Principles for a 10-year strategy

The need for transformation

This White Paper plots a course for the next 10 years, against a very different financial backcloth from the past decade, but with a determination to build upon our achievements during that period and to secure for the future an even greater distinctiveness for UCL and even sharper differentiation from other UK universities.

UCL’s approach to strategic planning

UCL artists-in-residence at Heal's

We do not start with an empty slate. UCL has adopted and implemented three successive strategic plans in the past eight years:

  1. Designing a 10-year strategy for UCL: the White Paper was adopted by the Council in July 2004, following the publication of a Provost’s Green Paper in February that year. Amongst other things, it committed us to consolidation of our academic activities, to recalibrating the numbers of UK-EU undergraduate students in accordance with the Government’s student numbers control, to an increase in international and postgraduate student numbers but with no relaxation of admissions criteria, to modest and planned growth, to the upward revision of the minimum entry score, to a process of financial planning, to external-led reviews of all major areas of activity in the run-up to the next Research Assessment Exercise, to reviews of teaching and learning and promotions criteria, to launching a major fundraising campaign, to raising UCL’s profile nationally and internationally and to pursuing a global vision.
  2. The Council’s White Paper One Year On (2005) was a review of the implementation of the 2004 White Paper, and included proposals for the UCL Regeneration Programme for managing an overall reduction in staffing.
  3. Modernising UCL: The Council’s White Paper 2007–2012 (again preceded by a Provost’s Green Paper) committed us to several initiatives, including: the grouping of Faculties into Schools to enable further devolution of functions from the centre, the introduction of a Common Timetable, the development of a liberal arts-type undergraduate programme and the introduction of a modern languages qualification for undergraduates, improvements in information systems, the development of a research strategy and an enterprise strategy, the setting up of an Academy in Camden and further investment in the estate, including particularly improvements to the public realm.

The strategies of the Council’s previous White Papers have been successfully pursued and the processes they introduced for the modernisation of UCL will continue. Fresh strategies have recently been launched in areas such as research, enterprise and for the upgrading and rationalisation of the Bloomsbury Estate. Work is therefore already well advanced under most of the chapter headings of this White Paper.

The approach

This strategy is not comprehensive. UCL is so complex an organisation, and its activities so extensive and intermingled, that strategy has necessarily to be developed and expressed in relatively aspirational and abstract terms. The role of this White Paper is to propose a direction of travel, building on work that is already in progress in anticipation of the funding reforms, and to be developed in consultation with those affected by it. It is focused on aims, principles, commitments and processes. It will be followed by more detailed implementation plans. Ten years is a long period for planning, and the proposals need to be sufficiently flexible to provide a framework that is capable of adaptation to reflect changes in circumstances.

Yet it is a more ambitious and comprehensive paper than the previous White Papers, for two reasons: first, significant foundations have been built upon and much has been achieved in the last decade; second, the external environment has changed dramatically.

Some of the proposals may prove contentious, and several provoked differences of opinion during the consultation process on the Provost’s Green Paper. None of them will work unless there is sufficient buy-in on the part of all actors, and in particular the staff whose enthusiasm is essential for them to be implemented. Topdown prescription seldom works in any community, let alone in an open and critical institution such as UCL.

Next: Mission, vision, values and guiding principles