Strategy and outlook
The incoming Vice-Chancellor will take the helm of a university that is both on a sound course and focused on its future.
The University’s Strategic Direction to 2020 has guided the institution well over the past seven years, cementing its position as a nationally and internationally connected university with a focus on high quality research, teaching and service outcomes. However, Otago is now taking a longer-term view, looking to develop a strategy for the next 20 years. The recently initiated Vision 2040 project aims to determine what sort of university Otago seeks to become in the future, so that it is better able to respond to significant national and global problems without short-term constraints. COVID‑19 has interrupted this planning, but has also highlighted its importance as the University reflects on the challenges of a post-COVID world.
The “Shaping Our Culture, Together – He Waka Kotuia” project was initiated in 2019 to review the University’s organisational culture and, following wide consultation, an agreed set of values is now being implemented.
The recently initiated Vision 2040 project aims to determine what sort of university Otago seeks to become in the future, so that it is better able to respond to significant national and global problems without short-term constraints.
The New Zealand tertiary sector has been operating in a constrained funding environment for a number of years. Otago has maintained a healthy financial position, however the COVID‑19 pandemic – and, in particular, the effects of closed borders on international students numbers – has brought challenges. Embedding sustainability – including financial sustainability – and the ability to take up opportunities in a post-COVID world will be important for the University in the medium-term future.
Over recent years the University of Otago has celebrated many successes, but the current administration has not shied away from making difficult decisions when necessary. A substantial review of all operational and administrative activities began in 2015 – the Support Services Review – to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. The “shift” phase has been completed and the Enabling Excellence programme (“lift” phase) is now underway. Ensuring benefits of this change are fully realised remains a key focus for the University.
A number of academic programmes have also been reviewed in instances of changing student interest.
Māori, Pacific and student focus
While mindful of its Scottish heritage, the University of Otago is increasingly positioning itself as a university of the Pacific, informed by its commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and enriched by its relationship with mana whenua and Pacific communities. Specific Māori and Pacific Strategic Frameworks provide cohesive structures through which the University’s commitment to Māori and Pacific development is disseminated across all University activities.
As more than 85 per cent of Otago’s undergraduates come from outside Dunedin, a distinctive campus-based lifestyle has evolved, affectionately known as the “Otago Experience”. The University is heavily invested in the pastoral and academic support of students to ensure this experience continues to be a positive one, and that it meets the needs of an increasingly diverse student cohort. Otago takes pride in producing graduates who are distinguished not only by their scholarly achievements, but also by their intellectual and personal independence, tolerance and resilience, equipping them well to make a lasting contributions as national and international citizens.
Equity and diversity are integral to all strategic goals, a commitment championed in the Equity and Diversity Strategic Framework.