Inside Track – A values-driven strategy for the next 10 years

To mark the launch of our new strategy, Professor Simone Buitendijk looks at our vision and the themes of community, culture and impact.

University of Leeds Vice-Chancellor Simone Buitendijk poses in front of one of the buildings on campus. August 2020.

Today we publish our new strategy for the University – Universal Values, Global Change 

The strategy charts a course for the University for the next 10 years. It has been informed by extensive engagement and consultation with our entire community. It sets out a vision for an institution that is values-driven, and harnesses the expertise, creativity and collaborative potential of its people to drive change to help create a more equitable and sustainable world.

It also puts a premium on our internal community’s wellbeing, fulfilment and diversity, recognising that these are a pre-requisite for achieving our broader ambitions.

At its heart is a recognition of two things. First, that our planet faces unprecedented challenges right now, including climate change, economic instability, poverty, and the COVID pandemic. There is huge disparity across nations in how well placed they are to respond to these challenges, the vast majority of which can only be addressed if we collaborate across national borders to address inequalities and drive change on a global scale.

Second, that research-intensive universities, including ours, are a powerful group of networked institutions capable of the large-scale, high-impact, global effort that is essential to tackle these issues. What sets us apart is that we are highly focused on impact – it is our most important product. Not money or profits, but making a positive difference in the world.  

None of the large scale challenges that the world faces right now can be solved without the research and evidence-based thinking and actions of universities, or the essential work we do training the next generation of global citizens and leaders – the problem solvers, innovators, collaborators and critical thinkers of tomorrow. 

The strategy sets out how we can work with others to play a leading role in tackling the global challenges. It is based on three over-arching themes – community, culture and impact:

  • A community of staff and students within the university, the wider region and beyond – including our alumni.
  • A culture in which collective endeavour is central, and which is focused on collaboration rather than competition.
  • And impact, through a relentless focus on decreasing local and global inequality.

These themes run across the four pillars of our academic strategy – research, education, digital transformation and international:

  • We will use our strength in research to tackle tough challenges in collaboration with colleague universities and partners in the Global South and elsewhere, with a strong focus on open access.
  • In education we will review our curriculum and make it student-centred, digitally enhanced and interactive, while treating our students as true partners and co-creators, preparing them well for the global jobs market in the process.
  • Through digital transformation we will make our research and education globally accessible and relevant, supporting a more open culture in research, education and knowledge exchange.
  • And we will do all of these through an increasingly international lens, with a strong emphasis on partnership.

The strategy will be supported by a strategic delivery plan, setting out how we will deliver the ambitions it sets out. This will encompass not only academic areas, but also include details of the strategic enablers, some of which were raised in the earlier consultation, including our working conditions and environment, our role in the city and region, and financial and environmental sustainability (which are at the forefront of our thinking and actions at all times). We are also refreshing our existing values in light of the new strategy. We plan to say more about all of this after Easter.

In the meantime, I hope you will be able to join us at the Leeds Conversations events we are holding for staff on the strategy on Wednesday 17 and Friday 26 February, which provide an opportunity to hear more and ask questions. You can sign up for the strategy events through For Staff and this will enable you to access recordings of the sessions, even if you can’t attend on the day.

We will also be talking to Leeds University Union about how we can engage our students in the new strategy in the coming weeks.

So, I would encourage you to read the strategy and I hope you will find it a compelling vision for how we can harness our expertise, our compassion and our shared humanity to make a telling difference to the world we inhabit. Putting it down on the page is only the start, what really matters is all of us collectively living it in the decade ahead.

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