Developing our Future
Many of the goals set in the University Strategy, Making the Future have already been achieved. We are thinking about the next phase of Sussex’s development. The opinion piece by the Vice-Chancellor in the Bulletin on 2 December (below) sets the scene.
The "10 Questions" presented to Schools for discussion are available on these pages. The supporting Professional Services discussions that take place in the spring will also be reflected here.
Your views and comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Developing our future
Professor Michael Farthing
Our current strategic plan, Making the Future 2009-2015, was framed as an ambitious plan for growth across the University. Part way through the third year of that plan, many of the goals have already been achieved.
For example, we have already doubled the number of overseas students at Sussex. We have significantly improved the student experience, as measured for example by the National Student Survey. We are firmly in the top 20 of UK institutions. That is a tribute to the work of all staff at Sussex.
We are therefore now thinking about the next phase of Sussex’s development. We continue to be ambitious. We aspire to be a top-10 university, with world-class research and outstanding teaching and learning. We want to operate in a sustainable manner, with our staff and students at the centre of future endeavour.
As I have set out at open meetings and in presentations to University committees, we have the opportunity to continue to grow our institution in line with and moving beyond the current strategic plan.
The current five-year plans from our schools show that we could move from 12,000 to 15,000 students by 2015-16, as overseas demand continues to grow and the new government approach to regulated student numbers allows universities to admit extra numbers of high-quality students.
Unlike many other research universities in the 1994 Group and Russell Group, we did not take advantage of growth opportunities in recent decades and therefore have not gone through the expansion that others have seen.
The positive reason for embracing growth now is that additional student numbers are the main route for growing income. Growing income provides the financial head room for us to develop the student experience, grow staffing numbers, develop exciting new areas of activity and invest in high-quality facilities. It means we are more in charge of our destiny as an institution.
There would of course be very practical challenges for all of us – for academic schools and for professional services: how we would meet the demand for teaching space, provide accommodation, ensure we continue to offer high-quality services, and so on.
But, as a more fundamental starting point, I want us first to explore what that growth opportunity means for Sussex as an academic institution: our distinctiveness, size, shape and quality.
We have therefore framed a series of ten questions for schools under these four headings. I want to foster debate within schools and across the University and encourage all colleagues to get involved.
- On distinctiveness, we are asking about the special characteristics that will make us distinctive in an increasingly competitive environment.
- On size, we are exploring what the student mix will look like, where the opportunities are to grow research capacity, and what other opportunities exist for income growth.
- On shape, we are looking at where we might prioritise research or teaching development, and what innovative approaches we can take to teaching and learning and to research.
- On quality, we are exploring how we can enhance teaching and research quality, what new world-class research opportunities exist, and what high-quality partnerships we can create to further enhance what we do.
All colleagues are encouraged to contribute to this debate, which we hope will take place across the University, and in particular in this phase coordinated through schools.
In the spring term, we will be working with professional services colleagues to look similarly at the opportunities and challenges that growth provides for them to continue to provide a high-quality service to support staff, students and the academic mission.
This is an exciting phase in the University’s development. I hope that we can make progress so that by summer 2012 we are ready as a community to present our next set of ambitious plans and goals to Council.
2 December 2011