University strategic plan: Interview with the Vice-Chancellor

[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.

Quintin McKellar

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 [2010] 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.”