Katie NormingtonAfter a long campaign, 150 years ago, the Leicester School of Art was formed. It offered flexible, skills-based learning, open to both men and women. Over the next century, higher learning in the city was responsive to – and helped shape – local industries and their associated technologies. Since its foundation in 1992, De Montfort University (DMU) has provided broad-based education to hundreds of thousands of students as well as undertaking research in a variety of areas.

The next decade will see large-scale changes in the education sector. By 2030 there will be 25 per cent more 18-year-olds in the UK, changes to the student loan system will emphasise lifelong learning, and digital developments will continue to rapidly drive teaching expectations. The need to generate new knowledge through fundamental and applied research has never been greater. As a city, Leicester has one of the lowest skills bases in the country, with 19 per cent of working-age residents having no qualifications, and a desperate need to level up social inequity. But it also has enormous entrepreneurial potential and is one of the most popular cities to start up a business in the UK. There are clear opportunities for greater research, skills training and collaboration with regional businesses to address the city’s low productivity rates and contribute to levelling up. Coming out of the pandemic, Covid-19 provides the catalyst for us to do things in new ways.

We have created our new strategy against this context. The development of our strategy has involved more than 1,000 participants, with contributions from our staff, students, governing body and key partners. In our strategy, we are committing to becoming an ‘empowering university’, one that will enable staff, students and partners to develop to their full potential. We are a bold, unapologetically ambitious and outward-looking institution, and will use innovative education and research methods to inspire and empower. We will lead by example on exploring issues of social justice through our platform as the UK’s only hub for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 16. We’ll expand our reach with knowledge collectives, engaging our community in mental health practice, equality and sustainability. Through this, we will create a fairer and more sustainable society.

Our strategy is delivered through four key pillars: Learning for Life, Knowledge Creation, Empowering People and Partnerships with Purpose. We will respond to local, national and global business needs to provide flexible ways to upskill our students. Our research will focus on creating and applying knowledge for social benefit. We won’t be afraid of doing things differently. As an empowering university, our staff, students and partners will actively be part of a diverse community that will strive for equality.

Professor Katie Normington, Vice-Chancellor