Our students were hugely impacted by the onset of the pandemic. Not only were study patterns disrupted but many students faced added financial and emotional burdens made worse by the uncertainties associated with the growing pandemic. The response from our staff was nothing short of outstanding. We quickly shifted to online modes of delivery so that students could continue their studies. We also shifted many support services online to help keep students engaged. Such efforts to provide the best outcome for students saw Flinders’ online learning platform receive positive endorsement from 87.5% of undergraduates in the 2020 Student Experience Survey – a significantly higher engagement rating than the national universities average. Indeed, Flinders University improved against the sector average in every single category of the Survey.
Our teaching excellence and innovation continues to earn national plaudits, with the new Diploma of Digital Technologies winning the prestigious Training and Mentorship Program of the Year in Defence Connect’s 2020 Australian Defence Industry Awards. The initial course intake in March upskilled 51 shipbuilders from BAE Systems Maritime Australia, equipping them with digital skills for modern shipbuilding.
Our student-centred ethos also required that we respond quickly and decisively to help support students facing severe financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. We created a $12.5 million student support package that included generous donations from many staff, alumni, Council members and friends of the University. Through emergency relief payments and a new Matthew Flinders Scholarship programme we were able to support nearly 2,000 students who might otherwise have been unable to continue their studies.
We continue to champion diversity and equality of opportunity for all. Indeed this is at the heart of our first INNOVATE Reconciliation Action Plan launched in 2020 to foster an environment that recognises and embraces Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, knowledges and cultures. Recognised by Reconciliation Australia, our INNOVATE plan is grounded in the concepts of togetherness, reciprocity and respect.
We have also taken great strides towards our sustainability goals with 100% of our electrical power now supplied from renewable sources. Our own solar energy farm provides 20% of our energy needs and the remainder comes from the Willogoleche Wind Farm in South Australia’s mid-north, furthering our rapid progress to become one of Australia’s first carbon-positive universities. The result of our endeavour, prudence and careful planning means that Flinders University is in good financial shape to progress our future plans.
We can all reflect on an extraordinary 12 months of great accomplishment, for which I would especially like to thank our staff for their commitment and hard work in staying focused on the needs of our students during such an eventful year.