UCD Strategy 2020-2024: Rising to the Future

Posted Wednesday 11 December, 2019

Launching UCD’s new five-year strategy today the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, paid tribute to faculty and staff at UCD for “the great work that you do of enhancing the life chances of your students and indeed your graduates.”

Referencing the four strategic themes set out in the plan, the Minister said “these themes align very closely with the objectives of the Government and of the Department of Education and Skills.  The strategy places the student at the centre of its objectives, as it should, and it aims to provide a holistic and an inclusive educational experience.

It will strive to equip students of all ages, with the knowledge, skills, creativity and creative thinking, and the core competencies of collaboration, creativity, and ability to articulate ethical values of integrity and diversity.

At a meeting of the University, the President of UCD, Professor Andrew Deeks outlined details of the new strategy - “Rising to the Future” – which sets out four strategic themes that will shape research, influence teaching and learning, and impact on the way the university behaves and functions as a community and as an institution.

“The world is now a very different place to that of five years ago”, Professor Deeks set the scene for the new strategy.  “The last strategy was about rebuilding out of an era of economic crisis. In today’s world there is much more awareness of the fragility of the environment in which we live.  About the need to think of sustainability, but also transformation. We are more aware of the impact of human activity on the environment in which we live. At the same time society is more connected than ever before. And as we engaged in the consultation for the strategy the themes emerged organically.  The focus is very much long-term, hence the orientation of the strategy to ‘Rise to the Future’”, Professor Deeks said.

The Chair of the Governing Authority, Marie O’Connor, outlined the planning and consultation process undertaken for this strategy.  She also acknowledged and thanked faculty and staff for demonstrating commitment, dedication and an ambition to deliver on each of the objectives.  “You truly embody our values of excellence, integrity, creativity, collegiality, engagement and diversity”, she said.

“The fact that UCD is the university of first choice among Irish students and the most popular destination for international students coming to Ireland, reflects the quality of teaching and the student experience.  And, I am constantly awed by the expertise and spirit of public service among UCD scholars and researchers, whether it is through scientific advancement, influencing policy, cultural creativity or adding to our body of knowledge”, she added.

The themes set out in the new strategy will enable UCD Rise to the Future in an age of unprecedented opportunity and challenge.

Theme 1. Creating a Sustainable Global Society

As a matter of urgency, humanity must learn to live sustainably, without degrading our shared planet.

“This theme encourages thinking about sustainability in the biggest possible manner; beyond the campus, beyond Ireland, contributing globally through research as well as embracing those principles in everything we do.", the President said.

Theme 2. Transforming through Digital Technology

The nature of work is already undergoing a revolution.  “Digital technology is changing the nature of many jobs.  We need to recognise that this transformation goes through every discipline and indeed everything that we do as a university.  All of our graduates need to be equipped to make use of these technologies and to adapt to the changing working environment and the changing society that these technologies are going to create.

We will also look at the interrelationship between technology and sustainability", Professor Deeks said.

UCD will continue to contribute to the digital technology transformation in the university community, in research, teaching and learning, in operations and in decision-making.

Theme 3. Building a Healthy World

“Although the UN sustainable development goals include health within their framework, we think that health needs to be looked at more broadly.  We are living in an age where in developed countries, life expectancy is starting to fall due to life-style factors. UCD is very well-positioned to contribute to the One Health agenda: looking to the health of society rather than just the health of the individual", Professor Deeks said.

UCD is the only Irish university which brings together human and animal health sciences, agriculture and food sciences, and environmental and social sciences.

The Minister specifically praised the inclusion of health and wellbeing of students in the UCD strategy.  In the last budget she announced Government investment in the mental and health wellbeing of third level students.

Theme 4. Empowering Humanity

Understanding what shapes human thinking and motivates behavioural change holds the key to successfully addressing the societal challenges represented in the first three strategic themes, and to empower all members of our University community to attain their full potential in our present and future societies.

