Universal Values, Global Change

University of Leeds Strategy
2020 to 2030

The Great Hall on a sunny graduation day. Students in academic gowns are outside the building

Introduction

This academic strategy for the University of Leeds for the next 10 years is rooted in our place in the world and our desire to make a difference.

It sets a blueprint for a values-driven university. One that harnesses its expertise in research and education to help shape a better future for humanity, working through collaboration to tackle inequalities, achieve societal impact and drive change.

The strategy will be supported by a strategic delivery plan, setting out how we will deliver the ambitions it sets out. This will encompass not only the academic areas, but also include details of the strategic enablers, including our people and ways of working, our working conditions and environment, our role in the city and region, and financial and environmental sustainability.

Watch this short introduction video from Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor:

Context: why do we need this strategy?

A close up of Parkinson Building tower, showing the clock. Blue sky in the background..

Our planet faces unprecedented challenges. Issues including climate change, economic instability, inequality, poverty, and refugee crises threaten the health and wellbeing of the population. The COVID-19 pandemic is a recent addition to this list of threats.

The impact of these global challenges and how we address them varies greatly across nations. The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, and gender equality, are more difficult to reach for low and middle income countries, which are predominantly situated in the Global South and often have the least resources. And within the generally more affluent Global North there is great disparity in the impact of these issues within and across populations.

The SDGs can only be reached if we reduce inequality. This will require collaboration on an unparalleled scale across institutions and nations. Research-intensive universities, working with their local communities and partners, are perfectly placed to help deliver this. They are a powerful group of networked institutions capable of the large-scale, high-impact, global collaboration that is required, unencumbered by national borders.

What sets us apart from many other institutions is that we are highly focused on impact – it is our most important product. Not money or profits, but making a positive difference in the world. None of the challenges that the world faces can be solved without the research and evidence-based thinking and actions of universities.

Equally pivotal is our role in training the next generation of global citizens and leaders, educating the problem solvers, innovators, collaborators and critical thinkers who can tackle these big issues.  

To be influential on the global stage, we need to be as effective as possible within our universities. The quality of our research, education and impact will be determined by how well we strategically align our core activities.

Modern universities need to be collaborative internally and should nurture and support their community of students and staff in order to deliver research and education with a global impact.

To positively shape our future world, the University will place itself at the heart of a global community combining research and innovation, student education, and knowledge exchange. 

We will support a small number of prestigious, University-wide, flagship centres and institutes that work across disciplinary, institutional and geographical boundaries to drive these activities. These influential, interdisciplinary hubs will empower us to make substantive progress towards addressing global challenges.

Strategy: 2020 to 2030

Community, culture and impact

Groups of students sat at tables and chatting outside Baines Wing cafe

This strategy has three over-arching elements: community, culture and impact.

Community

We can only make a positive difference to the world if our University community is strong. Our students and staff need to work in partnership, and our research and education need to enrich and support each other.

Our researchers play a leading role in innovation and driving new areas of discovery. Our research will inform the curriculum and the needs of our students will help define the research that we carry out. Our students will be taught the latest insights from cutting-edge research in their discipline areas and in multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary topics.

Through innovative and interactive teaching, we will encourage them to co-create their education with us, to participate in teamwork, and to understand the needs of the workplace before they even graduate.

We will be a collaborative, supportive and safe environment for the entire University community. We will reward teaching and teamwork, outreach and academic service, and research equally. We want staff in service roles to feel part of the community and to receive the recognition they deserve. Students should be equal partners if we want them to become the leaders of tomorrow.

We also recognise that for our University to thrive, we need to better reflect the community we aim to serve. We will provide students and staff from all walks of life with equal opportunities to excel. And our University community will play an important role in the West Yorkshire region, reflecting its diversity.

Our alumni are a vital part of our community. More than ever, we will involve alumni in the life of the University, enhancing connections, sharing insights and working together to make a positive global impact.

