Strategic Plan 2012 – 2017

Vice-Chancellor’s Introduction

It is a pleasure and a privilege to be able to write this introduction to our new Strategic Plan. Since my arrival in Aberystwyth, I have been learning more about what makes this such a special university, and what gives us such opportunities and such outstanding potential for our future. That means the development of the University and our contribution to Wales, but crucially also the linked development of our people, our communities, and the advances in knowledge, expertise and economic growth to which we contribute.

So why is Aberystwyth special?

First, we have a strong sense of place, and recognise that we thrive through our location, and our close and mutually beneficial relationship with our local community, but we also recognise that our contribution to that community involves our international connections and ambitions. We achieve for Wales and for the UK by being recognisable, visible and successful on the international stage. Part of our job is to bring an increased diversity and vibrancy to Aberystwyth, the region and to Wales, and to raise awareness for local people of the benefits of international partnerships, friendships and business links. We are community-based with a global reach.

Second, there is a great deal of debate in the sector at present about what universities are for, with an increasing divide developing between research-intensive and teaching-intensive institutions.  Aberystwyth stands for the unique productive union of the two, and for the ideal university that prides itself on a strong research focus and a superb student experience. Both are vital to our atmosphere, attainment, and ambition.

Finally, Aberystwyth wants and intends to grow, but we also rejoice in our identity and strength as a university which is small enough to be a real community, to foster interdisciplinary interaction, and to be responsive to evolving challenges. Aberystwyth is agile and adaptable.

All these characteristics, and all the priorities, goals and targets to be developed in the body of this plan, rely on our people. Our students and staff set the tone for ‘project Aber’, and the University exists and achieves through their energy, expertise and enthusiasm. The process of developing this Strategic Plan embodies the relationship between our students and staff and our aspirations, since all the key areas of activities and crucially all our values have been specified through a process of consultation and co-working in open ‘Shaping our Future’ sessions. These have involved students and staff, and major stakeholders. This has led to a shared reflection across the University on our goals, and to the adoption of this strategy by the Council. I can truly say that this Strategic Plan has been developed by and for the University at large – and it does no harm that we had a fair bit of fun in the sessions along the way.

Delivering on our targets and achieving our goals relies on the support we can provide for our talented colleagues and students. Throughout this plan there is rightly an emphasis on building infrastructure, clarifying expectations, creating incentives and developing support to allow students and staff to fulfil their potential. Ongoing strategic changes within the University, most notably the grouping of academic departments into larger Institutes and the strengthening of relationships between support and academic units will allow greater autonomy and more local decision-making within the parameters of this Strategic Plan.

It would be usual at this stage for me to introduce, with a flourish, our new (and potentially expensive) vision statement. We have not gone down that route. Instead, this Strategic Plan is presented under the banner of our motto, which has been part of Aberystwyth University’s life and culture since our foundation in 1872: Nid byd, byd heb wybodaeth – A world without knowledge is no world at all. I am confident that we can all rally to that motto as we take Aberystwyth University into its next, exciting stage of development.

April McMahon - Vice-Chancellor
Aberystwyth, November 2012