Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Designate, Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony, is leading on the development of our University Strategy 2019-25. The process has involved consultation with our staff and students. Here she gives us a progress report.

The process so far

We are now five months into the consultation process for the development of our next University Strategy. Many of you have already engaged with the process and contributed comments and ideas through a range of events and activities as part of our University-wide open consultation. These have included: Education and Research themed workshops, open meetings and focus groups, two dedicated Senior Staff Conferences, and discussions in more formal foras including University Steering Group and Council Away Days. In the coming weeks, we will discuss emerging priorities with Research and Education Committees, and share our direction of travel with external stakeholders through our Annual Meeting of Court. Our students have participated in all of these activities, and through additional meetings, to make sure that our thinking is informed by student voices from the outset and that we connect the University’s Strategy with the development of the Students’ Union’s own Strategic Plan.

All of these discussions, and the ideas that continue to be gathered through the University Strategy consultation site hosted on Moodle, are contributing to emerging themes and direction of travel as we develop our vision and priorities for the University of Essex 2019-2025.

The role of the area reviews

One of the mechanisms we have used to gather ideas from all members of the University has been the four area reviews. Throughout the academic year, staff from each of the three Faculties and from Professional Services have been involved in discussing and putting forward their ideas and suggestions for priorities for their area, and for the University as a whole, from 2019-25. The area review reports that captured key outcomes from all of this hard work were presented and discussed by the University Steering Group at a dedicated meeting on 24 May.

And they’ve been enlightening. Full of new ideas…big and small, of observations from within the University, and drawing learning gathered from others both within the higher education sector and beyond. Each Faculty review has focussed on both Education and Research and considered emerging trends across their disciplines, gaps in provision, opportunities and challenges, interdisciplinary bridgeheads, and has aimed to set out a clear and compelling vision for the future for their ‘area’. Whilst each is shaped by the distinctive nature of the disciplines they cover, they share a commitment to creativity, a scale of ambition, a realistic recognition of the challenges but a clear appetite for growth and enhancement. The Professional Services review sets out the distinctive and vital contribution that professional services make to the success of the University’s mission of excellence in education and research. The Professional Services Area Review has articulated an ambition to deliver transformative capabilities, to enable transformative communities and to provide transformative services to the University, while achieving economies of scale in the context of growth.

The four area review documents are now on the Moodle site and I’d invite you to have a read and to contribute your comments and suggestions to the ongoing discussion.

Albert Sloman crystal ball

The consultation is still open to our staff and students. Log on to Moodle to take part.

What next…

We’ve come some way in gathering the views and suggestions of our community but there is still plenty of opportunity for input as we continue to challenge ourselves to look ahead to 2025, to focus on the big strategic questions and to reflect on all the contributions provided by our community so far. The open consultation will continue throughout the summer and until the end of September, while focus groups begin the work of refining emerging priorities and developing our vision for 2025. The first draft of the University Strategy will be produced early in the Autumn term, and we will continue to invite comments on drafts as they emerge, as well as seeking the views of our broader external communities and stakeholders. As we work towards our goal of final approval by Senate and Council in summer 2019, we will also begin to plan the development the Education and Research strategies and the supporting strategies and sub strategies in academic year 2019-20.

So…wonderful progress to date…but still lots to do!