We will also define our community in international terms. In our research and teaching, we will focus on global issues and we will strive to attract talented people from across the world by being an open, welcoming and outward-looking university.

By bringing different cultures and perspectives into our University, both from within the UK and internationally, we will strengthen our community and our research, education and societal impact.

Culture

We can only achieve our ambitions if we foster a culture of collaboration, both internally and externally. Collaboration rather than competition will create excellence in research, education and societal impact. We need to focus not only on individual academic achievement but on teamwork. We will listen and be empathetic to make our community more successful and happy. We will treat each other with respect and will be aware of the equal importance of each member of our University community.

We will lead the move away from competition between universities, building strong networks and partnerships with other academic institutions including those in the Global South. We will combine talent, local knowledge, research skills, and globally-relevant, high-quality research-based education. By working together in this way we will enhance the potential of the wider academic community to effectively tackle global challenges.

Changing the existing academic culture from being competitive to being collaborative requires leadership, vision, strategic focus and courage. We need to be clear about the values of ethical behaviour, engendering trust, showing compassion for others and defining our goals in line with those values.

If we focus on the needs of the world, the region and our own community we will help generate the answers to many of the tough questions we face today. This will make all of us appreciate that what we do matters, and that sense of purpose will enable us to thrive as individuals.

To do this well, we will embrace the values of equality, diversity and inclusion in our entire community. We will strive to create a university which is welcoming to underrepresented groups, enhancing both their sense of belonging and their chances of succeeding. 

Impact

We will maximise our impact by focusing our efforts on the research areas in which we can be a global leader; by educating talent internationally and nationally, both younger and older learners; by using digital innovation to increase the global and local reach of our academic activities in a sustainable way; and by working closely with the community through outreach and participation.

We will combine our global outlook with a keen awareness of the importance of local, regional and national impact, in research, education, links with business and the civic community, and through continuous professional development.

We will seek to balance our international ambition and climate change commitments, including through the use of digital technologies. We will be outward looking and focused on the needs of global and local populations to maximise the impact we can have in all areas of our activities.

Research and innovation

Dr Oluwapelumi Adeyemi holding up a glass flask with liquid inside

Our vision

Our culture and environment will place us at the centre of a global research and innovation community, delivering transformational fundamental and challenge-led research to advance knowledge and tackle local, national and global challenges.

Our aims and objectives

1. Support our researchers and research staff across their entire careers to help them achieve their full potential, and deliver fundamental and challenge-led research that will shape our future world. We will:

  • Recognise, value and support high-quality research that leads equally to academic outputs, innovation, social impact, public engagement and policy reform.
  • Embrace researcher diversity across all career stages through proactive equality and inclusion strategies.
  • Generate a framework to support and resource researchers to realise our research ambitions alongside targeted monitoring and delivery plans.
  • Provide career support through mentoring, networking and leadership training.

2. Further our reputation for high-quality, challenge-led, interdisciplinary research, underpinned by our disciplinary fundamental research strengths. We will:

  • Bring together our research community to work towards a shared vision for research, creating new opportunities and synergies.
  • Create a Frontiers Institute that will bring together researchers, policymakers, businesses, third-sector organisations and people from around the world to address major societal challenges.
  • Foster new approaches to interdisciplinarity through our flagship interdisciplinary research centres and institutes.
  • Build dynamic research portfolios that address major societal challenges, bringing together researchers from disparate disciplines to undertake transdisciplinary research.
  • Focus on research quality, fully understanding the true cost of research and the value that it generates. Embed practices to ensure we have a sustainable, quality-focused research model for the future.

3. Remove institutional barriers and promote Leeds as a 'university without walls' to support interdisciplinarity and effective external partnerships. We will:

  • Increase the breadth and depth of partnerships with our key partners across business and the public sector.
  • Encourage the flow of staff in and out of campus, between other venues and external opportunities, and promote joint appointments with external partners.
  • Blend local and global activity to create a transformational approach for how we work with our partners and drive innovation and discovery in research and education.

