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Strategic direction set to 2020

Applied research, high-quality teaching, sustainability and good citizenship are key focuses of the University's strategy for the next seven years.

The University's new lead strategic document, Strategic Direction to 2020, was approved by the University Council in August last year, reaffirming Otago's positioning as a research-intensive and predominately campus-based university with strong national and international links.

It outlines a direction for the next seven years in which the focus will remain on high-quality research, teaching and service outcomes. In addition, there will be a greater emphasis on applied, outward-facing research, on helping students to become good citizens as well as great scholars, and on sustainability.

“At Otago, we know that university education is a great privilege,” says Vice- Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne. “With that privilege come some very important obligations.

“As researchers, we are obliged to use our talents and our resources to help solve some the social, economic, environmental and health-related problems that are facing New Zealand and the rest of the world. As teachers, we are obliged to equip our students with the tools they need not only to succeed in a career but, more importantly, perhaps, to become strong and effective leaders in the world in which they live. Our Strategic Direction to 2020 reflects these obligations."

The new strategic document has been developed with significant input from across the University. It provides a framework that all groups within the University can use for their own strategic and operational planning, and a reference point around which the University can frame its response to national and international agendas for higher education.

Director of Planning and Funding David Thomson says that a particularly pleasing aspect of the Strategic Direction to 2020's development was the feedback received on an initial draft from a wide range of staff, students and alumni, as well as a number of internal and external groups and organisations.

He says this feedback affirmed the new points of emphasis the University had proposed, but also challenged it to go further in its aspirations around sustainability, and to think of applied research in the context of making the world a better place as well as for commercial benefit. Statements in respect of the University's relationship with Māori, and the voice the staff and students have within the University were also strengthened.

One particular development of interest to graduates will be the greater prominence given in the document to the University's relationship with its alumni. Consistent with the status of graduates as lifelong members of the University, there is a commitment to building enduring connections that meet the needs of our alumni and, in turn, to provide a range of avenues for them to support their alma mater.

The Strategic Direction to 2020 will be underpinned by action plans specific to each of the seven imperatives. These are currently under development.

Building on the Strategic Direction to 2012 document, there are now seven strategic imperatives:

Excellence in research
Already widely-recognised as one of New Zealand's leading research institutions, Otago will continue to advance its research culture to address questions of national and international importance, enhancing social and environmental well-being, human and animal health, with increasing attention given to research for economic and commercial benefit. While supporting its own established and emerging areas of research strength, the University will foster joint research programmes with other institutions, both nationally and internationally.

Excellence in teaching
Teaching excellence remains a priority. The University will strive to further improve the calibre of its student cohort and the quality of both learning experiences and educational outcomes. There will be a particular focus on the recruitment of more Māori, Pacific and international students, to embracing new teaching technologies, and to supporting and recognising outstanding teachers.

Outstanding student experiences
The Otago experience – encompassing social, cultural and sporting activities as well as the pursuit of academic excellence – is one of the defining features of this University. There is a commitment to working together with students to ensure that this continues, by nurturing healthy and sustainable lifestyles, and harnessing student altruism to produce graduates who are both work-ready and ready to deploy their talents more broadly as citizens.

Outstanding campus environments
As a primarily residential destination university, Otago must continue to ensure that its campuses provide a high-quality and safe environment for students and staff. Every campus project must reflect the University's vision for excellence, with sustainability embedded as a principle against which all developments are considered, and an area in which Otago is genuinely world-class.

Commitment as a local, national and global citizen
Embracing its role as the critic and conscience of society, the University will play an active role in debates about New Zealand's future direction and will engage internationally in areas of global betterment, with particular regard to health and well-being, society and the environment. It will continue to support under-represented groups in university study, extending its partnership with Māori and strengthening links with Pacific communities.

Strong external engagement
With Otago's main campus geographically distant from New Zealand's main centres of political and economic decision-making, strong external engagement will be an ongoing priority. The University will work to secure representation on key educational, health and research bodies; pursue regular engagement with employers; seek greater entrepreneurial opportunities; and enhance efforts to develop life-long relationships with alumni.

Sustaining capability
The University is committed to an ongoing investment in staff and the resources required to achieve and sustain excellence as a broad-based, research-led university. While advocating for adequate levels of Government funding, there is a recognition that an increasingly diverse funding base must also be found. And, as the University is likely to be operating in a fiscally-constrained environment during the coming years, activities and structures will be scrutinised for efficiency and effectiveness.


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