- Open Universities Australia
2 0 1 5 YEAR IN REVIEW
2015 had all the hallmarks of a tough year for a company whose business spans the whole of the online tertiary education sector. For the Australian higher education sector, 2015 was shaped by political, regulatory and funding uncertainty and the flattening of demand for programs. Student demand in the vocational education and training (VET) sector continued to be adversely affected by the uncovering of a range of shoddy practices by some providers in that market that left students and taxpayers with a liability for courses that were not fit for purpose. At the same time, political uncertainty that arose as a result of leadership tensions in the Federal Government had an influence on business confidence and, therefore, business spending.
That Open Universities Australia managed to weather the storm and record a net profit, whilst delivering shareholders a dividend in line with that paid in 2014 was testament to the board’s discipline, patience and persistence during this tough year.
At a governance level, OUA undertook an exercise in aligning shareholder interests. It is one of the deepest exercises of its type with which I have been involved in my career. It is easy to gloss over the fact that it is something of a challenge for a Board and management to deliver shareholder value when your company is owned by seven universities, each of which has slightly different objectives, financial positions, states of readiness for the digital age, and clarity about the role that OUA plays in its overall strategy. That is particularly so when the company was originally established as a distribution channel for shareholders’ online offerings, and:
a. each shareholder has subsequently developed online offerings and distribution channels outside OUA; and
b. one of the shareholders – Monash University – no longer provides courses through OUA at all.
And so, with our CEO Paul Wappett and his Executive Team leading the way, we took the opportunity during 2015 to go back to first principles and ensure that our shareholders are aligned about both what they expect OUA to be and what they expect OUA to do. The work revealed that initially there were disparate views about the direction that OUA ought to pursue and divergent views about the ways in which shareholders should derive value from OUA. By the end of 2015, however, shareholders had converged around a series of major strategic choices, and we enter 2016 with great clarity about the direction of OUA. We don’t underestimate how significant an achievement this has been, nor the positive impact it will have on OUA’s future direction and so we express our appreciation to our shareholders for having undertaken that work in the collegiate and cooperative way that they did.
During the year, Professor David Wood (Curtin University’s nominee) retired from the Board and was replaced by David Menarry. Professor Wood had been a member of the board for 5 years and was at the heart of a number of major initiatives that OUA has undertaken in that time. I would like to thank him for his service, his contribution and his wisdom whilst a member of the Board.
I would like to thank my fellow Board members for their commitment, support and rigour during 2015. It was a year in which we faced a number of issues that go to the heart of directors’ duties to act in the best interests of the company. I was pleased – although not surprised – to witness the way in which our Board approached complex and sensitive issues about which their own nominee shareholders had differing views and interests. I would also extend the Board’s and shareholders’ appreciation to Paul, his team, and to all of our staff. We thank them for their passion for delivering quality learning experiences and valuable customer interactions to our students, and for protecting the assets and reputation of the company and its shareholders.
All of us involved in the leadership of OUA face 2016 with clarified purpose, great confidence, and deep commitment.
Board of Directors
Professor S. Bruce Dowton
Professor S. Bruce DowtonNominee Director – Macquarie University Chairman of the Board
Professor S. Bruce Dowton is the Vice-Chancellor of Macquarie University. He is a paediatrician, clinical geneticist, molecular biologist, researcher and academic who has served as a senior medical executive at universities, healthcare institutions and consulting organisations in Australia and the United States. He has also held visiting Professorial and External Examiner appointments at several overseas universities.
Mr Stephen Beall
Mr Stephen BeallNominee Director – Swinburne University of Technology Member of Finance, Audit & Risk Management Committee
Stephen Beall is the Vice-President (Strategy and Business Innovation) at Swinburne University of Technology. Stephen has extensive management experience, and has previously held executive roles in the areas of employee relations, workers’ compensation, occupational health and safety and business development. Stephen is a member of the Board’s Finance, Audit & Risk Management Committee.
