With the world facing complex challenges, many of the solutions can only come when we bring different disciplines and experiences together and work with international partners.
With that in mind, and to support the delivery of our 2020-30 strategy, Universal Values, Global Change, we are establishing four Futures Institutes to deliver multi-disciplinary research and postgraduate education.
Here, we attempt to answer some of the key questions you might have about the initiative.
1. What are Futures Institutes for? Why do we need them?
The Futures Institutes will:
The Institutes (Health, Climate, Education and Society) are an integral part of the University strategy and will be key in fulfilling our vision to combine research and innovation, knowledge exchange and education, to deliver global impact, drive down inequalities and create a Fairer future for all.
2. How did you decide on the four themes?
The Institutes will bring together colleagues from a range of faculties to focus on four areas of existing demonstrable strength and expertise, and where we believe we can create the greatest impact in tackling pressing global challenges: climate, health, education and societal. These themes were based on strategic objectives embedded in our new ten-year strategy – Universal Values, Global Change – and extensive discussions at University Executive Group (UEG).
An inclusive approach involving all faculties was adopted to enable the institutes’ co-creation, and task and finish groups have been set up to develop detailed proposals for their academic remit, focus and their business plans.
3. How will the new Futures Institutes fit with existing structures/interdisciplinary research areas at Leeds? What process will be used to review/align/integrate activity?
No decisions have yet been made on how existing interdisciplinary research areas will fit with Futures Institutes. The processes to integrate activity will evolve as the plans for individual institutes develop.
4. What will happen to existing institutes?
Some existing institutes and centres will continue to operate as before. Others will have an important role to play as part of the new Futures Institutes. We recognise that there is a variety of funding models, governance arrangements and even naming conventions, and that most existing institutes and centres focus on research and innovation.
We have some very successful globally impactful institutes, but others have potential for greater inter-faculty research and postgraduate education and professional learning collaborations. The new institutes aim to develop recognised centres of excellence for tackling global challenges and driving world-changing research and education through impactful international partnerships.
Focused, discipline-based activities can be recognised in the University through the route of a faculty-based Centre or Institute. Similarly, there will be multi-faculty entities that do not meet all of the criteria of a University Futures Institute – for example they may not address a specific global challenge but still add value in an area of strategic priority. For these, recognition as a multi-faculty institute or centre may be more appropriate.
5. How will you judge the success of the Futures Institutes?
Each Futures Institute will have an agreed business case with a five-year delivery plan. Progress on delivering the plan will be monitored annually.
6. How does focusing our research in areas where we’re already globally leading go together with celebrating diversity and inclusion, and leaving space for creativity and innovative ideas?
While they build on four existing areas of strength, this does not close the door to diversity or innovation. Futures Institutes will provide new inclusive opportunities for creative and innovative ideas and collaborations.
7. Where does fundamental research fit with Futures Institutes?
Fundamental research remains critical to the University’s activity, and we envisage that Futures Institutes will build on some of the fundamental research taking place.
8. Where do early career researchers (lecturers and University Academic Fellows) fit in the new research vision?
Early career researchers – and more established researchers – will be critical to the success of the Futures Institutes. It is important to bear in mind that the Institutes are about so much more than research, but by removing barriers to research and teaching, they will open up more new avenues for researchers at all levels.
9. Will the directors be responsible for promoting a positive research culture internally?
Research culture has been reflected in the job description for the roles, following consultation with the Dean for Research Culture.
10. How will this affect the course programmes?
Futures Institutes will not lead the provision of undergraduate teaching, but focus on enhancing programmes and leading the provision of interdisciplinary postgraduate taught education (and professional learning), for example, delivered in a fully online or hybrid mode.
11. Will there be new job opportunities? Will there be job losses?
Because the aim is to expand collaborations, each Institute will be recruiting a manager, director and three deputy directors, leading respectively on research and innovation, education and knowledge exchange, and policy and engagement. We expect that the institutes will in turn open up new opportunities for expanding research and education. There are no planned job losses as a result of the creation of the Futures Institutes.
12. Will the Futures Institutes’ directors’ roles be advertised externally?
Yes, although internal candidates will of course be able to apply.
13. How will Futures Institutes be funded?
They will receive initial pump-priming investment from the University’s Strategic Fund for five years. The Institutes will become academically and financially sustainable, and focused on securing significant external income from research, postgraduate education, knowledge exchange and philanthropy.
Research grant income will be allocated directly back to host schools, while teaching-related income will be allocated to host schools, based on their members’ respective contributions.
A percentage of income generated by Institutes will be used to cover their running costs.
14. Where will they be located?
They will be ‘virtual’ institutes, in the sense they will not be based in specific locations, although the Priestley Centre for Climate Futures will be based at the Priestley International Centre for Climate’s current home.
15. Will there be any dedicated support from professional services (e.g. training, HR)?
Each institute will have a manager and, like other institutes, the Futures Institutes will draw on professional services for additional support for their core staff, including training, HR and finance. This will also include the support of the Research and Innovation Service to help protect intellectual property and build connections with industry, partners and funders. Each Institute will also have a management group, supported by a steering committee and an external advisory board.
16. What role do you see industry and other external partners can play?
Driving societal impact is a key aim of the Institutes, and impactful partnerships – with any organisations able to work with us to effect change – are the heart of making this possible.
17. When’s it all going to come into play/what are the timelines?
The first two Institutes to be established will be the Priestley Centre for Climate Futures (incorporating the Priestley International Centre for Climate but with new groups and colleagues joining from other parts of the University) and the Institute for Health Futures in the first half of 2023. Recruitment for these has begun.
Detailed plans for Education and Societal Futures Institutes will be considered in the coming months.