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How can anything other than a small, student-focused, private university offer [this] experience

Prof. Alan Patching talks about the USP of the Faculty of Society and Design at Bond University.
BY Skendha Singh |   03-03-2020

Prof Alan Patching, Associate Dean, External Engagement, Faculty of Society & Design at Bond University
Prof Alan Patching

Professor Alan Patching, who is Bond University’s Associate Dean of External Engagement for the Faculty of Society & Design, has directed the construction of some of Australia’s largest buildings including Sydney’s Olympic Stadium. He spoke to BrainGain Magazine about the Faculty, the University and the what he would look for, as a project manager, if he were hiring an architect or designer.

Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.

  1. What, in your opinion, is the USP of the Faculty of Society and Design at Bond University?

    In the Faculty of Society and Design, we share the key objectives of the broader university. We seek to produce competent graduates, who are effective collaborators and outstanding global citizens. 

    We don’t believe that can be effectively achieved in huge classes, so our average across the faculty, and across the university, is 10 students per teacher. In some very popular programs, students might share a lecture with more students than that (never more than 120 by university rule) but that group will then break into smaller numbers for follow on lectures and tutorials.

    In FSD, we do our best to be available, support and provide as close to a one-on-one education experience for each and every student as we can. But the proof of the FSD education ‘pudding’ is really in the eating. Our faculty is extremely proud to align with the broader university in maintaining a level of student support that has contributed significantly to Bond being the only university in Australia to achieve the maximum five-star rating in all six subcategories of student satisfaction for fourteen consecutive years. And for the two years that the Australian Government has been surveying employers to determine which university produces the best graduates - Bond has been top of the list. 

    I think those achievements speak better than I ever could regarding what the FSD is about. As our Vice-Chancellor repeatedly tells us, at Bond (and that means at FSD as well…we are approximately half the university) it is always "Students first, Students second, and Students third."

    If ever we get a sense that we are not maintaining that standard we take it as a personal affront, and intervene to correct the situation immediately. We intend to remain a leading faculty in the leading university when it comes to student satisfaction.

  2. How closely linked are the concepts of smart and sustainable when it comes to construction, cities, and design?

    They should ALWAYS be inextricably linked. It’s difficult to be definitive about all aspects of Smart Cities without writing pages. But, generally speaking, the term refers to urban developments that use massive data collection technologies and analytics techniques, and, of course, the Internet of Things, to make the best decisions regarding optimum use of urban resources for the benefit of the residents. The end goals include effective running costs management, better mobility, and enhanced lifestyle, among others.

    Design is the starting point for realizing Smart Cities. If we don’t have smart architects (in the broader humanity-technology-design interface sense) then we can hardly hope to achieve the smart cities' objectives. If we don’t consider the sustainable supply availability, the embedded energy in the materials we choose for construction, what information is required to achieve a smart city, and how we can design the technology for the provision of that intelligence into our buildings and city planning, it becomes difficult to achieve the smart city objective. 

  3. What does it take to make a career in architecture/design?

    Speaking from the perspective of an experienced construction project manager, whenever I have appointed architects for important construction projects, I am looking for that perfect blend of:
    • Design talent and creativity
    • Team player mentality and willingness to collaborate
    • An understanding of how to use current design technology (in these days various aspects of Building Information Modelling to produce a useful starting basis for smart design and construction discussion)
    • PLUS, a thorough understanding of the importance of balancing design cost and schedule imperatives with a sense of social and environmental responsibility. And the ability to help communicate that importance to sometimes narrow thinking (i.e cost and revenue focus) clients.
  4. What do you think distinguishes the international education experience in Australia?
    And, within Australia, at Bond?

    Small class numbers, student focus at the centre of everything we do, highest student satisfaction in Australia, the highest employer rating in the country, and a solid record of good students becoming good graduates and being employed quickly after (or even before) graduation. And the fact that in several FSD programs (architecture, construction practice, city planning and project management being just a few examples), we arrange internships within the course to enhance employability prospects. Big universities simply have too many students to be able to offer that consistently.

  5. Is there a message you would like to share with international students?

    I would simply add that we always look forward to giving students a truly international experience, to assist them in getting settled and enjoying the now-famous Bond experience. [We want you] to know that it is not only teacher support you will receive, but also free medical aid and counselling if needed, not to mention assistance with English speaking and writing, and assignment preparation. And that’s before we even think about the FSD free pop-up classes, where we focus on out-of-class lectures, at no additional cost, to better prepare students for their employment experience. 

    We have bi-annual Industry Engagement Forums, which I facilitate. They are run as formal networking events. And we invite employers to form a panel to answer student questions, then provide drinks and a light stand-up meal. In other words, we precisely recreate a networking event for students, where they can ask employers directly about what [apart from their degree] they need to do to enhance their early employment prospects. How can anything other than a small, student-focused, private university offer that type of experience to its students?


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