Events » Service Improvement and Innovation in Universities

Service Improvement and Innovation in Universities

SAVE THE DATE: 18-19 October 2018

Building on earlier successful Service Improvement conferences at the University of South Australia in 2012 and the University of Newcastle in 2013, the LH Martin Institute ran its first Service Improvement and Innovation in Universities conference in Melbourne in 2015 with guidance and support from a steering group of senior university sector leaders. With over 100 delegates attending, this two-day event was very well received. The second annual Service Improvement and Innovation in Universities Conference was held in Brisbane in 2016 and it is back in again in Sydney in 2017.

This year, the conference will be taking on a new and innovative format. Our broad aim remains building our capability as institutions, however as the true experts, we encourage participants to be the drivers of their own learning.

Click here to download the conference agenda.



1. Innovation Powered by Skills (Major, Minor)
Many times we are asked, “but what is innovation?” or “how do I innovate?” This theme challenges the way we think about innovation and what that means in different contexts within the sector, our lives and our work. Participants will explore different concepts of innovation, and learn new skills for innovation.

2. Collective Buying Power (Minor)
With budget cuts looming on the horizon, how can we as institutions improve the efficiency and effectiveness of procurement practices to gain the best value for money? This theme explores the concepts behind and methods for shared procurement within the sector and what savings can be made when we harness our collective buying power.

3. The Power of Collaboration (Major, Minor)
The nature of universities is traditionally characterised by competition, however in the context of open innovation the realistation grows that collaborating and sharing knowledge and information has a very positive impact on innovation and the effectiveness of individual organisations. So what can we learn from others? This theme will walk through how universities partner with other universities, state and local governments, and industry and community organisations.

4. Powerful Communities (Minor)
What is the value of reaching out? This theme builds on the notion of collaboration to look at the broader socio-economic impact for the community when strong universities partner with local stakeholders to foster inclusiveness and build a sense of community that reaches beyond the campus borders.


That’s right, it’s back to Uni! Participants will be asked to select a Major and a Minor to study over the two-day conference. Keynote sessions and in-depth workshops cover the Major themes, while breakout sessions will be split into the Minor streams.

Between sessions, head to the Study Hall to brainstorm with your peers and problem-solve issues you are facing, soundboard ideas and develop some actions for change. Participants are encouraged to join an ideas factory or networking table over meal breaks, or volunteer for one of the audience led sessions.

Study Hall: This is your chance to meet with your majors group to discuss your reflections and ideas generated by the morning’s discussion, share your experiences from your different minor sessions, work on your action plans and brainstorm questions for the panel sessions.

Ideas Factories: During Q&A discuss with your table, questions for the keynote presenter and write them down on the cards provided. Cards will then be collected by conference staff and selected for the presenter to answer.

During meal breaks, check the signage around the venue to join a brainstorming or problem solving session on a topic of interest.

Audience Led sessions:

5-by-5: Have an interesting lesson or story to share? Prepare a quick 5 minute talk with 5 accompanying PowerPoint slides to present to your peers. Think of this like a mini-Pecha Kucha! Submissions are due on Friday 18th August 2017, and will be voted on by delegates prior to the conference.

Improvised Panel: Join an improvised panel session with your colleagues. A topic and three corresponding questions will be drawn from a hat (or Pre-selected by vote), three volunteers will then act as the panel, providing a quick introduction of themselves and their roles and experience before answering the questions.


This conference is held by the LH Martin Institute and led by a steering committee made up of leaders and senior managers in Australian universities who have gone through or spearheaded the implementation of change and service improvements in their own institutions.

The steering committee members are:

  • Dr Stephen Weller, Chief Operating Officer, Australian Catholic University and Past President, Association for Tertiary Education Management. Read Stephen's blog articles on the pursuit of service excellence and innovation.
  • Ms Janet Beard, Senior Honorary, Fellow LH Martin Institute, University of Melbourne
  • Prof Leo Goedegebuure, Director, LH Martin Institute
  • Ms Lakshmi West, Director, Service Improvement Group, Australian National University. Read Lakshmi's blog article on digital disruption.
  • Mr Steve Paris, Executive Director, Students, RMIT Vietnam
  • Mrs Suzanne Crew, Head Academic Quality and Analytics, University of New England.Read Sue's blog article on the connection between innovation and quality assurance in universities.

Read more on the steering committee and our keynote speaker's thoughts on innovation and service improvement in universities on our blog Insights.


Ed Bernacki, Innovationalist (Canada)

Ed Bernacki created the Idea Factory to help people and organisations develop their capacity to innovate. He has been part of many public sector innovation projects in various countries, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Having also worked in the private sector, he completely rejects the idea that the private sector is inheritably more innovative than the public sector. Any organisation can be innovative in how it manages people to serve its customers or stakeholders.

