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Message from the Vice-Chancellor: What does Reading mean to you?

colour photograph of Vice Chancellor Robert Van der Noort

All too often, strategy documents are launched with great fanfare only to spend the rest of their days gathering dust on a shelf. This usually stems from how they are created – driven from the top and based on generic statements that are hard to object to in theory but equally hard to apply in practice.

So when the University Council asked me to develop a new strategy for the University of Reading, I knew I wanted it to be different – a living document that represents a shared understanding of what Reading should stand for in the world. It needs to be radical in the way it positions us in an increasingly challenging environment. And on top of all of this, I want to have this new strategy in place by the end of the summer. No small feat.

The only way to achieve these aims is to put people at the centre – our colleagues, students, alumni, local partners and neighbours. A sense of renewal needs to come from within. I have had early discussions with Council and Leadership Group, but now I want to hear from you.

This week, I am holding a series of briefings for colleagues where I will talk in more detail about the strategy redevelopment and the principles that will underpin it: community, excellence, sustainability and being an engaged University. Then next week we will launch a five-week consultation process for colleagues, students, alumni and external partners. There will be different ways you can get involved individually and we will also be engaging with the University and College Union and the Staff Forum. I want there to be an opportunity for every voice to be heard.

This process comes at a complex time for us as a University and for the higher education sector. In recent months, I have tried to visit every part of the University and we have talked at length about the challenges we face. You may ask why we need to develop our new strategy so quickly. Why not wait until we know the outcome of Brexit? The results of the Augar review? The current savings process? Or voluntary redundancies?

In my view, it is precisely because of these ongoing issues that we need to act quickly. In the midst of uncertainty, we need to have a clear idea of where we are going, where we need to direct our efforts and how we should use our valuable resources. We also need to take steps now to ensure we are well positioned when numbers of 18-year-olds rise significantly from 2022. In the increasingly ferocious competition of higher education, we need to refocus on our purpose and how we at Reading are uniquely placed to contribute locally, nationally and globally. In some ways we have lost sight of this and revising our strategy is the perfect opportunity to address that.

Facing the future with confidence will require us to do things differently. That starts with the process by which we develop our strategy. So get involved, share your views and help me to build a University for, and not just of, Reading.


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