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Mr Ker was in North America from August 29 to September 28 and spent most of his time at Olds College in Alberta, Canada. He also spent time at other institutions in Canada and the United States.
Speaking in a report tabled at Otago Polytechnic's council meeting yesterday, Mr Ker said he gained significant insights into how Olds College established itself as a high-performing institution.
"My overall purpose at Olds College was to consciously reflect on the operations, practices and performance of Otago Polytechnic by observing and discussing how another high-performing institution went about its business."
Among areas where he got inspiration was that of applied research.
The key lessons he learnt in this area were that if Otago Polytechnic was to develop a successful applied research business, it needed to ensure research was "industry driven, not just staff interest driven", it needed to narrow its focus to what it "can be good at", and "hire specialists to anchor our research initiatives".
He said he was grateful to the council for giving him the opportunity to go on the trip"This was my first significant break in eight years from my chief executive responsibilities at Otago Polytechnic and gave me the time and distance to reflect deeply on where Otago Polytechnic is at and options for the future."
Other ideas inspired by the trip included the possibility of setting up a micro brewing and brewery management course and courses in GPS technology.