Inside Track | Bringing the strategy off the page

In this Inside Track feature, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Hai-Sui Yu, explains how we plan to deliver on our new 10-year strategy, providing the building blocks to unlock opportunities for all.

Inside Track | Bringing the strategy off the page by Professor Hai-Sui Yu. January 2022

The ‘why’ question is essential in any strategy. Why change direction? Why prioritise certain things? Why now?

But it goes without saying that ‘the how’ question is equally important. The ‘how’ is what brings the strategy off the page and into our daily working lives, and ultimately makes it meaningful for our stakeholders and partners, internally and externally.

When we launched our strategy for the new decade – Universal Values, Global Change – last year, we inevitably focussed on the ‘why’, as well as the ‘what’. We gave an overview of the key themes – culture, community and impact – and some detail of the four academic pillars: research and innovation, student education, digital transformation and international.

Sitting alongside this strategy are a vision and plan for the underpinning elements that will enable us to deliver each of these academic pillars and become the kind of University we want to be. These elements include how we develop and support our people; transform our ways of working together; embed sustainability; and use and develop our campus, technology and facilities; as well as the role we play in the city and region. This is set out in what we’re calling the Enabling Strategy.

Collaborative culture

In essence, the Enabling Strategy aims to align our organisation, community, campus and societal role with our academic ambitions, to form a cohesive and reinforcing whole. It’s rooted in our determination to build on our strong sense of community at the University, and develop a supportive, collaborative culture, in which everyone works together to common aims, values and behaviours, regardless of hierarchies or whether they sit in a service or academic area.

So, to break all of this down into its component parts, the strategic headlines of each of the academic pillars are as follows:

For research and innovation, we want to create a culture and environment that will enable us to play a key role in the global research and innovation community. We will work to advance knowledge and tackle local, national and global challenges, creating an open research culture that supports collaboration and multi disciplinarity across the full breadth of activity.

The vision for our student education is to provide a transformative, research-based educational experience for students from diverse backgrounds, to enable them to develop the knowledge and skills they need to succeed and make a positive impact in the world. This requires a strong focus on active learning and innovative teaching, making our students genuine partners in, and co-creators of, their education, rather than passive recipients of information.

In digital transformation, we will use digital technologies and data-driven approaches to enhance student learning and experience, enrich research activity and improve infrastructure and ways of working.

Finally, overarching all of this is our vision to be a truly international university, with global reach and impact. We will achieve this through internationally relevant, accessible and high-quality education, as well as world-changing research and innovation.

Key elements

Underpinning all of these pillars is the Enabling Strategy. Key elements include:

  • developing and rewarding our staff, while reducing short-term contracts and boosting job security, supporting a healthy and fulfilled community of colleagues, creating opportunity and celebrating achievements, as encapsulated in our A Fairer Future For All pledges;
  • refreshing how we’re organised and work together to overcome barriers to collaboration, and enhance our agility, efficiency, effectiveness and impact;
  • realising our place in, and positive impact on, society – locally, nationally and globally – including in relation to addressing climate change; and
  • harnessing digital technology and data-enabled insights to improve how we work together and deliver world-changing research and education in collaboration with others.

New initiatives

You will have seen initiatives that are already bringing aspects of the Enabling Strategy to life, including A Fairer Future For All, which includes our determination to enable all staff to realise their potential, regardless of their background or stage in their career, and the Climate Plan, which sets out our commitment to a sustainable future and to achieving net zero within a highly ambitious timeframe.

You can expect to see more examples during the coming months and years, and you can read more about the main points of the Enabling Strategy in the meantime.

Reporting progress

While we can set out the aims and objectives that will deliver the University Strategy, we will only know whether we’re achieving them if we can effectively measure and track progress. We can, of course, check how many actions have been completed and implemented, but this doesn’t necessarily measure whether we’re making a positive difference in the world – we may be doing a lot, but are we doing good and doing well? 

Higher education is fortunate to have access to broad and detailed benchmarking data through the work of collection bodies, such as the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), as well as through its open and collaborative nature, which enables much sharing of best practice. However, just because data is available doesn’t mean it will work well for us and our specific circumstances and objectives. 

So, in addition to the use of existing data, where appropriate and needed, we will also look to design our own measures, based on what will provide the most meaningful insight and best assessment of progress. Details of how these measures will be developed and implemented will be communicated during the coming months.

A strategy for all

Through working together, harnessing our strengths and measuring our progress, our University community is well placed to deliver our strategic ambitions, and the Enabling Strategy will underpin that effort. It provides the foundations for a strategy that’s for all of us. It affects all of us. And it provides the building blocks to unlock opportunities for all of us.

Posted in: