In writing this welcome note to the School of Languages and Cultures’ newsletter at the end of the first week of teaching for semester 1, it is only fitting that I should take the opportunity to reflect on this particular time of the year. “O”-week and week 1 is a marvellous albeit hectic time to find yourself on the St. Lucia campus; the return of students en masse brings not only a lot of movement, life, noise and queues at coffee shops, but an enormous amount of energy and excitement. For many students, this is the very start of their university experience so everything is new to them, but my guess is that even students who are returning to UQ for their second, third or even fourth year don’t realise the work that has gone on “behind the scenes” over a period of at least six months in order for all of the orientation information sessions to take place, for all of their classes in week 1 to be timetabled, costed, staffed, written and prepared, for course profiles and blackboard sites to be populated, for their enrolments to be processed and their pre-requisites checked. Week 1 is the culmination of a long period during which an astounding number of different processes need to come together, and when I stop to think about just how many different things are involved in just one of our core activities, namely teaching, which might from the outside seem like quite a simple affair, I am truly amazed that by the time we get to week 1 everything (for the most part!) runs smoothly and without any major hiccoughs.

Now one might of course say that we are by now well trained, that many of our professional and academic staff have been doing this for a long time now, so it is only normal that things should run smoothly. This might be true if we lived in a stable and unchanging environment, but the University system and UQ in particular are in a constant process of change and adaptation to an ever-evolving context. Whilst debates about deregulation seem to be off the political agenda for the time being (although perhaps not for ever more), the question of the funding of the higher education system is one that remains a live issue that has not really been resolved; in relation to research, changes to the allocation of block grant funding to Universities has altered such that publication outputs no longer produce any direct income to individual institutions and the emphasis is now even more than ever on competitive grant income as well as research impact; inside of UQ a major project is looking at the provision of systems and services across the whole University and many of our administrative processes are undergoing major change; also on the agenda is the UQ Student Strategy green paper, soon to become a white paper, that will require us to reconceptualise the way that we deliver our core business to students.

To deal with these multiple layers of complexity and deliver a high quality experience to students in week 1 is, then, truly amazing, but it is not miraculous. On the contrary, it is only thanks to the hard work and dedication of individuals and, most importantly, teams working together that we are able to do this, that we continue to be one of the top performing schools in the whole University in terms of teaching quality as evaluated by students themselves. I would therefore like to thank each and every one of my colleagues both individually and collectively for their hard work and dedication and for pulling together to make the seemingly miraculous possible.

I would also like to thank our students. At the end of week 1, given the picture I have painted above, one might imagine that our staff would be feeling a little fatigued and jaded. I am teaching two courses this semester, and in my classes for both of these this week I found myself in front of an incredibly engaged, thoughtful, reflective and responsive group of young minds (and I’ll apply that term even to our mature age students, because I believe that the very hard decision to return to University later in life is symptomatic of a young mind keen for knowledge). Attendance was close to 100%, discussions were thoughtful, respectful and intelligent; the desire to learn was palpable. For me the experience was truly invigorating and it reminded me of precisely why I love this job, why I put in all of that hard work to do what we do. So yes, I’m tired, but it’s been a great week. I hope that yours has been too and that you enjoy reading about all of the OTHER things that have been going on in the School. 


Associate Professor Greg Hainge

Acting Head of School