Q&A: University of Canberra.

Founded in the 1960s and established as a university in 1990, The University of Canberra (UC) is today home to almost 17,000 students and was named among the world’s top 20 young universities in the most recent Times Higher Education Young University Rankings 2021. In 2019 Inkpath began working with UC to design, implement and launch its skills and career development platform entirely remotely.

UC’s Associate Director of Graduate Research, Stella Vasiliadis, and Researcher Development Specialist Dr Fern Hyde, tell us how they’ve been using Inkpath to help researchers identify, track and develop their skills.

Could you tell us how you’ve been working with Inkpath so far?

Earlier this year, we revised our whole PhD programme focused on developing transferable skills and incorporating industry engagement opportunities, which is now aligned to our Researcher Development Skills Framework. Before working with Inkpath, we had no central system for candidates to track their skills against the framework, it relied on personal management. Inkpath has given us the ability to support candidates and researchers to identify, track and develop their skills, while enabling us to monitor how they are progressing throughout their studies. Where candidates need to complete a skills audit, Inkpath provides them with a clear picture of their current skillset, while also highlighting areas they may need to improve on or are yet to complete.

What has Inkpath enabled you to do that you couldn’t do before?

Now we have the booking function, it’s an all-in-one service for us. We can schedule workshops across all of the areas on our skills framework. People can now register for events, carry out skills audits, and identify workshops that will help fill any skills gaps.

Not all of our candidates want a research career – they might be doing a research degree but want to work in industry – so they now have the freedom to decide how interested they are in doing say, for example, research-led teaching. If they want to be an academic, they would need to develop that skillset, but if they don’t then they won’t prioritise training in that skills area. They have much more of a clear picture of the options available to them and can then go on to track their skills development journey in a clear and easy way.

Have there been any immediate benefits you’ve seen since using Inkpath?

It has significantly reduced our administrative workload, as we were previously manually scheduling and tracking workshops and attendance.

How has Inkpath helped you to manage event bookings?

One thing that we chose to turn on was the strike function – where a profile will be flagged if a candidate is booked in for a workshop but hasn’t attended. Having registrations translate into attendance is a big problem universally – people book to attend an event, and then they don’t come – and so we don’t have accurate numbers for room size. No shows can make the per person cost of workshop expensive, and it means that other people on waiting lists can’t attend. So, the strike function is a way of encouraging people to cancel their booking if they can’t attend. The in-built function leads to much more accurate reporting, which then helps us to plan and schedule future events much more efficiently.

This system has been particularly valuable during COVID-19, where room capacity has been limited. It has enabled us to track booking and attendance much more accurately.

What’s your relationship been like with the Inkpath team?

Our candidates and staff have been very helpful and open when providing feedback to us, which means we often have a list of development points for the Inkpath team. They are always very responsive, agreeable, and accommodating to our suggestions.

We feel like we have a continual back and forth conversation, in which we are helping to develop the Inkpath platform as we use it more and more… and we have all of this with an 11-hour time difference!

What advice do you have to offer other universities looking to use something like Inkpath?

A lot of universities use multiple systems for booking and tracking, and often have nothing in place in terms of tracking skills development. Inkpath is a total booking system and has integration into our research, skills and development framework. It is one integrated tool, which can help to achieve multiple efficiencies in so many areas, as well as offering a valuable resource to our researchers.

Inkpath also has scalability, so you can try the platform with a small group or one cohort initially, and it can later be rolled out to a wider remit with ease. As well as supporting researchers, you can use Inkpath for professional staff career development too.

How are you looking to work with Inkpath further over the coming months?

We have been talking with faculties across the university to see how they could also use Inkpath. Adding value as much as possible is critical for the higher education sector, particularly in a post-COVID climate. Inkpath has helped us to become more streamlined and more efficient. It’s a very agile organisation that is receptive and responsive to our needs, and we look forward to working together to develop the platform further over the coming months.

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