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Towards a new strategy

Shape our future consultationPro-Vice Chancellor Katie Norman

Thank you for taking the time to read about our new strategy consultation. We might start by asking why we need a new strategy given we haven’t completed the current one? However, these are unprecedented times and it is now pressing that we develop a new one given the previous plan was written in 2018, in a time before the enormous changes created by Covid-19 could even be imagined. Thus, many of the desired outcomes from the current plan are not achievable, and given the world we are now in, we may consider that there are now a new, urgent, and different set of priorities. It is important that we are agile and adaptable to any situation and therefore this is the right time to refresh our strategic direction.

I am clear that a strategic plan should be created by our community at DMU. The springboard should be the ideas that staff, students and our external stakeholders have: it shouldn’t be a top-down exercise. For this reason, we are consulting on a series of questions that I hope you will be able to respond to through group discussion and workshops. From those ideas we will shape our strategy, first creating a strategy on a page which we are aiming to get approved at the governing body meeting in July. Following that we will scope out in greater detail the various strands and key performance indicators for our high-level strategy, using the strategy on a page as a high-level structure for further detailed work. It is only through this co-creation that we will share the hopes of our new strategy and the passion for its delivery.

Creating a new university strategy is a good point to consider ‘What is the purpose of a university?’. It’s an idea that the former UK Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, raised first in 1963. Then he spoke of the aspiration of a Britain forged in the ‘white heat’ of a new revolution, with a new attitude to apprenticeship and training in order to create a new Britain built of scientific and economic success. Three years later in 1966, as the new chancellor of the University of Bradford, he again articulated a vision for universities, describing Bradford as, ‘A new seat of learning and research and application, with the life of a region, drawing its strength from the life and vitality of that region and in turn making its own contribution to the future intellectual richness, industrial advance and social development of the region’. There is much in that statement that we can value at DMU, as an institution committed to learning and research which benefits our city and wider society.

For me the purpose of a university is four-fold: 

  1. It enables learners and staff to acquire new skills, attributes and knowledge so that they can pursue the future they seek through their careers and personal development;
  2. We discover new knowledge through undertaking research and enterprise, and benefit society through the application of this research to many walks of life;
  3. As an anchor institution (one with an important role in the city) we should support and enable local and global communities through strategic partnerships which benefit our staff and students as well as those communities;
  4. It is the place of universities to provide thought-leadership which challenges society to be the best it can be; we are places for intellectual thought.


A values-based university

The listening sessions I have undertaken have emphasised the importance of DMU as a values-based organisation. These values have been evident in many of the sessions that I have hosted which have revealed a very strong shared belief in the transformative power of education, in supporting equality and in the strength of the DMU community. In recognising these values colleagues have also spoken of the pressures that threaten our ability to follow these values, often pressures created by poor staff-student ratios, or at the moment the pandemic.

We can consider how we identify our values and how they can underpin the character of a university and how we do our business; these might be societal values (equality, sustainability) or ways of behaving (personably, with integrity) or particular skills that we want to imbue in our students and in ourselves (creativity, entrepreneurship). How do these values resonate on campus and how do we encourage them in our students?

"The core values of the generation (Z) are reflected in their prioritizing social activism more than previous generations and in the importance they place on working at organizations whose values align with their own, with 77% of respondents saying that it’s important" Welcome to Generation Z


Read next page: Towards a new vision