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New strategy our chance to be bold: Vice-Chancellor

Robert Van de Noort

A huge thank-you to the nearly 450 colleagues from both the Reading and Greenlands campuses who attended the autumn briefings in October. I hope you found the update on our strategy development helpful and I certainly appreciated the constructive and, yes, sometimes challenging, questions and comments!

For those who weren’t able to join us, I wanted to share my presentation about progress with the strategy and how we can start implementing it.

First and foremost, I am grateful to those who submitted their views through the consultation and the many other meetings, formal and informal, about the strategy. My University Executive Board colleagues and I have found all of this rich feedback hugely valuable.

In addition to the principles, people wanted a wider statement of our purpose as an institution – the shared direction that we are all working towards. I have tried to capture the essence of who we are and what we are here to do in a single sentence. Not easy! And it can still be refined and improved but I hope you will see our values reflected in it:

“We use our collective skills and diversity to realise the transformational possibilities of high-quality education and research to deliver a better future for the world.”

The feedback has also closely informed UEB’s thinking about implementing the strategy. Colleagues’ strong desire for improved management of change and of workloads, a commitment to staff development and support for embedding environmental sustainability in our curriculum all feature. Students’ desire for improved assessment and feedback and a better reflection of their voice in our decision-making are also included. So too are some very specific, practical suggestions that came up through the consultation, like the ‘IT Shack’ for recycling our IT equipment for use by charities and community groups. Our external stakeholders’ desire for a single front door to our large and complex organisation has also been adopted – what that might look like in practice will require further work.

The next step is to ensure that the strategic principles and aspirations are embedded into all aspects of our operation. As part of our annual financial planning process, which is now underway, Schools and Functions are being asked to develop activities, targets and indicators that are relevant and specific to them. Alongside the existing planning objectives of improving student experience, research income and student recruitment, two new ones have been added for environmental sustainability and staff wellbeing. I expect Heads of Schools and Functions to find suitable ways to ensure colleagues have input into this process, so that this strategy remains a collaborative, living process.

The final strategy, complete with high-level activities and measures, will go to Council for approval in March 2020.

I know people are keen to progress to the business of actually implementing the strategy, and I agree that we don’t want to delay unnecessarily. Yet it is critical that we get this strategy right – it is our statement to ourselves and the world of who we are and what we stand for. It is our chance to be bold and clearly state our ambition to change the world for the better. It must be the golden thread that runs through all our activities as we approach our 100th anniversary. So it’s important we get it right and I’m prepared to take a little bit more time to do so.

And that’s when the real work begins. The work of joining together to really make a difference. In the meantime, I continue to welcome your thoughts, ideas and challenge.

 

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