger staff? What changes will universities need to make if they are to attract and retain younger staff?
  5. Are universities at risk as employers of choice? Is it possible to create more attractive communities despite these fiscal, political and competitive constraints?

Some principles and processes to address these challenges will be explored as potential ways forward for universities.