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Provost’s View 24/10/2013: The journey towards defining our ambition

24 October 2013

When you are appointed to such an important and distinguished position as President & Provost of UCL, you instantly start to absorb everything you can from reading about and visiting the university, and meeting its key opinion formers at all levels.

I have had countless such interactions over the past year. Since arriving at UCL last month, this process has intensified. I have now adopted a systematic approach, making use of the previous Council white paper, and building on that to develop a vision and strategy for UCL that will extend as far as 20 to 30 years. I have previously indicated that we are in the fortunate position to be able to do that because of the tremendous success that UCL has enjoyed in recent times.

Events

This work started in earnest with an away-event last month that involved the Senior Management Team (SMT), some members of Council and some of the key frontline Directors of Professional Services, which together constitute what we might call an ‘SMT+’ group. That work scoped out the major external factors that might influence our future, and started to describe our level of ambition, our desire for a distinctive future, and some key elements of our vision for UCL, some of which featured in my Lunch Hour Lecture.

In ongoing planning work, we have identified the need for additional elements to feed into our thinking. Firstly, we will need to know the long-term ambition and strategy of each faculty, and the Deans are tasked with leading that work. In putting their thoughts together, they have been asked to consult widely within their faculties.

Secondly, we will need to look at relevant external benchmark data as well as our own internal management information with respect to our current performance as an academic institution; such information is currently being prepared.

Finally, we will need to feed in a range of views from a wider group of leaders, including members of our Council, about what is good in the white paper and what we need to do to improve our academic profile and performance even further.

White Paper

In the first instance, all members of the ‘Leadership Forum’ (previously known as the Heads of Department meeting, but now extended to include all Vice-Deans and Faculty Managers) will be asked to take part in that exercise, culminating in our first meeting of the new forum in mid-November.

We will then pull all of that work together in some further away-time of the SMT+ group towards the end of November, and it is our intention to convert our combined efforts into a first draft vision and strategy document by January 2014, if not sooner. I can promise you that it will be a short and focused document.

We will then open up that draft document to wide consultation through a combination of town meetings, a website for comments and perhaps some web-based interactive sessions. That is where everyone can join in; all staff, students, alumni, our partners and other stakeholders. I promise you that we will listen, and confirm that we will be prepared to change and improve the strategy as your ideas emerge and the best are incorporated.

If we are going to make UCL as successful in the long term as I believe we can be, then it is really important that there is UCL-wide ownership of our vision and strategy. That level of ownership – and the enthusiasm and dedication that it will generate – will be a key factor in persuading others, particularly our funders and other supporters, to rally behind our ambitions. I fully anticipate that we will all enjoy ourselves on that wonderful journey.

Professor Michael Arthur
UCL President & Provost

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