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University of Bradford Development Plan

January 2015

The University Strategy

A new University Strategy has been approved. The first draft of the strategy was written by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brian Cantor, and was the subject of a comprehensive consultation process, involving, staff, students, alumni, members of Council and other stakeholders. The feedback received was an affirmation of the clear vision articulated in the strategy for Bradford to be a world-leading technology university.

The draft University Strategy can be summarised as follows:

Our mission is to be a world leader in:

  • the creation of knowledge through fundamental and applied research
  • the dissemination of knowledge by teaching students from all backgrounds
  • the application of knowledge for the prosperity and well-being of people.

Our underlying values are:

  • participation and openness
  • creativity and innovation
  • academic freedom and respect for the expression of diverse points of view
  • equal opportunities for all staff and students to achieve their full potential
  • the best ethical standards in everything we do.

Our academic themes are:

  • advanced healthcare
  • innovative engineering
  • sustainable societies.

Our key messages are:

  • our outstanding teaching and research are making knowledge work
  • we will be a world-leading technology university
  • we believe in doing cutting-edge research and knowledge transfer
  • we believe in putting students at the heart of learning
  • we believe in the intellectual vibrancy of being international and diverse
  • we are proud to have a world-renowned eco-campus

To make progress towards achieving our mission, our main objectives will be:

  • excellence
  • internationalisation
  • equality and diversity
  • sustainability

The values articulated in the University Strategy set the tone for the behaviour expected of staff, students and visitors at the University. Staff, in particular, should recognise the fundamental part that they have to play in the University’s success, working collaboratively and positively for the benefit of the organisation.

The University has a strong and well-established reputation for attracting and supporting students from diverse backgrounds. We have always exceeded our HESA widening participation benchmarks and are making great strides in improving attainment for our students. We are a University that makes a difference to the lives of our students and which has impact across the world.

This paper describes the second iteration of the Development Plan for the University. The objective of the Development Plan is to identify the University’s future size and shape, consonant with our mission, values and objectives, as described in the University Strategy.


The international, national and regional context

The international scene

The world is emerging slowly from the financial collapse of 2008 and the subsequent deep recession. Some countries’ economies are growing reasonably well, (including the UK), but world growth is sluggish, and it will take some time to repair the damage done by the prolonged downturn.

It is clearer than ever that economic strength depends on high-tech manufacturing and international trade, with a knowledge economy based on high quality research and a steady flow of highly trained graduates. This has created a tremendous demand for new universities (there are now about 40,000 worldwide), as well as and in particular for the research and graduates from well-established technology universities such as Bradford.

Over the last 20 years, the emerging economies (China, India, Brazil, Russia, Nigeria, South Africa, Indonesia, the Gulf States, the Asian Tigers) have developed a new wealthy, middle class population, at least as large as that in the US and Europe (ie ½b-1b people). This has produced a growing demand for higher education worldwide. There are about 4.5m students outside their own country, and this number is expected to double over the next decade.

The national and regional economies

The UK needs a knowledge economy, with innovation based on outstanding research, and a high quality workforce based on open access to higher education. A high fraction (well over 50%) of all new jobs over the next decade are expected to require graduate level skills.

With just under 1% of the world’s population, the UK has:

  • 19 universities in the world top 100, 2nd to the USA
  • Over 300,000 overseas students/year, again 2nd to the USA
  • 6% of all research publications and 12% of all citations, again 2nd to the USA
  • More university spin-outs per head than the USA

The higher education sector contributes £69b to national GDP, larger than (for instance) the aerospace or pharmaceutical sectors. Higher education makes substantial export earnings, through teaching overseas students and research.

Bradford’s development plan is to be a Producer City, based on manufacturing and trade. This will need a continued flow of high-tech research, innovation and graduates from the University. The University is an economic power in its own right, contributing about £250m to Bradford’s economy.

University funding

Government funding of UK universities increased throughout most of the 1990s and 2000s, supported by a growing economy. Bradford did not take full advantage. We were preoccupied by problems such as riots in the city, and a failed plan to merge with Bradford College. The national scene has changed dramatically, with substantial cuts in government funding caused by the global economic downturn.

Higher fees were expected to make going to university more difficult for home students, but this has not proved to be the case. UK student applications have been rising after a drop in the first year of the new regime, with only a marginal dip for 2015 largely due to demographic reasons. In fact, as often happens in a downturn, a combination of weak job markets and a devalued pound is making UK universities popular with potential home and overseas students.

