Foundations for developing strategic partnerships – perspectives from an Australian university.

A new structural model to manage strategic whole of university partnerships.

John Szabo
University of Technology Sydney

Background and Objectives
An integral building block of UTS’s success, since its inception, has been to be outward looking and focused on partnering with industry. Applying the advancement of knowledge to solve industry challenges is in our DNA, part of our social charter and our commitment to industry and community. Our reputation among leaders in business, the professions and government is that UTS has the most industry-focused approach of all Sydney metropolitan universities.

UTS is a university of technology with a distinct practice-oriented model of learning. Innovation and entrepreneurship education is our key driver in our curriculum, preparing our students for the future of work. Emerging tech skills go hand in hand with human skills (creative intelligence, critical thinking, and collaboration). Ranked the No.1 Young University in Australia for the last three years, UTS is agile and contemporary, with social justice key to our core and purpose. We are committed to driving social change in the world beyond our campus. UTS is uniquely positioned on the southern fringe of Sydney CBD. The Ultimo precinct is fast becoming Australia’s largest and most vibrant creative digital hub. We hold the enviable position of being surrounded by a high concentration of start-ups, creative firms, large technology, media, education and corporate partners, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.

Two years ago, UTS established the Corporate Relations Centre. Strategic whole of university partnerships are cultivated and managed by a small corporate relations team. This is a central office, reporting into the DVC (Innovation & Enterprise), helping industry navigate the University. It is purposefully a separate function from the research office as research is seen as one of the three key pillars (Students/Graduates, Research and Community) of our strategic partnership model, not the primary driver of industry engagement.

Aside from strategic partnerships, we offer advice and strategy support to our senior leadership to help ensure UTS capitalise and respond to the external conditions. What are the needs of our partners? How can we leverage our infrastructure to help our partners succeed? What are the big ideas from the university community that we can add value too? Where are the collaborative opportunities with other university divisions to develop new service offerings? If we are successful, we will not only support and attract investment to support the university’s core activities but we will be able to measure our impact to the broader community.
What is a strategic partnership?
Partnerships have very different meanings across higher education institutions, as they do across different sectors. For UTS, a strategic partnership should work (or have the potential to work) with the university in a multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary manner on shared problems and projects that are inherent to both our future success. Relationships should exist across all levels of both organisations. Partners can operate in the government, corporate, cultural or community sector.
A potential transformational partner should broadly meet the following criteria:
• Aligned goals between partners against wider UTS vision
• Deliver shared and measurable (financial or non-financial) benefits to graduates, research and wider community
• Be aimed at solving complex problems
• Require domain expertise from more than one part of the university