Our new Futures Institutes | Collaborating to deliver global impact

Professors Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor, and Hai-Sui Yu, Principal Deputy Vice-Chancellor, outline plans for the University’s new Futures Institutes.

KPIs Inside Track

The most recent meeting of the University’s Leadership Forum was a great reminder of what can be achieved by collaboration and breaking down barriers. 
The forum – a monthly meeting of all heads of schools and services – talked about the Futures Institutes, our new model for combining cross-faculty activity in research and innovation, postgraduate education and knowledge exchange to address global challenges.  

Executive Deans of Faculty and other members of the executive team joined colleagues from the Priestley International Centre for Climate and the Learning Design Agency to talk about how the new Institutes will help address a range of these challenges.   

It was fantastic to see enthused colleagues from different parts of the University discussing how we can best work towards a common purpose. The key word was collaboration, with the onus firmly on the importance of breaking down barriers between faculties and schools, and between research, learning and teaching.   

The Institutes are designed to support the delivery of our 2020-30 strategy, Universal Values, Global Change, which sets out a vision for bringing research and education together to deliver global impact, drive down inequalities and create a Fairer future for all.  

All of the challenges facing the world today are complex, and many of the solutions can only come when we bring different disciplines and experiences together and work with international partners. 

With that in mind, we are establishing four Futures Institutes in the coming year to deliver both multi-disciplinary research and postgraduate education in a mutually beneficial and synergistic arrangement. The focus is on addressing global challenges. 
The Institutes will: 

  • drive world-changing research, education and societal impact through regional, national and international partnerships 
  • become recognised centres of excellence for tackling global challenges  
  • foster greater levels of inter-faculty research, postgraduate education and professional learning collaborations; and
  • generate academic successes that could not be achieved by individual faculties and schools alone. 

Four areas of focus 

The Institutes will bring together colleagues from a range of faculties, focusing on four themes based on areas of demonstrable strength and expertise, and where we believe we can create the greatest impact in tackling pressing global challenges. 
These areas are: 

  • Climate 
  • Health 
  • Education 
  • Societal 

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. Detailed plans for Education and Societal Futures Institutes will be considered in the coming months. 

Importantly, many academic disciplines that, at first sight, may not appear crucial to each of these areas will be involved in the Futures Institutes. The whole point is to foster innovation and transdisciplinary collaboration, bringing together colleagues from across the entire University to think about how to best address these challenges.  

Financially sustainable 

The Institutes will become academically and financially sustainable, focused on securing significant external income from research, postgraduate education, knowledge exchange and philanthropy. They will receive initial pump-priming investment from the University’s Strategic Fund for five years.

Next steps 

The University Executive Group (UEG) approved plans for the four proposed Futures Institutes in the summer. An inclusive approach involving all faculties has enabled their co-creation.  

Task and finish groups, led by UEG members, are developing detailed proposals for academic remit, focus and business plans. Recruitment to core leadership roles will begin soon. Each Institute will have a director and three deputy directors, leading respectively on research and innovation, education and knowledge exchange, and policy and engagement. Each Institute will also have a manager and management group, supported by a steering committee and an external advisory board. 

This approach has been designed to facilitate collaboration across the University, and, as the Leadership Forum meeting showed, barriers are already being broken down.

Further Information

Read our Futures Institute FAQs, which contains answers to a number of key questions around our plans.