Focusing the strategy
We might start by thinking about the fundamental purpose of a university. I suggested earlier that these are around the facets of education, research, partnership and intellectual thought. Starting from this point we might want to ask what will be the education of the future that we want to provide? How will it be distinctive, relate to the city and the future world of work while at the same time be inspiring and, to return to the distinguishing feature of the Leicester School of Art, ‘elevating’?
"The way we learn should be our most personalized experience because no two people process information the same way." ‘Reimagining Higher Education’
But we might also ask: ‘Who are our students and how do we genuinely remove barriers to study? How can the framework of study enable this? Who designs their degree pathway – staff or students? How do we credit those who work, who volunteer? How does a degree stay relevant throughout someone’s working life?’
"Machines will be able to carry out more and more routine tasks, both physical and mental; this leaves, for humans, tasks that are much harder for machines to carry out such as working with and supporting others and using creativity and drive to solve complex societal challenges." 4.0 Skills Scotland
In the last REF 58% of our research was recognised as internationally excellent. Since 2014 we have doubled the numbers of researchers taking part. As we continue to develop our research we should ask what we want to be known for in the research sphere. How can our social inclusion focus feed through our research? Perhaps some guidance can be provided in Stockholm Environment Institute’s suggestion that we need ‘research that provides solutions to meet the (SDG) goals, but also critically analyses the agenda and its assumptions regarding social change’; the study goes on to suggest:
“A shift in focus to alternative areas like social inequality, unemployment and climate change might be needed to enable more non-technical innovations to take place.” Scientific research is essential to accelerate progress on 2030 agenda
At DMU we have a wealth of partnerships which support our delivery of international education, with more local providers, with employers that offer placements for our students and with a host of local projects. We have a responsibility as an anchor institution in the city where one in every ten people has studied at DMU and we are one of the major employers. But we might ask, ‘Who do we want to be our key strategic partners of the future and why? Are they global or local or even, locally-facing within a global context? What does a partnership of the future look like? Is working together going to be a defining feature of success for a business post-pandemic?’
Lastly, let’s think further about universities as places of thought leadership. In my listening sessions some groups have debated how the place of a university is not just as a skills provider but a space for thinking, for the act of grappling more widely with the issues we face. It’s an element captured eloquently in New York University’s mission statement: ‘Thriving beyond borders and across academic disciplines, NYU has emerged as one of the most networked and extensive worldwide platforms for learning, teaching, researching, building knowledge, and inventing new ways to meet humanity’s challenges’.
DMU’s place in meeting humanity’s challenges is something we must continue to assert.
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