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Creating our strategy

Shape our future consultationPro-Vice Chancellor Katie Norman

So far, I’ve spoken about quite functional ways of imagining and determining our strategy. This has been through the lenses of education, research, partnership and thought-leadership.

But we might also envision our strategy through a conceptual frame. The work of DMU architecture student Daniel Hambly poses the provocative question of what our university campus may look like just after our 200th birthday. How does the concept of a future university based on its spatial footprint work? What might a university without walls be like –  one which flows seamlessly between the city and its businesses – or lives simultaneously in the cloud, a home, or a campus?

I’ve heard much about the importance of people at DMU and indeed experienced that first-hand in my first few months here; what if we become a university which focuses on its people – its students and staff? What might that look like for us?

A university, then, that places the experience and development of people  - its students and staff - at the heart of all it does.

Might we become a university that focuses on innovation, one that places creativity and entrepreneurial skills at the centre of our education and processes? That enables everyone to partake in that innovation and to share ‘bright ideas’, to create ‘thinking spaces’ and then to rapidly roll out tests of those ideas before applying them more widely?

Might we create a university as part of a circular economy, one in which we aim to eliminate waste so that we reuse, and recycle to create a closed-loop? Such a university would see us procure everything we could locally, we would see students as part of that cycle, with as many becoming apprentices and then employees as we could, and staff models where we developed a life-cycle for employees to enable them to progress through DMU.


Image by architecture student Daniel Hambly - what would our campus look like after our 200th birthday?


Whatever model we choose for the university of the future, it will need to be underpinned by key enablers. Top of those enablers is, of course, the staff and I’ve been talking across these pieces about developing values we need to share as staff and about how our model could be to place staff at the very centre of what we do. But how can we be an employer who enables employees to do their best work and celebrate that? And what would it take to be an outstanding employer of the future?

Other key enablers are through our digital and physical estates. How will we continue to develop our site so it reflects what is important to us and enables fluid study and work?  What’s the physical feel of a university in the future, how does physical space relate to the digital?

But to enable a new strategy we are going to have to think about how we innovate the way we do our business. Time and again, I have heard in the listening sessions that bureaucracy, slowness of decision-making and manual interventions in systems are slowing us down. So, we need to ask what should the service model of the future university look like? How might it optimally support students, staff and external stakeholders.

“You should care about business innovation and disruption because they’re a primary way that progress happens” ‘Reimagining Higher Education’

How will digital advances shape us as educator and as an employer? Are we to be an early adopter of digital advancement?

Imagining a new future

While I was thinking through sharing with you my ideas, and why I believe so strongly that a new approach is needed, I was struck by something in this poem, written by Amanda Gorman for the inauguration of President Biden. It chimed because it captures the optimism of a new start – the beginning of a new strategy, the start of a new world as we emerge from the pandemic.

But it also speaks to the act of bravery that is needed in charting a new path, and in daring to have the imagination to then follow it:

"The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light

If only we’re brave enough to see it

If only we’re brave enough to be it"

Amanda Gorman, President Biden Inaugural Poem, January 2021

Finally, in engaging with the question of what a new strategy is, above all we should have courage, like the symbol of the DMU lion, so that we are brave enough to imagine a new future, and brave enough to live that future for our students and for ourselves, brave enough to find what Harold Wilson would call our ‘white heat’.


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