Meet School Manager Richard Duke

An inclusive new School strategy is expected in early 2022, here’s how academic outcomes and the student journey will help shape it.

After more than 300 days spent in lockdown between the United Kingdom and Australia, Richard Duke is turning to the famous Voltaire quote: ‘Perfect is the enemy of good.’

“If you seek perfection, you’re going to be very miserable. An improvement on what exists, with an opportunity for further enhancement, is plenty, especially in these circumstances,” he says.

For Richard, a strategy and planning expert and qualified accountant, he’s determined to focus on the positives. It’s an approach that has led to many influential career achievements and personal feats.

Professionally, Richard’s tenure at London South Bank University (LSBU) – before arriving at the School of Biomedical Sciences in July – included six years as Director of Strategy and Planning. He led the development of the University Group’s strategy and the planning frameworks to support its delivery.

“The inclusive approach included the University, the further education college and two high schools,” he explains. “I then oversaw the project which developed a new curriculum and portfolio for our entire undergraduate provision, which will be ready for entry in September 2022.”

Richard also co-authored LSBU’s Teaching Excellence Framework submission which resulted in a silver outcome for the University – and, under his watch, LSBU jumped from 119th to 68th.

Next he co-authored Designing an English Social Mobility Index – a way to measure the value-add and social mobility contributions of individual higher education institutions – and developed the social mobility ranking detailed within it.

PURPOSE-DRIVEN APPROACH

It’s these skills and experiences that Richard hopes will benefit SBS as he works with colleagues across the School to develop a new School strategy. With an early 2022 publication target, the School Executive has endorsed taking a broad and inclusive approach to building a new strategy with student needs and research outcomes at its heart.

“I think SBS is in a position where it’s transitioned to new leadership, there are new external factors such as government policy in terms of job-ready graduates, and obviously COVID-19 is impacting how we teach, but also how our research contributes to wider health outcomes.”

As he did at LSBU, Richard aims to align the strategy with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. He explains, this is to help understand and build on the School’s purpose. “It’s about our ‘why’, which is more than traditional measures such as research dollars and student satisfaction levels.”

To bring the strategy to life, Richard wants to foster an open and transparent leadership model and call on School students, academics and professional staff to contribute ideas and opinions, as well as University wide pedagogy experts and industry professionals.

“It doesn’t matter if you are professional staff or an academic – everyone is part of the team to deliver against our outcomes.”

STUDENT JOURNEY JOY

Richard also plans to direct attention to the student journey – beginning with introducing student focus groups to help understand what SBS enrolees want to gain from their learning.

He co-founded of a £30m million capital program to redesign the student experience at LSBU and says: “It’s not just about students’ learning experience, but their entire interaction with the University. We have to fit in with their lives, we need to understand their lives better because from the moment we enrol them, it’s up to us to get them through”.

Richard hopes the School will to engage with industry to understand what skills biomedicine graduates need to be job-ready now, but also what lies ahead in 10 and 20 years’ time.

“There is a realisation that people don’t do the same job in the same way anymore. And, just because somebody moves into medicine or physiotherapy, it doesn’t mean they will do that forever,” he says.

“We want to equip people with life and soft skills on top of the hard skills and knowledge they gain here, so that they can navigate long and successful careers.

RETURNING TO PARKVILLE

Richard returns to the University of Melbourne after seven years in the UK. Previously he was a Business Intelligence Analyst and Business Manager at the Parkville Campus.

As a qualified accountant, Richard has a background in management accounting and management information provision.

“Since returning, I’ve noticed the University buzz is missing. It’s sad for everyone,” he says. But, again, Richard pulls a positive from the pandemic. In our journey to blended learning, we achieved more in two weeks at the start of 2020 than we had in 20 years.

“The opportunity now, is the transition from teaching online to online learning. We can actually design material with online in mind, rather than a lecture theatre and, I think it could be really useful for today’s students because they will be able to attend campus for meaningful and specialised sessions.”

MAKING IT PERSONAL

If you can’t find Richard in his office on the ground floor of the medical building, you might cross paths grabbing dumplings for lunch on Royal Parade or at a campus coffee shop – where the Englishman will be ordering tea, not coffee. Be sure to ask him about his hopes for the 2021/22 Ashes series, his soft spot for the Carlton Football Club, or passion for England’s Southampton F.C.

He would also take pleasure in a conversation about 10th Century English history, for which he has a bachelor’s degree, professional photography a favourite pastime or travel. In 2014, he travelled between Melbourne and London, visiting 31 countries on the journey in seven months without air travel!

As Richard forges ahead, he draws on inspiration from an influential former colleague, Professor Shân Wareing, the Deputy Vice Chancellor at The University of Northampton. “She was an authentic leader, who led through vulnerability, which I have learnt a lot from.”

By Harriet Edmund