4. Enhance and diversify our research income and the impact and innovation it generates. We will:

  • Implement agile commercial models for working with business. This will include dedicated staff with specialist skills and a more structured and formal approach to consultancy and contract work.
  • Increase sustainability of research through a value-based costing model.
  • Partner with investors to create more start-up and grow-on space.
  • Embed innovation and entrepreneurship through activities targeted at undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, academic staff, and local entrepreneurs, to boost the creation of innovation-driven start-ups.

Student education

A student in Brotherton Library smiling and holding some books.

Our vision

To provide a transformative, research-based educational experience for students from diverse backgrounds, who develop the knowledge and skills they need to succeed and make a positive impact in the world.  

Our aims and objectives

1. Engage students as partners in their education, through active and inclusive approaches to learning, and research-based content.

  • Enhance the education we offer by embedding evidence-based, student-centred pedagogies for learning and assessment across the institution. 
  • Transform our curriculum by placing student success at its heart, streamlining our portfolio, and adopting a consistent programme structure that facilitates student choice.
  • Enhance our commitment to widening participation, retention and attainment, with a focus on evidence-based interventions that support the achievement of challenging targets for particular groups.
  • Ensure that our students are equipped with the learning, skills and attributes to support positive outcomes aligned with their career aspirations and the needs of society and employers.

2. Provide an outstanding education, underpinned and enhanced by sector-leading digital resources, pedagogies and technologies. 

  • Invest in digital education, including tools and content that enhance students’ education, supported by scalable, secure, off-the-shelf administrative systems.   
  • Develop the necessary staff and student skills to ensure they are equipped to take advantage of a digitally enabled, student-centred, active-learning experience across all programmes.
  • Invest in smart campus technology. 
  • Expand our portfolio of accessible online education for lifelong learning, collaborating with global partners as appropriate. 

3. Foster an engaged and lifelong community of staff, students, alumni and partners. We will:  

  • Actively promote and enhance student engagement and lifelong learning.
  • Recognise and leverage the value of the global Leeds community as friends and advocates of the University and experts with local country knowledge.

4. Embed a sustainable approach to delivering high-quality, research-based education.  

  • Use technology and consistent, streamlined processes to improve every aspect of the student experience, from enquiry and application through to graduation and alumni engagement.
  • Identify and achieve the optimal programme portfolio, modes of delivery and student cohort mix to secure financial sustainability, excellence in research, scholarship and student outcomes, and a positive work-life balance for all colleagues.

Digital transformation

Two students, sat by a window. One is using a mobile phone and the other learning using a tablet.

Our vision

We will use digital technologies, data and digital approaches effectively, creatively, innovatively and in a research-informed way to enhance our students’ learning and experience, to provide and enrich learning opportunities for individuals globally, to enhance our research activity and impact to tackle global challenges, and to improve the University’s processes, infrastructure and physical estate.

Our aims and objectives

1. Enhance ways of working, campus facilities and operational activity. We will:

  • Support our staff and students to harness the potential and manage the challenges of digital technologies, data and digital approaches through ongoing professional development, support and guidance. 
  • Use our technology infrastructure and data services to digitise and automate our processes, to reduce our use of paper and manual processes and to maximise the value of hybrid working practices and free up time.
  • Transform our physical campus to make the most effective use of digital technologies to support education and research and innovation, and to provide a welcoming, social, efficient and sustainable physical environment.
  • Use digital technology and digital approaches to develop and enhance our communication, relationships and partnerships with students, alumni, local, regional and global partners.
  • Develop our use of digital technologies, data and digital approaches to reduce digital poverty and other inequalities, and enhance our global reach and impact in education and research and innovation. 

