Realignment of faculties to be considered

University Council agrees work to consider faculty realignment.

The University – and the higher education sector as a whole – face a significant period of change during the coming years, much of it unpredictable. This will bring challenges but also many opportunities in education, research and innovation in the UK and overseas. We already have the breadth and depth of academic and professional services excellence at Leeds required to seize these opportunities. However, given the nature of the emerging opportunities and the growing trend towards greater interdisciplinary working, it may be that some adjustments to the existing faculties would put us in an even better position to progress. 

Against this background, the University Executive Group (UEG) has started a process to consider the configuration of existing faculties. This was discussed at Senate on 4 July.

Any proposals to change the current arrangements will take account of a number of key principles (see below), draw on the valuable lessons learned in the successful formation of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures, and be subject to discussion with the wider University community and agreement by Senate and the Council. There are no immediate plans to alter the school structure.

Key considerations:

Bearing in mind the principles below, UEG has started a process to consider the potential benefits of:

  1. Creating a new faculty embracing activities in engineering, mathematics and physical sciences, taking full advantage of the investment in the Sir William Henry Bragg Building, the Bragg Centre for Materials Research and the University’s involvement in the Royce, Rosalind Franklin and Turing institutes. The intention here is to develop an integrated approach to research in materials and bionanotechnology, soft matter, artificial intelligence, process development, healthcare technologies, modelling and imaging by building on existing strengths, ensuring the rapid mobilisation of interdisciplinary working and developing the student education portfolio. The physical relocation of the Schools of Computing and of Physics & Astronomy alongside Chemistry and the Engineering schools could enable this process.
  2. Different options for the alignment of schools currently in the faculties of Environment and Education, Social Sciences and Law (ESSL). The intention here is to explore the scope for building on synergies across global challenges associated with environmental change and the development of more sustainable societies.

The current working assumption is that Leeds University Business School (LUBS), and the faculties of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (AHC), Medicine and Health (FMH) and Biological Sciences (FBS), should remain as they are now, subject to the outcome of the discussions on Engineering, Physical Sciences, Environment and ESSL.

Guiding principles behind this process

  • Compelling academic case for change: As in the case of AHC, any further changes to the existing arrangements should be based on a compelling academic case, ensuring added value for students and staff.
  • Encourage interdisciplinary working: a determined effort should be made to continue lowering the barriers to interdisciplinary working in every part of the University, including where faculty changes are not being considered. For example, there is a real impetus across FMH and FBS to work closely on new opportunities in discovery medicine, consistent with the new research strategies of our principal funders. 
  • Mindful of impact: Careful consideration should be given to the possible benefits and effects of any faculty realignment on student education, research and innovation, and the University’s international ambitions. 
  • School structure retained: The integrity of the existing school structure should be maintained at least until the 2021 REF submission is made.
  • Remain accountable: There is a clear need to balance responsibility and accountability for academic and financial sustainability with any proposed changes.
  • Learn from experience: The successful realignment of faculties to create the new AHC has resulted in education and research benefits, and the lessons learned from this change should inform future consideration of this issue.
  • Consult our colleagues: There will be consultation with Senate and the wider University community in the autumn, with final approval for any changes sought at Council.


Why would we do this before setting our new vision and strategy for 2020 to 2025?

While we’ve recently announced work to devise a new vision and strategy beyond 2020, there is an opportunity before that to consider whether or not changes in the current faculty configuration will put Leeds in an even better position to grasp existing and emerging opportunities in the shorter term, particularly in interdisciplinary education and research.

What will happen next?

As a next step, the relevant Executive Deans will explore the case for realignment in their faculties and work with the Vice-Chancellor to develop a detailed paper for discussion at Senate in October 2018.

If realignment is recommended, the aim should be to support the creation of the new faculties by August 2019, if necessary with transition arrangements in place up to August 2020.

Are any other organisational changes planned?
Council also recently agreed a redistribution of some University Executive Group responsibilities. The resulting changes take effect on 1 August this year and are designed to help the senior team tackle the challenges ahead with rigour and a clear understanding of priorities, based on the needs and aspirations of students and staff.

In particular: 

  • In view of the wide range of responsibilities now undertaken by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor: International in the UK and overseas, Professor Hai-Sui Yu will be given the title Deputy Vice-Chancellor: International.

  • In addition to his direct accountability for overseeing the effective operation of the University, the Chief Operating Officer (COO), Dr Tim Peakman, will have responsibility for student operations, information management and technology, change management, marketing, communications and facilities. The reporting line for relevant directors will be altered to reflect this new portfolio. The COO will also lead for the UEG on the development of the University’s post-2020 strategy and vision. 

  • In line with his own wishes, the portfolio of the University Secretary, Roger Gair, will be rebalanced to focus on core governance responsibilities, including continuing to provide advice and support to Council and Senate, corporate governance and ensuring the University meets a wide range of regulatory responsibilities. 

  • The Chief Financial Officer, Jane Madeley, will retain all of her existing responsibilities in relation to finance, strategy and planning and procurement. In addition, she will take on responsibility for risk management and will continue to develop our commercial relationships with a wide range of partners in the UK and overseas. 

  • The membership of the UEG will remain the same.

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