Bradford’s position

Bradford is a research-intensive technology university. We have always been so. This is at the heart of our new University Strategy. We believe in doing (a) high quality professional and vocational degree courses with job opportunities for our graduates, and (b) cutting-edge research with potential application, to enhance the health, wealth and wellbeing of people worldwide.

Bradford’s academic disciplines are appropriate for a technology university: science and engineering, health and life sciences, management and business, and international, political and social development. We have many world-leading strengths. Nevertheless, our standing has slipped recently, because of a combination of low self-confidence, some weak academic areas, and some poor management, notably in HR, marketing and PR.

Our financial position is good. We achieved a good out-turn for 2013/14, with a surplus of £2.5M and increase in cash reserves of £1.6m, on a turnover of £131M, and a low borrowing level of under £20m. We expect to maintain good finances for the foreseeable future, even after allowing for government cuts and continued investment.

We have recently agreed to invest approximately £50m in re-positioning the 4 University to enhance our quality over the next 2-3 years, developing our outstanding strengths and disinvesting in our weaknesses.


University growth

Student numbers

Current student numbers are about 12,400 headcount (10,500 FTE - 9,600 full time and 2,800 part time) in Bradford with about 10% of full time students studying at postgraduate level and 15% of full time students from overseas.

Our student numbers had remained approximately constant for 2-3 years as we responded to the new fee regime. We adopted a revised strategy for 2014 entry to re-position the University as a quality provider, which will disinvest from low tariff home students and low quality overseas partnerships. This resulted in a planned reduction in recruitment for 2014 with a modest improvement in the overall average entry tariff for entrants. Plans for the next three years are to stay roughly constant with some growth in areas of strength and to seek to grow overseas and postgraduate numbers.

Beyond the next few years, however, we should plan for growth, since our re-positioned high quality, technology, job-based courses and high graduate employability will be attractive to growing home and overseas student markets. We will need to manage this growth at a careful pace, so as not to prejudice the quality of our students’ experience.

Low levels of growth for the next 2 -3 years followed by a modest growth rate for the remaining 7-8 years, would lead to an overall growth of 25-30% over the next decade. Long term planning meetings with academic schools also indicate the potential for growth, mainly by expanding existing strong courses, with an admixture of new courses in exciting new interdisciplinary fields. This Development Plan sets out a target of 30% growth, approximately 3,700 more total students (headcount), aiming for a total of about 16,000 students by 2024.

This will be achieved through growing in areas of academic strength and complementary provision, aligned to the three academic themes of advanced healthcare, innovative engineering and sustainable societies. Examples arising from the long term planning meetings with faculties include for example: neuroscience, development studies, medical engineering, and supporting the need for new health care professionals.

Faculties have been encouraged to develop aspirational plans that will drive the University forward, and this has been welcomed. It is clear, however, that detailed developments in portfolio (and in research) will need to taken forward with the requisite business case for change. Faculties will need support with market analysis and new product development to ensure that we are choosing the correct subject areas in order to attract high calibre students at home and overseas.

At the same time, it is clear that we must divest from areas of provision that have become unsustainable. All programmes will need to demonstrate their academic, market and economic viability leading to a rationalisation of the undergraduate and postgraduate portfolios.

We want to increase our research, so we should aim for an increase in the proportion of postgraduates both taught and research, from approximately 7% at the current time to 15% - 20% ie 2,500 - 3,000 of the total student population are postgraduate students by 2025.

The overseas student market is stronger than the UK at present, and we have growth opportunities in major markets such as China, Brazil and new growth economies in Africa and Asia. We should also aim to increase the proportion of overseas students from 15% to 20% with a total of 3,000 international students by 2024.

To summarise, the main positive drivers of growth are:

  • Strong UK and overseas student demand
  • Our excellent professional and vocational courses
  • The potential of improved marketing
  • The potential for developing exciting new interdisciplinary courses.

The main restraints on student growth stem from:

  • Current weakness in the UK and world economies (but recovery is underway)
  • The current cap on UK student numbers (but this will be removed next year)
  • The need for tight budgets in the light of continuing government cuts (but our finances are strong and we are investing in front line academic activities).

To support our inclusivity and diversity objectives we will want to increase access to under-represented groups of students.

Staff

Current staff levels are just under 1,900, with just over 600 (32.5%) academics and researchers, and just under 1,300 (67.5%) administrative and other support staff.