2. Improve our capabilities to conduct high quality, collaborative and globally impactful challenge-based research and innovation. We will:

  • Provide high-quality, flexible, secure, interoperable user-focused technology and development environments.
  • Provide environments in which our researchers and partners can make effective use of large data sets through careful governance, management, stewardship and storage of data, enabling managed sharing and effective data analysis.   
  • Provide effective institutional platforms and support for specialised research in areas including high performance computing, artificial intelligence/deep learning, blockchain, Internet of Things, robotics, extended (immersive) realities, simulations and programming.
  • Encourage increased use of open research practice, digital library research and scholarship practices and use of digital approaches for publication, dissemination and impact activities.
  • Undertake internationally recognised research and scholarship in evidence-based practice in digital pedagogies, new and emerging digital technologies and online education.

3. Enhance our educational provision and grow our fully online education portfolio. We will:

  • Embed the use of existing and new digital technologies and digital approaches in our pedagogical practice to support students and researchers learning on campus in face-to-face, hybrid and fully online modes.
  • Provide our taught students and postgraduate researchers with a high-quality student experience through effective use of digital technologies, data and digital approaches, and to encourage student success.
  • Grow our fully online education portfolio of online degrees, sub-degree qualifications and online short courses for globally distributed online learners and professional learners, to generate revenue.
  • Work in partnership with global universities and technology partners to co-create open, community-based, collaborative, sustainable online education to support lifelong learning focused on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

International

Four students in discussion sat a table in a General English class.

Our vision

To be a truly international university with global reach and impact through internationally relevant, accessible, high-quality education and world-changing research and innovation.

Our aims and objectives

1. Foster and embed an international mindset across all aspects of our activity. We will:

  • Promote culture change to support, recognise and reward international activity which delivers positive impact, locally, nationally and globally.
  • Deliver an inclusive and intercultural student experience underpinned by effective staff training to facilitate whole cohort integration, belonging and community-building.
  • Increase institutional capacity to identify, scope and undertake major internationally collaborative projects including key research and educational partnerships with the Global South.
  • Harness the insights, networks and influence of our global alumni to enhance our impact and grow the philanthropy which will help underpin our ambitions. 

2. Continue to build, engage and support our globally connected community of staff, students and alumni. We will:

  • Recruit, support and retain talented researchers and staff from diverse geographies and cultures.
  • Build a balanced and sustainable cohort of diverse international and UK students online and on campus.
  • Ensure our portfolio and syllabus is globally informed and inclusive and our admissions and progression practices are flexible and equitable.
  • Extend the reach of our transnational education (TNE) and online provision at all levels of study by embedding digital innovation into our international partnerships.
  • Engage our alumni across the globe to create a strong sense of pride and belonging and to enable their contribution towards delivery of our University strategy.

3. Create global partnerships that provide international learning and research opportunities to develop engaged global citizens and world-changing research and innovation. We will:

  • Create a Leeds Curriculum and Leeds Doctorate which are internationally relevant and provide a broad range of inclusive global study and flexible mobility opportunities.
  • Support and mentor staff to develop their careers through high-quality and impactful international collaboration and networking.
  • Develop international research partnerships that build on distinctive, shared strengths and deliver collaborative projects that address global challenges and reduce inequality, for example, by focusing on regions in climate crisis that face the greatest difficulties in addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Extend global education opportunities in subjects and geographies which directly address the SDGs through partnerships, research and digital innovation.

4. Enhance our international reputation by extending our worldwide reach and delivering global impact.  We will:  

  • Develop excellent graduates who, as engaged global citizens, will be well equipped to make a positive difference in the world.
  • Encourage, recognise and reward staff for internationally collaborative, high-quality and impactful student education, research and innovation.
  • Lead international networks of education and technology partners to drive digital transformation and online programme delivery to meet the needs of diverse global learners.
  • Promote our education, digital innovation, and research impact internationally and particularly to key stakeholders in national and global policy development and in higher education institutions worldwide.