Transforming the Higher Education Workforce



A multi-faceted project that is a strategic initiative of AHEIA in service of its members.


Learn about the project below:

The Project

This project built upon the Australian Higher Education Workforce of the Future Report (2016) to draw rich insight from what had been achieved by universities with respect to workforce reform since that time, together with other changes in the pipeline, focusing on how and what was learned by those endeavours to identify the strategic workforce imperatives for universities going forward.

The project was designed to enable a high level of involvement from, and collaboration between, key university personnel with responsibility for shaping the future of the HE workforce. The project was designed to assist future sectoral collaboration on workforce transformation, enterprise bargaining priorities at sectoral and institutional level, and strategic workforce planning at the institutional level. Where the Workforce of the Future Report identified the external contextual factors impacting universities’ operations and the implications for the future capability and capacity of their workforces, this project included a survey to assess and review what actual changes have been achieved in the face of those challenges, and how.

The Project Objectives
  • To identify and promote major gains and achievements/innovations across the sector;
  • To understand the structural constraints and other barriers that remain and need to be overcome; and
  • To assist universities to identify and navigate the best path forward having regard to their own wider strategic priorities and potential opportunities for sectoral collaboration


Progression of the Project

The project involved a phased approach to progression through each stage; an agile approach allowing for adaption based on what emerged as the stages were worked through, enabling key stakeholders to develop a sense of ownership in the journey, further reinforcing cohesion and collaboration across the sector.

  • Stage 1 – Assessment and Review – a quantitative and qualitative survey (December 2019) and report (January/February 2020)
  • Stage 2  – Engagement and Collaboration – a series of “think tank” consultations based on/informed by the outcomes of Stage 1
  • Stage 3 – Future Focus – identify specific projects to be undertaken as an outcome of Stages 1 and 2. Methodology to be determined based on key insights from Stages 1 and 2.
Stage 1


A survey instrument was developed with the assistance of an external consultant, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The instrument was then used to survey key university personnel to identify:

(i) major advances made by their university in workforce dimensions either outlined in the Workforce of the Future Report or otherwise;

(ii) structural and other obstacles encountered and/or which are still standing in the way of the university achieving its strategic workforce objectives; and

(iii) key learnings, both positive and negative, from the journey being undertaken to have a university workforce optimally equipped to meet the university’s current and future needs.

The survey also explored the impact of external factors on the university’s operations and business model(s) with respect to its workforce requirements. Those external factors included: Government regulation, policy and funding, competition for students, student expectations and needs, employer expectations and needs, and technological change. The survey was not intended to identify the sector-specific challenges already impacting our universities; we know them well and are already responding. The aim was to develop rich insight into what’s working as we adapt and develop new operating and employment models in the face of these challenges. The key deliverable from this stage was the February 2020 report that brought together the qualitative and quantitative data produced with case studies that exemplify the key learnings to set the platform for stages 2 and 3.

Stage 2

(Intended for the first half of 2020)


Stages 2 and 3 were put on hold given the shift in priorities to all matters associated with the impact on the sector of COVID-19.

Stage 2 was to involve a series of State-based and other events to bring together key university personnel to workshop the themes and challenges arising from the Report developed in Stage 1. This would involve consideration of potential future workforce scenarios and encompass different levels of knowledge and sectoral perspectives in each workshop/event/forum. Member universities would be involved in the design of these events, with the intention that senior staff (including Vice-Chancellors, DVCs and HR Directors) would be key participants together along with other internal and external thought leaders. Some of these events may involve facilitation by the external consultant involved in Stage 1. There may be additional inputs required in areas such as benchmarking of labour costs and lessons from other sectors who have transformed their operating models/workforce structures.

Stage 3

(Intended for the second half of 2020, potentially into 2021)

Further Enquiry

It was expected that Stages 1 and 2 will directly lead to the identification of specific initiatives that can be taken both at institutional level and at a sectoral level. Other issues may also emerge, requiring further enquiry through the establishment of specific projects that will involve collaboration between the Association and its member universities.


Media & Publications

Australian universities undertaking workplace reform
Strategic Project - Transforming the HE Workforce
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