[Kealie Mardell | Print Editor]
In March, the University of Hertfordshire announced the launch of a new strategic plan which “aims to enhance its international reputation as the UK’s leading business-facing university.”
UniVerse met with Vice Chancellor Quintin McKellar to discuss the five-year vision for achieving these goals over seven key areas; education, research, business, international reach, sustainability, people, and community and partners.
The vision includes strengthening global relationships and business partners, and providing expert teaching to ensure students can be successful in international businesses and professions.
Key points of the strategic plan
1) Education: To provide education in an environment “which prepares students well for business” and to do this in such a way that “students are likely to have enhanced chances of getting a job.”
2) Research: “New thinking and new ideas are inherently valuable. We also want new research to benefit the education of our students, and we want all our students to have the critical thinking and capacity for research projects.”
3) Businesses: “Ensuring that we support businesses in our community, and really anywhere, and the ways we can enhance how businesses do things.”
4) International reach: “We want to ensure that our UK based students have a global perspective when they graduate, and a cultural flexibility to fit into any society.”
5) People: “We want to ensure that the staff at the university, both academic and professional, deliver for our students the highest possible quality of education. That means attracting and supporting the very best staff in any way we can.”
6) Sustainable: “It’s not just about switching the lights off and trying to conserve energy, but sustainable financially,” and ensuring that the new construction on campus is energy efficient, fit for purpose, student friendly and staff friendly.
7) Community and Partners: “We want to be much more effectively engaged with the community in Hatfield, and in Hertfordshire in general,” including supporting the regeneration of Hatfield town centre to make it a “more vibrant and attractive place” for students.
Vice-Chancellor Quintin McKellar
Why is an international reputation so important?
Quintin McKellar explained that the international reputation is important for attracting future students and a higher quality of staff. The aim is to: “Improve reputation, deliver something which our students will value and will be of value to them, but also live up to our heritage as a university.”
“It’s very much designed to improve our reputation, but it’s also designed to play on the historic strengths of the university as a business facing university,” McKellar said. “The business facing aspects of the university are in its DNA.”
How does a business-facing plan embrace other subject areas?
“When we were assessed for, an indeed won, the Entrepreneurial University of the Year  it was in subjects that you wouldn’t consider to be very business-facing,” McKellar said, citing examples such as the humanities and education departments. “It’s across the whole university that we want to have that business facing agenda.”
The aim is to provide education in an environment “which prepares students well for business” and to do this in such a way that “students are likely to have enhanced chances of getting a job.”
This can exist within any subject area, such as the local business links for film and media. Looking at the university’s Flare competition, which “rewards individuals for their business ideas”, areas such as fashion and design are often the most successful.
“In arts as well as sciences and humanities, we think that embracing those business facing agendas is really important,” said McKellar.
The University as a global network
The university currently has over 3,000 overseas students from over 120 countries, and franchises across the globe, including Malaysia, Trinidad, and even Moscow.
“We’ve got a very diverse population on campus and I think that’s hugely beneficial for lots of reasons,” said McKellar. Those reasons are not just financial, but also cultural, and “allow us to experience educational provisions in other countries and hopefully contribute to that and learn from it.”
McKellar said: “We believe that being global citizens, with increased globalisation and cross border travel, increased multinationals, individuals that are being educated today at the University of Hertfordshire, we hope will have the opportunity to work anywhere in the world in any kind of business. We want to ensure that they are culturally ready for that, and have an appetite for it. While our heart is still very much in Hertfordshire…we also want to make sure they get great jobs worldwide.”
The potential of a global university network reaches beyond the borders of education, making it “inherently beneficial”. McKellar added: “Having had lots of overseas students come to the UK, and hopefully experience a friendly and embracing culture and environment, I’m sure that must have a positive impact on reducing the likelihood of conflict between different cultures.”
Encouraging international alumni to support students and graduates
With over 175,000 alumni the strategy includes further plans to encourage international alumni to support students and graduates.
“Historically I don’t think we’ve been very good at keeping in touch with our alumni,” said McKellar. “Over the last few years we’ve tried to get a sound database which has contacts for our alumni.”
The hope is that by improving alumni connections overseas there will be increased opportunities for students to do international placements.
“I think there are really positive potentials for current students, and we don’t use it nearly enough,” McKellar said. “I don’t think many of our current students know about it, and I don’t think we encourage them or tell them about it sufficiently to take up those offers.”
McKellar advises students that the Careers and Placement office should be the first point of contact, and that they should persist in getting access to international alumni links.
You can download the 2015-2020 strategic plan from Herts.ac.uk.