Vice-Chancellor’s Staff Blog | Our priorities for 2023/24 and beyond

An update for all colleagues from Professor Hai-Sui Yu, interim Vice-Chancellor and President, on 20 November.

Vice-Chancellor’s Staff Blog | Our priorities for 2023/24 and beyond. November 2023

Dear colleagues,

Since I took up the role of interim Vice-Chancellor and President, I have enjoyed conversations with colleagues and students to listen directly about their experiences at Leeds and their ambitions for the University. 

These conversations have made me feel very proud and positive about our future – we have so many talented people in our community who all want to work together to make this University the best it can be.

I have led extensive discussions with the University Executive Group (UEG) and the University’s Council where together we have been shaping my vision and priorities for the rest of the academic year and beyond. As I have noted previously, there will be no significant change to our overall University Strategy – Universal Challenges, Global Change, but we should reflect on our core priorities, confirm they are the right focus for our community, and ensure that changes to the way we operate happen at an appropriate pace for successful delivery. 

Core priorities for 2023/24

I look forward to the meeting of the University’s Council next week, where I will present and hope to secure members’ endorsement for a number of core priorities that you and I can deliver together to improve how we work, engage colleagues and achieve excellence and impact in our research, student education and external engagement. 

  1. A focus on research and innovation: I want us to focus on the quality of our research outcomes, the impact they have on the wider world, and the inclusiveness of our research environment and culture as we work towards the next Research Excellence Framework (REF 2028). To support this, I want us to develop a talent strategy to retain and nurture colleagues, as well as attracting additional high-quality candidates to join us. 
  2. A focus on students: I have established a National Student Survey (NSS) Task Force to focus on improving student experience and outcomes and act on the areas that our students have told us need attention. I want us to support our academic schools and the Student Education Service (SES) to work in active collaboration to deliver across the short, medium and long term.  As part of this work, we will seek to ensure that we create and embed the optimal balance between central and local delivery to provide the best possible support and service to our students. We must also strengthen our partnership with Leeds University Union (LUU) to improve two-way engagement with our student community.
  3. A focus on staff engagement: I want us to re-establish meaningful and timely engagement with colleagues across the University, visibly acting on the things you have told us need to improve rapidly at Leeds. This will include greater engagement and transparency between myself and other UEG members with leadership teams across the University, as well as far more engagement and constructive dialogue with our whole staff community. We will publish, and continue to embed actions on, an institutional response to the results of the Employee Engagement Survey in the next few weeks.
  4. A focus on excellence: The drive for excellence in our research and student education should underpin all that we do, it runs through our strategy, and should be guided by the national excellence frameworks (TEF, the Teaching Excellence Framework; REF, the Research Excellence Framework; and KEF, the Knowledge Exchange Framework). This is not to say that we should be driven purely by the frameworks, but in as much as they measure the things that are important to our strategic objectives, I want us to keep these front of mind as we strive to deliver the key performance indicators (KPIs) which measure our progress in the delivery of our University Strategy
  5. A focus on effective governance: This is crucial in supporting the delivery of research and student education, and the achievement of our other strategic aims. It enables collective, inclusive and effective management. Clearly, the delivery of our strategy and operations will benefit from an effective, inclusive and decisive UEG, supported by strong contributions from leaders across our institution. 
  6. A focus on strategic change: We all know there are processes, systems and technologies that require rapid improvement to support effective working at the University, and there are currently some major change programmes in place to address these. However, I want us to ensure these programmes are conducted at the appropriate pace and truly realise their benefits for our community, whilst having sufficient capacity to maintain excellent support for colleagues in getting the basics done well.

Subject to the University Council’s consideration at its meeting, on Thursday next week, I will return to these priorities in my communications with you to update you on progress and invite your contributions to help deliver them. 

A Bright Future – the Russell Group manifesto

Turning briefly to other recent developments, the Russell Group has published its own priorities for the UK government ahead of this week’s Autumn Statement – and perhaps well-timed for last week’s Cabinet reshuffle. A Bright Future sets out how the UK as a global leader for research can boost the economy, skills, health and environment through knowledge and innovation. The report also shows that an additional £4 billion investment in public R&D funding per year by 2029/30 is needed to meet current commitments of at least 3% of GDP invested in R&D. It will be interesting to see how any current or future government responds to these proposals.

Staff achievements

In closing, I would like to congratulate a number of our colleagues for some significant achievements for themselves and our University in recent times – you can read about many more in the University’s news web pages and monthly Celebrate Our Staff communications.

  • Congratulations to Executive Dean Professor Mark Kearney and colleagues in the Faculty of Medicine and Health, who last week secured a competitive tender to lead the NIHR Research Delivery Network Coordinating Centre. It will work across England’s health and care system to support the effective and efficient initiation and delivery of research. It will also be responsible for the knowledge and skill development of the whole health research and development workforce, which will help to address health and economic inequalities across the Leeds city region and nationally. 
  • Dr Florien Boele from Leeds Institute of Medical Research received the European Association of Neuro-Oncology (EANO) Nurse & Allied Health Professional Award for her outstanding contribution to the study and treatment of tumours in the brain and the central nervous system. She was nominated for the award by fellow members of the Association, which has more than 700 members from over 70 countries. 
  • Having given insightful evidence to the national COVID-19 Inquiry following her tireless contribution to SAGE during the pandemic, Professor Cath Noakes was awarded the unusual accolade of appearing on the Royal Academy of Engineering’s reworked London Underground map, which celebrates the achievements of engineers. Designed to mark National Engineering Day, Professor Noakes’ name replaces Leyton station on the Central Line. 
  • Jill Roberts, Head of Cleaning Services at the University, has been awarded a lifetime achievement award by the British Institute of Cleaning Sciences (BICSc). She picked up the Eric Hill award at the organisation’s awards ceremony, which signifies her dedication to the Cleaning Services team.

Thank you for your ideas, your support and the conversations we have had to date. I look forward to speaking with more colleagues and students in the coming weeks to hear more about their ambitions for the University, and will continue to work with our wonderful Leeds community to take forward our strategic priorities in delivering excellence and impact in our student education, research and innovation, and external engagement. 

With my best wishes, 


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