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Update on Strategy development - consultation feedback

Robert Van de Noort

Vice-Chancellor Robert Van de Noort has written to all colleagues at the University with an update about the new University Strategy. The message is reproduced below:

Dear colleagues,

The summer is a time to catch up on those longer-term tasks that often get lost in the hustle and bustle of life in term time. It is also an opportunity to plan ahead. Top of the agenda for me and the rest of the University Executive Board (UEB) this summer will be progressing the strategy development process.

The response to the strategy consultation was really constructive and thoughtful, and it will be hugely helpful as we consider next steps. The summary of the responses was prepared by the Planning and Strategy Office (PSO), and you can read this here. There were some very clear themes. In particular, there was huge support for putting our community – internal and external – at the heart of our activity. People also really engaged positively with the idea of environmental sustainability as a distinctive part of our identity.

There was broad agreement with the four proposed principles but, unsurprisingly, we have many and sometimes competing ideas about how they might be delivered in practice. There was a strong sense too that the principles, while setting out positive ways of working, did not give meaningful goals we could work towards. This was also consistent with the feedback from Senate, the University’s main academic administrative body.

I had the opportunity last week to talk to the University’s Council about the feedback and the progress of the strategy redevelopment process to date. The Council is our highest governing body and is ultimately responsible for University strategy. You can read my full paper to Council here, in which I identified four aspirations for 2026 as the basis of this discussion.

The University Council raised some valuable challenges, in particular:

  • The aspirations need to make more explicit reference to our postgraduate community
  • Our goal around environmental sustainability should be clearer, in particular what is meant by the ‘greenest university’
  • Ensuring that our aspirations around excellence, environment and community are balanced against the need for financial sustainability.

Given the feedback, both from the consultation and from Council, I have refined the aspirations further with my UEB colleagues to read:

  1. To be a university that is genuinely people-oriented, with our community connected to the world through our teaching, research and active engagement
  2. To be in the top quartile in the UK sector for our undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and research
  3. To be financially sustainable at all levels by adopting the leadership principles of responsibility, resourcefulness and respect
  4. To be recognised for our world-class research in climate change and its impact on the environment and society, and be a leader in global environmental sustainability.

I heard loud and clear from the consultation that engagement needs to continue, and it will. The next step for my UEB colleagues and me is to develop a five-year plan for the institution-wide actions that will support Schools and Functions to deliver the strategy’s aspirations in the context of the many external challenges we are facing. We hope to complete this work, at a high level, by the middle of September, after which we will consult widely on this plan.

The process of engagement with our local community will also continue. For example, we are planning for our next Community Forum in the autumn term as an opportunity to get further feedback and engage our local community directly in co-creating solutions to local problems. In the meantime, I continue to engage with the Leaders of Reading Borough Council and Wokingham Borough Council, to discuss how we can work better together.

It will also be important to continue this process of consultation through the planning process for Schools and Functions in the autumn and winter, through which we will continue the detailed development of the new strategy. We will use this process to determine what we can reasonably expect from individual Schools and Functions, and I will require that Heads will consult extensively with their colleagues before submitting their 5-year plans in December.

Then, in March 2020, I hope to be able to present to Council the completed new strategy, which will include: the principles that state what the University is and how we work together; our aspirations for what the University will achieve by 2026; the implementation plans from the UEB, Schools and Functions; and the key performance indicators and targets we will set ourselves.

The implications of becoming a people-orientated organisation have profound consequences for all aspects of how we work. I understand the need for a culture of openness, trust and empowerment, and for a set of shared goals that we can all get behind. I trust that in the development of the new strategy, I am doing exactly that. I want us all to be proud of our University and what it represents. I will continue to keep you informed and I look forward to continuing this process with you.

Kind Regards,


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