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Strategic Plan 2020-2025

Progress since our last strategic plan

The University’s last Strategic Plan was published in 2015. The intervening period has seen considerable change, in higher education policy as well as in the industries and professions with which we work and, of particular importance, in the wider political environment in which we operate.

Despite these changes the University has had considerable success over the last 5 years. Fundamental to this success has been the high quality education it provides for its students, the applied nature of its research activities and the many connections it has maintained, or established, with other organisations to pursue its mission.

Our last Strategic Plan established 5 key objectives. Our performance against those objectives is as follows:

1. Education:

We sought to grow the population of the University to 3,000 FTE students and to extend our reach into continuing professional development and other forms of higher education. At this point we have 2,976 FTE students, with every prospect of hitting our target later in 2020. We successfully launched a range of degree apprenticeships in 2018 and our provision for continuing professional development has expanded to areas such as postgraduate veterinary education and livestock market management.

2. Engagement:

We have worked successfully with academic and industry partners to bring about a number of initiatives over the planning period. These include the Saputo UK Innovation Centre, the Midlands Hub of the Agri-EPI Centre for Innovation in Engineering and Precision Farming and the forthcoming Newport Innovation Park scheme, in which we are supporting our Local Authority and Local Enterprise Partnership. The Harper and Keele Veterinary School is another example of how we have worked collaboratively to create a flagship initiative of benefit to the longterm health of the veterinary profession and animal wellbeing. In these, and many other ways, we have built a strong reputation for our work in support of the wider UK economy and society. Our portfolio of international education and research has also been expanded over the last planning period with important new relationships with universities and businesses across 5 continents.

3. Research:

We aimed to move from a position where over 50% of our research in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework was assessed as internationally excellent or world leading to a rating of over 60% in the next exercise. That exercise is now scheduled for 2021, and we have retained this objective for our research performance in the current Plan.

4. Influence:

We set out to enhance the role and reputation of the University over the lifetime of the Plan. With two Gold Teaching Excellence Framework awards, leading positions for a modern University in two of the three national university league tables in 2019, a university sector top 20 position for graduate employment and a university sector top 5 position in the 2019 National Student Survey, we have established a strong reputation for our academic work. We have also contributed to the development of the national agritechnology agenda with world-first research, such as our Hands Free Hectare programme, and many other examples where we have impacted positively on the agrifood and rural sectors, in the UK and overseas.

5. Efficiency:

We have maintained our expenditure on administrative activities below the median when benchmarked against other small and specialist UK higher education providers whilst successfully meeting an extended set of regulatory obligations. Our focus on efficient and effective support service operation means that we have been able to devote our resources to those academic activities that directly or indirectly support an outstanding student experience over the period of our last Strategic Plan.

We continue to produce entrepreneurial graduates who are making valuable contributions to the businesses and professions in which they are forging their careers. Our sandwich degrees are a major factor in their preparation for the world of work, which have enabled us to remain in close contact with over 500 employers so that we are aware of the issues facing businesses at this time of considerable change.

We have continued to highlight the importance of rural concerns, and our subject base, to our regulatory and funding bodies and to Government, to ensure that the future educational and skills needs of the rural economy are fully taken into consideration.

Over the last planning period we have also raised awareness of our contribution to higher education in rural subjects by achieving national recognition in other ways. These include winning Times Higher Education Awards in 2016 for an Outstanding Business/ University Collaboration, in 2018 for Technological Innovation of the Year and 2019 for Outstanding Estates Strategy, together with a nomination for the top title of University of the Year. In 2015 we won the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Award (THELMA) for International Strategy and in 2016 we won the category for Marketing and Communications Team. We achieved 8 other shortlisted entries in the THELMAs over the planning period, including 3 for the top award of Leadership & Management Team of the Year.

In the run up to launching our Strategic Plan we were named the Sunday Times Good University Guide Modern University of the Year, achieving a top-20 position in the main league table. This further underlines the progress we have made as a high performing university within an increasingly competitive higher education sector.

The last planning period has seen us address major challenges to which our staff and students have responded magnificently. There are more challenges and opportunities ahead, which this Strategic Plan will set out in greater detail. We will continue to work hard to address the changing external environment and to secure a firm future for the University as it sets course for the period to 2025.

You can view the full Strategic Plan 2020-2025 here.