Posted 13/09/2023 by: Professor David Lloyd

It's highly unlikely given my manifestation of irrational selective galeophobia (which is largely focused on one particular species*) that I would ever undertake the sport of free diving. But recent events have conjured up some parallels. Sitting this morning in the welcome sunshine of a too-long delayed Adelaide spring, I feel as if I've literally just come up for air.

The record for an un-augmented submerged breath hold is a staggering 11 minutes and 54 seconds. It’s quite literally astounding. Have a crack while you’re reading this. Then multiply your effort by ten. Just imagine the rush of relief that person had when they resurfaced and drew breath.


I accept that I’m stretching the simile to its elastic limit, but feelings are always subjective. The last almost three months – well, the last 74 days to be precise (as an aside it’s interesting that I can’t abide to round the time up to three months, as to do so would unacceptably erode the remaining available time) – have been, if not submersive, (a new word!), then at least incredibly immersive. A deep breath was drawn at the end of June, taken as we publicly announced the outcome of the feasibility assessment. That breath was held and wasn’t released in the headlong rush of meetings, media, mania and more that ensued.

But today, 74 days later, I exhaled.

Not because of some breakthrough or milestone. Much more because it was needed. The internally held tension needed release and the fibres of effort needed renewal. Ironically, in public fora, Peter Hoj and I have consistently reminded those around us that this is not a sprint. That we have a long journey ahead of us between the ‘as is’ of today and the opening of the new Adelaide University in January 2026, and further beyond that date, as the transformative curriculum renewal and systems for the new institution continue to evolve out to 2030. A near seven-year journey to realise the shared vision. Seventy-four days in, I realised that we were forgetting to breathe.

There are many, many, many things that need to be done and done well, all in a specific and timely order to ‘create’ this new university. State legislation needs to be drafted, then it must be proclaimed and passed by parliament. Parliament in parallel to that has to decide if it will support the idea of the creation of the new institution as proposed by the existing universities, witnesses provide ‘evidence’ (or opinion), positions are jockeyed for, sound-bytes dropped to beget headlines.

Should the necessary legislation pass (and what happens if it doesn’t?) then a fledgling university takes form, a Transition Council must shepherd its first steps towards the implementation of a strategy, the development of a brand identity, to TEQSA and CRICOS and ESOS and HESA registrations, the formation and population of internal structures, policies and procedures, attributes, ethos, culture, the enrolment of future students, their experience, an enterprise agreement, the smooth transfer of existing content and staff and students, the turning on of the lights… the ensuring that there are lightbulbs in those lights...

When looking through the lens of significant change, we have to reflect on the counterargument, the advocacy for the status quo. Setting aside those cases made which are simply based on untruth or misinformation and ignoring some utter rubbish articulated about “dropping standards” – advanced by uninformed, disconnected, delusional would-be elitists (who frankly belong in a league of their own) – the vast majority of contrary positions advanced are positions of worry and fear. The majority can be collapsed to: “What if it doesn’t go to plan?” That’s a reasonable question. It’s why, in the presentation to our Councils – those individuals charged with determining the strategic direction of the universities – we presented both counterfactual (do nothing) and consequence (black swan) analyses. Not every risk can be infinitely mitigated – but we have identified the risks we can foresee and our strategies to deal with them. We have contingencies and Plan Bs, Cs, Ds, Es… They don’t detract from the decision to prosecute Plan A though – to travel on the journey prescribed to the chosen destination – aware of the complexity and risk therein.

It's sometimes difficult to remember to breathe. It can take a conscious effort. The alternative… well.

The outline of a future picture is all there – we have now to add colour in its delivery.

A journey to deliver Australia’s new for-purpose university. By our own design and by our own hands.

Built from the best of both our institutions and built to be better.

  • Australia’s most contemporary curriculum
  • #1 in Australia for student employment
  • #1 in Australia for the education of non-traditional entrants to higher education
  • #1 in Australia for the education of domestic students
  • #1 in Australia for online education provision
  • #1 in Australia for industry-linked research
  • Top 5 in Australia for educating regional and remote students
  • Top 5 in Australia for student experience
  • Australia’s University of Choice for First Nations peoples
  • A magnet for the most talented staff and students.

Day 74, with its warm gentle sunshine, our perennial emergence from winter, reminded me that this is a journey.

In this light, the destination looks worth the effort.

*For those of you who miss my anachronistic attempts to shoehorn popular culture references into my blogs, an apology. I had fully intended to make reference to the Antikythera and where it was bringing us (and as an aside – wasn’t it a great final adventure?) but alas, a time paradox ensued…

Professor David Lloyd

Through The Big Picture, I hope that our whole community gains a greater and current appreciation of what is going on, how it fits together and how our activities connect and reinforce each other at a whole of enterprise level.


Tag cloud