Mr David Pitt
Mr David PittNominee Director – Monash University Member of Finance, Audit & Risk Management Committee
David Pitt is the Senior Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer of Monash University. Prior to joining Monash University David held senior positions at Telstra in the areas of research, engineering, human resources, finance, television, superannuation and offshore entities.
Professor Ian O’Connor
Professor Ian O’ConnorNominee Director – Griffith University
Professor Ian O’Connor is the Vice-Chancellor of Griffith University. Professor O’Connor is widely published in the field of juvenile justice, child welfare and the future directions of social work and human services.
Mr David Menarry
Mr David MenarryNominee Director – Curtin University
David is Curtin University's Chief Financial Officer. Curtin is Western Australia’s largest university, with over 60,000 students locally and internationally, assets of $1.5 billion and annual revenues of approximately $900 million. David’s strategic financial leadership supports Curtin’s achievement of research and teaching outcomes.
Mr Paul Beard
Mr Paul BeardNominee Director – University of South Australia Chair – Finance, Audit & Risk Management Committee
Paul Beard is the Chief Operating Officer at the University of South Australia, with responsibility for finance, facilities, IT, planning and institutional analytics. Prior to joining the University of South Australia, Paul held senior roles in both the private and public sectors in Australia and the United Kingdom. Paul is a Chartered Accountant.
Professor Gill Palmer
Professor Gill PalmerNominee Director – RMIT University
Professor Gill Palmer is Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academic at RMIT University. Professor Palmer has experience in education, government and private sector management having held senior roles in the university sector in Australia.
Retired in 2015:
Professor David Wood – nominee Director of Curtin University
Executive General Manager - Corporate Services (CFO)
Matthew WalshExecutive General Manager - Corporate Services (CFO)
In 2015 we consolidated our online reporting environment for the consumer facing business lines. This allowed us to make tactical decisions in response to shifting markets. We also centralised our project management and IT services for the benefit of all businesses. Our focus remains on building and expanding the services and capabilities that let us grow in increasingly competitive and challenging market conditions.
Executive General Manager - Education Delivery
Janine HarperExecutive General Manager - Education Delivery
It was wonderful to see our team rise to a number of challenges in 2015. While completing a huge volume of work for internal stakeholders, we maintained a high level of service for our Education Solutions clients. The diligence and dedication of our staff allowed us to innovate and deliver new initiatives, services and products for our customers, helping improve the online learning experience for students.
Chief Executive Officer
Paul WappettChief Executive Officer
Despite uncertainty and instability in the higher education market in 2015, there was much to celebrate here. We secured clarity and focus for OUA, rejuvenated the e3Learning business and secured major contracts for Education Solutions. I’d like to thank all of our staff for their ingenuity, resilience and adaptability, and the Board for giving us the support and space to shape OUA for the future.
José Herrera Perea
Executive General Manager - Education Programs
José Herrera PereaExecutive General Manager - Education Programs
In 2015, we remained focused on attracting new students and supporting existing students as they progressed through their course. We turned around the performance of our online sales channel and launched new programs that are already recognised as world-class in their field. In a climate of uncertainty and increasing competition, we continued to demonstrate OUA’s value to our students and to our providers.
Executive General Manager - Industry and Training
Carlos SchäferExecutive General Manager - Industry and Training
In 2015 we made strategic investments to improve critical infrastructure in two key areas. Firstly, we looked at new ways of communicating with corporate clients and students to ensure their interests come first. We also developed a roadmap for the release of new technologies which allow us to better respond to customer needs and the external marketplace, culminating in the release of LearnForce 9 in early 2016.
Open Universities Australia makes undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from leading Australian universities available online.
e3Learning helps businesses stay productive and compliant by offering training, compliance and workforce management technology.
Open2Study’s four-week courses are entirely free, available to everyone and an excellent foundation for further study.
Education Solutions provides market-ready, proven technology solutions, combined with unrivalled expertise in learning and content production
Open Training Institute offers nationally recognised certificate and diploma qualifications.