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Pat Freeland-Small - Executive Director of Marketing and Communications at the University of Melbourne

by Nick Hindhaugh

Pat Freeland-Small - Executive Director of Marketing and Communications at the University of Melbourne

Nick Hindhaugh, founding Director of Six Degrees, sat down with Pat Freeland-Small of University of Melbourne, to reflect on the year just passed and discuss the future.

1. 2009 was a tough year for most. What are the key business changes you have made to adapt to the economic climate?

The education sector was not immune from the pressures of the GFC and 2009 was characterised by the need to trim costs and overheads. The University of Melbourne introduced several reforms to enhance business efficiency. Budgets have been made to work harder and unnecessary costs have been cut.

2. What is your outlook for 2010 and beyond?

We are looking forward to reaping the benefits of the structural and operational reforms we undertook last year. 2009 forced us to re-evaluate the way we approach many of our business activities, which has led to a thorough cleanout.

The Federal Government has announced reforms to the education and research budgets, which will provide more funding for the university sector from 2011. The sector will also benefit from the significant capital projects injection, which has significantly upgraded the quality of university and research infrastructure. The University of Melbourne currently has close to $1 billion in capital works projects underway.

3. What are the greatest challenges facing your specific industry/disciplines?

Our greatest challenge is funding the cost of education and research. The strengthening Australian dollar, bad press about the safety of international students and growing competition by other markets for the education and research dollar are our greatest challenges. Ensuring Australia remains an attractive and competitive destination for high quality students, academics and researchers is fundamental to the success of the sector.

4. What are the key skills and attitudes you will be looking for in candidates in 2010?

An ability to understand people and a broad knowledge of different cultures, combined with demonstrable skills in the relevant professional discipline. Increasingly I'm looking for candidates who also have skills in utilising technology to enable better communication and more efficient work processes.

5. What are your hiring intentions for the year ahead?

Over the next 12 months we are likely to be seeking talented marketing staff to assist in opening up some new and profitable business ventures. We will also be looking for talented communications staff in both our new and traditional media spaces. Additionally there will continue to be the usual staff turnover, which I believe is part of a healthy work culture.