TEMC 2017 is presented by ATEM & TEFMA

What Universities Can Learn From Zoos in The 21st Century

For the professionals in charge of transitioning Australia’s tertiary education institutions into the 21st century, spearheading change can be a challenging and daunting endeavour. How do we anticipate the future needs of our students and staff? How can we bring about meaningful transformations? And how do we motivate an entire institution to come along for the ride?

According to Dr Jenny Gray, CEO of Zoos Victoria, professionals working in today’s tertiary education sector can learn a lot from the ways large, iconic organisations such as zoos have already gone about implementing organisational change.

With her recently published book ‘Zoo Ethics: The Challenges of Compassionate Conservation’ now available in most bookshops, Dr Gray is well equipped to make such claims. Over the past two years she has successfully completed her PhD in ethics, and led Zoos Victoria through one of the most significant organisational changes in its history.

“At Zoos Victoria, our recent journey of organisational change has involved moving away from an education and entertainment focus and towards conservation as our primary motivation. This has involved working through a significant change management processes, with staff, the broader community and zoo visitors at large. We’ve needed to consider big questions like how to develop a shared passion with stakeholders, how to show resilience in uncertain times, and how to move our vision from idea to reality” she said.

According to Dr Gray, a number of important parallels can be found between tertiary institutions and large organisations such as Zoos Victoria. She believes that like zoos, universities need to build stronger relationships with the public. They need to re-think how people engage with them, and what kind of relationships they want to maintain with those people moving forward. “Today, almost every cultural and education facility is being challenged to re-think its relevance. As large, complex organisations, zoos and universities share a number of similar challenges” she added.

“At Zoos Victoria, we’re moving from people having a single visit into establishing a life-long relationship with us, and I think that’s true for learners at universities as well. The idea that you would go to university for four years and then end your education has changed. Tertiary institutions, like zoos, want a loyal customer base who are willing to return time and again and forge life-long learning connections” she said.

Dr Gray suggests that our changing digital landscape also plays an important role in how we communicate change with the wider community: “The way we communicate with people is changing enormously. So too are people’s expectations. What was once good enough will not be good enough in the future. There is more and more competition for people’s time and money and we have to always be thinking about the next way to move forward” she said.

Dr Gray will be presenting her thoughts on this topic at the 40th annual Tertiary Education Management Conference (TEMC) which will be held at Crown Conference Centre from September 17 – 20. Further information about the conference, including program and registration details can be found at www.temc.org.au