Professor Jane Fernandez is Provost of Excelsia College and oversees the College’s Research and Partnerships, Registrar and Quality portfolios. In this context, she oversees the regulatory outcomes of the College, including supporting governance and audit and risk functions. Prior to Excelsia, Jane was Vice-President (Learning and Teaching) and then Vice-President (Quality and Strategy) at Avondale (now Avondale University) and led Avondale through its change of provider categories, namely, its self-accrediting and university college achievements and its Joint-Conferral Scheme with Charles Sturt University.
Jane’s influence over Australian higher education is evidenced through her founding role in establishing the Higher Education Provider Quality Network (HEPP-QN), Australia’s first national quality assurance network for the independent sector. Since establishing the network almost a decade ago, she has successfully led several milestones in its development and impact. What started as approximately eight higher education institutions has grown to a membership of 80 institutions. This success she attributes to her shared leadership with her HEPP-QN Steering Group and to the continuing collaboration of member institutions.
The success of the HEPP-QN is notable in that it is recognised by the Australian Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA). Jane notes that the HEPP-QN’s success is owed to the generosity of many leaders who reflect its goodwill: namely, TEQSA, the HEPP-QN Steering Group, several reputable sector experts, and the many passionate leaders across HEPP-QN institutions.
The several national webinars Jane has led have been opportunities to share collective expertise with the sector. Two HEPP-QN highlights include the national webinar with the previous TEQSA Chief Commissioner Nick Saunders on the topic of self-accrediting authority and the more recent interview she held with the TEQSA Commission on TEQSA’s vision in October 2022. These have been opportunities to share the HEPP-QN’s motivation to provide a unifying vision for national-based quality in Australian higher education. Jane believes that sharing the space of leadership and learning from her teams is part of stepping up to lead. This is important to her for both her work with the HEPP-QN and just as importantly, for her Provost role at Excelsia.
Jane explains her leadership drive: ‘My motivation is the future of young people who are entrusted in our care. The outcomes that we want to achieve, as leaders, cannot be done alone,’ she says. Jane values the leadership philosophy ‘rise by lifting others’. This philosophy is also reflected in the HEPP-QN’s motto ‘Achieving Together’.
When approaching leadership from a Christian world view, Jane says, ‘We can look to Christ who beautifully brought together the human elements of leadership including empathy, compassion and forgiveness. Christ’s whole life on earth is graced with elements of humility and compassion: he was born in a stable, embraces sinners, affirms the dispossessed, and washes the feet of His disciples.’
The big lessons of Christian leadership for Jane involve being authentic through self-critique. This involves sharing and growing a vision while connecting to what it means to be human: facing our own flaws; seeking and giving forgiveness; growing through the mistakes we make; sharing the lessons we learn; respecting people; being inclusive and celebrating the talents and gifts that others bring; asking and seeking help; acknowledging that we never achieve anything alone; and always being grateful for the journey, dedicating the success God allows us to a higher purpose.