This is my first blog in my role as Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Nottingham. Whilst there has been a lot of day-to-day business to deal with, I have spent a lot of time in my first six months visiting our Schools and professional service departments. I have met dedicated, inspirational and passionate people who have been open in sharing their concerns but also their successes. There are many examples of great practice across the University and I am now doing my best to ensure these are shared. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to these visits and discussions.
One of my major responsibilities is in leading the development of the next University strategy. By definition, Global Strategy 2020 is coming to the end of its life, so we need a new statement of aims, objectives and priorities to guide the next phase in the University’s development. Since GS2020 was developed the world has changed in many ways and all universities including ours face challenges that we could not have imagined five years ago.
Whatever form it takes, it is clear that Brexit will have an impact on our University, affecting our staff and students, our partnerships and income from grants and fees. Meanwhile the government is taking far more interest in universities, introducing a stronger regulatory framework but also making public pronouncements about issues such as free speech on campus, student welfare and grade inflation to name a few. The Augar review of post-18 education and funding looks likely to result in decreased fees and therefore reduced income for universities.
In the current climate, it is easy to be pessimistic, however, I believe that our University is well-placed to deal with all of these issues, a view reinforced by the excellent work I have seen in visiting colleagues across our institution. However, to meet the challenges and continue to thrive, we will need to be imaginative and bold, and to have a strategy which enables agility.
As a starting point for development of the next strategy, we have held a series of events to discuss the “21st Century University”. These events were attended by more than 300 staff across all job families, faculties and professional service departments in the UK, China and Malaysia. Staff also had the opportunity to contribute on-line if they were unable to attend.
Examining issues around teaching, research and campus life along with topics specific to each faculty and professional service department, these events have generated almost 3,500 comments, presenting detailed views and analyses on the future direction of our University. A summary report on the outcomes, along with all of the individual comments, is published on the University Strategy webpages.
Whilst there was a diversity of views on topics such as how we engage with external frameworks and league tables, a number of common themes were clear including a commitment to research-led teaching, engagement with our broader communities and leveraging the benefits of our international presence.
Having sourced so many views from across our staff community, during March we will publish a Green Paper – an outline consultation document - informed by the comments received so far alongside the views of our students, University Executive Board and external stakeholders. We will offer all of our community an opportunity to discuss its content in ‘town hall’ events hosted by the Vice-Chancellor and myself, smaller meetings with local teams, discussion at Senate and through online submissions. The ideas gathered during this stage will inform a White Paper which will present a draft strategy for further consultation, before finalising and presenting it to the University Council for formal approval by the end of 2019.
I think we have made a great start towards the development of the University strategy, and I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this exercise so far and encourage all to help with the next stages. I know that we have the ideas and the talent required to respond to the challenges we will face, and collectively we have the opportunity to shape our own destiny, as a community and in partnership with each other.
Professor Andy Long
Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor
17 January 2019