His personal insights come from working with many public sector groups at various levels of government. He is also a sophisticated thought leader in all elements of this work. He  walks the innovation talk in terms of inventing new tools to help people become more innovative.

You can road-test some of Ed's tools for innovative conferences and Ideas Factories or catch Ed's in-depth workshops at this year's conference. Under the Major: Skills Powered by Innovation,  Ed will help participants define the concept of innovation skills as they relate to their personal experiences as well as explore what it takes to develop the skills and capacity to innovate.

To learn more about Ed's work, you can visit his website here. We would like to thank Microsoft Australia for their genourous sponsorship of this event, and helping us bring Ed Bernacki to Sydney.

You can read more from Ed in his Insights article Innovation skills and our preference for using them.


Mr Ray Fleming, Education Industry Solutions Executive, Microsoft Australia

Opening Keynote: 9:30am - 10:30am, Thursday 19 October

"Insights, challenges and frameworks for futureproofing the Australian Higher Education Sector"

View Ray's presentation here, or listen to the interview with Pop Up Radio Australia

Listen to a podcast of Ray's Keynote



Professor Caroline McMillen, Vice-Chancellor, University of Newcastle

Closing Keynote: 3pm - 4pm, Friday 20 October

"Australian Universities: Transforming and Transformational"



Mr Darryl Carpenter, Manager Integrated Services & Better Public Services Result 10, Department of Internal Affairs, New Zealand

Plenary Session: 9:30am - 10:30am, Friday 20 October

"Overcoming the challenges of digital transformation – lessons learned from the NZ Government"

You can read about the Better Public Service Result 10 journey in Darryl's Insights Blog article.




Ms Jane King, Deputy Commissioner, Design and Change Management, Australian Taxation Office

Plenary Session: 4:00pm - 5:00pm, Thursday 19 October

"Transformational Leadership and Mindsets for The Future of Work"



Professor Philippa Pattison AO, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), University of Sydney

Panel Discussion: 11:30am - 12:30pm, Thursday 19 October

"The power of collaboration: breaking down silos to build stronger outcomes"






Dr Vernon Crew, Senior Honorary Fellow, LH Martin Institute and Principal, VSEC Consultancy

Workshop Facilitator: The Power of Collaboration.

Drawing on Vernon's years of experience in the tertiary education sector, and with a particular interest in quality assurance and change capability development, this workshop aims to provide participants with an in-depth look at how collaboration influences leadership, governance and management.




Ms Carol Harding, Innovation/Design Practitioner

Workshop Facilitator: Innovation Powered by Skills.

Carol has been Deputy Director of the Australian Innovation Research Centre for the past decade. She is now helping organisations build design capability for innovation and creative problem solving, and helping people learn how to design success in their personal/professional lives.

Carol will facilitate workshops on the fundamentals of design thinking and how it can be used as a tool for organisational innovation and creating a culture of innovation.



Read through this blog by Mark Robinson, Director of Lean, St Andrews, Scotland, for a detailed account of the 2016 conference

‘Excellent and high quality speakers and a good sense of collegiality amongst conference attendees” – 2016 Participant

“Thought provoking and interesting – thanks for a great conference” - 2016 Participant


Conference opens (registrations): 8:30am, Thursday, 18th October 2018
Conference closes: 4pm, Friday 19th October 2018

Note: The start and closing times are indicative only and subject to change; please see the full conference program for details.

Conference venue: Melbourne, TBC


  • Gain valuable insights from leaders and peers in the sector who have successfully carried out transformational change, big and small.
  • Opportunities to discuss key issues affecting your institution and the sector as a whole.
  • Bring back ideas on how to establish a service improvement initiative in your institution or extract more value from a current one.
  • Learn how to think outside the square, create focus on people and culture and translate these into results for your institution.
  • Enhance your institution’s chances of future success through an increase in service quality.
  • Opportunities to network with peers and participate in interactive group sessions that will capture new thinking and better practices.


Senior university executives and managers or directors of business units, particularly those with responsibilities for business and process improvement, change management, administration, planning and service delivery. Below are examples of their position titles.

  • Deputy or Pro Vice-Chancellor
  • Registrar or Deputy
  • Vice-Principal or Deputy
  • Chief Operating Officer
  • Chief Finance Officer
  • Chief Information Officer
  • Project Director or Manager
  • Director or Manager of Business Improvement
  • Director or Manager of Change or Transformation
  • Director or Manager of Administration
  • Director or Manager of Planning
  • Director or Manager of Services (e.g. Student Services, Research, HR, Finance and IT)


Conference fees for 2018 will be announced in February.

Groups of five or more from the same institution receive a further 10% discount on selected ticket types.


This event has now concluded for 2017. For pre-registrations for 2018, please contact Melissa Hendicott at or call +61 3 9035 6429.



For other queries regarding this conference, please contact Melissa Hendicott or call +61 3 9035 6429.

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