“As more and more work is enhanced by digital technology, human skills become more important. We need to prepare the transfer skills of our graduates, the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, leadership, teamwork, and the ability to work with people from different backgrounds and different cultures. 

This theme will be embedded within our community as well as influencing our research", Professor Deeks said. 

These four themes will be embraced in four core objectives and the University will have a set of key performance indicators and targets against which it will track its progress.

  • Objective 1: Increase the quality, quantity and impact of our research, scholarship and innovation
  • Objective 2: Provide an inclusive educations experience that defines international best practice and prepared our graduates to thrive in present and future societies.
  • Objective 3: Continue to build our engagement locally, nationally and internationally
  • Objective 4: Attract, retain and develop an excellent and diverse cohort of students, faculty and staff

“The pursuit of our strategic themes and core objectives will be facilitated by six key enablers, which will provide the foundations for our success.” Explained the President.  “Over the past five years we have developed plans of varying detail for the future of each of these enablers. During the next five years we will pursue, refine and extend these plans.”

Enabler 1. Recruit additional excellent faculty members

Earlier this year UCD launched the Ad Astra Fellows programme.  Aimed at bringing in an additional 500 new faculty over the five years, the appointment of these early career academics will specifically support the strategic themes and directly improve the student faculty ratio.  Currently this ratio stands at 20.7:1. The aim is to improve this towards the international norm of 16:1.

Enabler 2. Increase our student population, enhancing quality and diversity 

UCD plans to increase student FTEs (full time equivalents) by 25% over the coming ten years to 32,000.  The University will increase its current enrolment of Irish/EU undergraduate students (c. 4,000 per annum) in line with national demographic trends and increase both graduate and international numbers significantly.

Enabler 3. Build world-class academic facilities and student amenities

The overall capital development programme for the campus spans academic, amenity and residential projects.  

The core academic developments include the Centre for Creativity and Centre for Future Learning, which will comprise of 22,500 m2 in an iconic entrance plaza to the University, UCD Centre for Science Phase 3 and the Newman Building Redevelopment.

The University plans to increase the number of student residences on campus from 3,000 to 6,000 and include a village hub at Roebuck.

Plans are also envisaged for the sports precinct and work on the new running track has already commenced.

Enabler 4. Implement advanced systems and services

The President said that UCD would develop a masterplan, mapping out the improvements to service structures and new IT systems needed to support the mission of the strategy.  Much of the roadmap will be designed to ensure appropriate digital systems are in place to simplify and reduce the need for staff times to be absorbed in routine tasks, releasing staff to provide higher-level support and assistance.

Intention to develop a masterplan for our systems and services, understanding that those systems and services will be transformed through digital technology

Enabler 5. Develop our faculty and staff

“Every sector recognises that it needs to reskill, retrain and advance its workforce and the University is no different.  As we transform our systems and services, we are going to have to transform our people. The emphasis will move away from the procedural, processing of information into the human interaction and skilling up of our people in terms of contributing at the higher level.  This is about evolving our skill set and our people to deliver the new services and supports that are required in a society that is being transformed through the four themes outlined in the strategy", Professor Deeks said.

Enabler 6. Generate additional non-exchequer income

The final enabler is to continue to generate additional non-exchequer income and by the end of the strategy period the University plans to be generating an extra €25 million each year.

“We have put in place much of the plans that will allow us to do this.  This is an enabler of everything that we want to do", Professor Deeks said.

“I hope that the whole UCD community will be excited by the potential that this strategy has to transform the experience for our students and for all members of our community as we work together to Rise to the Future for this University, and beyond for Ireland and for the world, by contributing to the creation of a sustainable global society, transforming through digital technology, building a healthy world, and most importantly, empowering humanity.” Concluded the President.

Quoting Abraham Lincoln, Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor said: “The most reliable way to predict the future is to create it. And UCD is doing just that.”

By: Eilis O'Brien, UCD University Relations