First month in Newcastle

Greetings everyone! It is a pleasure to be writing the first of many blogs as the New Pro-Vice Chancellor for Science Agriculture and Engineering here at Newcastle University (NU). So what are my thoughts after my first month in office?

First and foremost, I am very impressed by what has been achieved at NU over recent years. My overall impression is of a friendly organisation that feels good about itself and is on an upward trajectory. Everyone should be congratulated for that. However, there is still much to do if we are to achieve the lofty aspirations of ‘Vision 2021’ – ten years to deliver on these aspirations seems a long time, but it is a mere heartbeat in the lifetime of a noble institution such as NU. Moreover, the external environment is going through a period of change the like of which none of us has seen in our lifetime, and it would be reckless not to acknowledge the potential impact of these changes. Difficult as it may be for us to accept the need for change in a sector that has historically seen stability (in relative terms!), change we must – our environment is becoming increasingly Darwinian, and if we don’t move with the times we will perish.

So is our strategy fit to compete under the circumstances? You won’t be surprised to hear that I believe it is – otherwise I would not have relocated to NU! Nonetheless, a strong strategy is only a part of our armoury. Unless we take steps to deliver on our strategy, it will remain a few sheets of paper hidden in a filing cabinet. We need to bring our strategy to life by planning carefully the actions that we need to take over the next year and beyond. To this end, I organised an away day recently with the Faculty Executive Team entitled ‘Strategy into Action’ . The purpose was to clarify exactly what we mean by the grand statements in Vision 2021. We asked questions such as ‘what does world class mean exactly?’, ‘how do you define an excellent student experience?’ and so on. We then figured out the necessary actions required to achieve them. This is very much work in progress, but over the next couple of months you will hear more about our efforts from your Head of Unit – and also from me through this blog. I also have planned time in the diary to visit each school over the coming weeks, so I look forward to meeting you all in due course.

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About stevehomans

Professor Steve Homans is a structural biologist with an international reputation in the study of biomolecular interactions. He obtained his first degree and DPhil in Biochemistry at Oxford University, and secured his first academic position as Lecturer at the University of Dundee. In 1998 he received the Zeneca award from the Biochemical Society and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Prior to his current appointment he was Dean of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds. Professor Homans brings extensive expertise of academic leadership and management, with a particular emphasis on organisational change.
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2 Responses to First month in Newcastle

  1. To realise the strategic vision we first need a bit more general awareness of what the strategy is too, not just at the University level (Vision 2020 is necessarily “high-level”) but at the Faculty level.

    I doubt many people beyond HoUs have read the SAgE Strategic Plan so maybe a first step would be thinking about how to communicate this to staff – I am certain people will be interested.

    Current plan is here: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/internal/planning/annual_reports/plans/2011/Planning%20Documents/sageplan201112.pdf

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