We must support excellence and academic quality with staff/student ratios at least as good as current practice. We should, however, be able to achieve some economies of scale and improve administrative support with less than pro-rata growth of non-academic staff. This implies staff growth of about 500, roughly half each academic and non-academic, to a total of 2,400.

It will be important to ensure that we plan our activities appropriately and that we develop a robust work load allocation model that is applied consistently across all areas of the University.

Research and innovation

Research and innovation are two of the University’s three main aims in the mission 6 statement in the draft University Strategy. They also underpin the University’s reputation, and impact indirectly on our third mission, learning and teaching (via affecting our ability to attract the best staff and students).

Maintaining a balance between research and teaching is a major challenge in all top universities. At Bradford, we believe in a fine-grained relationship between the two (ie we expect most academics to contribute to both).

Over the last two decades, our ratio of research to teaching has gradually declined. Our ratio of postgraduate to undergraduate students, and our ratio of research income (HEFCE QR + research grants) to teaching income (HEFCE T + fees), are both significantly lower than most research-intensive pre-92 universities (notably the Russell and ex-94 Group universities).

We need to rebuild our research strength, increasing our proportion of postgraduates, and winning more research grants. Government research funding is declining. Nevertheless, there are great opportunities in (a) medicine, life sciences and healthcare, since this funding is partly ring-fenced and will continue to grow worldwide; (b) Europe, where funding is (counter-cyclically) increasing; and (c) industrial and technological research, where our strengths will be in demand as the recovery gathers pace.

Research grants are increasingly large, complex, multi-disciplinary, multi-partner and multi-objective. We must develop our own special research strengths, by investing in unique facilities and top-level staff. No-one wants to support second best. We must be ready to partner with high quality research organisations wherever possible, to leverage these strengths.

Bradford’s research strengths include: automotive engineering, simulation facilities, cancer therapeutics, polymer engineering, civil engineering, outside broadcast media, the trading room, health imaging technologies, dementia studies, international disarmament, archaeology, optometry and vision science, pharmacy and pharmaceutical science, and tele-health. These areas have been confirmed as having real potential for growth in the next ten years.

The University estate

The main campus in the City Centre is about. 13.38 ha. The management campus at Emm Lane is another 4.85 ha. There has been considerable rebuild and renovation, so both campuses are attractive and in reasonable condition. There are legacy issues with some of the original 60s buildings, but this has been much reduced in recent years. The campuses have been built to high standards, and the University wins regular awards for sustainability.

It is not desirable to grow teaching and research within existing buildings. It will lead to constant relocation and infibrilation of the estate. We need:

  • central high quality teaching buildings, with flexible lecture, seminar and laboratory space
  • seven specialised research facilities
  • enhanced library and IT provision
  • new student accommodation.

New students, many from overseas, will need new accommodation, which can best be provided by the University directly or with partners, to guarantee high quality (like The Green). The business case for building accommodation is good, with excellent returns on capital from student rents.

An estate master plan is being developed which will balance expenditures on developing the estate to accommodate growth and maintaining and improving the existing estate. The development of the estate will be in keeping with the University’s commitment to sustainable development, and will include the development of the Digital Health Enterprise Zone facility; link building to support the growth of STEM activities and an ambitious plan to bring the campus together to integrate teaching and learning and to improve accessibility. Consideration is also being given to the disposal of the Emm Lane campus, consolidating all of the University’s activities onto the city campus location.

Supporting our plans for growth

The University operates in an environment with relatively fixed income sources and levels but with growth in cost base as a consequence of inflation. It is incumbent on all Deans and Directors and Senior Managers to identify opportunities for alternative sources of income and to ensure that all of the University’s staff are contributing to achieving the University Strategy and adding value to the student experience.

It is important that as we seek to grow our student and staff numbers and to improve our areas of academic strength and services that we are also reviewing the way we do things to ensure that we are providing efficient and modern services and experiences both in the classroom and more widely across the University and with our partners.


Summary

Overall the University will aim to grow over the next 10 years as follows:

  • 30% student growth to a total of about 16,000 students
  • Similar levels of academic staff growth with lower non-academic staff growth, to a total of about 2,400
  • Student growth based mainly on existing teaching strengths, with some new interdisciplinary courses
  • More than pro-rata growth of postgraduates and overseas students
  • Research growth by developing unique facilities around existing research strengths
  • Maintaining a balanced portfolio of teaching, research and innovation
  • An expanded campus obtained by acquiring surrounding land
  • New high quality teaching blocks and enhanced research, library and IT facilities
  • New student accommodation, probably built with partners and off-balance sheet