Broadcast: News items

The role of our strategic framework

Prof Saul Becker, Deputy Vice-Chancellor

There has been discussion during the consultation workshops this week on our draft strategic framework about whether the framework allows us, as an institution, to sufficiently differentiate ourselves from other universities and ensure that we put the Sussex stamp on all that we do.

These are absolutely the kind of questions that we should all be asking ourselves and, as we go through the next stages of the strategy development, we will be very much focused on this. For the moment, I thought it would help if I explained the role of the strategic framework, as the concept of a ‘framework’ may not be as familiar to some people as that of a ‘strategy’.

Essentially the ‘framework’ comes first, and then enabling strategies and plans will follow.

The strategic framework outlines the purpose of the institution, what values are important to the University, the direction the University needs to travel in order to thrive within the context of the sector conditions, and what broad outcomes it needs to achieve.

Once we have the framework agreed and in place, we will then be creating a number of enabling strategies and plans. It is these strategies and plans that will explain how we are going to meet our ambitions and therefore how we are going to differentiate ourselves as an institution. It is essential that we bring - with your help – the ‘Sussex-ness’ and our points of differentiation into these enabling strategies and plans.

One analogy that may help to explain this further is that the strategic framework is like the chassis or internal frame of a car. The enabling strategies and plans then become the elements that give the car its distinction – so we would need to pick the kind of wheels we would like to have, the particular paintjob we believe represents our car, and then the type of interior fittings that set us apart.

It is for this reason that our framework might not yet seem bold or experimental - or indeed a representation of any of the other values that you told us (in the listening phase) are important to the vision of the University, and that we have been sharing this week with staff and students in the consultation workshops.

The very nature of our framework in some senses must speak to the basic functions of what a university is about – primarily, undertaking education and research.

However, the difference this time, from our last strategy, is that we are now saying that engagement is on par and of equal importance to education and research. We are also making it implicitly clear that none of our ambitions can be achieved without firm foundations – something we heard loud and clear from our community in the listening phase of the framework development.

The distinctiveness of our university is absolutely critical. This will come from the way in which we set up the programmes to deliver our outcomes, the very learning, research and engagement initiatives we choose to favour over others, and the way in which all of this is rolled out. It is that which will allow us to attribute the values that are important to our campus community.

That is where you and all of our staff come in. Through working in your unit, division, department or school, I hope that you will be contributing to the next stage of planning at a local level. By that I mean, when your school or unit is developing how it will deliver on the institution’s aim to, say, be more inclusive in its teaching, that you will help to define what that looks like. Similarly, if we know we want our staff to play a strong part in engaging with charities and NGOs, that the relevant people across the University will be working together on our community engagement strategy.

The reason we have chosen to share what may seem like a basic or obvious framework with you is that we believe it is important that our campus community know what we are doing at every stage of the new vision and approach for the University.

Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell and I, along with the executive group, have recognised that in the past the University has not been as adept as it should have been in how it handles change and new developments.

I believe that we must be open and transparent at every stage of this process and I hope that, by explaining some of our thinking, it may help you to understand what we are trying to achieve.

If not, I would encourage you to write to the Internal Communications team so that we can look at other ways to address your very important feedback. Or please join me for the webinar on Monday 6 November.

Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Friday, 3 November 2017


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