The PIE: You’ve just completed the first 100 days of being chief executive. What is your vision for Navitas moving forward?
Scott Jones: I always have a philosophy of looking at an organisation, its strategy structure, people process systems, and working in that coordination. The first part was defining what we wanted to be and where we wanted to grow. The existing vision we had was to be one of the most trusted learning organisations in the world. It was a good vision, but it didn’t seem to resonate across the group really well, and I wanted to be more ambitious.
“Any additional competition is good competition”
We workshopped across the board and have now come up with a vision which we’ve communicated within the group. The new vision for Navitas is to be the best global education provider in the world, according to our students, our partners and our people. That’s allowed us to start building upon our ambitions: we’d like to double the business in five years. Actually, we don’t want to, we will.
The PIE: What does doubling the business mean?
SJ: It’s doing more with existing partners. We see a broader opportunity to grow into transnational education, working with our existing partners and taking them offshore. There are also efficiency gains that we can make at our own organisations. In some campuses there’s the capacity to do more, we can definitely recruit more students. We’re listening and learning with our partners to build greater connectivity to allow us to do more with them strategically to enhance and grow their business.
But it’s really doubling student capacity. We want to double the number of students that we have for our partners over the next five years.
The PIE: Market intelligence suggests students are looking to do a pathway offshore before going to a destination. Is that the sort of transnational partnership you mean?
SJ: We’re looking even broader than that. Where these markets are maturing, we’re doing a lot of business development research around opportunities to take partners in-country. We already have Curtin University that we’re running a full managed campus for in Singapore. We’ve taken Lancaster University to Leipzig, Edith Cowen we run to Sri Lanka, and Murdoch University in Dubai.
“I hope, whether it be regulatory or something else, that we keep to a high level”
We’ve created a really strong model to operate in these quite difficult and different jurisdictions and attract domestic students, the ones that may not have gone abroad anyway. That’s been a successful model for us over many years, and we see a great opportunity to expand that area now.
The PIE: How are the challenges different across jurisdictions, and how do you adapt?
SJ: One size doesn’t fit all even when it comes to strategy and the way in which we look at our business. That’s why we’ve spent some time designing the organisation which allows us to have clusters of divisions and countries to support and nurture what needs to happen in those markets depending upon what strategic position they’re in or growth cycle.
Navitas has typically been an innovative company anyway. In 2011, Forbes Magazine voted us one of the top 100 most innovative companies. From there, we’ve adapted and grown our product portfolios in the pathway space, moved into transnational education, had some independent higher education provision. But our primary innovation comes from alignment with our partners.
The PIE: Education isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind within the mainstream when thinking about innovation. Can Navitas and education more broadly better champion itself to the mainstream?
SJ: Education is where a lot of the new ideas flow and stem from through research. When people use the word innovation, however, they look at tech companies. They look at things that disrupt a particular market. They look at the product that’s being innovative, not actually where that has been housed or coming from.
In education, they look at us, and they say it’s kind of a slow-moving beast. I don’t agree with that at all. We’ve just watched universities over the years become much more innovative, agile businesses. But I don’t think we’ve publicised the education industry as an innovative sector in its own right.
The PIE: In that case, how do you see Navitas’ role in the future of education more broadly? Do you want to be the leader?
SJ: I think we’re going to align. We’ve been good at partnering. We’ve been able to build a really strong basis around working with our partners in innovating, and even our pathway products, transnational products and the other sector products.
There are other opportunities. If you look at innovation and drive, it’s coming out of the edtech space. I haven’t yet seen how that’s going to dramatically disrupt where we’re at at the moment. I look at our space and see there’s such a necessity from our clients where we’re teaching in the face-to-face space to provide blended models of learning. To provide agile models of learning. Digital literacy in the classroom, capacity not to be in the classroom, and zoom technologies of learning management platforms.
“One size doesn’t fit all even when it comes to strategy”
This is just my view at the moment, but the edtech space sits under the employer sector. You’ve got jobs websites Seeks, Monster, and Indeed, where they’ve got millions of employers on their database, millions of employees on the database. They can say do this short course here; I’ll then connect you to someone who can place you. I can’t see that Navitas can provide that support, but what we do have is good online program management perspectives. We’re developing that, in our product breadth but that’s aligned to our core product.
The PIE: Why are pathways important within education?
SJ: For me, it’s about opening doors and creating greater accessibility for students. Even more so when students that aren’t quite capable or ready to enter the mainstream education system with larger class sizes, more exposure, not to same nurturing or handholding that’s going on.
One thing we’re seeing in market is as universities globally are getting financially constrained, there’s that necessity for them to be internationalised. We’re seeing some of them dropping standards, which encroaches on the space that the pathway was developed for. While everyone’s entitled to do what they want to do, I think if you care about a student, that’s worrying, because they’re not well equipped to go directly into first year. Many of them exit the system, and it’s not helping anyone. It doesn’t help the institution that ‘s lowered standards, and it’s not helping the student.
But everything naturally works out. The pendulum swings too far one way, and eventually, we find equilibrium. And I hope, whether it be regulatory or something else, that we keep to a high level. Pathways are there for a reason.
The PIE: And for private education providers?
SJ: Any additional competition is good competition. It builds better quality across any sector that you look at. There’s a good place for institutions in niche products where some of the universities don’t necessarily have the capacity to play, or there’s not the same level of scale.
I love private providers that are high quality and can do that. They have a place to play, but I think how many should be questioned, as well as what category and level they have, and what access to funding they should have? There are some that are reputable, and there are some questionable ones that are maybe not. The government is doing an excellent job of cleaning it out and rectifying some of those issues.