Strategic plan 2021-2026
A plan for sustainable and transformative change.
An introduction from the Vice-Chancellor
I am immensely proud to introduce Lancaster University’s Strategic plan to 2026. Its theme – one of delivering transformative change –looks forward to a world where universities like Lancaster will need a strategy that is sharply focused in its goals and values-led in its execution in order to succeed in an environment that will be more competitive and resource-constrained than the previous decade.
We build adiabatically on the success of our previous strategies, which have reinforced the pre-eminence of our research mission as the distinctive engine of the change we seek to create. We celebrate the characteristics that make Lancaster distinctive, including our strong tradition of interdisciplinary research founded upon strong subject areas, our commitment to excellence and inclusivity in all that we do, our status as a pioneer institution and our desire to act as a force for good, committed to creating a better world. Our creation of new knowledge animates our teaching, underpins our engagement and is of intrinsic significance in its scholarship and reach. The objective of delivering the highest quality research will be the 'north star' that guides us through the times ahead.
In presenting the new strategy, we should not lose sight of all we achieved under the previous strategy. Since 2015 we have grown in reach and scale. Our new campus in Leipzig and our investment in University Academy 92 literally opens new doors to continental Europe and to widening participation in under-represented groups. We achieved our stated ambition to grow student numbers to 15,000, and our income growth has allowed us to invest in more staff. All this has been accomplished while enhancing quality and reputation. We have achieved Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework, a regular top ten ranking in each of the three main UK league tables. We have been named the University of the Year 2018 and International University of the Year 2020 by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide. We have much to be proud of and ambition to do yet more.
The path to formulating the strategy has been highly consultative, involving workshops and conversations, questionnaires and feedback, with a wide variety of engagement from both within and outside the University. The timing – written in the midst of a global pandemic – has served to emphasise some of the threats and uncertainty on the sector, from high dependence on single sources of income to disruption of much we had previously relied on. Yet, it has also demonstrated our capability to be innovative and nimble in what we do and how we do it and our ability to tackle global problems while simultaneously supporting our local community. At its heart, this University is about people, which is why the values aspect of the strategy has come to the fore. It also recognises many distinctive features of Lancaster: a collegiate university, the loyalty and commitment of staff, the emphasis on attracting students with the capacity to succeed independent of background, and leading the way in our commitment to environmental sustainability, to mention just a few.
The challenges the world faces are mirrored in many that we see regionally. Our mission is to be a force for good by bringing together communities to engage, inform and transform. We have combined diverse disciplines to make powerful teams and forge partnerships for education and research all over the world. We educate and equip our students for a fulfilling life, and we seek to build economic growth and well-being in the region. By doing these things well, we will continue to grow our national and international reputation and will thrive on the opportunities before us.
Our Vision is to be a university that is globally significant - a sector leader and innovator that delivers the highest quality research, teaching and student experience, and that engages locally, nationally, and internationally.
Our Purpose is to advance knowledge, wisdom and understanding through the excellence of our teaching and research. By engaging with others, we will use our collective intellectual and wider capabilities as a force for good and create positive economic, cultural, societal and environmental change.
In pursuit of our Vision and in keeping with our Purpose, we work to uphold our Values:
- We respect each other by being open and fair and promoting diversity
- We build strong communities by working effectively together in a supportive way
- We create positive change by being ambitious in our learning, expertise and action
To maximise the transformative impact of all that we do we have identified three overarching goals that drive our strategy.
To be recognised as a global leader amongst universities
Our primary goal is to consolidate Lancaster University's status as a leading global research-intensive university. We define global leadership as being a "go to" university for research, teaching and engagement that is widely respected for its record of transforming lives, communities, practice and thinking in countries across the globe. We will measure this goal by making further progress towards a top 100 position in key global rankings of universities. Already ranked within the world top 100 on many objective measures, further developing our global visibility and reputation will be critical to achieving this aim.
To advance our strong national profile
We will seek to consolidate and sustain our position and profile as a leading UK university, delivering a high-quality education and wider student experience, stimulating and shaping the national higher education and research agendas, policy development and public thinking. We will be a source and a driver of new thinking and practice that improves communities, culture, society and the economy. We will measure this by monitoring our position in national rankings of UK higher education institutions.
Accelerate our transformative impact in the communities in which we operate
By focusing on high-value, high-impact projects that exploit our interdisciplinarity and our subject strengths across the institution, we will seek to increase our transformative impact on thinking and practice in the communities in which we operate. Working collaboratively with our partners for mutual benefit, we aim to have global impact across a range of communities encompassing disciplines, localities, regions, nations, policy, practice and thought. We will measure this via our performance in the UK's Knowledge Exchange Framework.
Living our values
These three exemplars indicate how, in core areas of strategic development, we will put our values to respect each other, build strong communities and create positive change at the heart of what we do.
Our strategic priorities
Our drivers identify six thematic, cross-cutting and high-priority activities that will enable and support the delivery of this strategy.
