Which is fair enough given how complicated the world is. We just want things to be simple. So here I was in October last year, 6 months into running an independent consulting firm, and suddenly I’m Chief Executive of Education Adelaide.
People were confused.
It’s simple really. In May 2013 my colleague Dennis Murray and I undertook a review of Education Adelaide, at the request of its Board and the Department of Further Education Employment Science and Training (DFEEST) in South Australia. Education Adelaide had been advised that its government funding, $1.56 million annually, was to be cut from the middle of 2015. That essentially rendered the organisation incapable of doing anything useful.
Education Adelaide’s mission to promote Adelaide as an education destination to international students finds expression in two distinct and important activities:
1) the implementation of a destination marketing campaign which supports the student recruitment activities of institutions; and
2) post-arrival student and community engagement activities, which contribute to high satisfaction rates among international students in their experience of living and studying in Adelaide.
Its role is particularly critical in the face of competition from other cities in Australia trying to attract international students, and something no other entity in South Australia has the resources or expertise to replicate.
The review was intended to identify future sustainable funding models, but it was clear early on that without government funding (about 60% of the total budget) there was no way to replace that amount of money. Government funding had to at least be partially restored in order for Education Adelaide to be viable. To further compound the situation, long-standing Chief Executive Denise von Wald, having led the organisation with aplomb through the proverbial “interesting times” over 8 years, decided enough was enough and accepted a role in London with Tourism Australia. Who wouldn’t? The Board wisely decided that until the funding situation could be sorted out, there was no point going to market for a new Chief Executive, and I ended up in the role on an interim basis, with a simple and clear task – business as usual while working with Board Chair Bill Spurr to have funding reinstated, then look for a Chief Executive for an ongoing appointment.
At the same time the Board was generous enough to allow me to continue the development of my consulting work, which was starting to take off. Feast or famine, as they say. The logistics were biblical.
Did I mention that while all this was going on, I was coaching my son’s cricket team back in Melbourne? With the help of a great parent group. They won the premiership – here’s a photo.
Well done, boys. That’s James on the left holding the shield.
Long story short, an impending state election in March 2014 had everybody fired up about identifying the industries that were going to save South Australia’s economic bacon, given the demise of the automotive industry and the uncertainty facing the economy as a whole. In the lead up to the election, on the back of a subtle but persistent lobbying effort, both sides of politics committed to levels of funding that would assure Education Adelaide’s future. At $879 million worth of exports in 2012/13, international education is a big deal for the state’s economy. Recent figures show 2013 calendar year exports at $924 million, so it’s not only big, it’s growing again. Aggregate year on year growth in commencements to March 2014 was around 22%, slightly ahead of the national trend. So funding Education Adelaide makes sense, and always did.
The effort of the Education Adelaide team in a year in which they lost their funding and their Chief Executive, and then got stuck with me for 8 months, was remarkable. Recently they launched the Destination Adelaide video, one of our major pieces of work during my time there, and testament to the team’s ability to focus on the job at hand during tough times. It’s also a fine example of destination marketing. The news gets better - new Chief Executive Karyn Kent (via Tourism Australia and the South Australian Tourism Commission) takes up the role this week. And Education Adelaide board member Hieu Van Le has just been announced as South Australia’s next Governor – a fine man and a fine story. South Australia was founded on the dream of free men and women being rewarded by the fruits of their labour – Hieu is the modern representation of that ideal. A Vietnamese "boat people" refugee who has never stopped contributing since he arrived on our shores.
There’s a lesson in that, I’m sure.
Stephen Connelly, a Victorian, was Chief Executive of Education Adelaide from September 2013 to April 2014. He does not support the Adelaide Crows or Port Power, but he did see David Hookes hit five 4’s off one Tony Greig over in the Centenary Test in 1977, and has a soft spot for Darren Lehmann, a fellow Australian cricket coach.