Flexibility, diversity and inclusion underpins university’s top ranking

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Not many universities around the world are named after women.

Perth’s Edith Cowan University (ECU) is one of them.

So, it’s fitting that, when the Australian Financial Review recently named the tertiary institution’s School of Business and Law the best business school in Western Australia and the second best in the nation for its teaching and research quality, it was, in part, because of the flexibility and inclusivity it offers to a diverse student cohort.

“I completed three of my four degrees while I was working full-time and had two young children, so appreciate the need for flexibility and balance,” says ECU’s Executive Dean of the School of Business and Law (SBL), Professor Maryam Omari.

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The ECU crest, she told The Bursar, carries the words ‘Freedom through knowledge‘ because Edith Cowan believed that education was the key to a better life.

“Edith Cowan was the first female parliamentarian in Australia, her image appears on the back of the Australian $50 note. She was a fierce advocate for the rights of women, children, and the underprivileged,” Professor Omari says.

“At ECU, we are a values-based organisation and live Edith’s legacy by being inclusive and providing opportunities and support to groups who may not have had privileges that other members of society have enjoyed.”

Family-friendly study opportunities

When the institution did some analysis a few years ago, Professor Omari says it found that the ‘typical’ ECU student (in terms of demographic profile) was a 26-year-old female who was studying part-time.

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“In the SBL, demographics are different at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, there are also differences in demography across courses,” she told The Bursar. “For example, our students in the Law discipline, on average, tend to be a bit older and not school-leavers, whereas the Sports Business program attracts a younger cohort of students. Our overall cohort of students, however, are generally older, in their twenties, there are gender differences for the different courses as well. Many of our domestic students balance work, family, caring responsibilities (for older or younger relatives) and study.”

By offering the flexibility than encourages these students to succeed at ECU, Professor Omari is able to showcase her passionate advocacy for flexibility – and be instrumental in helping the SBL’s reputation be recognised and honoured.

She is proud that such flexibility helps make study an accessible opportunity for people who may not otherwise attend university.

“Our Law program is the only accredited on-line law degree (by the Legal Practice Board) in Western Australia and only one of less than a dozen in Australia.  We offer the Bachelor of Laws both in full face-to-face, and full on-line mode, our on-line Law degree has been running since 2010 (way before COVID hit!),” she told The Bursar.

 In addition, she says, intensive offerings enable a select number of the school’s most popular postgraduate programs to be studied in hybrid mode, with students able to attend on a number of full days in combination with some self-paced studies. Delivering a number of degrees in ‘carousel’ mode is another example of the way ECU’s SBL aims to make tertiary studies more accessible.

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“This allows the student to immerse themselves in the learning in one subject area at a time without competing assessments for different units,” she says.

Top ranking is a team effort

With the AFR rankings based on postgraduate programs and factoring in the student experience, international accreditations, reputation and research rankings, Professor Omari points to the school’s student experience indicators as a significant component of the AFR’s announcement of the SBL achieving “first place in Western Australia for a second year in a row – and second nationally”.

“These achievements all come down to the amazing staff we have in the School of Business and Law at ECU,” Professor Omari told The Bursar. “I recruit very, very carefully and sit on every single selection panel to ensure we get the right person and fit for our ethos and culture. Quality and care for our students is in our DNA at ECU and the School of Business and Law.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live