Efficiency and financial sustainability
Increasing our organisational agility and resilience to withstand shocks has proven to be more critical than ever. To further enhance this, we will need to plan more strategically and selectively than in the previous period. Additional income generation may be required in particular areas, be it student recruitment, or via ambitious funded research. We will also need to innovate to optimise our systems and processes so that we can deliver maximum value in support of the student experience, our students’ wellbeing, education and research. In pursuing this agenda, we will also explore new forms of partnership, unconstrained by historical relationships and forms of collaboration.
Our ability to support choice, variety and participatory decision-making to the levels the University has done so historically will be challenged in the coming years. Questions about the nature, scale and shape of growth across the Bailrigg student body, by level of study, at our international campuses and online, as well as changed ways of working, will all challenge our current models and the operation of our professional support services. Our objectives will be to:
- seize the opportunity to innovate, to modernise and to address questions of organisational shape, scale and selectivity;
- actively develop our organisational structures, processes and services to enhance our efficiency and take advantage of opportunities to act entrepreneurially, particularly where these can contribute to the regional economy more broadly, and;
- develop our services and approach in support of our core purpose and to consolidate our position amongst the UK’s leading research-intensives.
Excellence through our people
The core strength of the University is its people. Our People Plan will continue to focus on our ambition of attracting, developing and retaining the best staff to work with us. We will deliberately seek to ensure our workforce profile represents our values and the communities which we work alongside.
We plan to create the conditions and structures that enable our staff to be truly excellent and fulfil their career ambitions in an environment that supports their personal and professional development. We will also work to support staff wellbeing as we embrace new ways of working and maintain our position as an employer of choice. In support of these goals a refreshed People Plan will be developed during 2021.
The campus re-imagined
We will consider opportunities to refocus our campuses on the student experience, world-class research and integration with local enterprise, deploying digital technologies to support agile working. Circumstances have provided us with the opportunity to reflect on our experiences of working, teaching and learning remotely, the impact on us as individuals and as a wider community, and what this means for how we undertake research, teaching, learning and professional service support in the future.
An agile approach to work, underpinned by digital innovation, has the potential to contribute to our environmental sustainability and support equality and diversity, particularly for those with caring responsibilities. Such an approach may also create strategic opportunities by releasing space to be repurposed to support our core activities, our engagement, and partnership work.
To explore these potential opportunities, we will reimagine working practices, supported by digital delivery and focused initially on our Bailrigg campus. In so doing, we will work with staff and students to consider the range of perspectives on potential opportunities to ensure they are aligned with our wider corporate goals and enhance the student and staff experience and the campus culture at Bailrigg. It will be imperative that such change supports and enhances our campus as a vibrant and dynamic place to live, study and work.
Embracing digital technology
Our innovative use of digital technologies will be critical to securing a competitive edge. We will think and act digitally, embracing digital technology in all our activities. This will support us to improve our connectivity to partners and deliver innovative digital learning environments for our students and alumni. It must also deliver efficient and highly effective digital ways of working for our staff. Embracing digital opportunities will enable us to better build communities across our global organisation.
Supported by a data and analytics strategy, our use of digital technologies will be central to our reimagining of the campus and to:
- Focusing on student journeys - to enhance the student experience, deliver support and wellbeing services and ensure a smooth and seamless student experience from the point of initial enquiry to graduation.
- Harnessing opportunities in digital provision - to support delivery across campuses in support of a global student experience, as one aspect of our reduced carbon emissions and to support ‘micro-credits’ and other forms of short programmes which encourage life-long learning and career development.
Our global campus network
Our global network of campuses in China, Malaysia, Ghana and Germany contribute to our cultural diversity and opportunities for student and staff mobility. This presence offers the potential to enhance our reputation as a transnational University, operating as an interconnected network of campuses and strategic partners - a global HE ecosystem that enables a distinctive offer and brand.
Digital platforms can transform engagement and enhance the student and staff experience by improving connections between those working and studying at each individual campus. They also lower the carbon intensity of our international activity. We will explore opportunities for students to take modules and work collaboratively on projects and coursework across campus locations and, ultimately, the potential for students to complete their degree whilst incorporating a study abroad component at our global network of campuses and strategic partners. This has the potential to become a flagship pathway highlighting Lancaster's status and equipping our graduates to be global citizens.
We will advance this vision by exploring opportunities to further contribute to the local skills agenda in-country, including through the development of regional and blended offerings that use online and flexible pathways to a Lancaster degree. Collaborating with our international partners we will also seek to secure the benefits of developing greater research intensity and research income across our global campus network.
Innovating for excellence
Achieving our strategic goals in a challenging, volatile and rapidly evolving world will require continued innovation across our research, teaching and learning, engagement and our professional services. In keeping with Lancaster’s pioneering track record, we will place creativity and innovation at the heart of our pursuit of excellence.
We will continue to support and enhance a culture that questions established practice, champions new ideas and creates opportunities to pilot and develop new approaches. Our ambition is for a number of our most significant innovations to gain sector and wider recognition, enhancing our leadership position in the higher education sector.